5 Gaping Plot Holes Hollywood Knows You Won't Notice
There are certain types of bullshit we're less likely to call a movie on, and Hollywood has been using these logical blind spots to trick us, surprise us and generally make their jobs a whole lot easier. We're not sure which is worse: the fact that Hollywood thinks we're stupid, or the fact that these tricks so often work.
Cracked has no bullshit for you, just this trailer for our new Star Wars: Adventures in Jedi School mini-series.
The Peekaboo Ending
To pull off a truly shocking ending, a filmmaker has to know exactly what his audience is thinking at all times, and stay two steps ahead of them. But there's a far lazier way to shock us, that only requires the filmmaker to assume his audience is as intelligent as a new born child.
Up until the shocking ending, the Cloverfield monster wants everyone within a two mile radius to know how terrifying it is. It rips the head off the statue of Liberty and bowls it up Park Avenue to announce its arrival. It's so big that when it wants to demolish the Brooklyn Bridge, it only needs to flick its tail out of the water. Also, if it sneezes within a block of you, the face-suckers from Alien rain from the sky.
In other words, if all five of your senses are in working order, a sneak attack is just about the only thing you don't have to worry about. So at the end of the film, with the three surviving protagonists standing in the middle of Central Park (the one place in Manhattan that lacks giant monster-hiding buildings) it's certainly shocking when the monster suddenly appears and (spoiler alert) eats the wacky sidekick, but it also raises some questions. Namely: When did the monster stop making a big explodey scene everywhere it went and start tip-toeing up behind people like a 100-foot-tall ninja? And how did Hollywood know you wouldn't ask that question while watching the film?
We're calling it Peekaboo Ending because it relies on the same ass-backwards logic that makes infants squeal with delight when someone hides and unhides their face. When we're born, we believe that things stop existing if we can't see them. To an infant's mushy, half formed brain, peekaboo looks like their mom is blinking in and out of existence with a stupid look on her face. Roughly translated, those squeals mean, "Holy shit, mom's a wizard."
Or occasionally, "Gaaahhhhh! Kill it, kill it, oh my God somebody kill it."
We grow out of that phase pretty quickly, but Hollywood's made a lot of money gambling that audiences will fall for the same trick. For some reason, if it's not physically up there on the screen, we have a difficult time thinking rationally about it. It's why we didn't care that Jason Vorhees walked like a less athletic zombie whenever he was on screen during the first dozen Friday the 13th movies, but somehow became the Indian Shaman from Punch Out whenever we couldn't see him.
Of course now he can run, which somehow seems even more retarded.
Would you believe us if we told you the two most iconic scenes from one of the most successful films of all time make no sense being in the same movie together? Jurassic Park's two most memorable moments are probably 1) The T-Rex causing miniature earthquakes that make various puddles and glasses of water tremble 2) The same T-Rex sneaking up and saving our heroes from the raptors like he's Mr. Miyagi. We don't know the T-Rex is there until it's snapping raptors in half, and by then everything's way too awesome to wonder where all the goddamn earth quaking disappeared to.
Of All The Ice Caves On All the Habitable Planets in the Entire Galaxy...
Chance encounters happen all the time in the real world. The phenomenon is referred to as Synchronicity in the writings of Carl Jung, and "Oh my God, soooo weird" by the high school friend you just ran into at Starbucks. In Hollywood, they're known as a convenient way to make the ridiculous plot of this movie possible.
Go to Google Maps, pick a random state, then a random city and street name. We'll wait. Back? OK, did you end up on the street that we randomly selected (Oak Street in Starke, Florida)? Of fucking course you didn't. But if you were written by JJ Abrams you would have.
How can that random girl be my sister?
Midway through JJ Abrams's lauded Star Trek reboot, Kirk gets kicked off the Enterprise for being an irritating dick, and is sent down to a barely habitable ice planet. After a giant CGI ice monster chases him into a cave, he finds himself face to face with Spock from the future!
Kirk's "Bullshit" reaction is well founded.
Let's assume for the sake of argument that the two (totally different) people who sent them there (totally independently of one another) both decided this was the best of the many habitable planets for punishing people. Fine, that puts them on the same planet. But what are the chances that the Enterprise crew drops Kirk just a CGI filled foot race away from the cave that Spock's in? Hell, even if the entire planet is the size of Rhode Island, the chances against that happening are vanishingly small.
Instead of, screaming "Oh my God" over and over again while repeatedly shitting himself, Hippy-Spock calmly explains how it is that he's here from the future.
"It must have been the science! You know how that shit's always making stuff happen, right?"
This is a version of the appeal to probability, the logical fallacy that tricks us into thinking that because something can happen it will (as we've explained before, this is the same reason non-retarded people buy lottery tickets). We're so impressed with Spock's science-y explanation of the theoretical possibility of time travel, that we take it for granted that they both ended up in the same cave. This actually isn't all that uncommon in Science Fiction. We're so busy swallowing all the flying cars and teleportation devices that we don't notice the wildly implausible plot holes they've mixed into the feedbag.
In The Fifth Element, when humanity's sexy savior panics and jumps off a building into a busy city, she conveniently crashes into a taxi driven by Bruce Willis's former military officer, who will later be assigned to be her body guard. Of course in the real world, if you get hit by a taxi you'll be lucky if they bother to stop and call an ambulance.
To be fair, we're willing to put up with quite a lot of crap to see Milla Jovovich dress like this.
Everything Important Happens to Just a Few People (For No Goddamn Reason)
You only need to give your protagonist the flimsiest excuse to get involved in the exact same plot over and over again. Dan Brown knew that. In fact, he knew it so hard that when he realized no academic field focused on the crackpot conspiracy theories, strike force commanding, word puzzles and Double Dare that his plot commanded, he gave his character a Ph.D. in symbology, a field he made up.
Another word puzzle! Shoot it!
James Bond is a Special Agent, so it makes sense that he's constantly shooting people and getting laid. Rocky slurs his words, and can take a punch because he's from Philadelphia. The point is you don't have to work very hard, or even be particularly talented, to justify making your hero the center of any number of formulaic plots.
The Star Wars universe encompasses hundreds of planets, spreading thousands of diverse species and cultures across billions of galactic citizens. And yet, everything important that's ever occurred happens to a few dozen people. At least George Lucas was smart enough (it took us an hour before our hands would stop refusing to type those five words) to base the series around a quasi-mystical Force, thus making the franchise the easiest thing to retcon into coherence since The Old Testament.
The same can't be said for the Jaws franchise, in which completely different, giant man-eating sharks repeatedly show up off the coast of the small island of Amity. When you stop to consider how rare giant serial killer sharks are, it's not surprising that the entire B plot of Jaws 2 revolves around Brody trying to convince the Mayor that he's not crazy. In fact, by the fourth film, when a shark eats Sean Brody in Amity Harbor and then follows Sheriff Brody's wife to the Bahamas, the series actually makes more sense as the delusions of a family with a very specific type of schizophrenia.
But in the category of "same shit, same guy, no explanation" nobody can hold a lighter to John McClane. Over the course of the four Die Hard films, we're asked to believe that McClane stumbles into the middle of four separate heists that are retarded for exactly the same reason. Each time, a team of armed bad guys try to steal large sums of money while pretending to commit the far worse crime of terrorism. In the real world, thieves generally don't like attracting attention. It's why bank robbers threaten to shoot the first teller to push the alarm, and why subway pickpockets subtly bump into the guy who's wallet they're trying to swipe, rather than raping him.
Only lap dances qualify as successful "hump-robbery."
But McClane's life is like a parade of explosion-themed heists. With each movie, the "fake terrorism distractions" escalate from an office Christmas party, an international airport, New York City, and finally the entire goddamn country. By the third film, when Samuel L. Jackson suggests that the guys who just blew up a good portion of New York City might be terrorists, McClane quickly assures him, "I know the man, I know the family. The only thing better than blowing up 100-billion dollars worth of gold is making people think you did." The villain, you see, is Hans Gruber's brother, and in John McClane's universe, the idea of attracting attention in order to commit robbery is not only logical, it's also hereditary.
Hey, Just The ___ I Was Looking For!
Hoosiers wouldn't have been as good if Gene Hackman had, say, simply overheard the opposing coaches game plan before every game. But Hollywood repeatedly gambles enormous blockbuster budgets that we'll want to watch someone trip dick first into the exact thing they were looking for.
Harry Potter is supposed to be some sort of predestined messiah wizard, but his greatest survival skill is bumbling around in the dark and accidentally overhearing information that will come in handy later on. And if he and his friends are attacked by a monster, you can be sure they learned its weaknesses in class last week.
"Check it out guys, more apparently useless trivia we should memorize."
Probably the best example comes in Goblet of Fire, when Harry Slumdog Millionaire's his way through a challenge that's billed as the ultimate test of his wizardry skills. Yet, every challenge he faces is based on something he or some other character learned at some point in the film. While this isn't exactly a logical flaw, it's certainly a trick. They tell you you're going to see a movie about the best wizard ever, when in actuality you're going to see some kid remember shit that was conveniently explained to him last week.
The hugely successful Bond reboot Casino Royale was guilty of the same lottery switcheroo. James Bond has to bankrupt a villain by beating him in a game of Texas Hold 'Em (apparently the game of choice for sophisticated British gentlemen.) In the final showdown, the two superfluous characters have a flush and a full house, the bad guy has a better full house and looks confident in his win. But then Bond is dealt a straight flush, the absolute perfect hand at that moment.
For those not familiar with poker, the odds of all that happening in one hand are pretty damn low, one in 158,551,976 to be precise. It's supposed to show us what a suave badass we're dealing with, but if the film had a stray bolt of lightning come through the casino walls and strike the villain dead, it would have been just as unlikely, and required as much secret agent-ing as Bond's once in a lifetime hand. Why not have him gamble on a terrible hand and still pull out the win? Better yet, have him lose the last hand but then shoot the bad guy in the face before uttering some sort of gambling related quip.
"I see your pair and raise you... three bullets in your face."
Star Wars: Attack of the Clones is another film that equates spying with Brad Pitt-winning-the-lottery good luck. Obi-Wan is crawling around through some caverns, and overhears a couple of the villains talking about exactly what he needed to find out. While it's true that Obi-Wan is actively trying to get info instead of wandering around (like some sort of a wizard) the bad guys are telling each other things they should logically already know. Actually, that brings us to ...
Peekaboo Logic 2: Make Everyone Retarded/Insane/Plot Forwarding Robots Boogaloo
Attentive readers will notice a subtler form of the peekaboo logic at work in the Obi-Wan example. There's no logical chain of events that could possibly have lead to the behavior exhibited by the men who give Obi-Wan the information he's after. This is probably the logical blind spot that Hollywood is best at exploiting, and it's not just armed guards having convenient conversations while our hero eavesdrops. The plot forwarding robots are sometimes the greatest characters in some of the most successful movies ever made, and sometimes it's, well, everyone in the movie ...
Entering Ghostbusters II, the last time we saw the only people to have ever battled the paranormal in the history of the world, they had just saved Manhattan from a giant cartoon made out of marshmallow. They did this, it should be noted, in the middle of Manhattan. It must have been a giant media spectacle, with all four of the Busters being hailed as heroes.
Yet, at the beginning of the sequel, we find Dan Akroyd and Ernie Hudson working as birthday clowns to make ends meet. That's quite a fall for the only people to have ever saved the world from the undead forces of darkness. The only explanation we get are random accusations that they staged the crisis they saved New York from. The one with a giant man made out of marshmallow walking down the street in front of TV cameras and millions of stunned eye-witnesses. But because their fall from grace happens off-screen, it doesn't have to make sense.
Some off-screen moments aren't worth exploring.
The same can be said for the behavior exhibited by some of the most iconic characters of all time. At the end of Halloween, we never stop to wonder why Michael Myers took the time to carefully spring load every closet in the house like a corpse-filled can of snakes. At the end of Usual Suspects, we never stop to wonder why the most powerful criminal in the world--a man who people are willing to pay millions of dollars to have described to them--drops dozens of potentially incriminating clues while waiting to post bail on a relatively minor weapons charge.
And not to pick on the Die Hard terrorists, but their Plan A is "bust into a company's holiday party, ask for the boss to identify himself (since you haven't bothered to research what he looks like), threaten him into giving you the code and shoot him if he doesn't comply." When that plan somehow goes awry, they're forced to go to Plan B, "Buy our computer guy enough time to hack into the vault." It's worth pointing out that they'd have all the time in the world if they hadn't just pretended to stage a terror attack on an office Christmas Party.
But rather than formulate a set of circumstances that would logically require the crew of indiscriminately accented Europeans to take over a Christmas party, the writers said fuck it, nobody's gonna notice. And the reason we keep bringing up Die Hard is, they were right. We've watched that movie hundreds of times, and never realized how baffling the terror plot was because they never showed them hatching the plot. When we first saw Usual Suspects, we had to pick our jaw up off the floor, and use it to scoop our brains back into our heads. And it's not just us. The members of the Academy watch movies for a living, and they gave The Usual Suspects the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.
So apparently, the quality of a movie has nothing to do with how smart it is. The only thing that really matters is whether it's the right kind of stupid.
For the RIGHT kind of stupid, watch the trailer for Cracked's new Star Wars mini-series.
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For more plot devices Hollywood loves to use, check out 6 Baffling Mistakes Every Movie Criminal Makes6 Baffling Mistakes Every Movie Criminal Makes. Or check out Hollywood insanity as it looks in real life, in 5 Real Bank Heists Ripped Right Out of the Movies.
And stop by our Top Picks (Updated 12.18.2009) to see the plot holes of the Internet.