Plot holes matter, and no amount of the inevitable fanboy frustration that greets this kind of article can change that. You see, it’s very simple: every brush stroke made by an artist makes a difference to the final painting – every mark is a decision in the story of the image, and it is the same for films. Every single thing we see on film, from hairstyles to camera angles to the way the light hits a particular vase in the background has been meticulously chosen by the film-makers – there are very few creative accidents. And yet as soon as a plot hole appears, too many people are too willing to shrug and simple say it doesn’t matter – someone dropped the ball somewhere, but it makes no difference.
Of course it makes a difference, and for some fans the presence of too many major plot holes can make a break the reputation of a particular film-maker. Whole online communities react in disgust and anger and threaten to topple the world off its axis because M16′s entire plan in Casino Royale relies on James Bond pulling a last minute straight flush out of the bag to beat the villain’s already extremely impressive full house.
But then conversely, sometimes it seems that plot holes don’t actually matter as much as we might have initially suspected: great films can feature gaping holes and cracks right through them that we are willing to simply ignore in the interest of entertainment. Perhaps those venomous fanboys were right – perhaps we should all just stop using our brains and enjoy the pretty pictures on screen without analysing the stories.
Or perhaps not – these plot holes still count, and we still talk about them. It’s just that their respective films are so good in every other department that we can accept the problems as an exception to the overall quality. They didn’t go away, they just didn’t quite have the same derailing effect at the time; but had we been looking hard enough, or analysing cynically enough, these plot holes could well have compromised our enjoyment of the films. Sometimes, it seems, we’re just more tolerant of mistakes than at other times.
So we’re not talking plot holes from awful sci-fis that are terrible anyway, or the mistakes made by Michael Bay, whose films are also terrible anyway. Just Class A movies all the way, and ones that were not spoiled despite these glaring mistakes that you probably missed…
10. Star Wars: Episodes IV-VI
- The Hole: Stormtrooper Armour Is Basically Pointless
Since the world has gone crazy in the past couple of days for new Star Wars news in the wake of Disney’s big money acquisition of Lucasfilm, what better place to start this list than a look back at a gaping plot hole that should have made more of a difference to fans of the original trilogy. Considering how notoriously irate they got at every problem with the Prequel trilogy, it’s surprising that fans didn’t make more of a deal of the fact that the heavy-duty looking armour worn by the Empire’s army of Stormtroopers might as well have been made of cheap, chafing plastic.
We marvelled at the films, heralding George Lucas’ creation as the best sci-fi opera ever brought to screen, ignoring the fact that the armour left the troopers exposed to every level of weaponry from blaster fire to Ewok-thrown rocks. So what exactly was the point in wearing it? Were those military uniforms merely an expression of fashion? Were the troopers playing dress-up simply to make Darth Vader feel better about being the only one who had to wear a galactic gimp-suit? Either way, it seems like a monumental waste of Imperial resources to clothe an entire army in outfits unfit for service – but then who cares when there’s bigger fish to fry like Jar-Jar Binks.
9. The Matrix
- The Hole: Why Does The Matrix Allow Free Thought?
More of a logical query than a gaping plot-hole, but the decision by the Matrix’s machine over-lords to make the captives of The Matrix capable of free thought (and thus protest) seems to have been something of a mistake. If they have the capabilities to build that sort of system, and basically pull the wool over the eyes of an entire civilization, why didn’t they have the fore-thought to manipulate their brain function even more to stop them from questioning their existence? That would presumably have stopped all of the escapees before they ever enjoyed their epiphanies.
Even better, why didn’t the Matrix just create a simulated universe without computers, so Neo could never have been found by Trinity? Why not drop them all into 18th century rural Spain where they wouldn’t have the capabilities and could be controlled a darn sight easier?
But we didn’t seem to care when the first Matrix film came out, and we were all apparently willing to accept such a ridiculous premise, because the sci-fi stood up so well: it was only when the poor, messy sequels arrived that people started to pick away at the stitches, and even then those concerns largely targeted the problems of Reloaded and Revolutions.
8. Ghostbusters 2
- The Hole: Confusing Skepticism
At the end of Ghostbusters, a giant Stay Puft marshmallow man attacks New York City, extremely large and extremely visible, waltzing through the packed streets to take out the Ghostbusters. The team overcome massive odds to halt the threat, and are hailed as saviours by the end of the movie by throngs of cheering crowds evidently very willing to show their gratitude… but then what? In the second film the Ghostbusters are back to square one, faced by ignorance and disbelief concerning the legitimacy of their work and the existence of ghosts. What exactly happened between the two movies to make everyone forget?
It makes for better narrative tension of course, but that’s a pretty sloppy decision, no matter how many people seem to have ignored it.
Okay, so the film isn’t quite as good as the original, but the criticism it attracts is completely misplaced, and Hollywood wouldn’t even be entertaining the idea of a third film if it wasn’t a successful film. So why do we just accept that nobody believes that the Ghostbusters are a legitimate emergency service, providing a real service to control very real supernatural threats? They should be heroes – given the keys to the city after preventing presumably total devastation by a giant confectionary man – but instead they have to pretend to be workmen when questioned about their investigation into the subterranean river of goo.
7. Back To The Future 3
- The Plot-Hole: The Steam-Powered Time Machine
Even ignoring Doc’s clearly contradictory, but heart-warming assertation that nobody’s future has been written yet, and it is what you make it, the finale of Back To The Future III has a number of glaring questions. Chief among them is how the Dickens the Doc managed to make a time machine that completely runs on steam – presumably including the flux capacitor that previously needed to run on radioactive material – and how he managed to keep it a secret. The second part seems fairly simple – he hid it – but according to the lore of the first film, the time machine requires either plutonium, or at the very least a modified food processor to run: neither of which Doc had access to in 1885.
There is of course a modified flux capacitor at his disposal, which was attached to the time machine that transported him back to 1885 – but the time machine was broken by the lightning strike to the extent that he had to bury it for Marty to rediscover in 1955 so that the 50s version of the Doc could repair it and send Marty back to the future. So what, Doc took the time machine apart before burying it and made another working time machine with the parts? Then what did he bury for Marty to get back to the future, or the past as actually became his destination?
Pick it apart enough and you really get into the complexities of the time continuum. That’s exactly what writers who get confused by their own complex time travelling stories would say anyway.
All very confusing, and something that seems to have been ignored largely because of the simple entertainment of Doc’s final appearance with his kids in tow.
6. Superman 2
- The Hole: Forget Me Not
By the end of the second film, somehow, and very conveniently Superman has the ability to extract specific memories from Lois Lane via the medium of a kiss, which wipes her memory of the fact that Clark Kent is Supes. In itself, this is a little hard to take, since it’s a little difficult to believe that Superman’s lips could work with the precision of a neurosurgeon to cut away one specific strand of memory without removing anything else? How come Lois didn’t all of a sudden forget how to drive, or who her third grade math teacher was? Okay, okay, he’s Superman, he can do what he wants, but that’s just not a substantial enough answer to legitimately deal with the question.
Where does this ability come from exactly? To go for almost the entirety of two films suggesting that the preservation of the Clark Kent alter-ego is crucial to the protection of Superman, and then to suddenly just establish that he can wipe people’s memories by kissing them seems like a fairly major departure. Yes, it would have been an entirely different film if Clark Kent had spent a good portion of it kissing anyone who had worked out his hidden identity, but if he had the power why keep it so quiet for so long?
Definitely doesn’t spoil the film though – which succeeds despite the huge potential problem of being the knitted-together work of two separate directors.
5. Batman Begins
- The Hole: The Microwave Conundrum
Nolan’s Bat-trilogy is surprisingly full of mistakes, but he’s protected by the ferocious love of his fans. I could well have gone with the “How does Batman get back to Gotham?” plot hole for The Dark Knight Rises here, if it weren’t for the fact that I don’t consider The Dark Knight Rises to be a particularly awesome film (great moments, but sloppy execution), and that it would invariably lead to multiple people commenting that “he’s Batman, deal with it” or something equally as asinine.
Anyway, the major problem with Batman Begins is the massive hole in the middle of Ra’s Al Ghul and Scarecrow’s plot to infect Gotham’s inhabitants with toxin by using the microwave emitter to vaporize the infected water supply and making everyone inhale the toxin. Sounds like a good plan, until you realize that most of the human body is made of water, and would have been boiled when the emitter went off, making infection impossible and unnecessary. For clever villains to miss such a crucial point seems rather silly, but what did we care? Batman was back and darker than ever, and in Nolan we had a director who would make the property a viable concern again after the frivolous mistakes of the older franchise. We were willing enough to ignore that gaping hole for the greater good of the series.
4. Spiderman 2
- The Hole: Doc Ock Says Hello
Still the best Spiderman movie in my opinion, Sam Raimi’s second take on the Spiderman property nevertheless includes a head-scratcher of a plot hole that fans seem to largely ignore because it makes for an impressive and engaging action sequence that shows off the power and menace of the film’s chief villain Doctor Otto Octavius. When Ock learns from Harry Osborn that he may be able to find Spiderman by consulting with Peter Parker, the now unhinged villain chooses to open his consultation by throwing a car at the cafe that Parker and Mary-Jane are sitting in.
Yes, Doc Ock is now probably clinically insane, but he still retains higher brain function and the intelligence needed to complete his work, so why does he choose to throw a car at someone he needs to get information from? He also has no idea that Parker is Spiderman at this point, so why the animosity?
3. LOTR: Two Towers
- The Hole: Legolas’ Magic Bow
Legolas has skills – he is the finest archer in the Lord of the Rings universe (or at least he is presented as such), able to kill numerous sizable foes with those skills, including an enormous Mumakil in one memorable sequence, which is taken out with just a couple of arrows to a key body point. The elf clearly knows exactly where to fire to incapacitate and kill all manner of foes, and he takes pride in his ability – to the point that he engages in goading banter with Gimli about their respective kill counts.
So why isn’t he capable of taking out the Berserker carrying the torch that blows up the wall at the Battle of Helm’s Deep? Legolas has numerous attempts at stopping the hulking beast, hitting weak points each time (why would he aim anywhere else, based on what we know of him?) and yet the Berserker continues, with a few roars of pain along the way. What exactly was this creature made of, to be stronger than a Mumakil? And why wasn’t he the first one in battle, rather than the poor sap who had to blow himself up despite his obvious military value?
2. Jurassic Park
- The Hole: The Mountaineering Ninja T-Rex
A classic plot-hole that has bothered me ever since I saw Steven Spielberg’s dino epic at the cinema almost 20 years ago, but one which has never sufficiently spoiled the experience of the film for me. When the park security systems go down and the fences lose their charge, the T-Rex forces its way through the useless fence (which is way too flimsy even for an electrified one – talk about lack of a safety net) to attack the tour cars, having enjoyed a pitifully sized goat-shaped snack (it’s always seemed a curious idea to me to provide the creature with what is effectively an amuse-bouche to get his appetite up).
She has clearly been able to walk up to said fence in order to eat the goat and then to escape, and yet during the attack, when she pushes the tour car housing Tim back into the enclosure, the car falls down into a tree, and reveals a drop of at least 50 feet (which is a much more intelligent security fail-safe). So how did the T-Rex scale the wall to get to the road? Those tiny arms are clearly not made for climbing of any sorts.
Spielberg apparently didn’t care about the plot hole, because the sequence was so thrilling, and he was perhaps right not to care, since it’s one of those holes that we forgive in the name of art. And because it inspires a very endearing image of a mountaineering T-Rex, who is clearly also some sort of ninja, thanks to the way she sneaks up on the raptors at the end to save the fleeing humans.
1. Independence Day
- The Hole: Randy’s Crazy!
A similar one to the Ghostbusters 2 hole featured on this list – why is it that Randy Quaid’s drunken crop-duster Russell Casse remains a figure of ridicule, thanks to his belief that he was abducted and probed by aliens, even after his doubters have irrefutable evidence of both the existence and hostility of aliens? There’s a collection of giant flying saucers in the sky which have already wiped out several major cities across the globe, and Area 51 has been confirmed as a real crash-site (so they definitely visited in the past) and yet Russell’s assertion that he has a personal vendetta to settle with the aliens is greeted by smirks and eye-rolls.
“Sure, boozy, whatever you say! Alien abductions, my foot – now let’s go and attack that giant alien ship in the sky up there…”
And don’t even get me started on the fact that the alien mothership somehow has the same operating system as Jeff Goldblum’s laptop. Another favourite of the plot-holers communities online, this was apparently explained by a deleted scene that said we gained all of our knowledge of computers from the Area 51 crashed ship – but that would suggest that the aliens had never needed to upgrade their technology in 40 years, and could somehow manage intergalactic space travel with the same technology that we could barely operate PCs with.
Still, a great film nonetheless.
Did we miss any major plot holes from otherwise awesome films? Share your own picks below…