Secrets drive the plots of some of the best movies. Memories are erased, alibis are fashioned, characters are killed or imprisoned and Jedi knights are kept working on farms for far too long, all to keep us guessing, interested and watching. That being said, sometimes a secret is only as good as the writers' ability to cover huge gaps in logic -- gaps that, when you think about it, are so huge that you can drive a bus through them, such as how the hell no one figured out Bruce Wayne was Batman in the Dark Knight trilogy.
Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) is a magician hell-bent on winning a battle of wits against a rival magician to see who can better perform a specific trick, because this is 19th century England and women would have sex with you for such a thing.
"No syphilis and magic tricks? Deal."
Robert commissions Nikola Tesla to build him what is essentially a teleportation device, with the hopes of using it to dazzle audiences with the greatest magic trick anyone has ever seen (and not, for some reason, to rob all of the banks in the world). The problem is, Tesla's machine makes a copy of whoever uses it, teleporting either the user or the copy in the process and leaving the other standing in the device like a jackass. Robert decides to go ahead and use it for the trick anyway, installing a trap door beneath the machine to drop whichever clone was unlucky enough to be left in the device into a water tank beneath the stage, drowning him like a contemporary orphan (because at this point of the movie, Robert's brain is plucking the screaming bowstrings of insanity). This leaves only one Robert to take a bow after his apparent teleportation across the theater, and only one Robert to cash the subsequent paycheck.
"I'M ALIVE! Uh, I mean ... ta-daaaa!"
To keep the true nature of the trick a secret, Robert only hires blind stagehands and allows no one else backstage, and gets a new water tank for every performance. He has his blind employees cart out his floating dead Robert clones and store them in a warehouse, for reasons that are never adequately explained.
Perhaps because the greatest sin against nature is hiding your sin against nature.
OK, so when Robert books the theater for his Transported Man trick, he specifies that he'll be doing five performances a week for a total of 100 performances. That's 100 tanks over the course of 20 weeks. Where the hell is he getting all of them? There's no way to invoice that many tanks of that size and be subtle about it. And anyone who checks that order and reads a review of his magic show will immediately notice that not a single tank is being used onstage.
And it isn't like Robert is doing the trick once or twice before folding his tent like a gypsy to move to another town. He is performing his show five times a week in the same city for five damned months. He's parading his dark secret around in the open for anyone with half of a brain not poisoned by mercury from a yet-unregulated fishing industry to figure out. That's like hiding treasure in a box labeled "THIS IS NOT WHERE THE TREASURE IS." Moreover, Tesla, the guy who built the machine for him, knows full well how the device actually works and is bound to hear about Robert's famous trick sooner or later. How long do you think it will take Tesla, one of the most famous geniuses in history, to deduce what Robert is up to?
Persecution, racism and the right to anonymity are the underlying themes of the X-Men series. After all, a person's ability to melt buildings with their eye lasers or lift submarines out of the ocean with their mind is nobody's business but their own. This is why Charles Xavier decides to keep his school hidden from the government, because as the climax of X-Men: First Class demonstrates, people tend to overreact to things they don't quite understand.
Calling in Michael Ironside is nearly always an overreaction.
Up to this point in the film, however, both Xavier and Magneto have been working openly with the CIA to help take down a much more devastating threat to the world. In fact, they put together an entire team of mutants to help, and manage to work together fairly effectively until the government turns on them and tries to melt them into radioactive goo (see Michael Ironside, above).
As a result, Magneto vows to murder humanity and Xavier gets paralyzed and goes into hiding. His final scene takes place at his countryside battle mansion/training school, where he and CIA agent Moira MacTaggert discuss the fact that obscurity is the key to the X-Men's success.
While Moira insists that she would never reveal his whereabouts to the CIA, Xavier decides to make doubly sure by erasing the knowledge from her head with a memory-boiling mind laser.
If he can do that, why can't he use his superbrain to make his fucking legs work?
But how exactly is erasing Moira's memory going to keep the CIA off of Xavier's back? After all, he's been working for them for months, using his real name. They know everything about him -- his family, his field, where he went to school and the location of his mansion.
The final scene in the movie shows Moira's CIA superiors exasperated and seemingly helpless at her loss of memory ... but how could this be? Could their frustration really last any longer than a few minutes of grumbling and a demotion? After all -- they know exactly who Charles Xavier is. He's the wealthy, prominent mutant who worked for them for months under absolutely no disguise. We cannot stress that enough. He probably filled out a freaking W-2.
"If only we had some way to locate him using only his name and address ..."
All superheroes want to keep their identity a secret (unless they're one of the Avengers, in which case it doesn't seem to matter). Spider-Man is no different. He wants to keep his life as Peter Parker separate to spare vengeful, inciting attacks on his friends and family.
Peter turns Mary Jane down at the end of the first film because he knows that to be with her would expose her to his self-spun web of constant mortal danger.
And not because she tried to make out with him in a goddamned graveyard.
Peter continues to deflect her throughout the second film, even as she parades a wedding to some spacedouche in front of his face, until he finally just tells her that he's really Spider-Man. Even with that out of the way, he still fights her, saying, "If my enemies found out about you ... if you got hurt, I could never forgive myself."
It sucks, but it makes sense, right?
Actually no, it makes the complete opposite of sense. You see, while Parker doesn't publicly reveal himself as Spider-Man, he does admit to being Spider-Man's friend and "personal photographer," a title that covers exactly as much ground as you care to allow it.
"No one will guess I'm secretly a stupid kid."
We now ask you this -- what, to a hostage-taking supervillain, is the difference between being a superhero and being a superhero's friend? If you don't want your friends to be in danger because you are Spider-Man, it's not really a great plan to go around announcing that Spider-Man is a friend of yours. That's actually worse than just coming out as Spider-Man, because if everyone knew you were Spider-Man, no one would dare fuck with you or anyone in your general vicinity without expecting a full-on superpowered melee. However, if the bad guys think you're just another ransom note in the making, you are spreading a big fat target over yourself and everyone you care about.
"Mary Jane! I swear this is the last climactic battle you'll be involved in!"
Peter Parker's friends and family get attacked in both movies for this explicit reason. Remember when Dr. Octopus hurls that car at Peter and Mary Jane while Peter is busy stutter-mumbling his way out of guaranteed sex? Doc Ock isn't doing that because he knows that Peter is Spider-Man -- he's doing it because he knows that Peter is friends with Spider-Man. Keeping his identity secret doesn't help anyone if he singles out himself, Peter Parker, as a viable target. In fact, in that case it would be better if he told Mary Jane and Aunt May he was Spider-Man so they wouldn't be totally confused by all the maniacs that ambush them.
The first X-Files movie saw Mulder and Scully reassigned to standard FBI assignments that had nothing to do with aliens or monsters, because for some reason the filmmakers thought that's what we wanted to see. The film begins with the two agents investigating a bomb threat in Dallas, and by pure chance they find the bomb in a building across the street from the intended target.
Mulder and Scully, drawing from years of training, call in an explosives expert, who evacuates everyone from the building and then just kind of sits there and lets the bomb explode in his face.
"... 16, 23, 42 ... dammit, that usually works."
Mulder and Scully decide to investigate and discover that, despite the evacuation, five bodies were found in the rubble of the destroyed building -- four firemen and one little boy.
As it turns out, the U.S. government planted those five bodies in the explosion to cover up the extraterrestrial viral infection that had actually killed them. The discovery of the bodies leads Mulder and Scully to a vast global conspiracy, which they thwart in time for the X-Files to be re-opened for Season 6.
Otherwise known as "the last season Duchovny didn't phone it in."
Let's take another look at this evil plan:
The film opens with the little boy and four firemen being exposed to the alien virus in a small town in Texas. The shadow government then sweeps in and secrets them away. After the five unfortunate victims die, the government decides to cover them up -- again, to preserve secrecy at all costs.
And so, their big idea to make the whole incident disappear is to blow up a fucking building in the middle of Dallas.
But don't tell anyone -- it's a secret.
Here's the thing -- aside from family and friends, nobody knows who those five people are. They aren't celebrities, they aren't foreign dignitaries -- they're just four civil servants and some anonymous kid. All the government needed to do was get rid of the bodies and they would've just sat on a missing persons list for the rest of time. Just, you know, dig a hole. Or dump them into the ocean like Megatron.
The whole point is to keep this information a secret, so why attract the attention of everyone in the nation by blowing up a building in the middle of a major city and stashing the bodies in the debris? They could've rented a wood chipper and a shark tank and been done with it. Mulder and Scully would still be investigating vibrating packages at the airport.
The third act of Terminator 2: Judgment Day basically spawns from the revelation that there is "no fate but what we make" -- meaning that we are not predestined to be vaporized by robot overlords and have the power to change the future. Driven by this knowledge, Sarah and John Connor take their pet Terminator and blow up everything in California, because the only way to stop one giant explosion is with several smaller explosions.
It's science. Look it up.
By destroying pieces left over from the Terminator in the previous film, which are paradoxically being used for research to invent the very same technology that eventually creates the Terminator and sends it back in time, the trio hopes to blink out the catastrophic future from existence and save the day.
So after a grueling robot battle, the Connors win and destroy the fateful Terminator parts by tossing them into the most improbably located vat of molten steel in the history of time. Unfortunately, in order to make certain that the evil robot overlords are never created, John and Sarah have to dunk their Terminator buddy into the melt zone, too. And so, the benevolent Terminator allows himself to be lowered into the boiling steel to a chorus of bitter tears. But the future is safe, and John and Sarah Connor can live an apocalypse-free existence.
"Oh, well, good for you."
Take a closer look at that shot:
That's right -- the Terminator is missing an arm. The pieces John and Sarah toss into the steel -- future technology that, in an alternate timeline, leads to the creation of an artificial intelligence that destroys mankind -- were a Terminator microchip and the original Terminator arm. Dropping their robot friend into the bubbling inferno takes care of the microchip well enough, but what about his missing arm?
The missing arm didn't get seared off by the heat of being slowly lowered down into a man-made volcano -- it got torn off by a gear several minutes earlier, when the Terminator was fighting the T-1000 somewhere else in the steel mill.
"Nutsack. Where am I gonna find another biker in my size?"
And as far as we know, it's still there. They never go back for it. It's just sitting there waiting for someone to find it, which is exactly what happened to the previous arm. Remember the arm that led to the destruction of mankind as we know it? But what are the odds the same thing will happen again?
In Back to the Future Part II, old Biff steals the DeLorean to give his younger self a sports almanac and the keys to a guaranteed gambling fortune.
Surprisingly, he remains in the same city all his life regardless of the timeline or his level of success.
Marty and Doc Brown then go through hell trying to reverse what Biff has done, all while constantly trying to hide the DeLorean from anyone who might see it (the fact that they had so cavalierly just left the damn thing sitting with the door open for old Biff to steal in the first place is never appropriately discussed). In the future, it doesn't matter -- there are flying cars all over the place. But their mission to thwart Biff's time-traveling skullduggery takes them back to 1985 and 1955, which are both decades wherein a flying car would attract a lot of unwelcome attention. So they do their best to keep it a secret.
Thing is, when you launch your time machine down a suburban street in the middle of the day, it tends to draw attention, too. Far from showing the care and vigilance we discussed above, Marty and Doc do this shit all the time -- like when Doc sends Marty back to the future with a lightning-fueled explosion in the center of town at the end of the first film. But hey, most people would probably just write it off as exhaustion or a flashback from all the acid they dropped at the drive-in two weeks ago. There's no reason any passersby would think they really saw a DeLorean float into the sky and disappear ... that is, unless they'd seen it before.
Biff has totally seen the DeLorean several times. He sees it at the end of the first film, which consequently is the beginning of the second film. He sees it again as an old man, which is enough for him to connect the dots and figure out it's a time machine (Old Biff displays a level of deductive reasoning that is as paradoxical as time travel itself), leading directly to him stealing the DeLorean and enacting his evil plan. And he sees it again at the end of the second film, as a teenager back in 1955, when Marty steals the almanac back while riding on a hoverboard and the DeLorean lifts him to safety.
This particular timeline of Biff's is never corrected. After Marty and Doc come back from the Old West, Marty finds Jennifer back on the porch where he left her, meaning that everything that happened before he put her there still happened -- Biff saw the DeLorean take off after waxing George McFly's car, and he saw Marty, as Calvin Klein, steal his future book and get towed to safety by a Jetsons car.
"I really hope I'm just hallucinating from the manure fumes."
What are the odds that this shit stuck with Biff, at least enough to come rushing back when he sees Marty and Doc gaily take off for another adventure as he stands staring, wearing only a green tracksuit and his own muddled confusion?
"... I think my mind is haunted."
When the series ends, the time machine is destroyed and the future is safe for Marty and his family, but all of this crazy bullshit still happened to Biff. How long will it take him to realize that it wasn't fate that screwed him over time and time again once Marty shows back up at the house dressed like a cowboy?
"Hey, Marty! I can't see anything but knives when I close my eyes!"
David is a freelance writer who spends most days moderating in the Cracked Comedy Workshop and watching movies. Feel free to follow him on Twitter, or check him out over at Film School Rejects, where he is a regular contributor.
For more plot issues that should've been addressed in movies, check out 8 Classic Movies That Got Away With Gaping Plot Holes and 6 Happy Endings That Accidentally Screwed The Movie's Hero.
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out Election's Top Issue: Whether or Not to Eat Wang-Shaped Food.
And stop by LinkSTORM to see why every Cracked columnist drives a DeLorean.
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