A Boy and His Robot - The Iron Giant
I finally watched The Iron Giant last week. Considering how prophetic this little box office bomb has been, I’m glad I finally got around to it. The film is beautifully made, and director Brad Bird eventually went on to great success at Pixar with The Incredibles and Ratatouille. The plot:
In 1957, During the height of the Red Scare, a giant alien robot crash lands off the coast of Maine. Struck with amnesia it is found and befriended by a nine year old boy. Eventually the robot comes to the attention of an FBI agent, who assumes the robot is an enemy weapon. As it turns out, the robot is a sort of weapon, though from where and aimed at what target is never made explicit. However, thematically and symbolically, the robot represents the mighty Id, and it is aimed squarely at the ego.
The story is essentially about two egos and their responses to a sudden manifestation of Id consciousness. The protagonist is 9 year old Hogarth Hughes, who while at first is terrified, soon welcomes and befriends the intimidating giant. The antagonist is FBI agent Kent Mansley, who can see the robot only as a threat. Released in 1999, the film is a sort of bridge from the McCarthy years to the post 911 ‘reign of terror’. Interesting that Brad Bird was born on Sept. 11, 1957.
Much has already been written about this film, but I’ll try to add my own two cents, starting with the name of the protagonist: Hogarth Hughes. A brilliant HH (see the Double H Ranch) the name is a tribute to William Hogarth, English Freemason, cartoonist and satirist credited with the invention of ‘sequential art’; and Ted Hughes, the author of the book “The Iron Man” upon which the film was based.
The Iron Man/Tin Man resonate the alchemical 42, Jupiter, the Rod of Iron... the will of Creation. In other words, this robot is not just any robot - he is that divine Phallus you’ve heard tell about. When the giant falls to earth, he makes a bulls-eye directly into the eye of a hurricane, representing the Divine Feminine. A virgin birth is soon to follow.
The first to witness the earthly manifestation of Id is a fisherman, being the aquatic equivalent of the shepherds who first saw the Star of Bethlehem. He is roundly mocked when he tells his tall tale in the local greasy spoon, though he finds an unlikely ally in the local beatnik - Dean McCoppin, who stands up for the old salt. The beatnik is a metal artist and junk yard owner, who makes art out of old scrap, which he can’t sell. Something about pearls before swine here, and speaking of pigs, they are all over this movie.
When Hogarth first follows the Id giant robot into the dark woods (the Id is always found lurking about the dark woods), he brings his army helmet and a BB gun. These are all ego defensive weapons, and they prove predictably useless. His gun is broken by the foot of the monster, leaving the message: Hog Hug. Hug your hog? Hog is yet another euphemism for the masculine organ.
This giant robot has the ability to repair himself when dismembered, recalling the myth of Osiris, cut into 14 pieces by his jealous brother. When the robot is first dismembered and repaired, the final piece to be integrated is a screw. The screw could represent the golden phallus made for Osiris by Isis, and curiously, it is the screw to his “jawbone”.
And Samson said, With the jawbone of an ass, heaps upon heaps, with the jaw of an ass have I slain a thousand men. --Judges 15:16Hmmm... bones as weapons: it would be remiss not to synch in with the great ape from 2001: A Space Odyssey - thus spoke Zarathustra.
After Hogarth realizes the giant metal man isn’t going to kill him, he attempts communication, teaching him simple words and eventually how to speak, which makes perfect sense, because language is a left-brain, egoic ability - the Id “has no British”. After that, he tackles the little stuff like the experience of duality, right and wrong, life and death and the belief in an eternal soul - again, all egoic concepts that would be completely foreign to a creature from the Id! Fortunately, the Id is a quick study.
"Who controls the Metal Monster?"
When the boy’s Id is introduced to egoic duality, the robot is given the choice of playing Atomo, the giant robot villain, or Superman, the hero (We note that at first glance, the giant robot more closely resembles the villain, not the hero). However, it is actually the boy who chooses. The ego chooses the role that the Id will play.
“You’re not like him. (Atomo) You’re a good guy. Like Superman.”
The Army realizes it has only one more chance, which is its own Shekinah - a nuke from the Nautilus submarine! The collective ego launches a missile targeted directly at the Id robot, which happens to be standing in the same place as the army - one ego-death coming right up! At the last minute, the giant Id sacrifices himself for the sake of the egos who have come to love him. He is destroyed, but the town of Rockwell is saved, one might even say “born again”. I admit to a little crying at this part.
At the end of the movie, Hogarth is given the only remaining artifact of the robot - a tiny screw. Once again, the phallus that Isis made, representing the phallus firmly attached to Hogarth. The Golden Phallus, (or should I say... Compass?) is the mini Me, the Id within - pin the God on the monkey.
“He said it was the only part recovered.”
Meanwhile, on the Langjökull glacier in Iceland (Ultima Thule), The Id robot has begun to re-assemble himself, once again. Unbeknownst to Hogarth, the giant survived the apocalypse, and has begun calling his various parts back to himself. This is represented by the “awakening” of the screw (puberty) and the tapping on the window glass to be let out. The boy’s phallus goes to seek his master, and we know that the boy will not be far behind.
Makes me wonder about that Iceland volcano. Stay tuned for Part 2, when we do a pole shift.
For an alternative interpretation of The Iron Giant, see The Open Scroll blog, where the insidious, “beast” agenda of this film is detailed... in 14 parts.
Wired magazine: A Decade Later, The Iron Giant's Weaponized Soul Still Stirs.