The Iron Giant – What’s the Difference?


August 1945, the United States
drops atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, effectively ending World War II
and ushering in the Atomic Age. And what began with dreams of nuclear
power providing clean energy conversely grew into fear and paranoia. Nightmares of nuclear Armageddon
plagued the ’50s and ’60s, creating the Cold War and
leaving the world on edge. You can see the influence of the atomic
era reflected in the science fiction of the time. Whether it was the Japanese expressing
their grief of atomic warfare through a giant radioactive lizard-
>>Godzilla king of the monsters!>>Or the Americans worry that their
bombs would be turned against them like the mutated ants in Them. Such films clearly made an impression
on Pixar bigshot Brad Bird in his 1999 cult classic The Iron Giant. But did you know that it’s an adaptation? That movie you love to love is based on a
short children’s novel written by English poet Ted Hughes. The book was published in 1968
under the title the Iron Man, but it was released in America as The
Iron Giant for obvious copyright reasons. The novel uses fairytale structure to
explore the fears of the atomic age. But how does a story written by a poet
who experienced the atomic age firsthand change when it’s adapted by a filmmaker
who witnessed it through the science fiction movies of the time? Grab yourself a rusty metal snack because
it’s time to ask what’s the difference?>>Atomic holocaust.>>If you were to write a log line for
both The Iron Giant and The Iron Man, you would come up with
very similar results. A young boy befriends a giant metal man
during an age of violence and paranoia.>>Should bomb it to smithereens before
>>Hughes connects with children through poetic prose and characters
reminiscent of classic fairy tales. You’ve got a giant, a child,
a father, a village. Hell, even a dragon shows up by the end,
but we’ll get to that. The movie however doesn’t rely as
much on fairy tales familiarity, instead making direct references
to classic science fiction. So while the film keeps the giant and
the boy, it replaces the fairy tale father figure with Annie, a single mom who
works long hours at the local diner.>>And while the book includes various
one-dimensional farmers and military men, the movie fleshes them out into
fully realized characters. There’s Dean, the lovable Beatnik. A fastidious secret agent
named Kent Mansley. And General Rogard,
one of the army’s top brass.>>Hell you get me
a photograph of this thing and I could probably get
some troops over there.>>And with these new characters
come familiar Sci-Fi tropes as well. The moment the movie starts it lets
us know that the Iron Giant is definitely from outer space. Eventually, we learn that he
is an alien weapon built for the purpose of world domination. And who among us does not love
a good old fashioned alien invasion? The book, however,
leaves the Iron Man’s origins a mystery. And by doing so, Hughes expresses
the amorality of science and technology. The Iron Man has no past fueling his
motives any more than atomic energy itself. What’s worrisome is how mankind
reacts to and uses such advancements. And that’s where Hogarth and
the townsfolk come into play. In the movie, Hogarth is an excitable
kid with an overactive imagination and an affinity for science fiction, duh. So of course, when he finds his antenna
bitten off, along with farming equipment, he grabs his alien hunting gear and
follows the path of destruction. He stumbles upon the Iron Giant consuming
metal at the local power station, in a not so subtle reference to
the promise of atomic energy. But Hogarth is able to save him. And so begins their friendship,
which blossoms in a very ET sort of way. Like I found this alien and now I have
to keep it a secret from the adults who would probably just wig out anyway.>>That we might live in peace, amen.>>Amen.>>Book Hogarth is a simple farmer’s
son who spots the giant upon a cliff. Rather than curiously seeking it out and
gaining its trust, book Hogarth immediately tells his father,
who subverts our expectations and actually believes his son.>>I believe you, laddy.>>I don’t know why he’s Irish. In both mediums, the Iron Giant
snacks on the town’s fences, cars, and equipment, which makes
the townsfolk paranoid and confused. But it’s only the book that Hogarth
rallies the village to capture the giant in a large hole. It’s only after the giant is
buried alive that Hogarth feels guilt about when he’s done. He feels like he’d betrayed
a benign creatures trust. So when the giant digs itself out
from inside the earth sometime later, Hogarth approaches it with humility. The townspeople learn to live in harmony
with the giant, who is permitted to stay at the local scrap yard,
where it can eat all the metal it desires. So like Atomic Energy,
the Iron Man is neither good nor bad. What matters is how you approach it.>>In the movie Hogarth also relocates
The Iron Giant to a scrap yard, not to facilitate peace with the giant but
for food and shelter from the public view. Well, except the owner
of the scrap yard Dee. But he’s an artist, so
he’s hip to the whole robot scene. Can you dig? Hogarth teaches the robot
Earth culture and delves into more complex
matters like weapons and debt. Our main characters are content,
of course, until the antagonist gets in the way.>>But my office in Washington received
a call from someone who reported an actual encounter with the object.>>Agent Kent Mansley is sent to
investigate the bitten equipment and mysterious reports of an invader. In both mediums,
Hogarth betrays the robot’s trust. But rather than tricking him into a hole, movie Hogarth gives Agent Mansley
the Iron Giant’s location. But the guilt that’s so well expressed in the novel is
missing in its moving counterpart. Come on, he was drugged and
interrogated by the government. Cut him some slack.>>Hey, call me old fashioned, but I want
the children to suffer in my fairy tales.>>Yeah, okay,
you’re old fashioned, you old coot.>>This brings us to the confrontation, when the two mediums go in
wildly different directions.>>I’m going in.>>In the book, Earth is threatened
by a celestial creature described as a SPACE-BAT-ANGEL-DRAGON
from the Orion constellation. Its body is the size of Australia. All the countries of the world send their
armies and even launched their nuclear weapons, but fail to make even
a dent in the dragon’s hide. So Hogarth asks the Iron Man to confront
the dragon as the Earth’s champion. But rather than turning
to pointless violence, both agree to super-heat their bodies
til one of them succumbs to the pain. The Iron Man lies on flames
of burning petroleum, while the massive dragon does a little
sunbathing on the surface of the sun. And just as you’re about to sneer at the
villain who has been burned to a crisp, the space bat Angel dragon
breaks down into tears. Truthfully, it didn’t even want
to conquer the world at all. It simply become excited
by mankind’s cries of war. In this case, the dragon represents nature responding
to mankind’s destructive prowess. And like the once menacing Iron Man who,
by the end of the story is a hero, the space bat Angel dragon returns
to the stars where it sings a cosmic song of tranquility, bringing
peace to the nations of the world. The movie also expresses anti-war
sentiments by shining a light on cultural reactions to technology. The Iron Giant is a gentle creature
who poses no threat on his own, but once our culture of war and
violence is introduced, such as Hogarth’s toy gun,
his destructive programming kicks in. Some accidental laser discharge
attracts the military, who react to the giant with hostility,
injuring Hogarth in the process.>>Remember when he learned about death?>>It’s still alive.>>Just shoot at it!>>Confronted with the death violence
brings, The Iron Giant completely reverts back to his original programming,
and it’s all lasers and explosions.>>Let’s get out of here!>>I know this movie is teaching me
that violence is never the answer, but it is a really cool action sequence. Anyway, thanks to director Brad Bird, we get this point in moment as
Hogart regains consciousness and attempts to reach his friend
>>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.>>The giant chooses not to be a gun, and
the army general chooses not to fight.>>It’s a trick, launch the missile.>>Are you mad, Mansley?>>But of course,
the moment is ruined by Agent Mansley, who impulsively launches a nuclear
weapon at the Iron Giant’s location. So the Iron Giant jets off into the sky to
meet the missile in one of our favorite movie goodbyes of all time. With a little denouement, we see that our human protagonists
live happily ever after. And like a last minute emotional life
preserver, we see the Iron Giant is alive. Albeit, scattered in Iceland.>>See you later.>>In the end, both mediums do a great job
familiarizing children with the hopes and fears of the atomic age. They both share morals of peace,
friendship, and identity. But while the book uses allegories and fairy tale characters to tell children how
to responsibly react to power, the movie imparts its lesson with superhero
imagery and science fiction references.>>So the next time you come
into possession of great power, how will you respond?>>Yeah.>>Teddy Roosevelt said quote,
that’s all for this episode, but be sure to subscribe to Cinefix for
more what’s the difference. And let us know what you’d like to see
next in the comment section below. End of quote.

Posts Tagged with…

Write a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *