30 Mar

The Iron Giant

“I am not a gun.”

– The Iron Giant

The Setup

With Ready Player One now in theaters, we thought it would be worth going back to watch one of the many movies referenced in the trailer. Seriously, that trailer is pure 80’s/90’s nostalgia, which we guess is enough to warrant calling it “The Holy Grail of Pop Culture?” Either way, the Iron Giant appears in a scene in that trailer, and has appeared in multiple promotional materials, so why not revisit The Iron Giant, a much loved classic, now that it is somewhat at the top of everyones minds.

The Meal

What does the Iron Giant eat? Metal, of course. That’s a major plot point in the movie – that dude is always eating metal, can’t get enough of it. The best way we were able to emulate this was by cooking meals high in iron, while being careful not to get too big of a dose of it in our bodies. We also wanted to capture the general vibe of the Hughes family by sticking to homey, comfort foods.

We started off with clams, cooked with garlicky herb butter. Most of the iron in clams may be in the shell, but call us old fashioned because we stuck to the delicious chewy meat, which is fortunately still a pretty good source of iron.

Next, we dished up Skillet Spinach Lasagna with tons of iron-rich spinach in it. We cooked it in a cast-iron skillet and probably picked up some extra iron from that as well. This lasagna was great, using no-boil noodles, Italian sausage, and a great mozzarella and ricotta cheese mixture. The noodles crisped up on the bottom and edges making every bite the edge bite you love.

Finally, we closed out with a dark chocolate and apricot tart. As you no doubt have guessed, apricots are a great source of iron. It was also the best dessert we’ve made in a while with its chocolate crust, chocolate cake, and a dried apricot filling. It is the type of dessert or pastry you see in a French bakery and wish you had access to on a daily basis.

The Drink

We felt we had to do something with egg whites for this iron-based meal and landed on the 1870 Sour. This is one of the more interesting sours we’ve tried. It contained whiskey, maple syrup, blueberry jam, and the secret ingredient: red wine, which is actually a iron INHIBITOR because we were maybe worried we would get too much Iron in this meal? We told you we made an iron-focused meal, and we aren’t nutritionists or doctors so we don’t know what all of that iron could do to us! Perhaps you could say there was a giant amount of iron in it… and we needed to manage that. Something tells us Dean (the beatnik, artist-type in the film who runs a junk yard) could get down with this drink.

The Rules

Our drinking rules are:
🔫 Drink when the Iron Giant shoots something.
🗑 Drink when you see “art” but you’re pretty sure it’s actually just trash.
🤖 Take a shot at the line that justifies paying Vin Diesel to be the Iron Giant.

The Movie

The Iron Giant is one of those movies you don’t think much about anymore. It flopped on release, earning back only half of its $70 million budget. Since then, it has become a bit of a cult favorite, but it is still rare that it ever gets referenced any more, which is why we were so surprised to see the Iron Giant in Ready Player One. After watching The Iron Giant, though, we feel that it shouldn’t be overlooked.

First of all, The Iron Giant is a beautiful movie. It does a great job of capturing color schemes, decorations, and clothing from the 50’s, and even goes so far as to emulate the visual style of 50’s Disney movies, like Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. However, Iron Giant has a beautiful sense of dimensionality in its backdrops than the older films it takes inspiration from. As a result, many scenes have an impressive depth to them and make for some beautifully-framed moments.

More importantly, The Iron Giant seems to have something to say. It’s clearly anti-war, anti-gun, anti-military-industrial-complex. Notably, Dean asks the army to lay down their weapons, saying “[The Iron Giant] only acts defensively. If you don’t shoot, he’s harmless.” Set during the nuclear escalation of the cold war, it is a film that wears its thoughts and feelings on its sleeve and with pride. And it is a great message to deliver.

The other message The Iron Giant drives home, again through Dean, is that, “You are who you choose to be.” It is a surprisingly existential affirmation, which actually also fits right into the 50’s time period. Sarte and Heidegger were just hitting their stride in the 1950’s, defining existential philosophy. You could easily imagine these are the kinds of books Dean reads, and you can see why he might come up with quotes like that one.

Overall, The Iron Giant reads as a love letter to the 50’s and expresses this adoration in its art style, setting, and theme, and it should be respected for this dedication. More importantly, it leaves adults, and hopefully kids, with something to think about or talk about, which is more than you can say about many of the other “kids movies” of its time. We suggest you go back and watch it. It ages better than you would think.

The Reviews

André: Better than I remembered. My only memory of watching Iron Giant was having it on in the background during a playdate with my little sister and some family friends. I definitely wasn’t paying close enough attention, but even if I was, I’m sure a lot of it would have gone over my head. I knew nothing about the 50’s, existentialism, or arms escalation. Iron Giant is a surprisingly meaty movie, and appeals to an intellectual audience just as much as it does to children. I’d wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone.

Leanna: I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed watching this film. I remember seeing it when it first came out with my parents because it was one of the few cartoons they agreed to watch with me and (if I remember correctly) managed to enjoy. As an adult, I loved the overall look and feel of the film and how well it created a distinct and lasting impression. And despite the main character being a young boy, the film tackles some topics that require some maturity and consideration. It’s a movie I would feel comfortable showing to my future child, and I look forward to sitting down and watching it with them.

Ben: 90%. There are not many films out there like Iron Giant. It is singular in its willingness to criticize the military-industrial complex and our reliance and love for guns and war. In addition, it is a kids film that is not afraid to confront death in multiple forms and adults are more than willing to be ethically dubious for their own ends. And all of this is wrapped up in a kids film that is beautifully paced and staged and bursting with character in a way that some animated films just don’t seem to have any more (I am looking at you, Dreamworks). It is unfortunate, though, that this film had to deliver its story practically entirely void of any person of color and one singular speaking role for a woman. And don’t even attempt to couch any rebuttal to that in the fact that this film takes place in the 50s. Iron Giant has so much going for it and these are some inexcusable errors on its part, but the film is still worthy of your time.