You need to watch the most imaginative sci-fi movie on Hulu ASAP
“I am not a gun.”
Few superhero origin stories are as beloved and acclaimed as this sci-fi classic.
And the same could be said of its filmmaker. Best known for his work with Pixar, Brad Bird has directed some of the greatest animated films of the 21st century, including Ratatouille, The Incredibles, and its sequel. His adventures outside of Pixar haven’t been entirely unremarkable either, thanks to his work at the helm of 2011’s Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol.
But few of Bird’s films hold quite the same place in the hearts and minds of viewers as The Iron Giant does. The animated classic received universally rave reviews when it first hit theaters back in 1999 but was a financial bomb at the box office. Fortunately, those who saw the film at the time weren’t shy about professing their love for it, and the critical perception of it has only continued to grow and improve in the decades since then.
It’s a film well-worth revisiting or seeking out for the first time. Thankfully, it’s never been easier to watch The Iron Giant now that it’s available to stream on Hulu.
Set in 1957, The Iron Giant follows a young boy who befriends a gigantic metallic robot from outer space, which just so happened to crash land near his small American town. Their friendship is threatened when a paranoid government agent arrives in town, hoping to expose the robot and utilize the full might of the U.S. military to destroy him.
Like many films set during the Cold War, The Iron Giant uses the culture of paranoia that was prevalent in the United States at the time to tell a story about the foolish brutality of war and the need to have faith in the humanity of others — no matter where they might have come from. It’s an explicitly anti-war film, but the reason why its messages hit home as well as they do — and the film itself works at all — is because of the strength of the bond between its titular sci-fi creation and the young boy who befriends him.
Their friendship works largely because of how well-written the scenes between the two characters are and because of the moving vocal performances by Eli Marienthal as Hogarth Hughes and Vin Diesel as the Iron Giant itself. Diesel, in particular, shines as the Giant, bringing the same level of sensitivity and humanity to the taciturn character as he has in more recent years as Groot in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy films.
Outside of those two actors, Harry Connick Jr. also stands out with his voice performance as the beatnik artist who agrees to help hide the Giant, while Christopher McDonald makes a lasting impression as the suspicious government agent hellbent on finding the robot.
Part of the film’s enduring charm comes from its unique visual style. Brad Bird and his animation team fully embraced the 1950s setting and worked tirelessly to make sure they could believably recreate the era’s midcentury style.
The result is a film that often feels more like a ‘50s pulp serial come to life than most animated features do. Not only does that style make The Iron Giant stand out, but it also fills the movie with an alluring and warmly nostalgic mood.
All in all, the movie itself is a strong showcase for many of Bird’s strengths as a filmmaker and storyteller. His kinetic and colorful visual style is on full display throughout The Iron Giant — particularly in its climactic set-piece — but so is his knack for crafting believable characters and creating emotionally potent relationships between them. It has just as much heart as many of Bird’s later efforts, like Ratatouille, and it even pays homage to the kinds of superhero stories he later worked on, like The Incredibles and The Incredibles 2.
The Iron Giant stands out from the crowd because of how well it manages to function on multiple levels without feeling tonally chaotic or incoherent. It succeeds as both a traditional 1950s sci-fi serial and a superhero origin story — appealing to younger and older audience members alike.
To this day, it’s still one of the best films that Brad Bird has ever made, and it only takes one look at his filmography to see how impressive that truly is.
The Iron Giant is available to stream now on Hulu.