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"The Iron Giant" Special Edition: Spectacular Movie, Fantastic DVD

by on November 11, 2004

The Iron Giant did not perform too well in the theaters. Those who saw it, however, felt something at the end of the movie. The story makes a strong emotional connection with its audience, and it still gets to me every time. That’s what’s earned it a place among the best animated films of all time, as well as a new special edition DVD. Roughly two years in the “making,” the new release, rolling out next Tuesday, features The Iron Giant as it’s never been seen before: an all-new digital transfer, feature-length commentary, eight deleted scenes, featurettes, easter eggs, and more.

The Movie: The film’s fantastic opening sequence of the Giant’s arrival on Earth during an equally giant storm quickly gives way to the introduction of Hogarth, Annie, and Dean, the three human protagonists. Hogarth befriends the Giant, and soon enough Kent Mansley arrives on the scene as the “villain” of the movie, and stops at nothing to find out what Hogarth knows about the Giant. The characters in the movie begin to feel completely real after a while, meshing together perfectly. The voice actors, Eli Marienthal, Jennifer Aniston, Harry Connick Jr., Christopher McDonald, and Vin Diesel (as the voice of the Giant, in perhaps the biggest surprise of the movie) are all top notch. McDonald’s scene with the Choco-Lax sundae is always a hoot to watch and Marienthal…heck, every scene with him is incredible. Mansley’s eccentric but true-to-life mannerisms contribute wonderfully to his paranoid, overenthusiastic personality. All the voice actors and character animators did a fantastic job on the movie, delivering performances that still surpass most animated films since.

The film’s animation will always be one of its strongest points. The Giant is very skillfully done, computer animation meshing seamlessly with the film’s hand-drawn characters. Backgrounds are also beautiful to look at, and the use of seasonal color is another highlight, drifting from a bright and clear palette to cold and dreary grays and ending with warmer tones. Movement is fluid, smooth, and subtle. The facial animations fit the characters perfectly and even the Giant’s emotions come through. Perhaps the greatest element in this regard is the Giant’s eyes; these are his greatest tools in displaying emotion. From boredom to confusion, worry to sadness, the Giant displays more emotion than most films’ human characters do. The huge amount of love and hard work that the animators and artists put into this movie is still quite evident.

The Iron Giant tops my list of favorite films ever—animated or not. It has such a strong and moving story that I get choked up every time and just thinking about the Giant saying, “No following,” still gets to me. If there’s anyone out there who still hasn’t seen this movie, you are missing out. Tackling important themes through an emotionally gripping story filled with wonderfully realized characters, Iron Giant offers much more than any generic children’s film could.

The DVD: The video on the disc features very little visible compression (only noticeable when watching it on a PC monitor—and even then, it’s minor), sharp and bright colors and solid color levels. This film looks better than it ever has, and although the previous release had a great transfer, this one takes it just a bit further. Fans probably won’t see much of a difference, but “videophiles” will see enough of a difference to warrant another purchase.

Eight deleted scenes, all mostly unfinished (though a few of them sport minimal coloring), are also included. One great thing about these is they all have an introduction by Brad Bird and other crew members, explaining what was going on in the scene and why it was cut. These scenes include: a more elaborate alternate opening, featuring over five crew-men and a much bigger boat than what we got in the final version, a campfire with Dean, Hogarth, and the Giant that gets a little out of control, a drag race shortly before the junk-yard scene, a breakfast table scene following Kent and Hogarth’s “all-night-stare-down,” another classroom scene, showing off how smart (and hated) Hogarth was in school, Annie and Dean at the diner, the original introduction of Annie and Hogarth, which tells more of Hogarth’s missing father and finally the greatest one of all: the Giant’s dream. This final scene is definitely worth saving for last. It is still in very rough storyboard form, but has full voiceover and music and was quite a joy to watch.

Teddy Newton “The X Factor” and a Duck and Cover sequence are the only other new standalone segments on the disc; “The Voice of the Giant” is a piece of the documentary from the first disc that crept its way into this release. Nothing particularly amazing in these features, although seeing the full version of “Duck and Cover” was quite enjoyable.

Two trailers (theatrical and one narrated by Brad Bird) and “Behind the Armor” (an option to watch the movie with a feature turned on that will allow you to view special behind-the-scenes footage during the film), a motion gallery, and easter eggs (five in all, by my count), round out the special features in this set, with, of course, the biggest feature of them all—the commentary.

The commentary features Brad Bird, Tony Fucile, Jeff Lynch, and Steven Markowski talking over the film, providing some great listening; particularly amusing was Bird’s recollection of literally shaking Eli Marienthal during the “rocket” sequence in the junk yard to make Hogarth’s voice wobble. I got a sense that a few things were edited out of the commentary, however: in the scene where Kent Mansley is calling General Sudokoff, the commentary seems to suddenly cut off and then it goes into the regular movie audio for a minute or so until his fight with the telephone begins. Perhaps nothing happened, but immediately prior they had been talking about copyright problems with Disney, so it may very well have been something that was taken out “just in case.” That moment aside, it was extremely entertaining and informative. Unlike most other movie commentaries I’ve listened to, they talked about more “behind-the-scenes” action than simply what sounds they used (though the sounds used in the guttural moan of Kent’s stomach were revealed) and explanations of who did what and where were strewn throughout the discussion, but kept short, so it was never something that lasted more than a minute or so. Those who want to learn more about the film should definitely give the commentary a shot.

Overall, the film’s presentation and special features do not disappoint. It’s a great DVD for a great film, and though it lacks the laughable documentary from the first release, this disc packs a much bigger punch. Those who haven’t seen the film or are looking for another reason to buy it, look no further—this release will leave you feeling satisfied with your purchase and a few tears lighter after viewing the film.

The Iron Giant Special Edition DVD will be in stores November 16. Discuss the release and this review here on Toon Zone’s DVD Discussion forum.

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