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Headscratchers / The Iron Giant

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  • Does the Giant become more durable while in weapons mode? He barely flinched from a 16-inch warship shell yet got knocked out by a train and incapacitated by aircraft missiles.
  • Knowing that, whilst not to be taken seriously, the deleted dream sequence was intended to be part of the story, are we to assume that his central chest cannon was designed to obliterate planets? After one of the robots shoots such a weapon, a shot reveals a planet being blown up. I had fancied the idea that the blast intended for the battleship in fact detonated far off from earth, as it is seemingly shown to be beyond the horizon. Maybe the creators had this in mind?
  • Why did they use the USS Nautilus? The Nautilus was an attack sub (SSN), not a missile sub (SSBN)
    • I just thought it was used to test a nuclear reactor?
    • Name recognition?
    • Not to mention that submarine-launched ballistic missiles weren't even in service until 3 years AFTER the events in the film…
      • But my knowledge on this, most famous of subs is sketchy.
  • Why did the general give Hogarth a screw that had been bathed in a huge dose of nuclear radiation no more than a year ago?
    • Because, the general touched the radioactive screw as well. Misery loves company.
      • This is Artistic License – Nuclear Physics. Things that are irradiated are safe, unless they're hit with heavy neutron radiation, and they're made out of isotopes that can be activated, AND the neutrons have the right energy. Even then, the resulting isotopes which decay quickly will be almost gone a year later, and those that decay slowly don't emit much radiation to begin with. You know, there are people living in Hiroshima right now.
      • People live in Hiroshima presently because the bomb was detonated relatively high in the atmosphere. Had the bomb been detonated at ground level, it would have made living there impossible for a very long time.
  • Why not shoot the missile down? It's not like robot lacks for firepower...
    • Two possibilities. One: the Giant's weapons might have been primarily designed for relatively close-up destruction, so shooting down a missile might have been like trying to shoot down a bullet with a smaller bullet. While riding a horse. Two: the Giant's advanced beam weaponry might have had a synergistic interaction with the nuclear weapon, turning it from a (relatively) small nuclear detonation into an Earth-Shattering Kaboom.
    • Earth-Shattering Kaboom nothing if the deleted scenes are to be believed (might as well be considered canon) if he did use his weapons the entire damn Solar System would have been destroyed... Oh and there is the Broken Aesop.
    • Also, the Giant associated its weapons with death and destruction, which Hogarth taught it were dangerous. The Giant had serious negative association with its weapons (with weapons in general). It also had positive association with the concept of Superman. It's put in a situation in which it can either use something it hates (the weapons) or do something it considers heroic (sacrifice itself). Keep in mind that the robot basically had a child's mentality. Also, it's possible that the Giant remembered its rebuilding mechanism and knew or suspected that it would survive the impact.
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    • It would go against the theme of the movie (guns are bad) to show a weapon being used for constructive purposes.
      • It's not an anti-gun film. That's just a superficial deduction.
    • As I recall, just before flying off, I remember hearing the Giant say "I fix...". So the "remembered the rebuilding mechanism" idea is fairly credible.
    • Also, we never actually see him using his weapons intentionally. Both during the junkyard scene and his rampage, it's an automatic response to determining he is being threatened — he certainly willingly gives in to it during the rampage, but it still targets hostile military forces, rather than just lashing out at anything in range. It's possible he can't just use them whenever he feels like it.
    • Another possibility is that the Giant was afraid that if he starts using his weapons again, he'll lose control, and can't stop using them.
    • It appears that the Giant is not self-aware whilst in weapons mode. He is also shown to be markedly tougher while in weapons mode, as he was easily incapacitated by a train, power station, and aircraft missiles (as well as being scattered by a nuclear missile later on) in his unarmed state while taking no visible damage from a hit by a 16" battleship shell. This may explain why, instead of using one of his many weapons to destroy the nuclear missile from a large distance, he chose to fly and collide with it. Him using his weapons also doesn't even seem to be an autonomous choice; he simply ignites when threatened, without any conscious decision to do so. He was not aware at all that it was Hogarth was playing with him with a toy gun, when he fired his eye lasers, for example.
  • Okay, why wasn't everyone killed by the fallout associated with the nuclear blast? It was my understanding that the majority of deaths in a nuclear explosion were from wind-borne fallout, and that the actual blast was comparatively tame?
    • Fallout is when dirt and debris become vaporized and irradiated by a nuclear blast. Since the missile exploded on the outer edge of the atmosphere there's no danger of local fallout from that. The only possible fallout danger would come from fragments of the missile itself or unfissioned nuclear material, but again the extreme height cancels the danger. Prevailing winds would scatter the fallout enough to make it essentially harmless.
      • How high was the missile, though? In fact, why the hell did they think to use a missile? Hogwarth could've said "Get me, my mother, and as many other people out of here as fast as you can before that missile hits." The stupidity...UGH!! They almost deserved to be nuked with their own missile if they thought that was the greatest thing ever.
      • They could've tried that - if they wanted to save only their own skins while condemning untold scores of people to die in the blast.
      • The only stupid person there was Mansley, the rest have all reasonable reactions to the situation.
      • Because allowing the missile to detonate close to the surface would certainly have produced ruinous amounts of fallout. Keeping the missile explosion in the outer atmosphere is the cleanest a nuclear explosion can possibly be. However...
    • Answering the original question: except in certain specific circumstances, fallout does NOT cause the majority of deaths from a nuke, and tame is the last word you would use to describe a nuclear blast. In Hiroshima and Nagasaki, less than 20% of deaths were from radiation poisoning, and most of those were from radiation emitted by the actual fission reaction. The trouble with fallout is that it can remain dangerous for a long time after the bomb goes off, not that it is deadlier than the actual blast.
    • Also since the Giant smashed into the missile while it was still high up in the atmosphere the warhead was probably not armed yet and the explosion seen was just the fuel burning, so no detonation no fallout.
    • Because this isn't Threads
  • How did they prevent the electromagnetic pulse from shorting out every piece of electrical equipment in eastern North America?
    • it was the 50s, microchips hadn't been invented yet.
    • Yeah, more primitive electronics like vacuum tubes are actually more resistant to EMP than more advanced transistors. And at the time, electronics and electrical equipment in general were much less common. There might be widespread blackouts, but that's about it.
    • If, as discussed above, the explosion seen in the film was actually the missile's fuel burning instead of the nuclear warhead, then there would be no electromagnetic pulse.
  • The Nautilus launched the missile after Kent panics into the General's walkie-talkie. Shouldn't there be some sort of, I don't know, chain-of-command that needs to be followed? I mean, sure, the Nautilus was waiting for orders from the General, but you'd think the captain can tell the difference of voices between the gravelly-voiced three-star General (who I'm sure he's spoken to in the past) and Kent "Shrieking G-Man" Mansley. Besides, we never hear what the President has to say; he's the one who approves the usage of nukes, not Kent or the General!
    • Being charitable; we saw a clip of people going to brief the President, so given the incredibly unusual situation and apparent threat, he may well have handed off limited launch authority to local forces. This wasn't a full scale launch against an enemy, but a one-shot strike on home-soil (and in the fifties they were still sorting out the difference between nuclear ordinance uses versus conventional weaponry, so not unreasonable). The guys on the sub are probably all keyed up (again, Giant Robot attack!!!) and know there is a real possibility of the situation going to hell real quick (after that potshot at the battleship just misses and lights up the horizon). Also, radio transmissions at the time were often less than perfectly clear, so while they would have registered the change in tone, they might not have been able to tell it was a new voice giving the launch order. From their POV, they were on a hair-trigger against an Outside-Context Problem, they were on the radio to a General with launch authority who had been speaking relatively calmly, and then all of a sudden it's a panic filled screech (that they potentially can't tell isn't coming from the General himself). To them it sounded like all their worst-case scenarios come true and the robot was annihilating the land forces. A classic case of Fog Of War.
  • Why did impacting with the missile set it off? Nuclear weapons depend on precise, concentric chemical explosives to bring its nuclear payload into critical mass and set off the secondary, but much larger explosion. Impacting with the missile might have set off the chemical explosives, but unless they were set off in the correct sequence, there would have been a small explosion and then pieces of the missile (and highly radioactive material) raining down from the upper atmosphere. Missiles aren't even armed until instruments on board tell them that they've endured the correct amount of g-forces associated with a launch-does anyone know if these instruments arm the missile only after the first half of the launch?
    • That's...actually a really good point. For that matter, the Giant has super-strength and rocket engines that are apparently strong enough to achieve escape velocity. Why didn't he just grab the missile and either a) throw it into the ocean, b) hurl it into outer space, or c) carry it gently down to the ground where it could be safely disarmed? And remember, this was after the General had been convinced that the Giant wasn't hostile and would only attack if provoked. There was literally no reason at all for the Giant to blow himself up.
      • That would be boring.
      • The giant still has the mentality of a young child and might not have thought of any alternative and he also felt responsible for the missile being fired in the first place and he wasn't able to protect Hogarth, so he thought this was how he had to make up for it. this still does not explain, however, why the missile blew up when he came into contact with it.
    • Didn't they say the missile was locked onto the giant? I don't know what the guidance systems of that era were like, but is it that big a stretch for the missile's electronics to realize "Hey, my target's right in front of me, I should detonate now"?
    • Naah, the missile was pretty clearly locked onto the giant's location at the time of launch, which was Rockwell. Maybe the huge explosion was actually the giant itself blowing up, caused by the "unarmed" missile, rather than the other way around? I mean, look at the weapons the thing had, who knows what kind of chemicals it packed?
    • Pretty simple, the missile was fitted with either an impact or radar-proximity fuse, set off by either a big bump or getting close enough to a large radar signature. The precision detonators take it over from there.
  • Why the hell does the power plant have a giant ON/OFF switch on it?
    • Probably in case of emergency if a quick turn-off of the power was required. They live near the ocean, so turning off the plant in case of flooding could probably protect its citizens from accidental electrocution. If anything, the real question is why the switch was so easy to access.
      • The switch was located inside a fenced and secure compound; Hogarth was only able to access it because the Giant smashed down the fence.
  • When the Iron Giant is introduced to Dean, he says his name through a clenched-teeth grin similar to how Dean introduces himself to Hogarth's mother at the cafe. The joke doesn't really make any sense...ngrRRGh...
    • I blame Hogarth for that one, since he introduced Dean to the Giant through a clenched grin... "This is Dean, we like Dean!"
  • So when the Iron Giant takes a running leap into a small lake, it empties all of its water instantly...but when he hurtles at hundreds of miles per hour into the ocean, he doesn't create a huge tidal wave?!
    • It's a bit counter-intuitive, but no, falling into the ocean wouldn't necessarily create a huge tidal wave the way it did with the lake. Especially if he fell several miles out to sea. It would create a wave in the area where he landed, but there's lots of ocean around him to cushion the wave and dissipate it before it hit the shore. Also, the small size of the lake was what created the huge wave. It's like the difference between poking your finger in a test tube filled to the top with water and poking your finger in a bowl full of water. The test tube will squirt water out the top because the pressure of the water has nowhere to go but up and out. The bowl will just ripple a little because there's lots of space for the water to slosh around.

  • Nothing can convince me that the Iron Giant is aerodynamic enough to fly like he does in the film.
    • If its rockets are powerful enough, would he even need to be aerodynamic?
      • Yes, he would. If he wasn't, he would be building up enormous bow shocks that would either make it very difficult for him to steer or rip him to pieces.
      • Seeing as a direct nuke impact did absolutely jack, stress isn't an issue.
      • Rule of Cool: the Giant's design isn't aerodynamic because it's meant to be a throwback to classic 1950's b-movies and comics.

  • The deleted Dream Sequence. Even considering that his programming was damaged, what we see of his original programming isn't in line with a Planet Killer. His weapons are only shown to activate in self-defense, and at the start of the film, he mostly seems to just be exploring. Overall, it seems to make a lot more sense to consider him an "armed scout" — he may well have been sent in advance of an invasion force, but his behavior is not very much in line with being part of the main force.
    • Uh, what? The dream clearly shows the Giant (several of them in fact) blowing up a planet. It's pretty obvious the Giants were military weapons that went out of control and destroyed their creators. The only reason the Giant acts as peaceful as he does for the majority of the movie is because he doesn't remember any of his original programming. And when he does remember he immediately starts attacking and destroying the US military. Not merely "defending" himself, but aggressively attacking them because he thinks they killed his friend. The Giant was built as a weapon. He may have overcome his programming in the end, but that's still what he was made to be.
      • I was objecting to the dream because it shows it as a military weapon. What we see of its original programming in the film: Looking around at the start of the film and trying to eat a power plant — hardly a prime military target. Also his weapon systems, which only seem to target potential threats — even in the scene you mention above where he lets go and starts destroying things after he thinks Hogarth died, he still solely targets the military — the things that are hypothetically a threat to him (he's too powerful for them to so much as scratch, but they're at least weapons). Outside the dream, his behavior seems more in line with a scout than an offensive force, and that is why that dream bugs me. Best explanation I can come up with that reconciles the problems I have with the dream is that he was acting as a scout when he first showed up... and would have later called in the main force and joined their assault.
      • It wasn't the power plant that made him forget his original programming, it was the impact from landing on Earth.
      • Isn't the impression I got from watching the film — though it has been a while — but it is a possibility.
    • To answer the first question about the content of the deleted Dream Sequence. The first guy made a pretty good point, the creators of the film probably realized the same thing, thus making the Dream Sequence a deleted sequence.
    • As I understand it, it got the bump in the head from impacting on earth. Because of that, it lost its memories and it allowed a childlike persona to evolve. It was literally just eating anything metal it came across. When Hogarth pointed his toy gun at it, its programming took over again, as we clearly see it's horrified by what it's done. At the end, the bump got fixed and it let the programming take over, taking out military targets while the persona was still mostly in control. The moment it gives in it goes straight back to the behaviour seen in the dream sequence, and once it realises Hogarth is still alive, the childlike persona takes over again.
    • There's no reason to think that it had only one purpose. It could serve as both front-line weapon and a scout, with its aggressiveness and other responses being adjustable on a per-mission basis. On the other hand, it's also possible that the original creators are long dead (whether killed by the Iron Giants or not), and the Giants have built their own society, and this one just happens to be a retired soldier.

  • When Mansley had the missile launched, the general said they were going to die for their country. Mansley said "screw the country I want to live" but the general had the soldiers keep him at gunpoint. Wait, what exactly was the point of just staying there in the first place?
    • Honor, I suppose. The General felt that it was their mistake, and that they should take responsibility for it.
    • There was no way to evacuate the population in time, and they don't want Mansley to be a Karma Houdini.
      • Add to that, it's not just about escaping with his life either. Everyone else who knows what he did is also right at Ground Zero for the imminent explosion, meaning they'd probably all die. If Mansley did manage to survive, he'd be the only one who knows what really happened; all he'd have to do is lie about it and he'd walk away scot-free, never held accountable for his actions.
    • They had very little chance of escape. They were at almost the dead center of a future nuclear explosion. If they ran, they would do little more than embarrass themselves, so they might as well die with honor. In the slim chance of survival, they would also be forever remembered as the soldiers that called in a nuclear strike on a small town and ran like hell for no apparent reason.
  • What is the Iron Giant's default form for? Putting aside the fact that the whole Gentle Giant aspect would be a little hard to swallow if he looked like a walking death machine from the very beginning, if the Iron Giant was made to be a Weapon of Mass Destruction, wouldn't it have been better for his creators to have created him with only a combat mode?
    • Deception.
    • Power-save mode.
    • It might also be an initial defensive mode, since the plating then covers more of his body. Human weapons were still just too weak to harm him in offensive mode anyway.
    • I don't think he was made to be a weapon. I think it's similar to how the U.S.S. Enterprise has phasers and photon torpedoes, but it's generally a ship of peace.
      Dean: "He only reacts defensively. If you don't shoot, he's harmless"
  • If the Giant's armor was durable enough that it couldn't be damaged by either tanks or warships, how was it able to get the little dent on its head?
    • Crashing into the Earth with the velocity of a meteor is a little bit more damaging than tanks and warships.
  • Shouldn't the townspeople not have been able to see when the Giant blew up in the end because of the distance of light years it would have had to travel?
    • What. A light year is just under 6 trillion miles. The edge of Earth's atmosphere is only about 60 miles straight up, and I don't think the missile (and, therefore, the giant) made it even that far out. (Besides, even a light year out, they still would have seen it — just a year later.)
  • Why was nobody in that power plant the giant tried to eat? Shouldn't it have security or something?
    • It wasn't a full power plant; it was a substation.
  • I really do love this movie. But one of the things I think it's vague about is the timespan. If you watch it only takes place over a couple of days. Am I watching it right?
  • So when Mansley finds Hogarth's camera and develops the film we see that the giant snuck up behind Hogarth when he took a selfie. How did it manage to do that without Hogarth feeling or hearing it's footsteps, or hearing the trees that would've been knocked over as it moved through the forest, or hearing the birds and other wildlife that would've fled as soon as they saw or heard it?
  • Not to take Mansley's side or anything, but shouldn't Dean, and maybe Hogarth to a lesser extent, have gotten in trouble for withholding the giant's existence from the US government? Even though the giant saved the town from being nuked, he also destroyed a lot of army equipment and possibly killed some soldiers during his rampage, and he was also the catalyst for Mansley calling the missile launch on the town in the first place (granted, this was more Mansley's fault for his stupidity, but still). Had Dean and Hogarth just presented the giant to the army and explained his story to them, especially since the giant hasn't shown any signs of hostility yet, the entire climax could have been avoided, so shouldn't this, on top of keeping important information hidden from the government, have been enough grounds for some sort of punishment?
    • Nothing they did was in any way illegal, unlike Mansley who broke numerous laws in the process of tricking the army into an unprovoked attack against an esentially unbeatable enemy. There is a good case to be made that with an untrustworthy actor in a position to intercept any attempt to communicate with more reasonable Authority, that acting to delay what they knew would be a fatal confrontation was their clear duty as good citizens. Had there been any doubt about Mansley's role in starting the confrontation, Dean and Hogarth might have been scapegoated, but by the end of events it was pretty clear to the powers-that-be that Mansley's SPECTACULARLY irresponsible antics were the sole cause of significant loss of life (not to mention losing the government a chance at peaceful contact with an alien). It is worth noting that Dean and Hogarth might well have eventually been able to introduce the Giant safely if only the government agent sent out to investigate had not been a lunatic.


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