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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Fishing in the Discount Bin - The Iron Giant: Signature Series

Here we go again on Fishing in  the Discount Bin, my weekly ramble about my recent re-watching of one of my DVDs.  Or Blu-Rays.  Or VHS tapes.  Pretty much any movie I own.  Anyway, this time, we're taking a look at the newer director's cut of The Iron Giant.  This is in my notes at September 10, 2016.

So, I've blogged before about how The Iron Giant is my favourite movie.  Going back through my notes, I see it was the first film I did when I decided to make this ongoing content at my blog.  And what can I say?  After all these years, it's still a really good film. 

I hate to rehash the story of how I first saw it.  As few may recall, The Iron Giant actually had a pretty crummy ad campaign, which many blame for its failure at the box office.  I was all excited about it because I was just discovering the Internet for tracking down movie news, and people online had been raving about it for months.  Plus, this was the time of my life when I absolutely loved animated films, and would go see each and every one that came out. 

Anyways, it was the summer of 1999.  I had just finished college, and spent most of the summer on my parents' couch, wondering what to do next in life.  My sister had just finished high school, and after getting back from backpacking across Europe, was doing the same.  Being a product of that era, my sister wanted to go see Tarzan, Disney's latest animated epic.  And I said, "Well, I really want to see this movie they're talking about online, The Iron Giant.  How about we go see both?"  She agreed, and we were off to the city. 

We saw Tarzan first, and agreed, Disney had another winner.  Then we went to see The Iron Giant.  At the end of the film, our jaws had dropped.  My sister said something along the lines of, "I wouldn't even call that a kids movie.  It was so grown-up compared to Tarzan." 

How much did I love The Iron Giant?  I saw it in the theatre twice.  You have to understand, growing up in a small town, with the nearest movie theatre being a 1-hour drive away, and movies, as they are today, being a costly afternoon, seeing a movie was always a really big deal when I was a kid.  And seeing a movie twice was something that you just didn't do.  Why pay all that money to see something you've already seen?  Hell, to this very day, I can count the number of movies I've seen in the theatre twice on my fingers.  Iron Giant, the first X-Men, the first Spider-Man, the first Transformers, Phantom Menace, Force Awakens...that's about it.

The second time I saw it in the theatre, I dragged my best friend to it.  He was pretty "meh" towards it.  I've joked in the past that he seems pretty "meh" about the things I love, until a month later, when his sister has been exposed to it, and his sister starts liking it.  Then it's THE BEST THING EVER.  He was like that with Doctor Who, hell, he was even like that with Phantom Menace back in the day.  My best friend really wanted to see Disney's live-action Inspector Gadget, which was playing at the same time.  He loved Inspector Gadget.  I did not, but I tried my best to be positive about it. 

But as I originally said, when I got home from the theatre that first time, I had to e-mail all my friends and let them know how awesome it was.  And as much as a year later, I had friends who would e-mail me and say, "Wow.  I finally rented it last night, based mostly on your glowing recommendation, and it was really, really good." 

Here we are now, 17 years after its release.  People are still checking it out based on the glowing recommendations of friends, and are still raving about how it's really, really good.  So much so that, about a year ago -- late 2015 -- director Brad Bird reunited as much of his animation crew as he could and they produced the "Signature Edition."  They completed animation on two deleted scenes and re-inserted them into the movie.  The Signature Edition got a limited theatrical release in the fall of 2015, and came out on DVD soon after.  I was debating whether to buy the Signature Edition on DVD, or hold out for Blu-Ray.  I finally decided to hold out for Blu-Ray, which came out about 6 months after the DVD.  But I'm glad I did, because in hi-def, it looks fantastic. 

So, the new scenes are very brief, making the Signature Series about five minutes longer or so.  The first new scene takes place early in the film.  You may remember the character of Dean is introduced by unleashing a squirrel from his pants.  In the new scene, Dean comes back to the diner the next day to apologize, and strikes up a conversation with Annie, Hogarth's mom, and they get to talking about Hogarth.  I like this scene because it establishes Dean and Annie's friendship earlier in the film, so when we see them hooking up at the end, it seems slightly less random. 

Of course, I only assume they hook up because Annie calls Dean "Honey."  Maybe it's not a pet name between romantic partners, maybe Annie is playing up the stereotype of a waitress calling everyone "Honey," and I'm just reading into it because a Hollywood film always has to have people hooking up.  But still.  I like that it's established earlier in the film that they know each other. 

The second scene is one of the more famous deleted scenes.  We're treated to a flashback giving us a glimpse at the Giant's origin.  Essentially, the Giant sleeps and dreams, and because of the technology, his dream is transmitted to Dean's TV set.  We see an entire army of the Giant's kind, marching across the landscape.  They all unleash their power, and destroy an entire planet.  The Giant, presumably the sole survivor, then tumbles uncontrollably into space.  Some very classic, 1950s, B-movie sci-fi stuff. 

There's a few minor changes as well.  You may remember one scene where the Giant has been smashed to pieces, and after he's put himself back together, he sees that his hand is still missing.  We then see his hand, roaming around Hogarth's home like a dog, getting into all kinds of shenanigans.  One of those shenanigans involves the hand flipping around the TV channels.  In the original running commentary, director Brad Bird said he wanted the hand to be watching the original, 1950s opening credits to The Wonderful World of Disney.  They couldn't make it happen, so the hand is watching generic TV.  But, 17 years later, and Bird is now a big deal at Disney (he went on to direct The Incredibles, Ratatouille, and Tomorrowland), so now he could make it happen with no problem.

As with most director's cuts, this Signature Series isn't better or worse, there's just more.  And in the end, couldn't we all use a little more Iron Giant?  I think so.

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