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DVD Reviews

HTF REVIEW: The Iron Giant - Special Edition



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#1 of 48 OFFLINE   Herb Kane

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Posted November 12 2004 - 09:34 AM

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The Iron Giant
Special Edition





Studio: Warner Brothers
Year: 1999
Rated: PG
Film Length: 86 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Enhanced Widescreen
Audio: DD 5.1
Color/B&W: Color
Languages: English & French
Subtitles: English, French & Spanish
MSRP: $19.96
Package: Single Disc/Keepcase





The Feature:
No, it’s not April Fools Day, nor is it a practical joke. This is an honest to goodness review of the fan favorite, The Iron Giant – Special Edition, a version that has proven to be almost as elusive as DB Cooper. Ranking right up there with Duel and Ed Wood in terms of scarcity, WB is finally releasing the highly sought after version, presumably to coincide with Director Brad Bird’s other recently released anticipated mega-hit film, The Incredibles. Though the film was pretty much neglected by theater-goers, it has garnered a remarkable following as a result of the home video market.

The film is based on the 1968 children's book “The Iron Man” by Edward Hughes and is a charming and enchanting tale of a young boy named Hogarth Hughes (voiced by Eli Marienthal) and his newly discovered friend, a fifty foot robot - a voracious Iron Giant (voiced by Vin Diesel) with an appetite for anything ferrous. Set during 1957 amidst the height of the cold war era, the Giant is discovered after a mysterious crash-landing on Earth, landing in an electric power station. Hogarth befriends the Giant after saving him from electrocution. He soon learns the Giant is friendly but attempts to conceal his new friendship from his mom, Annie Hughes (voiced by Jennifer Aniston).

Unaware of the planets do's and don’ts, Hogarth teaches the Giant lessons on life within our society and eventually they forge a unique but determined friendship. However, the Giant is not of this world, and the people are fearful of his presence. That becomes increasingly evident when a government official named Kent Mansley (voiced by Christopher McDonald) shows up to investigate the mysterious circumstances surrounding the crash landing. Soon, the duplicitous investigator calls in the military headed by General Rogard (voiced by John Mahoney). Will Hogarth be able to convince the army of the Giant’s gentle and passive personality, or will it be too late?

Regardless of your personal feelings of the film, The Iron Giant is a film that appeals to both young and old and one that succeeds on nearly every level. The film isn’t dumbed down to speak to children specifically, it’s clever and well written and the brisk pace of 87 minutes keeps the movie tight. Look (okay, listen) for voice performances from Cloris Leachman, M. Emmet Walsh as well as Harry Connick Jr. as the scrap-yard dealer who winds up providing sustenance for the ravenous beast.

The single disc comes in a Keepcase, replacing the previous version in the dreaded snapper case and is adorned with gorgeous cover art – a very nice touch. No insert or booklet has been included.

The Feature: 3.5/5
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Video:
Beyond the storyline, the film is a visual treat to look at. The artwork (much of it hand-drawn) is gorgeous, shown in the original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 – it truly is stunning, particularly for an animated film. Apparently the previous version is no slouch but unfortunately I don’t have it so I am unable to compare it for the members here, but the Special Edition presentation is excellent. According to the back cover, the Special Edition sports an “all new Digital Transfer”, for what it’s worth.

Colors were outstanding – hues and saturation levels were just right. Blacks were truly deep and whites couldn’t be any cleaner. Equally as impressive was the level of contrast which was perfect.

There was virtually no grain to speak of (save for slight traces of extremely fine grain which appeared infrequently). There was a beautiful sense of depth and dimensionality to this film, visually stunning to look at. Sharpness was terrific.

The print looked immaculate and free of any dust or dirt or other blemishes as we might expect for a relatively newer film.

The image was rock solid and free of any shimmer or jitter and I didn’t observe any digital artifacts. The entire film was free of any edge enhancement.

Great job!

Video: 4.5/5
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Audio:
The Iron Giant comes with an encoded DD 5.1 soundtrack that is almost as impressive as the video presentation. The track is very dynamic, bordering on downright aggressive and falls just short of some of the mega-hits that have been released over the past couple of years.

The track is clean and free of any hiss or other noisy distractions. The overall tonality of the track is slightly warm. There is a better than average amount of separation among the front soundstage.

The dynamic range is also impressive highlighting the slightest and brightest of fine detail to the chest pounding visceral thuds left by the big guy. Needless to say there is no shortage of LFE use, particularly when the Giant decides to go for a walk. Your sub will thank you for the decent workout.

There is also a fair amount of surround activity as the rears have been tasked to help keep the viewer’s sense of envelopment charged.

A very good job!

Audio: 4/5
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Special Features:
Unlike the previous release, the Special Edition boasts many Special Features starting with:
[*] Cast & Crew - sports 3 pages of textual information and bios on the key members of the film.
[*] Commentary. The highlight of the supplemental material features Brad Bird (Director), Steve Markowski (Animation Supervisor), Jeff Lynch (Head - Story Department), and Tony Fucile (Head of Animation). This offers up many informative tidbits relating to the film from the concept of the project, to the ideas about the manner in which many sequences were animated to the lean budget under which they worked. The feature is relatively entertaining and moves along at a fairly rapid pace.
[*] The next feature is a grouping of Additional Scenes that includes an alternate opening sequence and an interesting dream sequence by The Iron Giant, however, the majority is presented in rough storyboard form. Duration: 18:34 minutes.
[*] Teddy Newton “The X-Factor” is an interesting short interview with the storyboard artist. Duration: 5:37 minutes.
[*] Duck and Cover Sequence is a short and funny clip with the intent to educate children about how to survive nuclear fallout, introduced by Teddy Newton which is shown in storyboard form. Duration: 2:22 minutes.
[*] The Voice of The Giant a short clip featuring Vin Diesel at work plying his trade as the Giant. Duration: 2:39 minutes.
[*] Behind The Armor contains a set of thirteen branching mini-documentaries that appear during the movie that are accessible by clicking on your DVD remote when the “nuts & bolts” icon appears. Highlighted are short documentaries pertaining to the music score, animation design and storyboards among others.
[*] Motion Gallery is a collection of clips and rough sketches as well as a second trailer. Duration: 4:22 minutes.
[*] The Theatrical Trailer is also included and is in near perfect condition. Duration: 2:24 minutes.
[*] The second trailer is entitled Brad Bird Trailer which is in rough form. Duration: 1:29 minutes.
[*] There is also a DVD-ROM feature with the movie's original website as well as links to other various WB events.
[*] And finally, there are at least two Easter Eggs that were easily noticeable (and perhaps more, I didn’t go looking for them).

There might be a lot of special features, but there isn’t really a lot substance here. This is definitely an example of quantity over quality.

Special Features: 3/5
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**Special Features rated for the quality of supplements, not the quantity**



Final Thoughts:
Some things in life are indeed worth waiting for and fans of The Iron Giant have definitely shown tremendous patience. Whether or not this was worth the wait is a decision only you can answer. Personally, our entire family enjoyed this film but on a personal level, the film never struck the same chord with me that it seems to with so many others. Having said that, The Iron Giant is a film of a subtler nature, a film that isn’t necessarily in your face like many of today’s recent animated films and I appreciated that - and a film that seems to be a unique departure from the assembly-line-animated-films so commonly released from the likes of Disney and Pixar.

Unfortunately, I can’t tell you if the presentation is superior to the previous release but I can tell you that the presentation of the Special Edition is excellent in both arenas. Although there are plenty of special features, I was under-whelmed by the content.

If you’re a fan of the film and don’t have the previous version, I’d heartily recommend this Special Edition however, if you’re pleased with the presentation of your original version, I’m not so sure the supplemental features alone are enough to warrant a double dip. One thing is for sure, the price of this disc is extremely reasonable and you’ll probably be able to pick it up for under $14 bucks – not bad for a new release Special Edition.

Overall Rating: 4/5 (not an average)
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Release Date: November 16th, 2004 – we hope….!
My Top 25 Noirs:

25. 711 Ocean Drive (1950), 24. Odds Against Tomorrow (1959), 23. Desperate (1947), 22. Pushover (1954), 21. The Blue Dahlia (1946), 20. The File on Thelma Jordon (1949), 19. He Ran All the Way (1951), 18. The Asphalt Jungle (1950), 17. The Killing (1956), 16. I Walk Alone (1948),...

#2 of 48 OFFLINE   Heinz W

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Posted November 12 2004 - 10:06 AM

Nice review as usual Herb. I'll stick with the original release for now since the extras are rather shallow. The originals transfer is first rate IMO so no double dip here. If it ever goes to the bargain bin I may pick it up for the commentary.

#3 of 48 OFFLINE   Casey Trowbridg

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Posted November 12 2004 - 12:20 PM

I don't have the original version, so I will be picking this up. After reading a lot of Brad Bird interviews, and after seeing the Incredibles twice since Saturday (only movie I've ever seen more than once in the theater) I've gained a lot more respect for him and the way he looks at Animation so this became a no brainer for me.

#4 of 48 OFFLINE   Joseph J.D

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Posted November 12 2004 - 02:29 PM

I don't have the original version either so I will be very happy to pick this one up. I've always wanted to see this film....now's my chance. Posted Image
Recently watched- Four Christmases, Love & Other Drugs, Assault On Precinct 13(1976), Lovejoy Christmas Specials, Die Hard 2: Die Harder, Die Hard, Up 3D, The Grandmaster, Edge Of Tomorrow 3D, The Comedy Of Terrors, The Raven(1963), Mulholland Falls, Saturn 3, Cheers: Season 6, Nosferatu: The Vampyre, Battle Beyond The Stars

Currently watching- Planet Earth, True Blood: Season 2, Gatchaman: The Complete Series, The Equalizer: Season 2, Tales From The Crypt: Season 2, WKRP In Cincinnati: Season 1, Arrow: Season 2, Star Trek: Season 1
 
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#5 of 48 OFFLINE   DaveF

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Posted November 12 2004 - 05:13 PM

Thanks for the review. I've not watched this since I saw the original release several years ago. I agree with your assessment of the film, but would like to re-watch it to see if my appreciation increases with a second viewing. The commentary also sounds interesting.

#6 of 48 OFFLINE   Joe Cortez

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Posted November 12 2004 - 05:28 PM

Oh man have I been waiting for this SE. Thanks for another great review, Herb.

#7 of 48 OFFLINE   JoSAN

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Posted November 13 2004 - 12:55 AM

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#8 of 48 OFFLINE   Richard Kim

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Posted November 13 2004 - 02:46 AM

Definitely picking the SE up. Hopefully with the sucess of The Incredibles, this underrated gem will get the recognition it deserves.

#9 of 48 OFFLINE   George See

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Posted November 13 2004 - 03:28 AM

Been waiting a long long time for this special edition, a little disapointed that the special features are underwhelming. But i'll be picking this up none the less. Nice well written review.

#10 of 48 OFFLINE   TonyD

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Posted November 13 2004 - 04:36 AM

Pete Townshend was exec producer for this.
he also created an album based on the book.
also, really a forgotten album by pete.

http://www.amazon.co....095924-1833741
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#11 of 48 OFFLINE   Richard Kim

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Posted November 13 2004 - 08:18 AM

BTW, Cartoon Network is showing The Iron Giant right now in
its ORIGINAL ASPECT RATIO. Posted Image

#12 of 48 OFFLINE   Heinz W

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Posted November 13 2004 - 10:01 AM

Quote:
I'd heard that the original DVD release wasn't that good in terms of technical quality so I've been waiting patiently for this new Special Edition.


Not at all. A superb transfer. I watched it again last night after reading Herb's review and it looks fantastic on my Hitachi 51S715 via progressive scan player (Pioneer DV-578A). Not a thing wrong with the original transfer.

I do agree that it's a great animated film, one of the 90's best IMHO.

#13 of 48 OFFLINE   Jeffrey Nelson

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Posted November 13 2004 - 02:40 PM

Underwhelming and shallow special features? C'mon...you've got a commentary featuring four key members of the production, additional deleted scenes, an interview with the storyboard artist, thirteen mini-documentaries about different technical aspects of the film, two trailers, and more still. What more do you want?

#14 of 48 OFFLINE   JeremySt

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Posted November 13 2004 - 06:49 PM

I saw Iron Giant with my lil bro when it first came out. It immediatly shot to the top of my list of best animated films. #1 for me will always be The Secret Of Nimh, partially because of it personal importance to me... but The Iron Giant is the best animated feature to come out since, at least IMO. THanks for the review, Ill be picking this up for sure. Probaly the only animated film to bring me to tears.

#15 of 48 OFFLINE   Herb Kane

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Posted November 14 2004 - 12:44 AM

Quote:
What more do you want?


Substance.

The vast majority of what is included barely exceeds two or three minutes each. Sure, I'm happy the commentary and theatrical trailer are included but many many releases have at least those inclusions without a "special edition" moniker.

My point was to emphasize that after a relatively long wait and after a number of postponements for this "special edition", those who were waiting specifically on special features, I suspect are going to be disappointed - as I was.
My Top 25 Noirs:

25. 711 Ocean Drive (1950), 24. Odds Against Tomorrow (1959), 23. Desperate (1947), 22. Pushover (1954), 21. The Blue Dahlia (1946), 20. The File on Thelma Jordon (1949), 19. He Ran All the Way (1951), 18. The Asphalt Jungle (1950), 17. The Killing (1956), 16. I Walk Alone (1948),...

#16 of 48 OFFLINE   Colin Jacobson

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Posted November 14 2004 - 01:53 AM

Quote:
Substance.

The vast majority of what is included barely exceeds two or three minutes each. Sure, I'm happy the commentary and theatrical trailer are included but many many releases have at least those inclusions without a "special edition" moniker.

My point was to emphasize that after a relatively long wait and after a number of postponements for this "special edition", those who were waiting specifically on special features, I suspect are going to be disappointed - as I was.


I agree with Herb. This would be an excellent DVD - in 2000, which is when it was supposed to be released. (I think that's more than a "relatively long wait" - four years!) Standards have changed, but this set's content didn't. It's a nice little package, but the extras aren't terribly impressive.
Colin Jacobson
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#17 of 48 OFFLINE   Todd Beachler

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Posted November 17 2004 - 01:41 PM

I finally bought this today after having it on my Palm's "DVDs to buy" list for a couple years! Posted Image

#18 of 48 OFFLINE   Patrick McCart

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Posted November 17 2004 - 04:53 PM

I just purchased this a few days ago... and finally got around to watching it tonight with a fellow animation fan...

This movie is perfect. Instead of going on, I'll just say that it's one of the best movies I've ever seen. Shame on WB for not promoting it well when it was theatrically released. However...

The SE is top-notch. The video transfer is flawless. The extras look promising (I'm watching them later). I also understand why Warner Home Video decided to postpone the DVD until The Incredibles was theatrically released. I might have not purchased the DVD if I did not see Brad Bird's newer masterpiece first.

There's nothing quite like finding a movie to be wonderful in the first viewing. It can't be repeated.

#19 of 48 OFFLINE   KevinWEL

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Posted November 17 2004 - 09:24 PM

I hope to get this for Christmas. Being the father of three young girls I get to see all the animation I want but they never went for the Iron Giant plot. Girls... sheesh!

I can't wait to see it. I may even convince my wife to watch it (she's a big Vin Diesel fan).

Blade Runner Voted the best Sci-Fi movie ever made.
Finally in Blu-ray to fit my budget
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#20 of 48 OFFLINE   Mike Frezon

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Posted November 18 2004 - 01:16 AM

I am soooo looking forward to this.

I have never seen the Iron Giant. But, it seems to have such a devoted following that I tucked the SE into my shopping cart last night and brought it home. I am a huge fan of Disney animation (I own most of their full-length animated features, the Treasures sets, etc. and I LOVE the Pixar films--see my sig.), but I have never warmed to other studios' animation efforts.

But people seem to have such an affinity to this film that I figured I had to give it a try.

And, my 14-year old son has liked Vin Deisel ever since xXx and my wife has always had a thing for Harry Connick, Jr. (especially his voice)...so I figure if the story is even half as good as people say it is, we'll all be pleased.

These comments in this very thread as well as some persuasive people in my Weekly RoundUp thread over in Coupons & Bargains have made this a much-anticipated viewing for me.

Quote:
This movie is perfect. Instead of going on, I'll just say that it's one of the best movies I've ever seen.

It immediatly shot to the top of my list of best animated films. #1 for me will always be The Secret Of Nimh, partially because of it personal importance to me... but The Iron Giant is the best animated feature to come out since, at least IMO.

I do agree that it's a great animated film

This is a great film. It went virtually unnoticed at the box office but has since been discovered to be the classic it is on video.

Regardless of your personal feelings of the film, The Iron Giant is a film that appeals to both young and old and one that succeeds on nearly every level. The film isn’t dumbed down to speak to children specifically, it’s clever and well written and the brisk pace of 87 minutes keeps the movie tight.

There's Jessie the yodeling cowgirl. Bullseye, he's Woody's horse. Pete the old prospector. And, Woody, the man himself.Of course, it's time for Woody's RoundUp. He's the very best! He's the rootinest, tootinest cowboy in the wild, wild west!


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