The Iron Giant was originally released as The Iron Man in the United Kingdom, but renamed The Iron Giant for U.S. audiences so as not to be confused with the Marvel character. Since the movie is now available for streaming on Netflix, and the giant featured in the new movie Ready Player One, a friend suggested reading the original story.
Written by Ted Hughes, a Poet Laureate for the United Kingdom, the children's book was written as a fable. Released during the Cold War, it was a tale of finding peace with everyone, especially those who are so different from ourselves. Those who love the movie will recognize the description of the giant, who wasn't illustrated until 1985.
"His great iron head, shaped like a dustbin but as big as a bedroom, slowly turned to the right, slowly turned to the left. His iron ears turned, this way, that way. He was hearing the sea. His eyes, like headlamps, glowed white, then red, then infrared, searching the sea. Never before had the Iron Man seen the sea."
The Iron Giant causes problems by eating all the farm equipment, and initially the farmers trap him, to punish him, but our little hero Hogarth convinces the town to let him live in peace in the junk yard, where he becomes just another member of the community. Obviously this is quite a turn from the movie, where the town people come against him, and he rages against them and the Army. The climax for the book doesn't come from his interactions with the town, but instead with another space being who is threatening Earth.
Through a battle of whits, he is able to save the world, and becomes a hero, back in his junk yard.
On it's own, the story is sweet and endearing. Even having seen the movie dozens of times, I was able to get into the originality of the story and enjoy it for what it was.
The movie does what movies always do, and takes a simple story and makes it a bit grander, a bit larger than life. The supporting characters are brighter, more filled out, in the movie. The love between Hogarth and the Giant one of the greatest friendships in the movie sphere.
And don't tell me you don't cry when Hogarth is staring down his giant friend and says, "And you don't have to be a gun. You are who you choose to be." If you've seen it, you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't, have a tissue ready.
While not completely faithful to the book, the movie deserves it's following. And if you haven't seen it in a while, you have the chance.
If you want to read the original, you'll have to do it online. On Amazon it's running around $40 for a copy, so you might as well read the online version instead. The Iron Man, by Ted Hughes.
Which was better the book or the movie? I don't know. I was surprised how much I enjoyed the book knowing I already loved the movie.