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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 2.35:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer (RSDL )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • French: Dolby Digital Surround
  • German: Dolby Digital Surround
  • Dutch: Dolby Digital Surround
  Subtitles
    English, French, German, Dutch, German - Hearing Impaired
  Extras
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Animated menus
  • Music video - Chi-Hua-Hua - Eddie Platt
  • Awards/Nominations
  • Web access

The Iron Giant

Warner Bros./Warner Bros. . R4 . COLOR . 83 mins . G . PAL

  Feature
Contract

Loosely based on the 1968 book The Iron Man by English poet laureate Ted Hughes, our tale is set in the US town of Rockwell, Maine back in 1957, in the heyday of post-war xenophobia and fears of atomic holocaust. One night something crashes into the sea from somewhere in space, and a local fisherman is convinced it is of alien origins.

Meanwhile, young Hogarth Hughes wants a pet, but with none too great a history behind him his mom is rather dubious. With her working late one night heís staying up late on a Twinkie diet when the TV fritzes out, on investigation perhaps itís because their aerial has disappeared? Curious, Hogarth follows a trail of destruction through the town, ends up at the local power plant, and canít believe his eyes when confronted with an absolutely massive fifty-foot tall robot. Saving the metal man from electrocution (power stations just ainít good eatiní!), Hogarth now has one doozie of a pet and a new friend for life, and they bond as the larger of the two picks up rudimentary English quite quickly, and appears to have some sort of heart.

But as the Iron Giantís unusual culinary habits cause more peculiar discoveries throughout the town (tractors with bites out of them for starters Ė and who knows what was for dessert?!), a government official, Kent Mansley, arrives on the scene looking for answers. Sceptical to say the least at reports of ginormous aliens, he ends up renting the spare room at the Hughesí as he tries to get to the bottom of the strange goings on in Rockwell, whilst Hogarth enlists the help of local beatnik/artist/scrapyard proprietor Dean McCoppen (who bears an uncanny resemblance to the rather gorgeous Jarvis Cocker from the UK band Pulp) in protecting his somewhat ungainly friend.

When Mansley finds proof of the Iron Giantís existence all hell breaks loose. Assuming 'it' must be a threat he gets the army, air force and navy called in, taking the tack that if they didnít build 'it' itís reason enough to assume the worst, and blow 'it' to kingdom come. Can Hogarth and friends protect their misunderstood pal from the combined might of the US armed forces? And just what lengths will they resort to in their attempts to destroy him?

"You are who you choose to be."

Obviously a labour of love for director and co-writer Brad Bird, whose name should be familiar to fans of The Simpsons, Family Dog and/or The Critic, The Iron Giant is one of those rare, truly magical animated movies that has a heart as big as Mount Everest, but never becomes too saccharine sweet. Thereís a fabulous voice cast, including Jennifer Aniston in (for this reviewer) her first un-annoying role ever as Hogarthís mom Annie, Harry Connick Junior as Dean McCoppen, Vin Diesel as the Iron Giant, sleazebag specialist Christopher McDonald as Mansley and Frazierís John Mahoney as his boss General Rogard, plus South Parkís Mary Kay Bergman (R.I.P.) doing her thing with many sundry roles. Add to this a soundtrack that gives that extra zing to proceedings and we're left with a near-perfect melding of computer graphics and traditional cel animation that presents to us a truly moving story that never drags.

  Video
Contract

Now THIS is an impressive transfer! In its original cinematic ratio of 2.35:1, and 16x9 enhanced, The Iron Giantís transition to DVD is an absolute visual treat. No doubt helped by the fact that it is animated, detail is sharp as a tack throughout, the colour is divine, and no speckles or other distractions pop up whatsoever. Even the layer change is nigh on perfect. Occurring right between the end of the film and the credits, it is basically unnoticeable unless youíre on the lookout for it. If only more transfers were of such exemplary quality as this.

  Audio
Contract

Not only is the video fantastic, the sound scrubs up pretty incredibly as well. We get a scrummy Dolby 5.1 mix that utilises all the speakers quite magically, enveloping you delightfully, most notably when the Iron Giant moves Ė the sound is BIG, and the subwoofwoof gets to do its stuff to great effect.

Being animated itís hard to comment on lip sync, however even this has been handled with much aplomb. Dialogue is crystal clear throughout; with even the guttural tones of the Giant himself never proving too difficult to discern.

The musical score comes from Michael Kamen, and is performed by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. Whilst the man has been responsible for some shockers in his time, this rates as one of his better efforts, fitting the film perfectly as it ranges from suitably dark in places to gloriously triumphant and all manner of other emotions inbetween. Interspersed throughout are a number of (naturally) Ď50s tinged pop songs, by everybody from crooner Mel Torme to the truly great Ray Charles.

  Extras
Contract

A nice animated sequence leads to a pleasant enough static, but musically accompanied, menu. From here you can opt for a few simple extras...

The Making of the Iron Giant: This is a special made for the US Warner Brothers Network (reading between the lines that should tell you that it is full frame and has standard stereo sound), it runs for just over 22 minutes and is hosted with quite some gusto by the voice of the Iron Giant, Vin Diesel. Whilst obviously quite kiddie-orientated in its targeting, there are still some fascinating peeks behind the scenes, with us seeing animated pencil tests, artists at work on the individual backgrounds and cels and even a look into the musical side of things. Also included are brief interview snippets with many of the voice actors, animators, the producer and the director Brad Bird. One thing about it being full frame is seeing how claustrophobic it all looks in this format, whereas having the feature presented here on disc in beautiful widescreen allows it space to breathe and give a much greater experience. Those who are black bar-phobic take heed...

Theatrical trailer: Just over two minutes in duration, this was the pre-release trailer for the film. Itís nicely presented in an anamorphically enhanced ratio of 2.35:1 with Dolby Surround sound, and mostly lets the filmís dialogue speak for itself before a cheesy voiceover interjects.

Music video Chi-Hua-Hua - Eddie Platt: Running just shy of two and a half minutes, this is a selection of scenes from the film rendered full frame, featuring one of the Ď50s tinged instrumentals from the film, and an annoying MTV-style title card glued to the bottom left corner of the screen throughout. Delivered with mono sound it isnít really much to get particularly excited about.

DVD ROM features This is just a copy of the web site, so in all itís nothing too inspiring.

  Overall  
Contract

Animated movies come and go Ė some more special than others. Criminally overlooked on its release, The Iron Giant most definitely falls into the TRULY special category.

On a disc that is exemplary in all aspects except for special features, this is a gloriously simple and beautiful tale of why we shouldnít fear what we donít understand, and how much you can miss out on if you simply judge a book by its cover. If you have any semblance of a heart youíll laugh, youíll cry and youíll cheer throughout the tale of The Iron Giant, an absolute treat for kids of ANY age.


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      And I quote...
    "A gloriously simple and beautiful tale of why we shouldnít fear what we donít understand, and how much you can miss out on if you simply judge a book by its cover..."
    - Amy Flower
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Pioneer DV-535
    • TV:
          Sony 68cm
    • Receiver:
          Onkyo TX-DS494
    • Speakers:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse RBS662
    • Centre Speaker:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECC442
    • Surrounds:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECR042
    • Subwoofer:
          DTX Digital 4.8
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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