Saturday, February 25, 2012

Super Special Saturday Bonus Post!

Whao! Whoa, even! Blog Posts? On MY Saturday? It's more common than you'd think. So this is a new thing. New things are nice. I thought I'd bring some spice into our relationship because I have a seething fear of being one of those couples who stopped loving each other years ago and just share the same bed out of quiet, numbing, routine. But on the internet. That's kinda my relationship with most webcomics, these days.

Moving away from that last paragraph as fast as my fingers can take me; this post is an experiment. If it proves to be a successful experiment then, I dunno, maybe there'll be more bonus posts in the future. Maybe on a monthly/bimonthly/ basis.

ALSO! I added some social media buttons! Do you want to share a post with your friends, but lack either the manual dexterity or the sheer motivation to copy and paste the url? Do you, like myself, base your personal worth on how many likes something you've posted gets? Then brother, these buttons are for you! Just click on the button representing your social media outlet of choice:

Side effects of button-push include depression, delusion, and spontaneous combustion of your cursor.

Write yourself a witty comment:

And BAM! Just like that, you have the feigned interest of a few of your internet friends! It's just that simple!

Now that the busyness is taken care of, on to the super special topic of this weeks SUPER SPECIAL SATURDAY BONUS POST!

Super Special Saturday Bonus Post!
Oh My God, Guys, I Just Really Like The Iron Giant.

Past this point, this post WILL contain full-disclosure spoilers about The Iron Giant. Go watch it. Right now. GO. 

Two of my absolute favorite movies ever happen to be set in the late 50's early 60's of the Cold War Era. One of these movies is Kubrick's own Dr. Strangelove. If you don't know it, don't worry; it's not for everyone. If you do know it, then you already know because I made a Strangelove reference in my very first post. The second of these movies is none other than The Iron Giant; a simple tale of boy meets giant robot, boy falls in love with giant robot, boy stops giant robot from destroying the world with the power of heartfelt life lessons. Anyone who's ever seen this movie, remembers it for this one line:

This film is responsible for about 45% of global warming from all the hearts it melted, my own included. As a kid, I loved this movie because it's kid-fantasizing at it's finest; who never wanted their own 50-foot tall robot?

Now that I'm older and understand what things like accruing interest and carpel tunnel are, I've come to realize that a lot of things that get made for kids kinda suck. I'm not even talking about the crappy crap that gets made today, apparently by people who haven't actually seen a child. I'm pretty sure that there was a lot of stuff in my youthful days that was complete garbage and didn't make it through our Nostalgiascope vision (patent pending). Thankfully, my childhood produced a wealth quality of things to hopelessly cling to, as if that's going to stave off the horrors of adulthood and that's caused an interesting side-effect. You see, now I see all these gems of the past through the eyes of an adult. Sometimes this means I see a bad guy as kind of an unfortunate character due to a more intricate understanding of responsibility, sometimes this means I see the good guy as kind of a dick due to a more intimate understanding of how teenagers are stupid, and sometimes it means I get a peek at the deeper meaning of all the little details due to my chosen path to study literature. The Iron Giant is one of those rare films that I can enjoy as much as I did as a kid, and for just about the same reasons, but better. You wanna know why? Okay, let me show you why.

When you're still learning the basic, literary brass tacks, you spend what seems like an impossibly long time on symbolism. It's a huge subject that one can only understand as well as he understands the culture he's dealing with because literally anything can be a symbol and there are innumerable levels of subtlety implied. For a lit major, this is like mining gold; survey the whole thing, pick out some promising spots, carefully extract the good stuff, and show off your discovery to everyone you know. For most people, this was probably just the point in high school where you all desperately wanted to shout "WHAT IF THE ROOM IS JUST GODDAMN BLUE!"

Too...many...words...need...picture...To break up text...

But despite what impressions your crotchety old lady English teacher (or perhaps your young, hip dude English teacher) left on you, symbolism is pretty important, regardless of what you do in life, but especially if it's related to creativity or the arts in any way. Often, they can get messages across so subtle that we couldn't even put them into words if we tried. With practice, the discerning eye can pick this stuff out like candy and gobble up all the extra context it gives. Example; the entire color palette of The Iron Giant

It starts out with simple stuff, like the red motif that Hogarth, Dean, and Hogarth's mom have.

Okay, so Hogarth's Mom is in pink; it's in the neighborhood.

Or from the fact that the more you look at Kent Mansley, the more he seems to have a baby face.

Tell me that does not look like the kind of face that would be saying "Golly!"

The film uses subtle visual cues like these throughout the whole movie, but many of them aren't given context until the big, climactic battle scene. As with most movies, this is where all the cards get laid on the table, and it just so happens the The Iron Giant's cards are made out of solid gold. 

Just as this scene begins, it starts snowing. This is actually pretty jarring, because the entire rest of the movie has been shades of green and gold. Truthfully, the sky was getting darker all throughout the prior scene, but it does it so quietly, you don't notice until it happens. It's also jarring because for the first time in the movie, The Giant himself really does fit into his environment, color-wise. Everywhere else, he always stood out. Not offensively so; he never clashed, but neither did he ever quite match.

But again, The Iron Giant is a subtle movie. If this movie were your boyfriend, it'd be the kind of boyfriend that made your favorite dish for your birthday, even though you'd only mentioned it once, and then garnished it with a tiny clover in the shape of a heart because he's just classy like that. 

I feel like I lost track of where that paragraph was going. Let's try that again.

But again, The Iron Giant is a subtle movie. It's not the fact that The Giant fits in that you really notice, it's how goddamn colorful everyone else is.

Look at that; all those splashes of red and blue and green. Their buildings, too, are red and blue and green. Remember that as I segue; people are red and blue and green.

Pretty much since we invented conformity, a bunch of bright colors has been used as the symbolist's antithesis to that. After we invented things like factories and robots, this became especially true. You see it all the time today; a collection of gray or otherwise colorless forms, and as if from nowhere comes this bright, striking, cornucopia of color that saves everyone from their boring sameness. You can see it everywhere from animated shorts who think they're being clever, to the child of Will Smith who has only given me reasons to dislike her.

One awesome, high-flying chase scene later involving rocket boots and jet planes, Hogarth appears to be dead, the army still wants to tango, and The Giant snaps and decides that he just ran out of bubblegum. 

Subsequently, he transforms into this:

Oh, well would you look at that. Reds, blues, and greens. These aren't your momma's primaries, though. The entire rest of the movie has kept a pretty strict watercolor palette; nothing too bright, nothing too harsh. By comparison, these colors are emphatically neon. It's as if the movie's trying to get across "This is the logical end to your ways, Humanity; a huge, spectacular, gaudy death."

Pay special attention to that nice, red sky. It's got a pleasent, deathy tone to it, doesn't it? Red is used pretty regularly as a metaphor for combat and war. Take a look at the battleships just off the coast of Rockwell:

And at what Hogarth wears when he goes to investigate the forest, near the beginning of the movie.

That would be a red bombers jacket, a flight helmet, and you can't see them in this picture, but he's got some combat boots on, as well. For those of you not in the know, Hogarth is going off to confront whatever just bit the antenna off of his house right at the best part of his movie. No really. 
The point is though, that Hogarth is going into the woods, alone, and woefully unprepared. Everything about how his character is presented here tells us that; from the fact that the jacket doesn't even come close to fitting to the fact that his gun is, at best, going to prove completely ineffectual, and at worst shoot himself in the face.

Seriously, there is no way that BB's going to clear that flashlight. This always bugged the hell out of me as a kid.

Oh, and remember the Nautilus? The ship carrying the single most destructive bomb on the planet at that moment? That one that could have killed everyone in Rockwell and effectively wiped the town itself off the map? Remember what color the control room was?

All the colorblind people reading this article: "I HAVE NO IDEA!"

And then finally there's Kent Mansley, who also follows this trend with his flaming red hair. 

Just in case you forgot his stupid face.

Kent Mansley is a man on a mission. He has a job to do, and he won't stop until it's done, even if that means turning a small town of innocent fisherfolk into a nuclear wasteland. Mansley is kind of like Hogarth was in that early scene with the crappy BB gun and the too-big jacket, but through the whole movie. Not only does he have the aforementioned babyface, but he's fairly easily duped, hates to lose, uses bullying tactics to get his way, and pretends to be a secret agent. Sounds a lot like a kid, right? Not only that, but on a more subtle turn, Mansley is the only adult male in Hogarth's life that doesn't have darker shading around his eyes.

Click to Enlarge

So now we have two clear examples of the movie referring to combat and violence as childish and unthinking.  Even the Giant himself doesn't attack intelligently, just lashing out at whatever's nearest. Seems like a pretty straightforward message.

But wait, there's one last thing. This film has a coup de grace and it's been waiting for the very last shot of this scene to let you put it all together. Let's look at The Giant for a moment, shall we?

The Giant is a figure who is huge and intimidating, but also completely pacifistic. He goes out of his way to try and stop living things from coming to harm and is deeply affected and hurt by the death of a deer. Even when he's been cast out by Dean for being a weapon, he returns to Rockwell to save the two clumsy kids with the binoculars, revealing his existence and pretty much ruining any chance he had of living out a quiet, lonely life. Once the battle's over and Mansley does his big sore loser tantrum by firing the bomb anyway, The Giant flies off into the upper atmosphere, to save the silly humans from themselves by giving his life. Sound like anyone else you know?

Ooooohhh yeeeaaaahh...

Also, they do this:

And in the epilogue scene?

Not a trace of red, not even on the principal characters who had spent most of the movie in various shades of it. Even Hogarth's mom, whose hair had bounced around the warmer red spectrum is now squarely a brunette. The world is green again, everyone's smiling, and they've built a monument to The Giant so that they can remember the sacrifice he made to save them all.

In the very very last scene, Hogarth wakes up to a beeping sound. After realizing it's the homing beacon in the screw he got as the last physical remnant of The Giant he opens his window and lets it go free to seek out it's companion pieces and complete repairs. Cut to The Giant rebuilding himself off in Greenland, where apparently most of his parts landed. What's that? He's resurrecting himself and the film promises us he'll be back, good as new, one day in the nonspecific future? Yep, okay, that's it. There's no avoiding it. The Iron Giant is Christ in robot form. I consider this a massive improvement over the original design. Personally, I'd rather have Jesus fly into space to fight nuclear war than hang out on a tree for three hours. 

So that's it. That's one of my favorite childhood movies broken down into its individual narrative parts and instead of ruining it, it just went and made it even better. That's the sign of a good story, I think. The closer you look at it, the more it means to you. To all you budding writers, take that to heart; little details matter almost more than the main thread itself. To all of you who aren't budding writers, hey; at least you managed to put off work for a few more minutes. 

I hope you guys enjoyed your Super Special Saturday Bonus Post and if it's successful, there might be more in the works, assuming I can think of more cool stuff to talk about. Maybe if I end up getting more topics than I can cover I'll do a junk drawer post where I just cover a bunch as quickly as possible. As always, if you enjoyed this post, be sure to share it with your friends (By using our new buttons!) and be sure to vote in the poll to decide what you want me to talk about in this Wednesday's regular post.

Thank you, Goodnight

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