Movies have always been a huge part of my life. For as long as I could remember, they’ve been one of my favorite pass times. The original Star Wars and Lord of the Rings are the two series that made me a sci-fi and fantasy nerd, Toy Story 1 and 2 opened a fascination with animation that would sustain itself into my adulthood, and the Last Airbender taught me that good things can be adapted into the worst thing ever.
But one movie taught me how to sob like a little girl. And that movie is the Iron Giant.
I fucking love this movie! It was easily my favorite movie as a small boy, and it still sits in my top three movies of all time (with number two being Deadpool 1 and number one being Shin Godzilla). I love it so much that I’ve made it an annual tradition to revisit this movie and cry my fucking eyes out.
Because no matter how old I get, that ending will still always break my heart.
So I figured I’d share the experience with all of you today and talk about the movie little kid me loved because of the giant robots and adult me loves because of it’s fantastic story and characters.
We’ll start with the aspect that I still think holds up all these years later: the animation. This movie uses a blend of 2D animation and 3D animation, with everything that isn’t the Iron Giant himself being hand-drawn. Both of these blend together perfectly thanks to the movies incredibly unique style.
For example, look at this fucking shot from near the end of the movie.
The lighting, color pallets, use of CG, and everything else goes together to make a fantastic and beautiful looking movie that still holds up to this day. And if you disagree… well, you do you, but I will argue with you about it.
Next is the story, which is pretty cookie-cutter and predictable. Is that bad? FUCK NO I LOVE COOKIES MOTHERFUCKER!!
Our hero, Hogarth (which is a fucking rad as shit name) is a young boy who loves comics and wants either a friend or a pet. One day, as he’s exploring the forest at night, he comes face to face with the Iron Giant, a gigantic metal man who fell from the sky. The two forge a powerful friendship, as Hogarth gives the Giant shelter from the pursuit of the paranoid US Government ant teaches him about humanity, death and morality (lessons featuring a dead deer who is animated a little too well and breaks my god damn heart and the original Superman comic).
Watching the Giant react to each of these things is both heartwarming and heartbreaking. He’s like a giant child, and watching him realize that the world is not all sunshine and roses feels like a punch to the gut. This is only furthered by the incredible facial animations.
For example, here’s the scene where the Giant discovers Hogarth’s ‘dead’ body.
Just look at it! His mannerisms, expression, and the huge range of emotions the robot goes through is amazing! It goes a long way to making him feel like a genuine living being, which greatly aids the message of the movie.
If it didn’t break my heart, I could watch this clip all day. So instead, let’s wrap this up by talking about the other most heartbreaking thing about this movie: the ending.
No ending to any other movie has stuck with me so much through my entire life. Frodo leaving Middle-Earth and sailing away with the elves? Close but no cigar! Andy saying goodbye to his toys in Toy Story 3? Get out of here! The tease for another Last Airbender movie? It haunts my dreams, but no!
This movie’s ending is god damn perfect! The conflict perfectly escalates to an insane level, with the Giant going into a rampage and the National Guard accidentally dropping a nuke on the city. This leads to the most heartbreaking scene in the history of animated cinema: the Giant’s sacrifice.
See, throughout the movie we have had two separate scenes of the Giant admiring Superman and pretending to be like him, much like an average child would. It’s relatable, endearing and goes a long way to make you care about him. So of course, when it came time to stop a nuke by having our new best friend drag it into space and sacrifice himself, he has to drop two of the most heartbreaking lines ever.
Followed immediately by…
Before he finally blows up. It’s a fantastic conclusion to the Giant’s character arc, a spectacular and emotional punch to the gut, and a great pay-off to the setups from earlier in the movie. Also, try to understand: as a kid, this was my first exposure to a truly heartbreaking ending, as I did watch this before Return of the King. It left an emotional scar that will stay with me for the rest of my life.
And I kind of love that.
I said it before, and I’ll say it again: I fucking love this movie. There’s so much more I could talk about, such as the artful dialogue and fantastic human characters, but I’d be here all day if I did. I’ve covered all the biggest points that make me love this god damn movie, so I’ll just call it there.
If you haven’t watched this movie (first of all, sorry about the spoilers) go fix that. Buy a DVD copy or go check it out on Netflix. I assure you, you will not regret it. If you love animation, good storytelling or wonderful and memorable characters, this movie will do everything to make you happy.
And then it will immediately break your fucking heart forever.