While it’s certainly possible that using social media, binge watching TV, and guzzling energy drinks that look like Vulcan urine has made us all a little stupider, we also suspect that some recent movie scenes may have been a tad … confusing. Thankfully we don’t have to take all of these unresolved pop-culture questions to the grave, because (as we’ve mentioned once or twice) many of these mysteries have answers that, weirdly, aren’t in the actual movie itself. So worry no more, we have the answers to ...

Godzilla vs. Kong -- What the Hell Happened to Skull Island?

The Confusing Moment:

Godzilla vs. Kong is chock full of even more insanity than you might expect from a movie about a giant ape battling a skyscraper-sized atomic lizard creature and his robot doppelgänger -- including sub-plots about the logic-defying “Hollow Earth” and how bathing in bleach to disable organic tracking devices might actually be a good idea. But the most confusing details that’s never fully addressed (other than Kong’s conspicuous lack of oversized genitalia) is what happened to Skull Island. In Kong: Skull Island, it was practically a paradise … you know, if you can overlook all the monsters. But in Godzilla vs. Kong it’s a rain-soaked hellhole -- so much so that they have to build Kong his own private Holodeck.

We learn that a “storm” killed everyone on the island except for one little girl because … well, we’re guessing because the screenwriter really liked Aliens. Which kind of sucks because the previous Kong movie at least attempted to walk back the franchise’s long, problematic history of vilifying Skull Island’s Indigenous population, but now apparently they were all wiped out offscreen between movies and barely acknowledged. What the hell happened?

The Explanation: 

Understanding the missing context for this seemingly important plot point required reading a tie-in comic book prequel called Kingdom Kong. Remember in Godzilla: King of the Monsters how King Ghidorah created a bunch of crazy storms? In the comic we learn that one of them continued to travel across the Pacific even after he died. 

While the rest of the Earth isn’t subjected to crazy freak storms (more so than what climate change has already wrought at least) when Ghidorah’s storm hit Skull Island it got “anchored” there because of the vortex present in the gateway to Hollow Earth. So really, it makes total sense when -- no, wait, it’s still ridiculous. 

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood -- Wait, Did Cliff Really Murder His Wife?

The Confusing Moment:

Quentin Tarantino’s love letter to 1960s Los Angeles, the career of Burt Reynolds and, of course, multiple actresses’ bare feet, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is jam-packed full of rich character details. One seemingly pretty important detail, which the movie kind of glosses over, is a long-standing rumor that Brad Pitt’s character Cliff Booth murdered his wife with a friggin' harpoon gun!

While the movie shows us the build-up to her death, we never actually see what happened -- which, again, feels not insignificant. 

The Explanation:

Now that Quentin Tarantino has penned a novelization of his own movie, to the joy of, well mostly Quentin Tarantino, now we know more than we ever thought possible about the world of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. In fact, the death of Cliff’s wife takes up an entire chapter. And yeah, he totally did it. Cliff fired the shark gun which tore her “in half.” But then he immediately regretted it and held her for seven hours, reminiscing about their entire life together, and ultimately reconciling. Which is nice for Cliff, but not great for the woman he just literally murdered.

The book goes on to describe how Cliff got away with it because his claim that it was an accident was ”plausible” and “couldn’t be disproven.” But everyone in the stunt community still suspected the truth. Crazier still, we also learn that Cliff committed two whole other murders that never even come up in the movie; he broke his dogfighting partner’s neck in a fight, stuffed the body in the trunk of a car then ditched it on the side of the road, and the other time was, apparently, “in Cleveland in the fifties.” After all these murders, including his wife’s, Cliff always got away with it. Incidentally, the book is dedicated to Hollywood’s greatest “old timers” including Robert Blake.

Joker -- Um, What Happened to Arthur’s Neighbor Exactly?

The Confusing Moment:

While the ambiguous ending of Joker prompted audiences to question whether the protagonist of the movie Joker was even actually the Joker, that wasn’t even the film’s most frustrating unanswered question. Following the revelation that Arthur’s romantic relationship with his neighbor Sophie was merely a Fight Club-esque delusion, Sophie finds Arthur lounging in her living room pointing a finger gun at his own head in a terrifying moment that seems tailor-made for the dorm room poster industry.

And then … Arthur promptly leaves and we never see Sophie again! So what happened? For a lot of viewers the implication was that he killed her, but we never find out for sure.

The Explanation:

According to an interview with director and co-writer Todd Phillips: “Of course he didn’t kill this woman down the hall.” Wait, “of course”? This is a movie about a pop-culture's most famous murder-clown, why would that be an “of course” Todd? Phillips also said that Arthur “doesn’t kill her, definitively” adding that most audiences seemed to understand that the Joker has a “certain code” and “only kills people that did him wrong” like the ... slightly rude talk show host he guns down in cold blood.

Originally, though, the movie was actually going to resolve this loose thread before the director had to hit the promotional tour circuit. In the film’s screenplay, after Joker shoots comedy sensation Robert DeNiro, there’s a brief shot of Sophie watching it all unfold on TV while very much not dead. 

Warner Bros.

Ultimately the scene was cut because it deviated from Arthur’s point of view, leaving it up to our imaginations to decide -- many of which were, apparently, objectively incorrect.

Watchmen -- Who Was The Mysterious Lube Man?

The Confusing Moment:

HBO’s Watchmen began with a number of intriguing mysteries, like where’s Dr. Manhattan? Why are chunks of squid monster routinely raining down from the sky? If the Robert Redford of the Watchmen-verse was campaigning for president in 1992, who the hell starred alongside Dan Aykroyd in Sneakers? While most of these mysteries were eventually wrapped up, one curious scene was bafflingly never resolved on the show itself. We are, of course, talking about the identity of Lube Man, the slick stranger in a silver bodysuit who disappeared down a storm drain never to be seen again.

The Explanation:

We’ve talked before about Peteypedia, the show’s “companion website,” full of in-universe documents belonging to Laurie’s FBI sidekick Agent Dale Petey, which shades in much of the show’s backstory -- including the disturbing revelation that President Redford’s surgeon general is goddamn Dr. Oz. There are several entries about “Fogdancers,” super-soldiers who dress in silver jumpsuits who are featured prominently in one of Petey’s favorite novels Fogdancing by Max Shea. If that name sounds familiar, it should; Shea was the author of the pirate comics in the original graphic novel, and disappeared after helping Ozymandias create his squid monster.

DC Comics

Fogdancing, which is mentioned briefly in the comic, shows up repeatedly in the background of the TV show. In addition to his obsession with the novel, in the site’s final post we learn that Agent Petey never returned from Tulsa after the events of the show. Also the FBI discover a jug of canola oil in his office and consider him “at risk for vigilante behavior” -- all of which heavily implies that Petey was, in fact, Lube Man, not to be confused with Mr. Lube, who we’re pretty sure is just a mechanic, not a renegade hero.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker -- Did … Did Palpatine Have Sex?

The Confusing Moment:

While much of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker was, as we’ve mentioned, an Ikea pit’s-worth of dropped balls that the Star Wars expanded universe has sweatily attempted to make sense of ever since. One mystery at the heart of the final Skywalker Saga film was especially … gross. We learn that Rey is (*sigh*) Emperor Palpatine’s “grandchild” -- but don’t get many specifics.

Does that mean that this wrinkled slab of half-dead wizard meat actually had sexual intercourse with a fertile partner at one point in time? When? How? Do we even want to know?

The Explanation:

Fortunately, there’s an established precedent of Star Wars novelizations explaining confusing movie moments on the page. According to the Rise of Skywalker book, it turns out that Palpatine’s “son” was a “strandcast” -- which sounds like a Sherlock Holmes-themed podcast, but is actually just a clone. In the book, Rey is able to peer into Palpatine’s memories, and sees how he thrust his consciousness out of his falling body at the end of Return of the Jedi and into the backup hard-drive of a clone body, which apparently wasn’t quite up to code. So the Sith Eternal created new clones for a potential soul transplant. Unfortunately, the only one to survive was just some dude of “disappointing ordinariness” -- in other words, no yellow eyes and a forehead that didn’t look like Clint Eastwood’s butt cheeks.

Del Ray

Palpatine’s new clone also had no Force powers, so he waited for this boring, normal looking man to have a child that he could then use as a new host -- and given all that, you’d think maybe Palpatine Jr. would have just kept it in his goddamn pants, lest he create a fresh new vessel for a genocidal space sorcerer. Somehow none of this made it into the actual movie, forcing us all to imagine the horrors of Palpatine throwing on a groovy Max Rebo album and getting busy with some lucky lady on a Wookie-skin rug.

You (yes, you) should follow JM on Twitter! And check out the podcast Rewatchability.

Top Image: Columbia Pictures

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