This scene is underrated among fans of The Iron Giant. It isn’t that long, but Kent gets quite a bit of character development here. It is also pivotal moment in the story because it’s when Kent changes his strategy to a more aggressive one.
Kent pretends to become chummy with Hogarth. He thinks it will be easy to obtain info because at this point, he sees Hogarth as a naive kid. Hogarth knows this and so he plays the part. He has even less interest in the “Landslide” but acts more convincingly than Kent (Kent’s acting is too attentive and impressed and unintentionally demeaning). He tries to coax the information out of Hogarth through casual conversation. All is going well until Hogarth asks “what are you talking about.” A simple question, but one of (feigned) ignorance to the looming terror that plagues Kent. That’s what triggers Kent, the grown-up secret agent, to break character.
He blows up. The music stops and is replaced with Kent’s echoing voice as the scene takes a jarring turn. The film switches to a close up shot and the soda shop setting is cut from the frame. The relaxing atmosphere is lost. Up until now, both the audience and Hogarth saw Kent as humorous or pestering, but now we’re reminded of how serious a threat he poses to Hogarth.
Hogarth cowers at the man yelling at him. The filmmakers use a high-angle shot of Hogarth being towered by Kent. It focuses on what is important: Hogarth’s reactions and how small he is in comparison to Kent. Both the audience and Hogarth are reminded that he’s a vulnerable kid. His only resources are his brains, determination, and the help of Dean. Feelings of worry wash over Hogarth as he realizes the situation is as big as the robot itself. He then becomes scared, but doesn’t look away from Kent.
The “camera” pans sideways to capture every movement of both characters (Kent in the center but Hogarth still in view) because Kent’s actions and body language and how Hogarth reacts at each point is important. Hogarth backs away as Kent keeps advancing forward, his anger increasing with each step. Hogarth is backed into a wall, both figuratively and literally.
By now his sleek suit and hair is disheveled; his smooth, charming demeanor is completely lost. Kent’s rant reveals him to be a symbol of xenophobia and McCarthyism (“All I know is we didn’t build it and that’s reason enough to assume the worst and blow it to kingdom come!”) as he reveals his intense paranoia.
Kent’s body fills almost the entirety of the shot, with his face and shoulder framing Hogarth’s body in the small corner of the screen. The composition reiterates how Hogarth is trapped by Kent’s overwhelming presence. Kent becomes physically aggressive. With his finger, he jabs Hogarth with enough force to hurt. Hogarth winces and reflexively covers his chest. But Hogarth doesn’t avert his eyes from the intimidating figure. In a way, it shows he has as much determination as Kent.
He is a dangerous antagonist not because of his governmental power, but because that power is in the hands of someone whose fear motivates him to take drastic measures without hesitation. The only thing that can match it is Hogarth’s integrity and will power.
I can’t believe this has 100 notes. People actually like what I think. ;v;