1. How was a giant robot kept a secret for so long?

iron giant

For the vast majority of The Iron Giant, the title character is a secret to the world. There are those who have their suspicions, and a few folks even have fleeting encounters, but the Giant largely remains a myth. For the most part,  the big metal man who fell from the sky is known only to a kid named Hogarth. Which is weird, because the Iron Giant is a big metal man who fell from the sky. Why on earth did it take so long for everyone else to catch on?

Yes, the movie is set in a rural Maine town in the 1950s. And yes, even if cameras WERE ubiquitous back then, our Giant spends most of his time skulking in the woods. But come on. We're talking about an absolutely colassal lifeform here. Look at how big he is compared to Hogarth:

Throughout the movie, the Giant tears through trees and drags an unmissable streak of destruction across the forest. When his semi-truck-sized feet come down, the ground visibly shakes. As the plot progresses, the idea that Hogarth is somehow able to hide his new robot friend from the rest of humanity becomes more and more unbelievable -- even in a cartoon

Just because kids successfully sheltered strange visitors in other movies doesn't mean it works the same way here. Keeping E.T. hidden away was a breeze, but that's because you can easily fit something the size and shape of a naked Danny DeVito in a bedroom closet. But Hogarth's secret alien is basically a Megazord. Specifically, a Megazord that eats metal

In these early scenes, the Giant is probably only a few hundred feet away from humans, munching away on tractors and cars -- all without ever being heard.The only way that this works is that the Iron Giant has incredible stealth capabilities that are neither seen or explained in the movie. Otherwise, everyone in this movie but Hogarth is an idiot. To be fair, that's often how kids movies work. 

Even IF he can chow down on machinery quieter than drinking water through a straw, the Giant should still leave one unmistakable trace behind. When Agent Mansley is on the phone, the doubtful General asks for one cruicial piece of evidence that should be EVERYWHERE.


He's got a point. There should definitely be humongous robot footprints covering most of Maine by this point, but no one ever finds anything like that. Agent Mansley (and an entire recovery/construction crew) even visit the site where Hogarth first met the giant, and there were no prints to be seen.


Again the Giant could have some kind of unspoken noisemuffling technology -- that would explain why its disembodied hand could scamper around Hogarth's house without Mom finding out. But for the Giant's steps to shake the ground he walks on, he'd have to be leaving some kind of tracks in his wake.

Heck, they even address this in the original 1968 book on which the movie is based.

From farm to farm, over the soft soil of the fields, went giant footprints, each one the size of a single bed.

The farmers, in a frightened, silent, amazed crowd, followed the footprints. And at every farm the footprints visited, all the metal machinery had disappeared.

Maybe it would be a bit more complicated if The Iron Giant was revealed to the public earlier in the movie, but it also might give him more of a reason to protect a town full of people if he got to know them a little bit. Then again, he also might feel worse about eating all of their cars. 

2. Why doesn't the Iron Giant have a name?


This is kind of a little quibble that I admit doesn't matter all that much, but it still kind of nagged at me throughout. We're introduced to Hogarth as someone who desperately wants a pet, so much so that the captures woodland creatures like squirrels and raccoons in an effort to have a friend. But wouldn't owning a pet -- in this case, your very own giant robot -- mean that you get to name your pet? In stuff like E.T. and even Stranger Things, one of the first things the characters do is come up with a name for the new interloper. 

But Hogarth never gives his friend anything resembling a human name, not really. He just calls him "Giant." 



"Giant" isn't really a name, it's more of an adjective. It'd be like calling the main character "Preteen" instead of "Hogarth." That being said, I wouldn't mind if we changed Agent Mansley's name to "Mega-Creepy." 

3. Why is Agent Mansley so obsessed with Hogarth when there's a much bigger lead?

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Agent Mansley is one of those villains that gets a lot more unsettling when you see him again as an adult. His voice actor, Christopher McDonald, makes Mansley feel like Shooter McGavin in a cheap suit and a modicum of governmental power, but he's so much worse than that. 

This is the guy that's hellbent on figuring out where the Iron Giant is and making a name for himself to his superiors. Inexplicably, he latches on to Hogarth, based on the fact that he left his BB gun at the scene of the destroyed power station. That doesn't really make Hogarth a bigger suspect than any other witness -- at this point there are plenty of vague sightings and townsfolk whose property has been munched on by the mysterious monster.

At first it makes sense to us that Mansley would suspect Hogarth, but that's only because we the audience know that Hogarth is hiding something big. But Mansley has no real reason to think that. Nevertheless, he decides that the best way to find the giant metal man is to follow Hogarth's every move.

This guy rents a room specifically so he can stalk and stare at a child as he sleeps. All because he has a hunch that Hogarth knows something about the Giant. He even goes so far as to adbuct, restrain and chloroform a child to get what he wants. He's certifiably insane, no doubt about it, and his evil rivals the most terrifying animated villains like Jafar, Cruella De Ville and Tom Hanks in The Polar Express.

The worst part of it all? There was an obvious solution in front of him all along. Before Hogarth, Mansley really only knew one thing about the giant -- it avoided people and ate metal. And where can you find a bunch of metal all in one place without many people? The junkyard.


All Mansley would have to do is wait by the junkyard and the giant would eventually find his way there just because he'd be hungry. Even Hogarth figured this one out -- he meets the Iron Giant after laying down some sheet metal to lure him in. So why would a highly-trained government investigator throw away the only lead he had in favor of hounding a young boy's every move? Maybe I don't want the answer to that.

4. These kids should totally be dead, right?

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Because he hasn't been seen by the town at large until the last few minutes of the movie, the Iron Giant has to work quickly to make a good first impression. So it makes sense story-wise that his big "coming out" moment would involve saving a couple of kids from falling to their deaths. And hey, to be fair, the Giant kind of caused their fall -- the boys slipped and fell while scoping out the slipped and fell while they were scoping out the gigantic automaton in the distance.

It's a bit hard to tell with the perspective, but that building looks to be maybe 3 or 4 stories tall including the roofing. A drop from that height would definitely hurt the kids if not outright kill them, so the townsfolk are justifiably horrified. But the Giant hears their cries for help and decides to run in and save the day. Kind of?

Movies make things more exciting by making everything run down to the wire. It wouldn't be nearly as thrilling if the kids had just hung there and the Giant plucked them from the roof like a couple of errant cats stuck up a tree.  So he catches them RIGHT before they hit the ground... with his huge metal hand. Anyone seeing the problem here?

How is the Giant supposed to have "saved" these kids when all he did was put a metal platform a few feet above where they were going to land before? Hell, you could argue that the snow packed on the street would have offered way more cushion than the cold slab of palm that the Giant extended. Remember, this robot can take direct hits from tank fire without a dent -- he's made of pretty sturdy stuff.

The kids seem like they're fine, at least. I'm not saying I wanted those kids dead, but it would have been more realistic if they were at least paralyzed forever and spent their lives cursing the day the space robot ever tried to help them. 

5. What's with the whole ultimate sacrifice thing?

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Wait, no, this is actually perfect. Nevermind, let's keep going before I start crying at my desk again. 

*sniff* Too late. 

6. Why would the government give Hogarth the last piece of the Iron Giant?

iron giant

We don't dwell on the immediate aftermath of the Giant's sacrifice for too long -- seconds later we fast-forward to months in the future, when Hogarth has new friends and Mom has a new beatnik boyfriend. A statue has been erected in the town, honoring the 50-foot tall stranger who saved everyone. It all sounds just about right, until it doesn't.

It's at this point that Hogarth recieves a package containing the only remnant of the Giant that was recovered: a screw about the size of a stapler. It's a nice sentiment, and it's important to the epilogue of the movie (and the happy ending), but it also makes no god damned sense. Why in the world would the government hand over the only piece of alien technology they have from an interplanetary visitor? That screw has to be made of some kind of funky space alloy that would be of interest to all kinds of scientists. And hell, we know that it can track (and move!) to other pieces of itself, so there's all sorts of stuff going on there that the government could use. To give all that away just because it's the "right thing to do" just doesn't seem like the shady, selfish government we've all grown to love. 

Really though, besides being completely stupid to pass up an opportunity to get a technological advantage in the middle of the Cold War, there's also the matter of where we last saw the screw: In a massive nuclear blast. 

There's no way that screw isn't brimming with radiation. You can bet that Hogarth planned on keeping the memento of the best friend he ever had in a safe spot tucked away in his room, where he sleeps. Even if the. Then again, maybe that's what the government was counting on -- it would be awfully convienent for the citizen who knows the most about the alien incident to suddenly take ill and die. That's pretty dark, but then again, just a few minutes before this scene, all of the main characters instantly accepted their imminent deaths after seeing a nuclear warhead fly into the air. Maybe this isn't a kids movie after all.

Tristan Cooper can be found on Twitter.