10 FTW: Massive Plot Holes in Otherwise Great Movies

I’m not really one for chasing plot holes and, honestly, I am not really one to nit-pick; usually, I can watch a film and be perfectly satisfied with it even if there are a few questions or plot conveniences being employed to tie everything together. Generally, though, after seeing a film for the first time or after multiple viewings, I’ll replay the movie in my head and, sometimes, this is where glaring plot holes will jump out at me that, once you’ve noticed them, are hard to ignore.

With that in mind, here are ten pretty massive plot holes in movies that are otherwise great (spoilers, and all that, but that seems obvious at this point):

10 Gladiator (Scott, 2000)

There’s actually a couple of plot holes that jumped out of me in Ridley Scott’s otherwise flawless Roman epic. The first is during the reunion between Maximus (Russell Crowe) and Lucilla (Connie Nielsen), in which Maximus mentions that he heard that Lucilla has a son and Lucilla says that Lucius (Spencer Treat Clark) is nearly eight. Now, we’re not told how long it’s been since Maximus and Lucilla last saw each other but, surely, Maximus must have known about Lucius before this reunion? Considering he hasn’t been home in “two years, two-hundred-and-sixty-four days, and this morning”, we can infer that he has only been at war for about three years; so, was he at home for the other five years with no word about his former flame? Seems unlikely. But, if you find that plot hole a bit too tenuous, how about the fact that Maximus is later taken out into the Germanian wilderness to be executed, fights himself free, and ends up wandering around in a half-dead daze only to somehow gallop his way back home, to Spain, on the strength of a prophetic dream? Thanks to the editing of this sequence, it seems as though he arrives shortly after the attack but this seems awfully convenient and unlikely to me.

9 Terminator 2: Judgment Day (Cameron, 1991)

I love this plot hole. So, The Terminator (ibid, 1984) establishes that the time-displacement machine only allows living human tissue to travel through time; the T-800 Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) was able to make the trip because its metallic endoskeleton was covered by uncannily realistic flesh. Yet, in James Cameron’s all-action sequel, the T-1000 (Robert Patrick) is able to make the same journey despite being composed entirely of liquid metal! The best part is that, if you’re new to the franchise and you watch them in order, you can see that this plot hole is necessary to allow Terminator 2 to be structured as though the T-800 is still the emotionless, remorseless killer from the first film and Robert is the unassuming human soldier sent back to protect the future. Seriously, watch T2 again up to the showdown between Robert and Arnold with fresh eyes and you’ll see what I mean. I guess we have to assume that the T-1000 was coated in some kind of disposable flesh cocoon to allow for this.

Dark Knight Rises
8 The Dark Knight Rises (Nolan, 2012)

You know what this is going to be: how the hell does Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) return to Gotham City after being dumped in that pit by Bane (Tom Hardy)? I can almost forgive the plot convenience of the “clean slate” and Bruce’s absurd recovery time from his injuries (I have to assume that Bane injured Bruce severely but didn’t snap his spine as in the Knightfall comics arc) but, with Bane having Gotham under complete lockdown and Bruce left without any means of using what limited assets he has left, how did Bruce manage to get back into the city? Not only that but the editing makes it seem as though the flight to and from the pit is mere hours and that Bruce is gone for a matter of weeks rather than months. Seriously, “because he’s Batman!” is not an explanation for this and it was a curiously sloppy inclusion on Nolan’s part. I guess we just have to assume that Bruce knows of secret ways in and out of the city, perhaps through the same tunnels that lead to the Batcave?

7 Logan (Mangold, 2017)

This is one that didn’t hit me for a few hours after seeing the film, such was the impact of Wolverine’s (Hugh Jackman) final outing but, even considering the convoluted mess that is the timeline of the X-Men (Various, 2000 to present) films, how the hell does Logan know his real name? At numerous points in the film, the name James Howlett appears onscreen and is used by Logan in reference to himself but, even if you don’t consider X-Men Origins: Wolverine (Hood, 2009) to be canon, X-Men (Singer, 2000) sure as hell is supposed to be according to Logan’s narrative and I don’t recall him regaining his memories in that film, or any other movie for that matter. It’s such a minor blink-and-miss it thing but it really took me out of the movie as I ended up thinking and asking questions about things that were distracting me from Logan’s emotionally weighty narrative. I guess we just have to assume that, at some point between The Wolverine (Mangold, 2013) and Logan, Wolverine just happened to regain the memory of his long-forgotten real name. Or, maybe, all of his memories were restored as a result of X-Men: Days of Future Past (Singer, 2014), though thee is no indication of this in either film. Also, while we’re at it, how the hell did Future Wolverine regain his adamantium claws after The Wolverine? And how the hell is Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) still alive? I mean, I know the after credits of X-Men: The Last Stand (Ratner, 2006) showed that he had survived but how did he get his old body back? Gah! I cannot wait for Marvel Studios to reboot this franchise with some cohesion!

Spider-Man 3
6 Spider-Man 3 (Raimi, 2007)

I know what you’re thinking: Spider-Man 3 is not a “great film” and maybe you’re right but it’s not actually that bad. Eddie Brock (Topher Grace) in the black suit (I’d love to call them Venom but they’re never called that in the film so…) was pretty awesome and the big climactic team-up between Peter (Tobey Maguire) and Harry (James Franco) was really exciting at the time, before cinematic superhero team-ups were the norm. With that said, though, poor attempts on Raimi’s part to properly include Venom in the film coupled with lazy editing mean that the Sandman (Thomas Haden Church) is able to just randomly ambush Eddie in mid-air, with Eddie briefly mentioning that he’s been “looking for” Sandman to propose a team-up rather than actually putting some effort into this meeting (or, you know, just writing Sandman out completely after his encounter with Symbiote Spider-Man and saving the scene of his survival for an after- or mid-credits scene).

5 Back to the Future (Zemeckis, 1985)

Here’s one that’s been argued to death: why don’t Marty’s (Michael J. Fox) parents recognise him as “Calvin Klein”, the mysterious boy so pivotal to them getting together as teenagers? The most common argument I’ve seen is that they do but choose not to acknowledge it, or that they simply do not remember events from nearly thirty years ago with perfect recall. Honestly, this is a pretty weak argument for me; if a handsome lad had helped me overcome my issues and get with a pretty girl back when I was in secondary school, I think I would notice if my son looked exactly like him! You can’t even say it’s because of the malleability of time travel as other characters, such as Biff (Thomas F. Wilson), can remember the past pretty well but nobody seems to put two-and-two together when it comes to Marty and “Calvin”.

4 Batman Returns (Burton, 1992)

So, there’s a pretty pivotal scene in one of the most underrated movies ever in which the Penguin (Danny DeVito) reveals that his Red Triangle Circus Gang is planning to “disassemble [Batman’s (Michael Keaton)] Batmobile and turn it into an H-bomb on wheels”. They are able to do this by following a rather detailed set of blueprints on the wall of the Penguin’s office. The question is: how the hell did he get a hold of those blueprints? According to the novelisation by Craig Shaw Gardner, the blueprints were obtained at considerable cost by Max Shreck (Christopher Walken) but that seems pretty improbable given that, later in the film, Bruce is repairing the Batmobile and appears to be self-reliant rather than commissioning outside sources to provide his tech. There appears to be no in-movie explanation as to how the Penguin got the blueprints, though, so I guess it’s just “one of those things”, like how his gang just conveniently find the Batmobile later on.

Fight Club
3 Fight Club (Fincher, 1999)

According to Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), the first rule of Fight Club is that you do not talk about Fight Club and the second rule of Fight Club is you do not talk about Fight Club. However, the final rule is that, if it’s your first night at Fight Club, you have to fight. Anyone else seeing a bit of a contradiction here? If members are doubly banned from talking about Fight Club then how the hell can it ever be anyone’s “first night” at the club? After a while, every one of the original members should have had their first fight so that, in conjunction with the first two rules, would make the final rule obsolete pretty quickly, surely? Perhaps Tyler knew that the members would talk about the club (Bob (Meat Loaf) did later on, after all) and the rules were more an unstated understanding that members do not talk about the club to any authority figures but, still, to have a rule that directly contradicts the others seems pretty foolish for such a smart guy.

2 Jurassic Park (Spielberg, 1993)

So, imagine this: you’re John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) and you have a theme park that contains the closest approximations of real-life dinosaurs in billions of years and you need the world’s foremost expert on Velociraptors, Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill), to come along and verify that the park is safe and the attractions are as good as they seem. Then, just as a baby ‘raptor hatches from an egg right before his eyes, your expert turns around and asks, “what species is this?” like some kind of air-headed novice! Now, sure, Grant seemed to take the discovery that dinosaurs were once again walking the Earth pretty hard, reacting with shock and awe and even having trouble breathing so maybe, maybe, he was simply still reeling from this revelation. Also, yes, while I’m sure Grant had seen the bones of a baby ‘raptor before, he’s obviously never held a live one and, finally, he probably knew (like we do now) that ‘raptors actually looked very different to how they are portrayed in Jurassic Park but still! I mean, come on, isn’t this like Ford unveiling their new motor at a Ford press conference and Jeremy Clarkson saying, “what make is this?”

1 Timecop (Richardson, 1994)

Can we stop for a moment to talk about how absolutely fantastic Timecop is? Seriously, it’s one of those films that doesn’t get talked about enough and is, perhaps, Jean-Claude Van Damme’s greatest film ever (for fellow perverts, there’s also one cracker of a sex scene in it!) I love this film and could, honestly, watch it every day but there’s just one tiny little thing that takes me right out of it. The first scene of the film is a little dick-measuring contest between George Spota (Scott Lawrence) and some government types in which George breaks the news that the good ol’ US-of-A has cracked time travel. He lays down the rules of the film (you can’t travel forward because the future hasn’t happened yet but you can travel back…raising the entirely separate question of how you get back to the present, which would be considered the future, from the past; I guess because that future has happened?) and convinces the government types that the Time Enforcement Commission must be formed to protect and police time from anyone who would seek to change history by altering the past. George even says that this has already happened and the question is…how, exactly? At that point, there was one time travel device, firmly under lock and key we can assume, so how the hell did someone manage to travel back to the past already? And, if they have done, how they hell did George even know about it when they had no means of monitoring or preventing this so, surely, the events that were altered world just be the current history (as happens later in the film)?

Later, it is revealed that there are two machines; the primary one and a prototype that Senator Aaron McComb (Ron Silver) uses to change time in his favour but this wasn’t true at the meeting at the start of the film so I have to agree with the young McComb when he asks why they don’t “just prevent time travel rather than spending stupendous amounts of money trying to police it”. Also…how come they travel to the past in that big rocket but it disappears when they get there and all they have to do is hit a return button, jump into a wormhole, and end up back in the present in the same rocket (that’s now facing the other way around)?

7 thoughts on “10 FTW: Massive Plot Holes in Otherwise Great Movies

  1. Abdul 19/06/2020 / 21:07

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