The Iron Giant, a feature length animated film, was released in 1999 to critical acclaim and lukewarm public regard. Fortunately it has since found a greater, well-deserved following. While all of the elements are (story, acting, score, design) are strong, it’s the title character that makes this something special.
It’s your typical boy-befriends-mysterious-robot-during-the-Cold-War story. The origins of the Giant are never clear. He falls to earth at the beginning of the story, but it’s uncertain whether he’s of alien or terrestrial origin. What is certain is that he must consume metal. He tears up train tracks, eats had a truck, and laters snacks on a power station.
It’s there that he’s tracked down by nine year old Hogarth Hughes. Despite his initial fright, Hogarth quickly forms a bond with the creature.
As their friendship grows, Hogarth discovers the Giant is gentle and innocent.
When the deer is killed by a hunter’s gun, Hogarth tries to explain to the puzzled robot that all things die.
“The Iron 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.
The Iron Giant: Soul?
Hogarth: Mom says it’s something inside of all good things, and that it goes on forever and ever.”
After Hogarth departs, the Iron Giant looks up at the stars and repeats, “Souls don’t die.”
When playing in the (full of delicious metal, but do not eat the artwork) junkyard, the Iron Giant refuses to be the villainous robot character. “No Atomo… I Superman!”
On guard against communist incursion, the US government is wary about the strange occurrences in Hogarth’s small town. They eventually discover the enormous, formidable mechanism, and pursue a course of attack.
The Iron Giant flees, trying to protect his friend.
When it seems as if Hogarth has been killed, other programming – perhaps instincts – kick in.
Hogarth is able to talk the Giant back to his former, gentle self.
“It’s bad to kill. Guns kill. And you don’t have to be a gun. You are what you choose to be. You choose.”
Alas, too late, for one of the government agents has launched a nuclear missle targeted to the robot. The town, and everyone in it, will be obliterated. The Iron Giant makes his decision.
He chooses to intercept the missile, saving Hogarth and the entire town.
We can be a light. We can be kind. We can inspire. We are who we choose to be.
One final link, because I love this character. I love this movie. And I love y’all, and want you to have some more joy (and possibly tears).