Directed by Brad Bird (who was one of the original writers of The Simpsons and would later move on to work for Pixar), The Iron Giant is a critically-acclaimed animated film from Warner Bros., based on Ted Hughes' novel The Iron Man (not to be confused withthatone). It is about a giant robot (the eponymous Giant) who falls to Earth in 1957, and a boy named Hogarth who befriends him. Hogarth tries to hide the Giant from the public (particularly due to Cold War-era paranoia), especially a persistent government agent named Kent Mansley. But the Giant has a very mysterious past of his own, and if things get out, the Cold War may just go hot...Despite earning overwhelmingly positive reviews from critics, the movie was a failure at the box office, thanks mostly to the disastrous marketing of the film by Warner Bros. The studio later did a 180 and gave it a marketing blitz on home video instead, and the movie's gathered a large cult following since then. Much of its following also comes from Cartoon Network, which used to run the film in annual all-day marathons on Thanksgiving.The movie was produced by Pete Townshend, who loved the original story and had previously done a Rock Opera based on it.The Synopsis is here, but beware of spoilers.
This film contains examples of:
Absent Aliens: The aliens that built the Giant are never actually seen or mentioned, with the action focusing on the Giant's adventures on Earth.
Adored by the Network: Cartoon Network was rather infamous for their annual 24-hour marathons of this movie in the early 2000s, which led to the movie gaining a cult following. The Hub quite likes to air it, too. Not to mention the guys who work on the other super-popular show state it was an influence on the friendship between the Autobots and the humans.
Supposedly the network adoration is mandated by Ted Turner himself, who saw the film for an in-flight movie and declared it one of the best films he'd ever seen.
Amnesiac Dissonance: The Giant is implied to have this, as he is capable of incredible destruction. A deleted scene implied that he probably had destroyed entire planets before his crash landing on Earth, well in contrast to his childlike and innocent persona in the film proper.
At one point, Mansley is rear-ended in his car and slams his face into the windshield, making visible cracks. There isn't a mark on his face, and he comes out of the car screaming a couple of seconds later.
Also, when Annie and Mansley walk in on Hogarth "using the bathroom", Annie slams the door shut very quickly in embarrassment, smashing Mansley's face in between the frame and the door.
Answer Cut: When Mr. Stutz says that he really did call the government and that they were sending someone to investigate, Dean asks, "Who in the hell would the government send?" Cut to the power plant where Kent Mansley gets out of his car.
Anti Anti Christ: A deleted scene in the film, as well as the nature of the Iron Giant's weapons, heavily implies that the Iron Giant was originally created to destroy planets, and that either he was just one out of a huge line of robots who were created for this purpose or had managed to destroy quite a large amount of planets prior to arriving on Earth. However, the Iron Giant eventually manages to reject going down/continuing down this path.
Arm Cannon: Among the Giant's plethora of weapons, also the first one he deploys when he goes ape-shit on the Army.
Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Mansley rhetorically asks Hogarth if he knows who built the Giant. "Is it the Russians? The Chinese? Martians? Canadians?"
Artistic License - Military: Several times Mansley barks orders at soldiers with the General present and the soldiers just follow those orders without checking with the superior officer. Yet the General never steps in and says he's in charge of the military aspects of the mission until it's too late. There is one point when the Giant is coming into the town (for once not shooting at anyone) and the soldiers ask the General for orders.
Artistic License - Nuclear Physics: "My Nuke Is Going Critical" version. When the nuclear missile fired by the Nautilus hits the Iron Giant in space, it detonates. This is impossible: nuclear weapons are specifically designed to only detonate under specific conditions, such as reaching ground level where the Iron Giant originally was. It should have just been destroyed by the impact.
Ascended Extra: Hogarth Hughes only had a small role in the original book.
Bloodless Carnage: Despite the deer taking a lethal bullet wound, nary a drop of blood is seen.
Book Ends: The movie begins and ends with beeps. At the beginning, the beeps are courtesy of Sputnik. They were heard again later on at the very end, but it turns out they're coming from the Giant as he reassembles himself in Iceland.
Earlier in the film, Hogarth's mother doesn't believe him when he tries to tell her about the robot. He later chooses to keep it a secret.
Mansley gets blown off by the general when he tries to phone him about the Giant's existence. Later, when he is finally capable of producing evidence, Hogarth and Dean get the one-up on him by disguising the Giant as one of Dean's pieces of metal art. Though Mansley is vindicated when, after being fired by the general for his supposed incompetence, the Giant appears in public in full view of the military convoy.
Centrifugal Farce: Hogarth and the Giant are playing test pilot with an old car. The Giant spins the car a little faster than Hogarth imagined.
Check Please: Invoked by Dean at the start of the film after he unleashes a squirrel on the diner.
Chekhov's Gag: Early in the film, Hogarth is trying to take a photo of the Giant, but gets bored while waiting for the Giant to appear. During a Time Passes Montage, one of the clips shown is a quick gag in which Hogarth cleaning the lens of his camera only to accidentally take a picture of himself. Later, Mansley discovers the camera and develops the photo that Hogarth accidentally took of himself, revealing the Giant looking over Hogarth's shoulder, thus finally giving Mansley photographic evidence that the Giant exists.
The "duck and cover" educational video is played as satire early, but Mansley takes the advice seriously after he has the missile launched on the town. The general lets him know there's no way to survive that.
Cold War: The entire film is couched in the paranoia and fear of the Cold War.
Conspicuous CGI: Very notably averted; the necessity of cost-effectively and realistically portraying a metal man led to the Giant being rendered in 3D. The animators went out of their way to add slight irregularities to the lines while rendering the Giant to make it fit in more, with spectacular results.
The VHS and DVD cover◊ for the film had Hogarth (in the Giant's hand) wearing a powder blue sweater, which he doesn't wear in the actual movie (he just wears a red-and-blue-striped sweater for most of the movie).
Averted with the 2004 Special Edition DVD, which has a completely different cover where more emphasis is placed on the Giant and Hogarth is depicted in the form of a silhouette.
Dirty Coward: Mansley, after dooming everyone in the town thanks to his own paranoia, tries to bolt out of town and leave his fellow citizens to die in favor of saving his own skin. He doesn't get far.
Disappeared Dad: The picture of Hogarth's father in a plane is intended to imply that his father was a pilot that died in the Korean War. The helmet and bomber jacket Hogarth puts on when he goes after the Giant in the beginning? Those are his father's.
Doesn't Like Guns: the Giant, who is also quick to show that he isn't one. Despite the fact that he is made of them.
Double Take: Mansley pulls this off when, while remarking that Hogarth is an embarrassing name, he has a sudden realization that the words "Hog... Hug..." on the shattered B.B. Gun stood for "Hogarth Hughes."
Empathic Environment: The film's mood becomes darker as the season makes the jump from Fall to Winter.
Enforced Method Acting: Director Brad Bird made Eli Marienthal (the voice of Hogarth) run laps around the studio in order to sound realistically out-of-breath for one scene (he did this again later with Spencer Fox [the voice of Dash] in The Incredibles).
Eureka Moment: After stopping by Hogarth's house, Mansley drives away while commenting on his name. This leads him to realize who owned the mangled "Hog Hug" BB gun found at the wrecked power plant: HogarthHughes.
Extreme Omnivore: The Giant thrives on a diet entirely of metal. A lot of it. So Hogarth decides to hide him at a junkyard.
Eye Beams: The Giant has these, though they're only shown in one scene. It's when he automatically acts in self-defense from Hogarth's toy gun.
Face Death with Dignity: The soldiers, Rogard, and a fair portion of the townspeople are surprisingly chill about the fact that they're about to get nuked off the map. Mansley, on the other hand, panics and tries to run.
Foil: Dean is very unconventional and hip, while Mansley portrays the ideal manly man of the time - a hard-boiled detective type with a steel jaw. Dean is also a LOT faster on the uptake and more flexible than Mansley. Although he does make the mistake of trusting Mansley to do the right thing...
If you pay attention to Hogarth's Atomo comic, you'll notice that it bears a somewhat eerie resemblance to the Giant's combat mode in his Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
Also, in the scene where the Giant discovers the dead deer, and notices the gun, he briefly gains red eyes while his "irises" narrow before snapping out of it. This is the first sign that the giant was actually a weapon.
And the part where Hogarth watches the movie with killer brains in it (see B-Movie above), towards the end the army are forced to defend against The Iron Giant which has become a monster with 3 brain like objects (along with other weapons) on it.
While on the phone with Mansley, General Rogard mentions that if he somehow got a photo of the Giant, then he could get some troops over. Guess what happens later in the film...
After the Giant almost vaporizes Hogarth, Dean calls the Giant 'a big gun that walks.' Considering what happens when the army has to retreat after the Giant starts to go on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge after he believes Hogarth is dead...
General Ripper: Subverted with General Rogard. He has the appearance and mannerisms of your standard Cold War psychotic, but turns out to be a Reasonable Authority Figure who quite clearly distrusts Mansley and calls off the attack when it is finally revealed that the Giant only attacks defensively. Mansley, however, more than makes up for the expected psychotic tendencies.
Giant Hands of Doom: Sort of: After the Giant's first on-screen repair function is displayed, it is later revealed that he didn't quite take into account all of his body parts. It turns out that the left hand sneaked into Hogarth's house, forcing the boy to create a lot of distractions to keep his mother and Mansley from seeing it before it can rejoin the Giant.
Giant Robot Hands Save Lives: The titular robot races to catch a couple of kids who had fallen from a 3-4 story building in his metal robot hand. Though when he caught them his hand seemed to be barely a meter or two off the ground, so one wonders why he even bothered...
Giant Wall of Watery Doom: The Giant creates one when he does a cannonball into a lake, though it's mostly for laughs as no one is seriously harmed.
Homage: This movie may be a big one to The Fifties, with pop-cultural references to the era looming behind every corner. There are music boxes with swing and jazz, there's Mansley, who is a dead ringer for Richard Feynman, there is Dean, a beatnik, named after James Dean, there is the town of Rockwell, named after Norman Rockwell, an obvious expy of John Wayne movies that General Rogard watches, just to name a few. That doesn't even include the meta!
In Name Only: The film has little-to-no resemblance with the original novel.
Not even that: they changed the name too.
Info Drop: The film makes no mention of what happened to Hogarth's dad, but during Hogarth's standoff with Kent, a picture of a fighter pilot is seen on his nightstand, and the audience is left to fill in the blanks.
And technically Hogarth and the Giant. Although his amnesia makes his precise origins unknown, unless he's able to travel between stars quickly, he's likely very old. His ability to self-repair makes his true age even more impossible to accurately guess.
Invisible President: Sort of. In a very brief scene after the giant is found out, two high-ranking officers enter the Oval Office, and address a man, who sits behind the president's desk to request authorization to make use of Navy and Air Force (you can take a look at it here). The man is sitting with the back towards the the camera, but has a visible bald patch on his oval-shaped head. Therefore it is very obviously President ''Ike'' Eisenhower, who actually was president during the time the film is set (1957), albeit the fact this movie is a clear case of Alternate History. He is the only real person in the whole movie.
Ironic Echo: Throughout the movie, Kent Mansley uses the phrase "and all that that implies." Later, after Hogarth outwits him by disguising Giant as one of Dean's pieces of art, Hogarth watches Mansley leave with the army and says, "Bye, Kent, and all that that implies."
The Juggernaut: Tank shells, battleship guns, and even a nuclear missile can't destroy the Giant completely. All but the last are nothing but a Worf Barrage. If he had stuck to his original programming, he would be completely unstoppable. The missile would have only slowed him down.
Just Train Wrong: The locomotive that plows into the Giant looks very similar to a Norfolk & Western Class J◊, complete with maroon stripe, with a front end similar to a New York Central "Dreyfuss" Hudson◊. Two things wrong with that, aside from the locomotive not really existing. Neither of those railroads went to Maine, and both of those locomotives were used exclusively in passenger service.
Kid Hero: Hogarth, though he's a very likable variation in that while he acts like a normal kid (mischievous and fun-loving), he possesses a surprising level of emotional maturity.
It's mentioned in passing that part of the reason the other kids in his class consider him a "Poindexter" is because he was moved up a grade after constantly getting A's, suggesting this is why he's unusually perceptive for a nine-year-old.
Locked In The Bathroom: Hogarth hides the giant's lost hand in the bathroom from his mother and Kent. After he gets it out the window, he pretends to be in the toilet when Mom and Kent force open the door.
Male Gaze: Kent's first meeting Annie happens with him staring right at her hips and chest, due to her opening the front door fully, with him leaning on it.
Motor Mouth: Hogarth, twice - once in the scene where he has an espresso and the other when the Giant's hand flushes the toilet upstairs and he says: "Gottausethebathroom".
"So she says 'No, you need a challenge.' Well, I'm challenged, all right, I'm challenged to hold on to my lunch money because of all the big mooses who wanna pound me because I'm a shrimpy dork who thinks he's smarter than them — but I don't think I'm smarter, I just do the stinkin' homework! If everyone just did the stinkin' homework then they could move up a grade and get pounded too — is there any more coffee?"
Mr. Fanservice: Dean, the handsome artistically inclined beatnik with the voice of Harry Connick Jr.
Nobody Poops: Averted to great effect, though still tastefully, when Hogarth gives Mansley a large dose of laxative.
Noodle Incident: "Do you remember the raccoon, Hogarth? (shudder) I remember the raccoon."
Nothing Exciting Ever Happens Here: Invoked derisively early on by Mansley when a local asks him if the sighting of the giant means that "something big" is happening. He soon changes his tune.
Mansley: No, Marv. Big things happen in big places, and the sooner I file my report, the sooner I can get back to them.
[later to himself]
Mansley: The biggest thing in this town is probably the homecoming queen... OH MY GOD!!!
A Nuclear Error: The film's climax features the USS Nautilus launching a nuclear-armed ballistic missile; the Real LifeNautilus was incapable of doing so since it was a normal attack submarine (albeit the first powered by a nuclear reactor), and the United States Navy did not have any ballistic missile submarines at all until the USS George Washington entered service in 1959, two years after the film is set.
Thinking of harming Hogarth within Giant's eyesight? You're in for it.
Dean's no slouch, either. His first reaction to seeing the Giant is to protect the kid. He also chews out the Giant after nearly vaporizing Hogarth by accident.
Parental Obliviousness: Annie does not seem to have the faintest clue that Hogarth unabashedly despises Mansley, and has been desperate to avoid him since he moved in. She goes so far to suggest Hogarth take Mansley around and show him the sights. Whether this is true obliviousness or just Annie wanting her son to accept they have to rent the spare room for money is not clear. As he starts to show his true colors, she quickly dislikes him.
Planet Killer: The deleted Dream Scene shows that the giant is supposed to be this. Even without the scene, the film itself, especially during the giant's rampage, heavily implies that this was what he really was.
General Rogard gets an even bigger one during the robot's rampage.
General Rogard: All battleships fire at the robot! Now! Now, damnit, now!
Properly Paranoid: Mansley intends to track down and destroy the Iron Giant since he believes it to be a threat to America. He's ultimately right, as the Iron Giant is eventually revealed to be what is heavily implied to be a Planet Killer, although his folly was that he let it become genuine paranoia.
Pulling Themselves Together: The Giant does this at the end after he is apparently destroyed, though it was foreshadowed earlier in the film when he re-assembles himself.
Roaring Rampage of Revenge: After the army begins attacking him, the Giant flees with Hogarth and tries to avoid giving in to his programming, but he gets shot down, and it looks like Hogarth has been killed. While grieving, the Giant gets shot again, and he snaps - willingly and fully giving in to his programming. He even roars when he transforms. That mechanical, inhuman scream of rage will make you shudder.
Rule of Symbolism: After the giant's saving of the town, the nuclear blast looks a lot like the star of Bethlehem.
Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: What Mansley says near the end of the film, learning that the nuke that he just launched at the Giant is also going to wipe him out along with everyone in the town.
Hogarth also mentions The Spirit as one of his comic books. Brad Bird is a huge Spirit fan (he also referenced the Spirit in The Incredibles).
"Hogarth? That's an embarrassing name. She might as well have called him Zeppo or something."
The Western that General Rogard was watching when Mansley was contacting him was the exact same one the Dalmatian puppies were watching in Disney's 101 Dalmatians.
The "scary movie" that Hogarth was watching was a shout out to the cheesy sci-fi movies of the fifties (more specifically, The Brain from Planet Arous).
"No. Augh. Aaaaaaah."
Likewise, one of the weapons on the Iron Giant when he goes berserk in vengeance for the apparent death of Hogarth heavily resembles the cannons used by the Martian war machines in The War Of The Worlds 1953.
Hogarth's last name is Hughes, no doubt a nod to Ted Hughes, the author of the original book.
Especially regarding cars, architecture, pop culture, and clothing styles of the 1950's.
Hogarth's comic covers are all genuine (save for Atomo, who was made up for the film).
With the exception of the Nautilus' missile capability (see A Nuclear Error above), all the military hardware is period-appropriate. The soldiers carry M1 Garands, drive Patton tanks, and the jet planes in the Superman scene are F-86 Sabres.
Invoked on-screen: Hogarth discovers Dean's junkyard, and decides the Iron Giant can have some food there. Unfortunately, one of the cars the Giant tries to eat hadn't had its alarm system removed yet, resulting in it going off when the Giant tries to eat it, and several failed attempts to silence it before the Giant eventually chucked it at the house as a last resort.
In some trailer spots, they make it seem as though the reason why Dean was getting Hogarth to flee is because the Iron Giant was about to unknowingly eat the alarm-rigged car.
Three Star Badass: General Rogard stays absolutely in control during the battle with the Giant, at one point shooting at him with his pistol. Compare this to some of his more panicky subordinates, and especially Mansley.
Trailers Always Lie: The trailers make it seem as though Dean discovered the Giant, and tried to get Hogarth away from the Giant when he was about to eat an alarm-live car. In actuality, the Giant eating the alarm-live car occurred before Dean discovered the Giant, and even then it wasn't from the live alarm.
Hogarth: Things die. It's part of life. It's bad to kill. But it's not bad to die.
Giant: You die?
Hogarth: Well, yes, someday.
Giant: I die?
Hogarth: I don't know. You're made of metal, but you have feelings. And you think about things. And that means you have a soul. And souls don't die.
Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: Kent Mansley with this line: "Hogarth? What an embarrassing name. Might as well call him Zeppo or something. What kind of sick person would name a kid Hoga- " Cue Eureka Moment.
Wing Pull: The Giant skids off a cliff and appears about to plummet into the ocean...until rockets in his feet automatically ignite.