The Iron Giant: Signature Edition
We all know The Iron Giant (1999) is a classic. In lieu of a full review of the film, I’ll just focus on the additional scenes in this “Signature Edition” and how they function in the film.
But first, I must mention that the remastering looks wonderful. While occasionally on the big screen you can see some evidence of roughness to the linework, usually in scenes with close-up shots of faces, it does not detract from the film experience. I am unaware what specific work they did to remaster the film, but it looks great.
Now, the first additional scene occurs after when the Giant witnesses the death of the deer, and is sleeping in Dean’s junkyard. The Giant has a nightmare triggered by the trauma of the death, and images of an Iron Giant army invading, the destruction of a futuristic city, and later a planet (presumably the Giant’s own) occur in his nightmare. The images are also projected on Dean’s tv, left on while Dean sleeps in his living room. The tension comes to a head in the Giant’s mind, and he wakes up, ending the imagery, but not before Dean catches a glimpse of them as well.
The direction of the scene is marvellous, especially the final sequence panning form Dean’s TV, to the Giant’s position in the junkyard as seen through a window, to Dean’s shocked face as what he’s seen. The scene also foreshadows Dean’s rejection of the Giant, planing Dean’s suspicions of the Giant that are later confirmed when the giant’s destructive capabilities manifest. While the original cut of the film does not have Dean’s quick rejection and repulsion of the Giant feel sporadic or unwarranted, this added scene adds connective tissue to the film.
This additional scene also strengthens the parallels to Superman. The destroyed homeworld continues the Iron Giant’s affinity with the Superman mythos, with the futuristic city design looking like it belongs to Superman: The Animated Series. While this scene could have functioned to indicate that the Giant is fated to be like Superman, the film’s emphasis on free will and the Giant’s choice of identity negates this possibility. It also further confirms that the Giant’s design was not just of a weapon, but one of an army of Giants. While the scene reveals the Giant’s origins, it does not eliminate the mysterious nature of the Giant altogether, but rather confirms and foreshadows much of what the original cut of the film already established.
The second additional batch of footage are moments inter spliced within the “Iron Giant as art” scene, where General Rogard chews out Kent Mansley for wasting the Army’s time, to the delight of Hogarth. The footage largely functions to develop Dean and Annie Hughes’ relationship. Most humorously, Annie criticizes the Iron Giant disguise, noting that on the surface it feels “slapped together”. These little moments further establish Annie’s intelligence and both character’s rapport.
Both scenes effectively add information and dramatic intrigue without dragging down what was already a masterful film. To compare which edition is better is a difficult task, as the “Signature Edition” is not necessarily better, but instead excellent in a different way. Regardless, this cut of the film can stand as an equal to the original masterpiece.