The Iron Giant is one of the more refreshing movies this year, particularly given the summer fizzle after the Star Wars boom. It probably will be generally overlooked, but this is a movie that brings it all together: classic animation, a compelling and novel story, a witty dialogue, and intelligence and humour without being condescending.
It is 1957 in Roswell, Maine, and as the Sputnik satellite orbits over the earth, a ball of fire from outer space crash lands off the coast of Maine. A sailor caught in the middle of a storm is the first witness to the giant object, made of iron. Grade schooler Hogarth Hughes (Eli Marienthal) tracking a trail of debris after he discovers his broken TV antenna runs into the Iron Giant (Vin Diesel) at a nearby power plant. As the Giant is about to be electrocuted (his mum apparently didn't teach him to not chew on live wires), Hogarth saves him and they become the best of friends. Along with Dean (Harry Connick Jr.), a local scrap dealer/artist they try to keep their friend a secret from those who would seek to destroy it.
In this case, it is government agent Kent Mansley (Christopher McDonald) who ends up being the symbol of paranoia and mistrust. Kent is convinced that the Iron Giant only means evil and does everything in his power to destroy it. Needless to say, a conflict between Hogarth and Dean and the Giant and the military institution ensues.
The animation is brilliant, particularly the initial scene involving the waves in the middle of a storm and one where the giant crash lands into the snow. The action scenes are also done pretty well. The giant himself is drawn rather simply, but the artists build the animation up in such a manner that by the end, even though we're only looking at a simple illustration of his two eyes, we're able to empathise with this bulky and innocent creature.
The movie comments about various socio-political issues, from our intrinsic xenophobia to how this fear, anger, and hate only causes our own suffering. It illustrates how humans are a degraded species and that almost any other form of life is capable of extreme giving and sacrifice. The Iron Giant is a film that shouldn't be missed and will delight the young and the old alike with its touching story.