And how can you not love this movie? After all it's quite the epic tale about a giant robot from outer space, but at the same time it's a wonderfully grounded story that's ultimately about a boy. Plus it's pre-Pixar creation by the now legendary Brad Bird that already follows his principle of telling stories with key focus on characters.
And again, it's a movie with a giant robot. How can you not appreciate a giant robot? Sure, I obviously have a thing for robots large and small, but that's beside the point. Giant robots are fun, and there's something even more fun about a giant robot who still has that retro look despite being pretty powerful given his extraterrestrial origins.
Synopsis: The Iron Giant is a 1999 animated science fiction movie and is the directorial debut of Brad Bird. He co-wrote the screenplay together with Tim McCanlies as based on the Ted Hughes book, The Iron Man.
It's October 1957 and Sputnik has just been sent into orbit. Around this time 9 year old Hogarth (Eli Marienthal) spots a meteorite landing nearby. Having been left alone for the night, he ventures out to investigate and eventually encounters a giant robot (Vin Diesel) getting shocked as he tries to eat transmission lines. Hogarth helps him with his predicament. Hogarth quickly finds that the robot turns out to be friendly but is highly ignorant of how to deal with life on Earth.
Things get more complicated when the incidents related to the robot bring in a government agent by the name of Kent Mansley (Christopher McDonald). He's determined to figure out whats been going on in the town and his quickly determines that Hogarth is somehow involved. Hogarth eventually ends up getting help from a beatnik named Dean McCoppin (Harry Connick, Jr.) and the work together to keep the giant away from the authorities.
What I Liked: Each character is pretty distinct including our giant with limited language and our antagonist in the form of Agent Mansley. the story actually has a pretty simple story when you look at it from a few steps back but the story really moves forward because of Hogarth's spirit and his friendship with the giant.
At the same time the movie manages to explore the concept of violence as related to bearing weapons, in this case the giant, while using the time period to maximum effect. The choice to set the story in the 50's was deliberate in order to use the paranoia related to the communist threat as an overall atmosphere that would make the most of this extraterrestrial giant entering the fray of things. All this come together to tell a good story.
What Could Have Been Better: The simplicity of the movie's narrative flow can work against it as well as there's only so much that can happen and that the characters can accomplish. Don't get me wrong, the characters still make the story worthwhile, but I suppose they're lucky that the characters did work out in that manner as some parts of the narrative ran a little thing.
The American military gets involved later in the movie and they end up being more comic relief than anything else. I understand this characterization serves the greater narrative - it's just that it's a tad far-fetched in that regard. I say this especially given how the climax of the movie gets triggered.
TL;DR: The Iron Giant is an endearing tale that has a heck of a lot of heart in it more than anything else. It's a good character study and a nice celebration of the time period with the bonus of a big friendly robot from space. Thus the movie gets a great 4 junk art creations by Dean out of a possible 5.