Animation Marathon: Spirited Away and The Iron Giant

So the animation marathon was on a bit of a hiatus, as I was pretty much playing along with the Filmspotting guys, and they got caught up in best-of-2006 lists (like me) and film festivals (not yet for me, but the Philly fest is in April). They started up again last week, and will be finishing up on Friday. I’d already seen the last two films in the marathon, but unlike the other ones I saw before (Akira and Ghost in the Shell) my opinion of these has not changed much (they’re just as good as before). As such, I won’t be spending a ton of time on either one… but I think these are the two most enjoyable films in the marathon. There will be one more post after this one, wrapping up the marathon (though I have a sneaking suspicion that this will not be the last of animation on this blog). Without further adieu, here are the last two films in the marathon (these reviews will be considerably less spoiler-laden than other marathon reviews).

  • Spirited Away: Of the four Hayao Miyazaki films that I’ve seen, I believe this to be the best. This is either a really easy film to review, or really hard. Easy because all it requires is that I give it an enthusiastic recommendation (which I do, go see it!). That’s all you really need, but I’ll give you the primary (spoiler free) reason: the film’s story has many turns that are unexpected, but necessary and logical. For the most part, I didn’t know what to expect for the duration of the movie. By the end, I couldn’t see any other way the story could have progressed, but I couldn’t see where it was going at any point in the story. I guess I should mention that this sort of story actually turns some people off (in the Filmspotting review, Adam felt like I do, while Sam didn’t particularly like that part of it, though he still recommended the film). Visually, it’s spectacular, and Miyazaki perfectly captures some of the subtleties of childhood (like, say, Japanese cootie shots). And this is where the hard part comes in: because of the unexpected way in which the story progresses, I don’t want to ruin it for you. Just go watch it. When you’re done, check out Steven’s spoiler-laden thoughts.
  • The Iron Giant: As I already mentioned, I’ve seen this film before, and I liked it a lot. It was similar to what I was used to in an animated film, but also very different. Upon revisiting it, I was not all that surprised to find that the film was made by Brad Bird, the creator of The Incredibles. Both films share a similar quality, and they’re both great (personally, I prefer The Incredibles, but Giant is still quite good). The Iron Giant is probably the best American 2D animated film in the past 10 years or so.

    The Iron Giant

    It follows the story of an innocent giant alien robot that lands on earth and befriends a little boy. A paranoid government agent wreaks havoc when he finds out about it and tries to destroy the robot (which is programmed for self-defense). There are a lot of things to like about this movie: the story, the characters, and the visuals are all great. But in the end, it’s the childlike Giant that steals the show. Sam from Filmspotting called the Giant one of the greatest characters ever, and it would be hard to argue against that. It’s got the elements of a preachy movie, but it doesn’t go too far overboard, and it’s incredibly entertaining anyway. (More screenshots and possible spoilers below the fold)

This just about wraps up the animation marathon. Another short post covering what Filmspotting is tentatively calling “The Harryhausens” (animation marathon awards) and we’re done.

Here are a few other screenshots from The Iron Giant. Again, possible spoilers ahead.

The Iron Giant Sits Down
Take a seat, Iron Giant!

The Giant is practically a child, so it makes sense that he’d make friends with another kid.

Private Hogarth reporting for duty!
Private Hogarth reporting for duty!

What do you do when you hear something suspicious in the middle of the night? Put on your army helmet and tape a flashlight to your BB Gun, of course!

Uh, oh...
The Giant isn’t all smiles, all the time.

Let’s just say you won’t want to get on the Giant’s bad side:

Puny humans!
Take that, paranoid government guy!

That’s about it for now.

5 thoughts on “Animation Marathon: Spirited Away and The Iron Giant”

  1. Hmmm. Mark, I agree with your reactions, but… well… Spoilers ahead!

    the robot (which is programmed for self-defense)

    The robot is pretty clearly programmed for war. The dent in the robot’s head is what appears to have made it more child-like. That’s pretty important, because once the dent pops out, the robot goes into full-on attack mode.

    That leads to the climax, where the robot- because of his interactions with the boy- is able to over-come his programming and save the town.

    At least, that’s how I saw it. =P

  2. Yeah, that’s a good point, but it seemed to me that he was still sorta childlike after the rampage, you know? It still seemed like more of a self-defense mechanism type thing. But maybe the bump on the head was what caused that behavior…

  3. Oh, he’s definitely child-like.

    The impression I get was that the Iron Giant was never intended to have the sort of “free will” that he ends up with. It’s Hogarth’s influence that gives him the power to over-come his programming.

    I think that we see elements of his programming when they’re playing at the junkyard, and the trigger is a defensive mechanism, but when he goes on the rampage, it seemed like he was reacting more as an aggressor than in a defensive fashion. Plus, as I recall, there’s a scene where we watch the dent in his head finally pop back out, and, when it does, he undergoes the transformation from being fairly child-like and scared to being a machine of destruction.

  4. You might google Brad Bird…

    He’s not just the Incredible guy, he’s also one of the biggest reasons why the Simpsons (until the last few seasons) lost it’s steam… He executive produced the good seasons, and left at the same time that it started going downhill.. not a coincidence.

  5. Interesting. I tend not to care so much about “producers” because they’re not always a good guage for a movie or show. In some cases, a producer really gets involved and it’s an all around positive thing (I assume Brad Bird is among this type of producer), but in many cases they do little or nothing (and sometimes even impede the good things). Directors and writers are much more reliable – and judging from Brad Bird’s career, he’s pretty good all around:)

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