- May 7, 2001
The Iron Giant
Studio: Warner Brothers
Film Length: 86 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Enhanced Widescreen
Audio: DD 5.1
Languages: English & French
Subtitles: English, French & Spanish
Package: Single Disc/Keepcase
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
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.
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!
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
**Special Features rated for the quality of supplements, not the quantity**
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)
Release Date: November 16th, 2004 – we hope….!