The Iron Giant (1999) – movie review

The Iron Giant - pic 15

The Iron Giant (1999)

Directed by Brad Bird

Eli Marienthal
Christopher McDonald
Vin Diesel
Jenifer Aniston
Harry Connick, Jr.


I’m not sure how this animated film faired coming out at the turn of the new century (1999). It was, after all, the animation of the preceding 100 years, not the new 3D CG molded perfection that was taking over modern animation. It was a cartoon. Despite its sharp lines, full rich colors, and expressive shadow-play it was yesterday’s technology. Although the giant itself was rendered with CGI it still has the 2d feel of standard cartoon animation, but it’s a beautiful film to watch.

If you haven’t watched this gem, I’m here to tell you that you are missing a wonderful tale, a visual treat and an entertaining film. It’s based on a 1968 story by British poet, Ted Hughes, called “IronThe Iron Giant 1999 Man” and tells the story of a young boy coming into his own while making new friends and learning he can make a difference in the world. It’s set in 1958 Maine, in a small town called, Rockwell. Hogarth, a boy being raised by a single hard-working mom, befriends a robot when a satellite crash lands in the woods rear of his home. While teaching the robot the ways of the world he also hides and defends him from government men on the hunt to destroy the mechanical beast. In the end will the true nature of the mechanical monster be unleashed upon the unsuspecting small town?

The retro sci-fi robot design is the epitome of what a giant robot should look like in the subconscious mind of man, a powerful technological being crafted from the 1950s sci-fi Hollywood image bank, and earlier pulp magazine era, representative of a time of wonder, awe and inspiration at science and technology itself…and its eyes glow in the dark. Some fantastic action sequences highlight the later part of the film as the Army closes in on the Iron Giant and a final battle threatens the existence of everyone in the town.

The Iron Giant is a sci-fi must-see that sparks on all cylinders creating family entertainment enjoyable for all age groups and genders. It takes the qualities of a Disney princess tale and gives it boy-ish charm, effectively portraying a young hero a young man won’t want to cringe away from, but embrace as one of their own. The film is now regarded as an animated sci-fi classic after years of a growing cult following.

Iron Giant Giphy

Fun little Sci-fi fan cameos:

Action Comics with Superman

The Sputnik crossing the sky in the night

3 tendrils emanate from The Iron Giant in an homage to War of the Worlds (1953)

USS Nautilus, the first atomic powered submarine

Forbidden Planet poster in Hogarth’s bedroom

Parlor of Horror – Creature Features Category

War of the Worlds: Goliath (2012) – movie review

War of the Worlds Goliath pic 2

War of the Worlds: Goliath (2012)

This animated film begins similar to the end of the movie and story we are most familiar with. Right before the Alien’ s succumb to the simple earth bacteria, a young boy watches helplessly as his parents are vaporized by a Martian tripod.

It is now, 1914, and the human race has built giant war machines to combat the Martians if they return. The world in the film is Steampunk driven, with that style of machinery, Zeppelins and dirigibles dotting the post Utopian sky. An elite world force of WOW Goliath coverrobot combat troops known as ARES scour the earth looking for alien landings and the rise of Martian tripods. They travel from battle to battle, trying to keep the world free from this constant invasion.

The climax takes place in New York City as the tripods land end-mass to overwhelm the ARES base. There is massive city destruction as the war machines engage the tripods for a showdown, battle royale! In the backdrop look for the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty (now bearing a sword instead of a torch) and the Chrysler Building.

Well made, technical weapons animated by highly detailed art provide movie quality visuals. There are airship dog-fights and robot battles on the ground that indulge in quite a bit of stylish action sometimes reminiscent of the cover-art of Heavy Metal Magazine come alive. The story is your basic good against evil. The young boy who saw his parents die, now grown up, is part of the ARES fighting force. He struggles to become the leader of his squadron, despite his affinity to freeze up under pressure.

Well worth it for those who like animated movies, anime’, machismo action and non-bloody violence. I’d say for the casual viewer, not enough story to hold your interest. It was almost all action. Good for kids eight and up.

War of the Worlds Goliath pic 10

High action and beautifully drawn for animated movie fans and fans of anime.

I give it 3.0 alien twisting tentacles out of 5 for warrior robot vs. invading alien ship battles!

War of the Worlds Goliath pic 2c

Pacific Rim (2013) – movie review


Pacific Rim (2013)

Directed by Guillermo del Toro

Pacific_Rim_FilmPoster_jpegAlthough this film falls into the trappings and pitfalls of a summer blockbuster style film, it is much better than most other US made giant monster films in recent years. Lots of action, lots of monster & robot brawls in the middle of the city – smashing things, breaking things – what more could you ask for? It was modeled after Kaiju films but was ultimately Americanized – perhaps a bit too much. Nevertheless, the action scenes are stunning. Rich colors and BIG scope make Pacific Rim a visually amazing film.

All the Top-Gun stuff has become standard in many of the later Godzilla movies and even that one female pilot on a personal vendetta because her parents/ brother/ grandparents were killed by Big-G has become a familiar storyline. The monster attacks at night were a homage to early Kaiju films. Godzilla only attacked at night and the same with Gamera. The rain masks some of the digital quality of the CG and I didn’t mind that. I did think the scientists were a bit much, I didn’t find their scenes all that amusing but many Kaiju films often have silly sub-characters. The pacific rim mako mori pic 2scientist’s scenes were hokey but kept to a minimum.

We watch giant monster movies mainly to see all-out monster brawls and monster destruction. I think further character depth would have just slowed down the action. If you want character depth watch a Scorsese film. You want Monster & Robot battles, watch Pacific Rim. The characters of Raleigh (Charlie Hunnam), Mako (Rinko Kikuchi) and Stacker (Idris Elba) were inspiring in a ‘Independence Day’ way. Every time a Jaeger beat a Kaiju, the audience in the theater cheered. What part of the action would you cut out to add more dialogue and character pacific rim stacker pic 2development? I’m glad Stacker’s big speech was short and I’m glad the film wasn’t three hours.

The scene of Mako as a child, running through the empty streets calling for her mom and dad, with the crab-clawed Kaiju hunting her down was awesome. It was the highlight of the non-battle parts of the film. The little girl basically stole the show.

One thought about the monsters and robots. You can either accept CGI as the modern special-fx method and embrace it with the knowledge that some directors and filmmakers are going to be better at delivering it than others – OR – you can dismiss it pacific rim raleighand not see any new movies. If you choose the later, you’ll be missing out on some fun monster films. The choice is yours. After seeing Jurassic Park, can we really go back to a guy-in-a-suit, stop-animation/claymation, or clunky puppetronics?

So, the big question is, do I like Pacific Rim enough to purchase the blu-ray or dvd. The answer is yes. I will most likely purchase it, but it will have to be on sale or at a discount price. I will put it in my newer giant monster film section which includes; Monsters, Tremors, Host, The Troll Hunter, Cloverfeild and Q-The Winged Serpent. I will watch it from time-to-time, but not as often as I would watch King Kong, Godzilla or Harryhausen films.  Of course, I am a monster film fan. Those of you that are lesser fans of monster-mania would probably be better off just waiting until this is shown on TV, cable or Netflix.

robots-pacific-rim pic 1

related articles:

Robots in Film – a complete pictorial history

My Top 10 Robots in film and TV


Creature Features revisited – Giant Robots

Kronos pic 10

Creature Features revisited – Giant Robots

A look back at the golden age of sci-fi, the 1950‘s. Our subject today…Giant Robots
One would think and associate the 1950’s sci-fi age with giant robots. Surprisingly there are very few giant robots in film during this time period. Here are my top picks:

kronos-movie-poster-1957Kronos (1957)
Ya’ know, leaving the terrible pseudo-science and phony looking flying saucer aside, this film takes an hour to really get to its namesake. The ‘robot’ is the weirdest looking thing, rectangular metal blocks stacked on columns. And forget about its means of locomotion, even at seven years old (the first time I saw the film) I knew that those alternate pumping pistons would not be an effective mode of transportation. So, what do I like about it? It’s massive, it shoots lightning from its antennae, and it soaks up all the power from a nuclear blast to redistribute it in a calculated path of destruction (I’m really stretching it here). Besides, one of the scientists was played by George O’Hanlon who later became voice of George Jetson (The Jetson’s cartoon). The other scientist was played by Jeff Morrow.

the colossus of ny cover artThe Colossus of New York (1958)
The Colossus of NY was directed by Eugène Lourié, a name that should be much more famous in the sci-fi community than it is. Ross Martin stars as Jeremy, a scientist and humanitarian, who is killed in a car crash on the night he was to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. His Father transplants Jeremy’s brain into a 12 foot tall robot. This reborn version of Jeremy is kept in seclusion and away from his wife and child, who are picking up the pieces of their life after his death. From the sealed off lab he works with his father and his assistant to solve the problems of the world. But, the lack of contact with his family and a suspicion that his partner is secretly seeing his wife drive him mad. He decides the world is not decent enough to be saved by his work, so they should die by his work. He sets out on a rampage in NYC to attack a convention honoring the scientific community. In the end it is only the love for his son, who is also at the convention, that allows him to be destroyed before causing any further damage. The only score in the film is the piano composition of Van Cleave (who also did music for White Christmas, Robinson Crusoe on Mars, and episodes of the Twilight Zone) The film is mostly a sad melodrama until the short-lived Robot-attack at the conclusion of the film. But it is worth seeing for sci-fi fans of this era.

mysterians coverThe Mysterians (1957)
Aliens land in Japan and their giant spacecraft burrows into the ground. They have two simple requests in their alien ultimatum. “We want two acres of land, and all of your women!” When the leaders of earth say, “No” (everyone except Jack Benny, that is) the Mysterians release the Giant Robot, Mogera. He shoots radioactive rays from his eyes and stomps small towns. Flying Saucers come down from space and zap any military attempt at combating the alien takeover. However, the Japanese military has been working on a secret weapon to combat the onslaught of Robot and Saucers, thus, the first appearance of the Maser Cannon is seen in a Toho film. The Maser Cannon shoots a laser beam that looks like lightning and would be put to combat in many future Toho films releases. By far the best giant robot film of the era.

Target Earth movie posterTarget Earth (1954)
A young woman, Vicki, (Virginia Grey), wakes up to find the city of Chicago abandoned. The film does a great job at showing her running through the deserted city streets, and portraying her panic, which had to be an influence on the opening of 28 Days Later. She eventually stumbles upon three more people who were down and out and missed the evacuation. The alien invasion consists of robot sentinels roaming the city and zapping anything that moves. Squirrels? Gone. Pigeons? Gone. People? Zap! Zap! Extra crispy. The robots are only 8 to 10 feet tall so I don’t know if they should be considered giant, but like I said, there wasn’t nearly as many films in this category to choose from as I would have thought. This film is heavy on drama but seriously lacking in robot combat. The robots are only seen in a few scenes. They shoot an electric ray from their TV screen faces and a couple of people disappear. The robots are decent looking and the story is really well written, so I‘d give it a thumbs up, anyway. Also stars, Richard Denning.

Honorable mention:gort pic 1

Of course, we got GORT from The Day the Earth Stood Still, but he only zapped a few things then stood immobile for most of the movie. Besides, I’m going to feature this film in my Alien Ultimatums list in the future…