The Gradient of Plot Holes

By Shamus
on Dec 21, 2014
Filed under:
Nerd Culture

A couple of weeks ago we talked about the JJ Abrams Trek movies. Actually we talked about ALL THE TREKS. If I had it to do over again, I probably would have made that a weekly series instead of doing a new Trek every day. There just wasn’t enough time to give each show the attention it deserved.

But talking about the Star Trek reboot got us talking about plot holes and contrivances, because JJ Abrams doesn’t like to burn screen time explaining why things happen when events seem to break the established rules of the world. So, his Trek movies frequently and flagrantly break all kinds of rules and are constantly having things happen simply for the sake of drama.

Pine, Hemsworth, Pratt, and Evans. We have an overabundance of guys named Chris in our blockbusters.

I’ve talked before about Story Collapse. That’s where you keep getting yanked out of the story by things that don’t make sense. The more it happens (and the more seriously it happens) the more you stop thinking about what you’re seeing now and the more you find yourself looking back, trying to figure out how this can all possibly fit together. If the story is a huge mess, then this sort of reflection will just reveal more problems, and trying to sort out those problems will uncover even more, until you have story collapse.

The threshold is different for everyone, because everyone’s standards are a little different. We’re a lot more picky when we’re not having fun. We’re incredibly picky when a story is dealing with a domain in which we have professional experience or expertise. (A musician will notice that none of these actors appear to be playing the musical instruments they’re holding. To them it looks as silly as someone “typing” by slapping a keyboard. A non-musician won’t even notice.) We’re more picky if we know a lot about the world from other sources. We’re more picky if we happen to be analytic or detail-oriented people.

The thing is, Nu Trek is actually pretty good at avoiding all my normal nitpicking. I didn’t notice the problems with Into Darkness – and there are a lot of problems – until after I’d finished watching the movie. Does that mean Into Darkness makes more sense than (say) Mass Effect 2? I don’t think so. But I enjoyed Into Darkness and Mass Effect 2 drove me bonkersPart of the problem is that games are consumed over the course of many long play sessions, giving you lots of time to reflect..

Let’s imagine a movie about some guy named John. Let’s assume this is intended to be a typical Hollywood release (and not some crazy black and white indie arthouse experiment) with a good budget, nice visuals, and popular performers. John is trying to accomplish something that doesn’t matter for the purposes of this exercise, but we can assume it involves stopping some variety of Bad Guy.

For the purposes of the story, we have placed our MacGuffin inside of a missile that is itself a MacGuffin.

  1. So John arrives at a large, spooky house. We don’t know why he’s here. We know his goal in the story, but we have no idea how visiting this particular house advances that goal. The story has already established that he has a key to the front door. But for no (explained) reason, he walks around the house and looks for a way in without trying his key on the front door. This scene is long and tedious and the whole time the protagonist is narrating his actions to us in a flat monotone.

    We have no idea what the protagonist is doing and no idea why he isn’t using the key. We have lots of time to notice all the ways in which this makes no sense during a boring sequence where nothing happens. Likely as not we’ll get angry at the stupid movie for wasting our time. Story collapse is inevitable.

  2. Same as above, but the story at least has the decency to explain why John is trying to enter the house. (He needs to find the gold-plated MacGuffin.) We know the goal: Get into the house. We know that he has the means to meet that goal. (Use the key.) Yet he does something dumb and counter-productive by not using the key.

    So the plot makes a little more sense this time, although the character still seems pretty dumb. This sequence will probably still lead to story collapse for a lot of people, but at least it’s not torture to watch.

  3. Same as above, except instead of the tedious monotone narration we get an exciting fight scene!

    He goes around the house, and the audience begins wondering why he’s not using the key in his pocket. But before we can dwell on that he gets jumped by bad guys and the resulting fight ends with him entering the house as part of the fight. (Maybe someone gets thrown through a window.)

    It’s still a plot hole, but we’re distracted from it and entertained. Lots of people will gloss over it, forgive it, or forget all about it before the next scene.

  4. As above, except we don’t find out he has the key until several scenes after he enters the house.

    It’s still a problem, but you won’t notice it unless you think back and ask why he didn’t use it several scenes ago when he needed to enter the house. And if the movie is interesting, flowing, witty, and clever, we’re probably not going to be doing that sort of on-the-fly retrospective.

    It’s less of a “plot hole” and more an instance of fridge logic.

  5. As above, except now John has a partner, Jane. She knows his key opens the house, and he doesn’t.

    So several scenes later when we see the key, we have to wonder why she didn’t suggest they try the front door.

    Is this still a problem? It’s hard to say. Why did she follow him around the house and get in that big fight without suggesting the key? Did she realize he had the key? Did she think he was looking for something? Something is a little odd here, but it’s no longer clear what the problem is, and it’s likely most people won’t even notice.

  6. As above, but the two of them were in a buddy-cop style argument when they reached the house.

    Yes, Jane didn’t say anything about the key, but then John had just been talking about how useless she was and about how he could solve this case on his own. So she was probably (maybe?) just letting him make a fool of himself so he’d understand how much he needed her.

    This isn’t a plot hole at all. It’s now a discussion on characterization.

Okay, the movie is dumb. But I have watched the Pike scenes multiple times, and they really do feel like they are part of some other, smarter Trek movie.

The point is that there isn’t a clean line between broken and not broken. There’s a long gradient and probably some sort of upward trending curve in the percent of the audience that experiences story collapse. No story is 100% flawless, and there will always be couple of moviegoers who will accept anything the screen shows them.

For me, JJ Abrams is really good at doing the “distracting you from plot holes” shtick. Sure, his stories are frequently full of holes and don’t stand up to analysis after the fact. But they mostly survive that first viewing. Michael Bay, with all his teen-drama rom-com horseshit, gives us long sections of movie where we have nothing to do but sit there asking ourselves what the character’s goals are and why they aren’t moving towards them.

People defend Bay as being good at making “popcorn” movies, where you just shut off your brain and enjoy the vulgar sensory flood. But Bay is horrible at that. His movies are bloated and slow and the action is incomprehensible. JJ Abrams is the popcorn guy. You’re not going to walk out of the theater nourished or pondering any big questions about ourselves or our universe, but you’ll get an hour and a half of sensory gratification where attractive people say wittyYour mileage may vary. things and engage with a plot that generally makes as much sense as it needs to in the moment. And when there’s an action scene you can tell where the combatants are and what they’re doing.

Having said all that? Yeah, Into Darkness was pretty dumb. If you didn’t notice the plot holes it’s probably because you forgot the movie ten minutes after it was over.

Enjoyed this post? Please share!

Footnotes:

[1] Part of the problem is that games are consumed over the course of many long play sessions, giving you lots of time to reflect.

[2] Your mileage may vary.



A Hundred!20202010Many comments. 170, if you're a stickler

From the Archives:

  1. ehlijen says:

    I guess it’s a case of my mileage varying, but I found Into Darkness kept distracting me with references to old trek without using them for anything. So I kept wondering what the movie’s goal was and why it wasn’t moving towards it.

    • postinternetsyndrome says:

      I’m mostly trek-illiterate so I obviously didn’t notice those things, but I had the same experience with Prometheus. The film was so obsessed with being a prequel to Alien (oh no it’s totally not a prequel but its own thing that just happens to be in the same universe except aliens! aliensss!) that it sort of eliminated itself from relevancy. The film was 50% “check out these references to stuff that will happen later” and 50% teen horror film stupidity.

      I guess there are different kinds of fans, but as a big alien fan, I would have much preferred it if the film had avoided all those “please look at me, I’m an alien film” references and just quietly inserted itself into the alien universe without making such a fuss about it. My friend, who is also a big alien buff, loved it for exactly that reason though, so YMMV as usual.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Im about the same about both trek and alien franchises:Dont care much about either,but like them both.But prometheus broke for me sooner than into darkness,because prometheus tried so many times to explain stuff with dialogue that made absolutely no sense,while into darkness simply kept bombarding me with well shot action.

        And thats about exactly how mass effect 2 broke for me:I was fine with shepard dying,because there was a big action scene following that.I accepted working with cerberus,because there was a big action scene following that,and there was still hope of jumping off the rails.But once I got to talk to ashley and she kept bitching at me for NOT CALLING HER WHILE I WAS DEAD and for NOT CONTACTING HER DESPITE NOT KNOWING WHERE SHE IS,it all fell appart.

        Slow moments are very dangerous for dumb stories.While they can improve smart stories,in dumb ones they simply give the audience time to think everything over and see how stupid everything is actually.

        • Wide And Nerdy says:

          What broke me with Star Trek Into Darkness is they kept teasing me with hooks to what would have made good stories as if to say “Huh? Huh? Wouldn’t that be an interesting premise to explore? Well we can’t because this is a big dumb action movie. Thats what we’re being paid to make.”

          Like Kirk’s ego being taken down a peg, Spock and Kirk exploring the balance between loyalty, duty, and friendship, Spock retreating into his Vulcan discipline to not have to deal with the pain of the loss of Vulcan*, Scotty wondering why we aren’t explorers anymore.

          Well technically that last one is part of the plot in the sense that Scotty said “Why aren’t we explorers anymore?” and then big dumb action happened and at the end Kirk said “You’re right. Lets be explorers.”

          Really that’s how most of the plot threads are handled. Someone says “You know what (your/the) problem is?” then big dumb action happens then someone says “You’re right about that problem that had nothing to do with the big dumb action, we can do this to fix it. Big dumb action really put things in perspective I guess.” And the audience is supposed to leave thinking the movie actually dealt with that issue. I don’t know how many people this trick actually works on.

          *My one Trek Nerd nitpick: These days people like to treat Vulcans like they’re just emotionally repressed passive aggressive nerds who can’t deal with their feelings. But originally it seems like it was supposed to be that they’d just figured out a discipline for dealing with them. Like thousands of years of exploration of this topic had led to them developing a discipline that just doesn’t make sense to us but totally works. I hate to see it cheapened by the anthrocentric pop culture consensus that emotions are good and we should all live by them.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            Well,to be fair,that stance towards vulcans is not the invention of new trek but somewhat of voyager and mostly of enterprise.

            • Wide And Nerdy says:

              Oh I know. I don’t care. The reboot was a chance to fix that and they didn’t.

              Its kind of weird. The Vulcans in the first Abrams movie spent all their time being petty (even Spock was a fair bit). Then Vulcan exploded. The explosion almost comes off as being their comeuppance (reinforced by the prequel comic which does a better job establishing Nero’s vendetta against Vulcan.)

              But yeah, that whole thing of “You just need to loosen up.” I wanted to snap the human character’s fingers off every time they did that. It struck me as arrogant when being emotional is a base reaction that you just sort of learn to get used to but being a Vulcan stoic was a discipline developed over millennia. It even goes back to the first series a bit where I wondered as a kid “Why is the angry dumb guy arguing with the smart logical guy? He should shut up so that the smart logical guy can save the day with his smartness.” (Yeah, I didn’t appreciate Bones till I got older.)

      • Joshua says:

        I thought Prometheus was horrible because characterization was completely random and made no sense.

        Why is the “biologist” running in terror from a dead alien body?
        Why is the biologist running away with the guy who told him to piss off at the beginning of the movie?
        Why is that biologist now making cooing noises towards a live alien in an obvious attack posture?
        Why does the cold-hearted corporate exec sleep with the captain?
        Why is it the same exec is the one to kill the zombie with a flame-thrower?
        Why does the android do *anything* that he does?

        This ignores plenty of the other multitudes of non-character related plot holes like the expensive surgery device that only works on males.

        The characterization is such a problem because it causes story collapse almost immediately when no one acts consistently and everything seems to be at the whim of the writer.

        • Joe Informatico says:

          I’ve heard the counter-arguments, “well, in Alien and Aliens, characters do stupid things too”, and if you respond that in Prometheus the characters are research scientists, not infantry grunts or space truckers,” the next response is “scientists can be stupid too, they’re just human.”

          That’s all true, but I think the important difference is Alien and Aliens spend a lot of time establishing their characters as people. They eat together, have conversations about things other than the plot, they play games together–you know from the moment these people wake from stasis that they’re people who’ve worked together for a while and have a rapport. They’re not the deepest or best developed characters in fiction, but still come across as relatable people you can have empathy for. Or at the very least, when they do stupid things, they’re stupid things done out of fear or ignorance or compassion for their friends, or other things you can relate to.

          Constrast Prometheus: the characters are awakened from stasis, and almost none of them know each other. They were hired and thrown together for this mission at great expense, and no one thought to have them train together and work out basic social conflicts before freezing them for 2 years and flinging them halfway across the galaxy. Half the crew are strictly mercenary and sneer at the quasi-religious motivations of the people ostensibly in charge. Really, very little is done to establish any of the characters except as naive idealists, shifty manipulators, unfriendly assholes, or cyphers. They say they’re lost when they’re currently talking to a guy who’s looking at a map of the place they’re lost in! I wasn’t given much reason to relate to them or care about them. Even when the pilots at the end are willing to die with their captain, it falls completely flat because those guys had no development, or barely even any lines!

          You know what kind of movie establishes an ensemble cast of characters you don’t like or care about? A slasher movie. In that case, you’re really cheering on the slasher or monster to kill off the cast in a variety of entertaining and creative ways. I could have met Prometheus halfway if it intended to be a fun monster movie. But instead it committed the worst sin: it put on the airs of being a smart science fiction film when it was actually pretty dumb.

          • Joshua says:

            Regardless of stupidity, they’re fairly consistent in behavior, not all over the place like in Prometheus.

          • Dev Null says:

            Actually, a lot of Promethius makes more sense when you realise that this is not the grade-A, cream-of-the-crop, best-in-the-buisiness crew. This is the crew you end up when your job advert reads like:

            “Wanted: bunch of guys to go… somewhere. To do something; we’ll tell you when we get there. With some… other people, who we’ll introduce you too in a couple of years. Pay is extremely good, but the mission is life-threatening, and you’ll be completely out of contact with the rest of the world for 5 years minimum. If you survive.”

            Basically they’re a bunch of unemployable drop-outs from a clown college.

        • Pseudonymous says:

          >Why is that biologist now making cooing noises towards a live alien in an obvious attack posture?
          There was a deleted scene in which he does the same to successfully calm a smaller alien of the same form.
          >Why is it the same exec is the one to kill the zombie with a flame-thrower?
          Because she is cold-hearted and efficient. Those are her character traits.
          >Why does the android do *anything* that he does?
          To learn more about the aliens. He doses the others with the ichor stuff to see what it does. It still doesn’t make much sense.
          >This ignores plenty of the other multitudes of non-character related plot holes like the expensive surgery device that only works on males.
          That was a bit of fore-shadowing. Why would there be a male-only surgery device in the exec’s room? Because it’s not for her. It’s for Weyland. As for why a male-only surgical device exists in the first place… well…

          More questions:
          Why does the guy doing the mapping get lost?
          Why does the captain leave his post when his crew members are lost in a storm?
          Why do they have a POOL TABLE on a SPACE-SHIP? (Hint, space-ships arent named after the thing they have an over-abundance of)

          Really, I wouldnt mind all the alien stuff being in-consistent or inexplicable. That might have sort of been the point. I just wish the human technology made sense, and if the scientists acted, if not like actual scientists, then at least like actual human beings.

    • Sarcastro says:

      As a pretty big original Trek fan, I had the opposite experience – the empty references served to distract me from the plot holes for a while.

      But it was like a meal of candy – I felt really enthusiastic upon leaving the theater, but a hangover was already waiting in the wings.

  2. Infinitron says:

    Hey Shamus, did you watch Pain & Gain?

    • Shamus says:

      I made it a half hour in and quit. I didn’t see the appeal. I realize you’re SUPPOSED To hate the main characters, but that sort of left me with nothing to keep me engaged. I didn’t care what happened to those guys. I guess you’re supposed to look forward to them getting their comeuppance in the end, but that didn’t seem worth putting up with their ugly antics for an hour and a half.

      • I have the same issue.
        If I don’t like the main character(s) be they bad or good then I’m not watching it, if I don’t like any of the characters than I’m unable to like the movie.

        Take Warlock for example, the main character is evil, but I kind of liked/rooted for him.
        Three movies was made though only the first two have the same actor (not sure why the third has a different actor, the first actor was awesome).

        Damn, now I gotta re-watch those movies again…

        • Joe Informatico says:

          I don’t think I have to like any of the characters, if the film is working other angles. I mean, I didn’t like Hitler and the leadership of the Third Reich before I watched Downfall, and the film didn’t change my mind, nor do I think that was the film’s intent. But as a snapshot of the last stand of Hitler and his entourage, to see how some of the worst human beings in history dealt with their ensuing and ultimate failure, I still think it has value as a film.

          To use a less Godwin-y example, Sandra Bullock and George Clooney’s characters from Gravity didn’t really win me over. I didn’t hate them, by any means, but they came across as pretty broad archetypes. But that movie was a beautiful rollercoaster ride, and didn’t try to be much more than that. So it worked for me.

      • Majromax says:

        > I made it a half hour in and quit. I didn’t see the appeal. I realize you’re SUPPOSED To hate the main characters, but that sort of left me with nothing to keep me engaged.

        Interestingly, this was my reaction to Game of Thrones. I watched the first season, and by the end of it the only adult character I was more than mildly sympathetic towards was dead.

        • MikhailBorg says:

          That was my experience with the first novel. Got halfway through it, then literally turned to a friend and said “I don’t give a damn about any of these people. In fact, most of them I’d be happy to see dead.”

          His response: “You’re in luck!”

          • Mistwraithe says:

            Agreed. I figured some deaths were acceptable in the first book to build up the tension but by the 3rd book it was apparent that Martin was going to keep killing off characters as soon as I took a liking to them so I gave up. There just wasn’t enough people left worth caring about.

          • Bruno M. Torres says:

            It was weird to me: I loved the first three books. I loved Tyrion, I loved everything that happened at the north of the Wall, the Red Wedding was a total shocker… and then the fourth book just didn’t click. It was simply not interesting anymore. Weird.

            Lookin at it, I think it was the same as Pain and Gain: The series became Horrible People Doing Horrible Things to Each Other. Sad, because the books are really well written. Despite the size, I think there was no fat at all there: it was all protein. Remarkable.

        • Otters34 says:

          Oh my goodness, that is the worst. I would seriously be fine with all the damned stupid kids my age just getting away from the plot so the cool older people and can plot and scheme and be cool in peace.

        • 4th Dimension says:

          Whenever I read Game of Thrones I have to get into the mindset of a revolutionary, so a corrupt asshole raping and killing somebody I would like is not tragic but “Yes another of the corrupt elite that feeds on the suffering of the masses dies. Soon they will kill enough of each other and the people will sweep them all into dustbin of history.” and on and on.

        • Felblood says:

          I had this problem with Game of Thrones and also Madoka Magica, around the same time.

          Every time I would start to enjoy spending some time with a character, they wold be killed or otherwise exiled from the narrative.

          Trying to consume both at once, I quickly reached a point where I would react negatively whenever either writer started trying to sell me on a character.

          Strangely, I stuck with Homestuck, which was also killing off swarms of beloved characters at the same time I was consuming the other two. I think the fact that it wasn’t really trying to get me to like anyone new at the same time, was an important aspect of it’s ability to retain me as a reader. (Meenah and (/or? It’s complicated) the Condece don’t count, as they/she were clearly both villains at that time.) Though I do know a number of people who couldn’t care any more after losing Vriska, Arradia, Sollux, Tavros, Nepeta, and Fefari among others, all in a row.

  3. WILL says:

    Remember when the ship crashed and it was 9/11 times a thousand?

    People didn’t seem to mind half the city being leveled and millions dying all that much.

  4. postinternetsyndrome says:

    It’s very true that how much you get annoyed by these things is largely contextual. The music example is a funny one. I love Sherlock in many ways, but in the scenes where he “plays” the violin I just bend over laughing. It’s supposed to be these deathly serious scenes that say something about the character but I only see that Cumberbatch has obviously been coached by someone who knows the instrument, and has now reached the level of “could probably play twinkle twinkle little star, with a bit of luck”, if even that.

    I fully agree that Abrams is a competent entertainer. I’ve seen both the new trek movies and found them quite enjoyable, especially the first one (the second was sillier, but luckily I saw it before I watched Sherlock so I had no idea who Cumberbatch was at that point).

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Bay film, and I don’t think I need to change that.

    EDIT: Looked it up and I didn’t realize he made Bad Boys, The Rock and Armageddon (should have guessed that one…). And The Island. Huh.

    • Felblood says:

      Yeah, it’ one of those situations where a guy dropped some very solid hits, and then started producing self-gratifying tripe, now that his reputation is established.

      When people complain about Micheal Bay, they are usually railing against his more recent works. The first Transformers movie was around the point where people started losing faith. I think that, for most people, it really was a decent-ish popcorn movie, and it’s haters have only grown in credibility now that the sequels have exhibited all the same problems, only far worse.

      It can be really easy to forget that the same man produced The Rock, which is extremely silly, but follows it’s own internal logic, and is generally about it’s characters and what motivates them to chase and/or kill one another.

      • BeardedDork says:

        “Yeah, it’ one of those situations where a guy dropped some very solid hits, and then started producing self-gratifying tripe, now that his reputation is established.”

        I call that Tarantino syndrome.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Now I want to know what someone who knows martial arts thinks about the matrix.Is teaching someone to mimic martial arts easier than teaching someone to play a musical instrument?

      • evileeyore says:

        As a ‘martial artist’ I was fine with the Matrix… but then Hollywood (and non-Hollywood) movie martial arts have been terrible for so long I’m probably just giving it a pass.

        It wasn’t until recently (or a long time ago with Asian martial arts movie makers in particular) that I started to appreciate movies for the manner in which they showed the ‘hi-yah chop!”.

        Also, it probably is a bit easier to teach some folks “fake martial arts” than “fake musical instrument”. Choreography is choreography.

      • hborrgg says:

        I don’t really know a whole lot about martial arts, but I think the main problem that irl the goal tends to be trying to incapacitate your opponent as quickly as possible while choreographed fights are supposed to drag on as long as possible in order to seem more “epic”. It really does ruin movie fights for me if I start noticing “ok, this fight should have ended 10 times by now, there is no way a 140 lb person can cartwheel fast enough to avoid a 1.5 lb sword blade, clearly this is just all guff with no one even trying to make progress and I’d rather just skip to the ending please.”

        If you want to ruin movies with guns for yourself, just start counting all the times you have to go “gee, it sure is lucky that mook missed the protagonist, otherwise the movie would be over by now”.

        • chiefnewo says:

          Swordfights in films are similar. It would be nice if they could at least *try* to make it look like they are trying to hit the other person instead of just wailing away on the other person’s sword!

          • 4th Dimension says:

            Otherwise known as Errol Flyning.

          • Look up a French film called (I think), “The Duelist.” It was once held up as one of the more realistic movies with sword fights available.

            An example from the movie: Two dudes are sizing each other up, looking for an opening, almost doing a kind of nervous “standing-in-place” dance while pointing their blades at each other. When someone finally does make a move, the other counters, moves in, and runs him through in about 2 seconds.

          • Purple Library Guy says:

            Gets worse if they have a shield. Nobody, but nobody in movies ever uses a shield even halfway decently. I mean, I’m not good at it but I got a little Society for Creative Anachronism training and it grates on me every time. But even without that–hell, half the time you’ll have people with sword and shield and they’ll, like, stand sword first with their shield basically behind them so they can still do big showy sword moves. Aaaauuggghhhh!!!
            Quick pointer for moviemakers: If you have a shield, it goes in front of you. If it’s a full-sized shield and not a buckler to go with fencing stuff, you avoid ever parrying with your sword, you block with the dang shield, that’s what it’s there for. That way you can use your sword for killing people. That’s why shields rule; if your enemy just has a sword, he’s likely dead the moment you block his first attack while simultaneously hitting back. But in the movies, a shield is basically an impediment; it’s moronic.

            • hborrgg says:

              As someone who has tried going straight from from fencing to goofing around with a shield it does feel suprisingly unnatural for a while2x2 when you have to keep your left shoulder forward, so much reach lost.

              The other problem of course is that hollywood tends to insist on strapping shields to actor’s arms even when they were clearly not designed for that.

            • RCN says:

              Movie (well, storytelling) trends that make me cringe:

              Shields are to go behind you when you strike.

              Armor is just to slow you down.

              Standing in the open emptying a machine-gun means guaranteed clearing of a room (or yard… or field).

              Reloading and jamming is something that only happens to bad guys.

              Being shot or impaled is instantly lethal to bad guys, but the most lethal it ever is to a good guy is leaving him at least 5 more minutes to tell the protagonist something important before, ONLY THEN, instantly dying.

              The Hobbit 3 had some worthwhile moments (Dol Guldur was marvelous. The scene when the dwarves are rallying is great. Azog using banners on top of a hill to give orders was delightful), but that whole battle is tactical blunder after another.

              The Dwarves have just formed a ridiculously sturdy shield wall? LET’S JUMP IN BETWEEN THE SHIELD WALL AND THE ORCS! After all, we have to save the orcs from their horrible fate.

              Thorin and Co. armors up in battle gear (Helmets! Protagonists wearing GODDAMN HELMETS! Is this a dream?). But that’s just to watch the battle, once they finally decide to ACTUALLY join the battle? Let’s DITCH THE ARMOR (NOOOOOO… that helmet… it didn’t even see action…).

              Of course, armor is useless in stories because the protagonists are only ever wounded when the writer chooses them to be, so armor will never do anything worthwhile for them.

              • ehlijen says:

                Having gotten confused in many war movies, I’m on board with helmets being used only sparingly at the slightest excuse. Shamus likes to talk about gaming being full of samish grizzled white guy main characters, but grab the lot of them, put them in identical uniforms and ask the audience to tell them apart in the action scenes. That’s what most of saving private ryan and the band of brothers shows were like for me (which is a shame as I found them well made otherwise).

                Unless you go for a full high medieval knight heraldry on top of each one or other obvious personalisation, helmets mostly just obscure the identity of the characters.

                I get that not wearing them makes no sense and breaks historic movies, but they bring serious drawbacks to a movie or show.

                • WJS says:

                  That’s hardly an excuse. Just do what Ridley Scott did in Black Hawk Down: write their names on them. I’m not even kidding – he realised that characters in uniform all look alike, and so he gave them an extra nametape on the helmet. (Normally this would go on the chest, but this isn’t always in shot)

    • Otters34 says:

      Life imitates art! The historical, real-life and actually existent mhm Sherlock Holmes was really kind of bad at playing the violin, it was just like a Hindu thing where lots of noise made it easier for him to concentrate on his inner world and work out mental problems, like his taking drugs.

    • Retsam says:

      I didn’t know/remember that the Island was his; I guess it’s not surprising; but if so that’s definitely one of his better ones, imo.

  5. gunther says:

    I felt that way about the first reboot movie (enjoyed it while I was watching it, realized after it was over that it was completely full of plot holes and contrivances… but they didn’t impact my enjoyment of the film) but for some reason I couldn’t enjoy Into Darkness.

    I suspect it has something to do with the nature of the plot holes: in Star Trek, the plot holes are all incidental to characterization; they’re stuff like Kirk running into Old Spock on a random planet by pure coincidence. In Into Darkness, the plot holes are mostly characterization-based: Admiral Robocop’s motivations don’t make sense, Buff Sherlock’s motivations don’t make sense, McCoy and Spock (characters whose motivations DO make sense) will occasionally do out-of-character stuff for no reason other than to advance the plot, etc.

    Taking into account what you wrote in that Story Collapse article: I suspect I’m a “Bob” – the sort of pedant who’s perfectly OK with ignoring contrivances, coincidences, Deus Ex Machinas and so on, but who can’t bear inconsistent characterization.

    • The way things make sense in Abrams’ Star Trek movies:

      1. He’s not a Trek fan.
      2. He finds the stuff from the canon he thought was kind of cool and mashes it together.
      3. Due to #2, when the stuff happens, it makes no sense, has no build-up, and has none of the poignancy it had in its original form.

      This is probably story collapse for the fans, due to knowledge of the original stories. It’s akin to someone making a Harry Potter reboot where in the first film Harry’s parents die, he fights off a bunch of dementors, he wins the tri-wizard tournament to become the head of Gryffindor house, and Dumbledore makes him the leader of a special teen-Auror squad right before the credits roll.

      The sequel has Voldemort appear with no preamble, no build-up, and he’s killed by the end of the movie after bringing Harry back to life because reasons.

      • postinternetsyndrome says:

        So exactly like the films you mean.

        EDIT: Uncharitable of me of course, but I have plenty of problems with the HP movies, especially the first half of them. The later ones improved somewhat.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          Eh,harry potter movies are not good.They have great fight choreography however.And thats about it.Which is why the later ones,the ones with more fighting,do seem better.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        “1. He’s not a Trek fan.”

        This keeps popping up like the biggest condemnation,and yet its not.Because Bennett and Meyer were not trek fans,and yet the first thing they did in the universe was the wrath of khan,which is universally considered as the best trek thing ever.

        Abrams admits that he went the same route himself,not knowing trek before he was involved in the project,but trying to familiarize himself with it as much as possible once he was.And he does get trek,he shows it when he talks about it.

        So his problem with directing these is not that he isnt a fan of the work,or that he doesnt understand it.Its his lack of skill,simple as that.

        • Brandon W. says:

          I agree with you and Gunther above. Abrams knows Trek just fine, at least as far as making a movie is concerned. He’s just not very good at certain types of movies, and Trek falls into that. Alas, lots of people disagree, because the Trek reboots have done pretty well theatrically.

          That said, I did like the first Trek reboot film. It seemed to be respectful to the characters, even if it wasn’t to its own plot. Into Darkness, however, kept throwing me out of the movie flow. The pacing, especially at the beginning, was all over the place. “We do something stupid and lose the Enterprise!” “Oh know, trouble, we’re giving you back the Enterprise, even though we took it away just an hour ago because you did something phenomenally stupid!”

          That and I feel like Into Darkness really didn’t have much respect for the characters and Trek lineage, not like the first film. It kept losing me every few minutes and I just couldn’t enjoy it.

          • I thought the first film wasn’t all that great, and the worst thing to my mind (though technically not a plot hole) was how Kirk became Captain of the Enterprise pretty much overnight. I think the only reason audiences bought it was because of course Kirk would be Captain eventually because he was in the other movies and TV show.

            Abrams could’ve had him win the ship in a Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes for all it mattered to most audiences.

            Edit: Also, if something has merit because it did well theatrically, let’s go critique the work of one Mr. Michael Bay… :)

            • Dev Null says:

              My experience exactly. I enjoyed the first movie essentially because it was doing Star Trek over with a twist. An splosions!

              If it had been anything but a reboot, where you mostly knew where everyone had to end up (except where they don’t!) I’d have been horrified by the lack of sense. Kirk ends up captain of the Enterprise not because we wrote a story that even pretends to have a reason for that happening, but because he’s Kirk, and it’s the Enterprise. Q.E.D.

    • Jabrwock says:

      I thought Kahn’s motivation was

      a) to get his crew back
      b) to get take out those who threaten him (those who took his crew in the first place)
      c) to take over the galaxy (because he’s an ubermench, it’s his destiny to rule over lesser mortals)

      They ran VERY quickly through his whole “genetic super soldier” thing, expecting you to either run with it, or be familiar with the original if you cared enough to know more about the backstory. So c) is a bit lacking in explanation if you’ve never seen TOS. But if you focus on the ‘rescue/revenge’ angle, a/b work out ok while you are watching.

      In this universe, it was Section 13 who picked up the Botany Bay, not the Enterprise, so Kahn’s beef is with them, not Kirk.

  6. I almost thought you were going to bring up the literal plot hole from Abrams’ first Star Trek movie: Kirk shouldn’t have been able to know that Vulcan was under attack by the same ship that killed his dad.

    The arrival of the Romulan mining ship caused a phenomenon described as “a thunderstorm in space.” This description was conveniently used when Kirk was an ensign on the Enterprise, tipping him off that villainy was afoot over Vulcan.

    Except the ship doesn’t cause that phenomenon every time it moves anywhere. The original “thunderstorm” was due to it traveling through time, not just showing up.

    • MintSkittle says:

      The counter argument I’ve heard is that it’s actually the arrival of old Spock in his ship that causes said phenomina, and Nero is just there to pick him up. Which makes Kirk wrong about what was happening, but the bad guys were there anyways, so it sorta works out. Something like that.

  7. Primogenitor says:

    Interesting comparison to ME2. I wonder if you would notice the problems with Into Darkness more if there was a quick-time event at every scene change.

  8. Dragomok says:

    Found a typo: “back and white indie arthouse experiment”. Sounds like some made autuer-scientist trying to push what our culture considers a colour.

  9. hborrgg says:

    Are you trying to tell us that Abrams might not make bad StarWars movies?

    but, but, 3 bladed lightsaber, and black stormtrooper, and soccer ball robot. . .

    • Felblood says:

      I don’t have any problems with any of those things.

      What bothers me in the new, sleeker stormtrooper masks and backpacks.

      They are just similar enough to the original style that I find myself wondering why they needed to be changed at all.

      JJ isn’t really the type of filmmaker you want, for a franchise that is traditionally about rewarding a sense of wonder.

    • guy says:

      The crossguard-saber is such a great idea I wondered why no one had it before and then discovered that actually someone did in the old EU. The point of a crossguard is to protect the hands, and the only way to protect the hands against a lightsaber is with a lightsaber.

      I also do not get the objection to the black stormtrooper. Obviously, it means he’s not a Fett clone. Considering that the original set of clones is dead twice over from old age by this point, it is entirely possible they started putting non-clones or clones of other people in stormtrooper armor. That was canonically the case in the EU, and while the new movies have opted to ditch it as canon, that does not mean they cannot use any ideas from it.

      • Dork angel says:

        Given how useless the troopers get between episodes 3 and 4 (and given the time that has passed) it is obvious that they are no longer all clones. The surviving clones are probably held back as some sort of special forces unit now and the empire has been hiring joe public to do all the grunt work (sentry duty, checking paper, etc).

        • ehlijen says:

          It’s absolutely obvious. In the original trilogy, no hint was ever dropped that storm troopers were clones. You had troopers of different height, with different voices and doing the things bored normal people would do that brainwashed super soldiers probably wouldn’t (have idle chit chat while on guard duty).

          But most obvious of all, why were they called clone troopers in the prequals and but storm troopers in the midquels (is that a word?) ?
          The answer to me would be: because they switched to regular recruiting over cloning (and what little EU survived supports that, ie Star Wars Rebels).

          So there is no reason to complain about a non-mauri stormtrooper.

      • Supahewok says:

        Sigh. The crossguard is a terrible idea. In Real Life, the crossguard is there to prevent an opponent’s blade from sliding down your own and destroying your fingers.

        Now, tell me: When was the last time you ever saw a lightsaber *slide* down another lightsaber?

        Let me answer that: you haven’t. At least, not in the movies, I dunno about ALL of the crap they’ve done in the EU but that’s all been thrown out.

        What we HAVE seen is A) a bunch of Japanese influenced strikes in the Original Trilogy (and Japanese swords do NOT have large crossguards like their European counterparts) and B) a bunch of whirling and twirling in the Prequels that owes more to fencing and dueling than to traditional sword techniques. In the case of A, this kind of crossguard is completely unnecessary and may get in the way. In the case of B it is completely unnecessary and is GUARANTEED TO CUT YOUR OWN HAND OFF.

        The last, the very last, reason why it could be included is Rule of Cool. And it fails that for me. Darth Maul’s Doublesaber was impractical (staff fighting has you moving your hands up and down the whole length of the staff, not just the middle, where you have the worst leverage) but really cool in how it added new dimensions in the saber fighting for Episode 1. The broadsword saber (please don’t call it a Claymore, PLEASE don’t, there is more to a claymore than a crossguard) adds nothing so far as I can see, limits what there is, and just looks bad. Mileage will vary on that last one but to me it’s simply BAD.

        I don’t mind the black stormtrooper (the Empire was anti-alien, not racist against ethnicities of humans. If you want to know why there weren’t black people in the extras for the Empire, it was late 70’s, early 80’s Hollywood. And do people really think that the incompetent, dumb stormtroopers in the original trilogy were still the elite core of the army that are clones of the most feared bounty hunter in the galaxy? Of course not. The small backlash against the black trooper is eye-roll worthy) or the soccer droid. But that lightsaber… the only reason I still have high hopes for the movie were the gorgeous X-Wings and Millenium Falcon. That shot of the Falcon, in particular, at the end, as the camera goes upside down and rolls… wonderful.

        • guy says:

          Eh, multiple people have lost hands to lightsaber swings in fights and then either lost said fights or had to be rescued. Even without sliding it can still block direct swings. People have said that the swings could cut through the projectors, but they don’t stick out a full blade-width and as mentioned lightsabers don’t slide, so that isn’t going to happen.

          Now I personally have only done foil fencing, but I am confused as to why fencing necessitates putting your arm at an angle where it would be cut by the crossguard. I can understand it happening accidentally, but that seems like a relatively unlikely problem for people who can deflect blaster bolts with the things.

          • Supahewok says:

            I’m not referring to foil fencing. Maybe I’m not referring to fencing in general, as the most familiarity I have with sword fighting are the forms used in Europe for actual warfare, rather than sport or dueling. Just look at Episodes 2 and 3. All of that whirling, twirling, circling. You could POSSIBLY do that with a real crossguard, but your wrist will bump into it, particularly if your opponent interferes with your swinging, as they are wont to do.

            I could accept a physical guard made of lightsaber resistant material. Not in the form of a cross, but maybe a basket. That’d be neat to see, it would require a form more like foil fencing as you mentioned, similar to Dooku’s curved hilt. I can’t except a crossguard made of lightsaber though. Looks dumb, is dumb.

            • Otters34 says:

              There we go, cortosis-weave baskethilt lightsaber.

              Myself, it’s just one of Those Things, stuff other people get worked up over that I don’t feel any attachment to. It looks silly, like adding a third nacelle to the Enterprise in All Good Things…, but it makes people more comfy about various “But why don’t they just…?” questions with dramatized fight scenes. If they want magic space swords to look more practical in some vague respect, no harm done.

            • guy says:

              I really don’t understand why it’s necessary to have your wrist and arm out in front of your hand. The way the guy is holding it, that’s the only scenario where it seems like it would hit his wrist. I can see it being a problem if he brings the blade too close to his torso, but Sith generally prefer being on the offensive anyways.

        • NotDog says:

          hilt on light saber stupid and impractical
          childhood ruined everything ruined!!!1!

          Sorry, but I’m loosing my patience on the crossguard debate given how the lightsaber itself is an impractical weapon, especial in a universe with easy access to beam guns.

          Seriously, the only settings that typically have guns and swords together are (a) Warhammer 40K because something something powerarmour, (b) anime that’s going for the exact rule of cool vibe that the lightsaber crossguard is going for, and (c) Star Wars. There was also Dune, which had to make up a bunch of stuff about force fields to give a reason for swords to exist.

          You know, I can only assume that everyone will end up hating the new Star Wars movies even if they’re mediocre or, against all odds, good.

          • Supahewok says:

            I saw that Escapist article. I didn’t care for it. The author ignores that a lightsaber, unlike a sword, doesn’t need to try to hack through armor. It cuts through anything except some very particular materials only present in the Expanded Universe, which it can’t cut through no matter how much force is applied. Momentum is far less important than sheer speed, which, with all the weight in the hilt, a lightsaber excels in. Whoever so much as touches the other person first wins the fight. (nicks and scratches aside)

            He is right that a lightsaber isn’t useable by your average Joe. Expanded Universe explains this by saying that lightsabers can have varying power levels, such as a “training” setting that will only burn flesh, not amputate. Years of training beginning in childhood can make you competent in just about anything if it doesn’t kill you. Plus, y’know, the Force.

            And BESIDES that, lightsabers have a symbolic purpose. Unlike a blaster rifle, they can be a weapon OR a shield, like a Jedi themselves. This gives them purpose beyond just being a supreme tool of choppery. And a place in a universe with beam guns.

            In any case, the lightsaber doesn’t ruin the movie for me; as I said, I loved the shots of the spaceships. It may mean that I hate certain sections of the movie, as the presence of the crossguard is indicative of the fighting styles likely to be used, and forms for swords that have crossguards are simple, fast, and brutal. Not exactly Hollywood. Which itself is indicative that their shoehorning in a made-up style that will be dumb. Sure, lightsaber combat in the movies haven’t been realistic, but at least it LOOKS fun while being made-up and not quite stupid. Crossguard is just… dumb, dumb, dumb.

            This isn’t directed specifically at you, but if you’re losing patience with folks having this debate, I’m losing patience with folks who call the new lightsaber a claymore. Nobody here has called it that yet, which I’m grateful for, but please don’t even think about it. A Google image search for claymores ought to tell you why calling that lightsaber one is simply ignorant. The closest match is a longsword.

            I think the movie overall will be good. Say what you will about Disney, for their movies they have FANTASTIC quality control. They slip sometimes, but for a franchise like Star Wars I doubt it. But I’m not looking forward to seeing that lightsaber in action.

            • guy says:

              It may mean that I hate certain sections of the movie, as the presence of the crossguard is indicative of the fighting styles likely to be used, and forms for swords that have crossguards are simple, fast, and brutal.

              Well, since it’s a red lightsaber and thus presumably is used by a Sith, “simple, fast, and brutal” sounds entirely appropriate.

            • hborrgg says:

              I don’t think it’s quite as dumb as Maul’s two-bladed lightsaber, at least.

              Plus you bring up a good point about lightsabers supposedly having different “power-levels”. Maybe the two crossguard blades are set to a low level so that they can still block an opponent’s blade but are unlikely to cut their owner.

              • Ciennas says:

                No. Is good thought, but miss best reason to have them.

                Making toast sandwiches!

                Look at those guys. Put two loaves of bread to either side and swipe up.

                The coolest part about Maul’s saber is that he really did all the stuntwork as it was. Behind the scenes shots show they had big fancy dowel rods that got lightsabered in post.

                I throw in my consensus for the movies as thus: interesting, but I’ll wait until AFTER I see something before I start heaping scorn or praise.

                For now, he’s intrigued me. And that’s all he has to do.

                For now at any rate.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            You forget d)shadowrun and other cyberpunk.You know,the setting where people can have so enhanced reflexes that they can dodge bullets and swing their hands at the speed of sound.A place where having a weapon that can change direction mid attack,which guns cant do,is a practical thing to do.A setting very similar to star wars in that regard.

            • Peter H. Coffin says:

              AND forgotten was the entire 300-year period when from 1550 to about 1825 when firearms were small enough to be easily carried, powerful enough to put a man down easily enough, but not terribly accurate (for the most part) and took devilishly large amounts of time to load. That’ll include New World colonization, the gold age of piracy, the American and French revolutions and the Napoleonic Wars. For any close-quarters fighting, like garrison duty, marine soldiering, peacekeeping, etc, a sabre and a pistol or two for your off-hand, with an optional big knife, was pretty much as good as you can get. The much-vaunted Kentucky rifles accuracy took a weapon that was about five feet long and weighed 10 pounds, and basically had to be used from cover to be effective because if if you missed, the bad-guy would be able to cover then 100 yard effective range your rifle allowed in less than the 30-40 seconds it would take you to reload the thing, and the smoke involved in the first firing would show exactly where you’d fired from. It wasn’t until the introduction of revolvers and breech-loading rifles with metal cartridges that the firearm became more generally dangerous than even semi-skilled swordswork.

          • Dev Null says:

            Actually, by the third of fourth time I watched an entire roomful of people / robots pointlessly fire beam weapons at a Jedi, I wondered why anyone bothered with them at all. They’re obviously pointless, no matter how many you have (and because apparently no one ever thought to build a robot that fires at three different points on it’s target simultaneously…)

          • Purple Library Guy says:

            Meh, people would carry swords in modern real life if it weren’t illegal. Various hand-to-hand weapons are still used, knives, clubs, tonfa. Swords are a bit more cumbersome, but they also totally trump a knife. And a lightsaber isn’t more cumbersome to carry around than a knife.

            I understand that in, for instance, Yemen, some people still do carry swords–and it’s not like they don’t have plenty of AK-47s in Yemen. We don’t use swords for cultural reasons more than pragmatic ones. We imagine that it’s because of guns, but it’s more because of the stigma surrounding open carrying of weapons. You can’t conceal a sword.

            Even in military situations, Japanese officers carried swords in WW II and I have vaguely heard that they were at times effective in killing people with them. Most modern military people don’t carry swords because they’re cumbersome (and sheesh, the modern GI is so weighed down with crap they really don’t need to add something else). They still carry knives though. But a lightsaber isn’t cumbersome and doubles as a really useful tool.

            • guy says:

              Melee weapons are only very rarely useful on modern battlefields, and even back in WWI officer swords were more ceremonial than practical. The terrain in the Pacific Theater did make them actually useful some of the time, but still not routinely useful. They’re not an appropriate primary weapon for a soldier and too cumbersome to carry around for the very rare case they might be useful.

              Granted, a lightsaber is pretty compact when inactive, so if they could be produced in sufficient quantity (which in the EU they can’t except with Sith Alchemy, the crystals are rare) it would not be implausible to have stormtroopers stick them on their belts.

              • WJS says:

                A stormtrooper wouldn’t be able to fight with a lightsaber anything like as effectively as a Jedi, though, it would be mostly useful for breaching or what have you.

            • Dev Null says:

              A lightsaber is more like _the_ supremely useful tool, that can double as a weapon. It opens cans. It’s a universal door key. It cuts down trees. It digs latrines. It clears wreckage. It’s a signal flare. It sabotages _anything_. It slices, it dices; it makes julienne fries.

              I’d be kind of surprised if you couldn’t light fires with one, though I’m not into the lore enough to know if that’s true. Bet you a dollar a GI could work out a way to cook with one.

        • Jabrwock says:

          I was watching a video that was talking about heavier blades sliding, and it mentioned that edge on edge hits might not slide because the swords’ sharp edges bite into each other. Edge on flat, flat on flat, those slide.

          So if you think of a lightsaber as VERY sharp all around, then it makes sense that they mostly stick and rarely slide. Because they’re biting into each other.

          However, you’d still want to protect against glancing blows or near misses.

          Stephen Colbert had an interesting explanation, that the crystal inside split the beam, so the physical “guard” portion of the handle had blade inside, so it didn’t matter if you cut through at that point.

      • hborrgg says:

        Yeah, people complain about all the EU stuff being removed, but really it’s more along the lines of “it’s all cannon unless we say otherwise” which, tbh, I always thought was the case all along.

        If I remember what happened was that the Emperor didn’t want Kamino to have a monopoly over his soldier supply so he basically stole their technology and set up multiple cloning facilities throughout the galaxy with a wider variety of genetic templates. The empire also started using more and more conscripts because it turns out that just paying people to fight for you is often much easier than growing an entire new human from scratch.

        • guy says:

          The cloning thing was a bit more complicated. Firstly, Kamino actually got attacked by Seperatist forces at least once, which put a bit of a damper on its continued use. Secondly, there was this new cloning technology called Spaarti Cylinders that could grow clones in a year or so instead of ten (or faster, but then they’d have some weird force interaction with the original and go completely boinkers) and those did not come from Kamino. And yes, clone armies are expensive and conscripts are cheap.

          • hborrgg says:

            Hrmm, that’s sort of the other problem with the EU. The star Wars universe I think really doesn’t hold up well if involves a backdrop of rapid techological innovation. It just raises too many questions about “why hasn’t anyone thought of this in the past 10,000 years?” and “Why will the universe inexplicably not be drastically changed after this technology?” and it seems like a lot of authors don’t really respect that.

            1 year to grow an elite soldier probably isn’t much more time than what it would take to train a conscript and it’s just asking to create millions of plot holes in the future.

            • guy says:

              Well, actually the explaination for that particular incident is that the technology required to produce the cylinders was difficult to replicate because it was somehow dependent on the species that made them and when the Seperatists attacked for obvious reasons they managed to destroy the factory, so supplies of the cylinders were limited (a few hundred thousand at most) and Palpatine smuggled most of them off to hidden bases.

              Granted, that is something of a patch job because the Spaarti Cylinders first appeared in the Thrawn Trilogy, which was published well before the prequel trilogy started. As I recall, the implication was that they’d stopped being openly used after the Clone Wars, which were just a name at that point in time.

              But yes, it would have helped EU continuity a great deal if someone became tech and ship editor and enforced era-consistent use of previously-introduced technology. For instance, the K-wing heavy bomber got introduced in one series as the latest-generation New Republic strikecraft and then almost never showed up again. Same with lots of other new fighters, though X-wings kept getting upgraded because characters and fans like them.

    • Caffiene says:

      The crossguard sabre is actually very relevant to the main post, at least for me personally.

      Does the original lightsabre make much sense? Probably not. But its simple and straightforward, and theres generally something else happening so that we dont dwell on it too much. Its just cool and Im happy to accept it.

      The problem I have with the crossguard is that it causes a kind of story collapse. Its an added little detail to something that didnt really have details previously (in the original trilogy, at least), which means for me it draws attention to itself. It calls out “Hey! You should pay attention to the details of how this thing works!” – to which my brain works through the little pieces of what I know about lightsabres, and eventually comes to the conclusion “Wait… thats stupid”.

      The last thing you want to do is call attention to details of something that previously has been getting away with not having sensible details.

      • Veylon says:

        The solution could be as simple as invoking Rule of Cool openly within the movie.

        The Sith guy is an egotist who wants a special lightsaber that stands out so that he stands out. When the survivors describe his awesome moves after his rampage, they’ll be sure to note his triple-bladed weapon and thus everyone will know that he did this, not just any Sith, but him. So he’s deliberately willing to put up with a somewhat impractical lightsaber for the sake of notoriety.

        In the right hands, this could be a plot point.

      • Purple Library Guy says:

        Midichlorians!

  10. The best hand waving must be the literal hand waving Obi-Wan does in A New Hope at Mos Isley to get past the Imperial checkpoint.

    Say what you will about Lucas (or the folks that came up with that), but that part is brilliant.
    The first time you are like “Woah, did you see what he did?”
    Completely forgetting that the other troopers did not go “Um, Captain, why are you speaking so weirdly? You OK pal?” “Yes I am OK. They may be on their way!”

    • hborrgg says:

      There are a lot of writers that try to use some schlocky fate concept to retroactively justify plot holes (why didn’t he go through the front door? because he had to go around back and fight the ninjas, duh). It is sort of neat that star wars at least keeps it front and center (why’d that happen? ‘cuz The Force!).

      I wonder if Abrams will actually try to do something interesting with it? I recently finished kotor 2 and one of the strongest parts i think was where many of the bog-standard videogame tropes I was taking for granted (killing tons of dudes to level up, all my party members auto leveling to match) actually turned out to be major plot points.

      • And you potentially “tainting” your crew members with the Force (not to mention be able to train some of them as a Jedi).
        KoTOR 2 may not hold up to KoTOR 1 technically but damn Obsidian did an awesome job regardless.

        And damn you hborrgg now I want to play KoTOR 2 again (and all the patches and tweaks needed *sigh*).

    • chiefnewo says:

      I always thought he was mind tricking all the stormtroopers at once.

      • He probably was but he looks like it’s just the one, the leader.
        It is possible he made any on else around docile or something.
        Luke was not affected as he was strong in the force (and strong willed) so retained his will.

        And the bots, well they are bots thus not affected directly by the force (mentally at least, though technically speaking a force user could manipulate the circuitry if skilled enough).

        I guess Obi-Wan used two different powers there (using game mechanics here now), a Force Persuade (on the one) and Force Trance (on the others), it’s also possible he used Force Forget or something once he passed them.
        They probably would not fully forget, but if they saw them again they would not really remember them.

        The Emperor was really creepy when it came to things like this. And Obi-Wan dabbled it seems. I don’t think we’ve ever seen Yoda do it, but Yoda did use Force Lightning or something similar.

        It’s odd though, in the movies it almost looks like using the stronger force powers drains the life out of the users, but in the game it’s like “lightning, lightning, lightning”.
        Yoda got so old probably because he did not use the force that much.

        It would be cool if the new Star Wars movies dives a little deeper into how this works.
        The midiwhatever I can hand wave, it just means someone is very force sensitive, but force sensitive does not mean they’ll make a good force user (which has been shown in games/books etc).
        I also suspect that the light side of the force may not be so nice after all (life draining etc.)

        It would be awesome if there was no light/dark side of the force but that it just amplifies the tendencies of the user. And that using the force drains life (regardless of side) only that dark side users drain from around them (“Force Drain” it’s called in some games), the light side would then draw from the user’s lifespan.

        The idea of “Grey” Jedi are also interesting who follow neither the dark side or light side.

        I kind of hope the new movies will be closer to what KoTOR 2 was, that is where the real strength of Star Wars life. Questions of power, life, existence, meaning, purpose, all mixed in a “somewhat” realistic and gritty Sci-Fi setting.

  11. Sorites says:

    I’d like to add a Tier 7:

    Same as Tier 6, except an eagle-eyed viewer currently taking a university-level course in the history of locksmithing will that the key and lock aren’t from the same design era. This will ruin the whole movie for this viewer.

  12. Daemian Lucifer says:

    “Let’s imagine a movie about some guy named John.”

    Does he die at the end?

  13. Sleeping Dragon says:

    There is also the trust thing. The protagonist goes around the house without any explanation? Unless the trust in the author has already been broken, or is at the breaking point, a lot of people will give a justification: Maybe they want to scout around for danger first? Don’t want to use the most obvious entry point? Want to check for escape routes first?

  14. CJ Kerr says:

    Into Darkness breaks right at the start, because this is a Trek universe in which transwarp beaming is possible.

    At that point “go to the MacGuffin planet to deliver the MacGuffin missile” doesn’t make any damn sense – just beam the damn thing there. Job done, plot broken.

    That seems super obvious to me, and it happens really early in the movie (Khan uses a transwarp device to get to the MacGuffin Planet himself!), but this could be an example of your “musician hypothesis” – maybe this is a problem which only looks obvious to an engineer.

  15. MikhailBorg says:

    My thoughts watching Into Darkness:

    1) Any half-competent tabletop RPG player could have solved the volcano problem without the risky shuttle flight, the Prime Directive violation, or sticking the Enterprise underwater. It’s bad when Kirk is dumber than a chunk of your target audience.

    2) Kirk learned nothing from the first film. He’s still Parody Asshole Kirk, and he should have the Enterprise taken away. The excuse for giving it to him was flimsy as hell to being with.

    3) Starfleet doesn’t believe in security measures for its HQ. Also, JJ had to go and kill the only Starfleet captain I liked in these reboot movies.

    4) The backpack transwarp transporter, which changes the Star Trek universe forever, but we’ll make all our characters too stupid to see that.

    5) Like so many characters in this movie, Uhura forgets she’s a Starfleet officer and thinks she’s in a rom-com set at the shopping mall. How did you think dating your superior officer assigned to the Federation frontier would play out?

    6) Also, you are the Chief of Communications on the Federation flagship and your spoken Klingon sucks? REALLY?

    7) The Khan reveal is meaningless to the characters, as it should be. They didn’t see TWOK, and they already know he’s a badass superhuman assassin dude, which is all they need to know for the rest of the movie. It’s an utter waste of a nemesis. (Also, since the Botany Bay launched before Nero split time, Khan should still be Ricardo Montalban. But I concede that would be tricky.)

    8) The Enterprise is still powered by beer, and it is full of vast open spaces which are utterly useless to a spaceship unless the Starfleet designers knew that stunt people would need to fall off them in future missions. Maybe that’s why Uhura and Spock keep having shopping mall flashbacks.

    9) Imagine a single admiral at the Pentagon deciding he needs to build an aircraft carrier twice the size of any we have at sea – but no one can know it because he’s going to use it to start a war with China. So he’ll build it at a secret naval shipyard he constructed from scratch at Midway Island, and he’ll swear the thousands of contractors and shipyard workers to secrecy, and no one else in the government will know when he borrows three trillion dollars to give to Lockheed-Martin and General Dynamics. Won’t everyone be surprised!

    I shan’t go on. By the end of the film, I was depressed and angry. It’s not that Trek’s never been stupid, but holy crap, no one on this movie gave a damn about the plot. They had other fish to fry.

  16. John says:

    I think tone also matters a lot. I am more willing to overlook the logically impossible in a comedy than I am in a drama. It does not bother me, for example, when the roadrunner runs into the painting. Of course, in that example the logically impossible is deliberate… I guess I’m just a little more tolerant of “because funny” than I am of “because drama.”

  17. Abnaxis says:

    I don’t know if I’m weird, but I’m not sure I’ve made it through a movie without deliberately ignoring some sort of nonsense, whether it’s using humans as an energy source in the Matrix, or the strange geography of the T-Rex cage in Jurassic Park, or the magic miracle tech in Trek. Like, I don’t get caught in the moment and notice it later, my heckles go up and I consciously push them down.

    I would call it “suspension of disbelief,” but that’s not really what it is. It’s more like, recognizing the “holes” as abstractions. Like, the same part of my brain that processes “Eat food to regain health/drink booze to regain mana,” segments out the plot holes as something representative of the message being portrayed. It’s not meant to be taken literally, it’s meant to be enjoyed.

    Sometimes, it annoys me when people want to split hairs over minutiae. Like, that hair-brained canon justifying why Klingons didn’t have forehead ridges when first shown on-screen: It’s plainly obvious that they don’t have rubber foreheads because none of the creators had thought of it yet. Is it that hard to accept this fact, the same way you accept the guy sitting next to you at a DnD table acting like an elf isn’t really an elf, even if he doesn’t wear rubber ears? Do we really need some convoluted contrivance about “genetic manipulation” to justify a wardrobe decision?

    I don’t mean this to be hostile to Shamus, or anyone else really. It’s just my take on the issue.

    • MikhailBorg says:

      The “Deep Space Nine” producers obviously agreed with you. On the other hand, I can’t complain too much about the “Enterprise” storyline, since it was one of the least uninteresting of the show’s run.

      • Abnaxis says:

        Not really, DS9 is what created the issue that bugs me. That’s what put me onto it, since I never really watched TOS–it’s apparently completely canon that Klingon’s used to have smooth foreheads, and they “do not discuss it with outsiders.”

        It’s nonsense. Do we really need that kind of kludge, just so people can take everything they see completely literally?

        • MikhailBorg says:

          Science fiction is about exploring ideas and playing with the ramifications. One could just say, “The Klingons always looked like that, ignore the makeup artist behind the curtain,” but it’s more fun to play with “What if that’s an actual in-universe change? What could have caused it?” When the first movie came out, we spun oh-so-many theories.

          So the line in DS9 was good for a laugh for we old-school fans. It lampshaded the difference and got on with the story, and Michael Dorn delivered it perfectly. (Bashir and O’Brien’s lines specifically mentioned the two most popular fan theories, and that wasn’t a coincidence.)

          That’s the problem with the reboot universe. Every time it introduces a bold new interesting idea, it drops it like a hot potato in favor of more explosions.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          It was a joke.They recognized that it would be stupid to try and explain it with technobbable,but they knew that if they didnt mention it the fans would call them out on it.Joking about it is the way to deal with such stuff.Explaining it in a serious manner,is not.

        • guy says:

          Remember that it happened during a time-travel episode where they actually used old footage with Klingons in it. It would be kind of awkward to go for an entire episode without the difference ever getting brought up.

    • Kaspar says:

      ~using humans as an energy source in the Matrix~

      Morpheus is giving his speech, when Neo interrupts him and points out that laws of thermodynamics doesn’t allow that sort of thing.

      MORPHEUS: Where did you hear about the laws of thermodynamics, Neo?

      NEO: Anyone who’s made it past one science class in high school ought to know about the laws of thermodynamics!

      MORPHEUS: Where did you go to high school, Neo?

      (Pause.)

      NEO: …in the Matrix.

      MORPHEUS: The machines tell elegant lies.

      (Pause.)

      NEO (in a small voice): Could I please have a real physics textbook?

      MORPHEUS: There is no such thing, Neo. The universe doesn’t run on math.

      An omake from the fanfic Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality.

      • Omobono says:

        This is so wrong I don’t even know where to begin. Let’s try one objection.
        Our concept of energy comes directly from thermodynamics. You refuse thermodynamics, you can’t use the term energy with its usual meaning. Pray do tell, mr Morpheus, what do you mean when you say energy?
        By refusing thermodynamics, the phrase “energy source” suddenly has the same meaning as “froop the moirn”.
        While certainly funny, that snippet not only doesn’t solve the fridge logic, it adds even more.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          It seriously does make one wonder why they didnt go with the original idea of using brains as computer parts.Would it really make the scene any different if instead of a battery morpheus held a microchip?

          • guy says:

            Apparently the executives thought it would confuse audiences for some reason.

            • WJS says:

              The reason isn’t hard to work out. It boils down to “I’m a stupid suit who isn’t even slightly in touch with what the audience of a sci-fi movie(!) might think”. It wasn’t some crazy, groundbreaking shit that nobody had ever come up with before or anything; I’m pretty sure plots like that were around in the 30s, for Pete’s sake!

        • Sleepyfoo says:

          Energy is a more expansive concept than those defined by Thermodynamics. So energy source retains it’s conceptual meaning as something that produces what makes things go.

          Also, morpheous just said that it doesn’t work the way we were told it works, not that absolutely all of physics is a lie. Heat and Electricity are pretty hard things to just not be in the “real” world. they may not behave as the machines say they do in the matrix, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t.

          • Asimech says:

            The exchange at the end:
            “NEO (in a small voice): Could I please have a real physics textbook?

            MORPHEUS: There is no such thing, Neo. The universe doesn’t run on math.”

            Kind of implies that there’s a lot more than just the thermodynamics that’s being misrepresented inside the Matrix. To a degree where “all physics is a lie” is not an unreasonable conclusion.

  18. Kagato says:

    KIRK: So, what have you got to show me, Scotty?

    SCOTTY: It’s called a Plot Device, captain. When we activate this puppy, we’ll be able to enter “plot holes”, which allow us to traverse great distances of narrative!

    KIRK: Sounds like it could be a useful technology. But we need to encounter a plot hole before we can use it, is that right?

    SPOCK: That will not pose much difficulty for us, captain. Plot holes are a common enough phenomena in our universe. One could theorise a universe in which plot holes do not exist, but it would look vastly different to ours.

    KIRK: Still, I wouldn’t want to get caught without an escape plan. Scotty, what would our options be?

    SCOTTY: Well sir, in an emergency situation, I suppose it may be possible to generate a plot hole using the Plot Device, but I’d strongly advise against it!

    KIRK: Why’s that?

    SCOTTY: You see sir, doing so would put an incredible strain on the very fabric of the narrative itself… we’d run the risk of opening a plot hole so large and unstable, it could trigger a cascading narrative collapse! Cause and effect would become meaningless, and events would no longer logically follow one from another! Nothing would make sense any more!

    KIRK: *pats Scotty’s shoulder* That’s a risk we’ll just have to take.

  19. Hal says:

    “To them it looks as silly as someone “typing” by slapping a keyboard.”

    Well, now I have to post this again: The infamous NCIS “hacking” scene.

    • Jabrwock says:

      “They’re only going after my machine!”

      IRL – “Oh, is that all?” *pulls jack from back of machine*

      My brain stopped working when the 2nd person started typing ON THE SAME KEYBOARD…

      • Wide And Nerdy says:

        This was the worst. The next to worst scene is where a computer expert (this time a cute mousey but normal looking woman) wants to “backtrace” an ip address by creating a GUI in Visual Basic. Because pulling up a command prompt and running a tracert or pathping wouldn’t have been as impressive.

        That one I could see someone pulling together some terms they heard their programmer buddy mention and they were just too lazy to look up.

        But the infamous two people typing scene? There’s no excuse. You basically have to have never operated a keyboard to not be able to understand why that’s stupid and I have a hard time believing that neither of the two actors (who look fairly young) nor the director nor the writer or anyone else looking at the scene could grasp the stupid. All I can figure is the director must be a tyrant and everyone else desperately needed the work.

        It did get me thinking about what it would take to even begin to make it plausible. All I can figure is some kind of fingerprint readers on each key so that the keyboard would know to process the inputs to different applications or different parts of the same application, but they would have to be faster and more accurate than current fingerprint readers* , capable of reading prints from non standard angles and able to associate at least 8 or 9 fingerprints with the same person. So its future tech but still theoretically possible. It was fun to think about in a Mythbusters “Replicate the myth/Replicate the results” kind of way. Might also be handy to have duplicates of common keys if you’re really just married to the idea of two people using the same keyboard.

        *My Galaxy Note 4 has one and I usually have to swipe it a couple of times in just the right direction to get it to read properly. And given the price, I assume having a superior one for each key is out of the question.

        • RCN says:

          Personally, I think that scene is the result of a profound contempt for the average american audience.

          “How can I convey to a bunch of braindead mouth-breathers holding a jug of moonshine on each hand that these two are engaging in SERIOUS HACKING MODE in a way that they can grasp?” * Downs two bottles of whiskey * “I’vsh gotsh an idhea!”

          EDIT: Actually, rewatching the scene, I found something ironically hilarious. The guy walking in eating a sandwich (dunno his name, don’t watch the show) asks them “are you playing a game?”

          He is obviously meant to be doing comic relief and showing his ignorance of computers with that question, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that’s actually the ONLY POSSIBLE SANE answer to two people sharing a single keyboard. There are tons of multiplayer games that allow people to share keys in a keyboard to play on the same machine.

          There are ZERO operating systems or developing tools that would ever need to provide the same.

          Ah, holywood. Never change. Only you can convey the guy doing the only sane thing on the entire scene as being the clueless one, and the two Archer disciples sharing the same keyboard as the genius ones.

        • guy says:

          I’ve heard rumors that TV tech writers are deliberately trolling us. I honestly would not be surprised.

          • Wide And Nerdy says:

            Right? At least some of them have to be. Scripts are written on computers which are usually hooked up to the internet, it would take less than five minutes to find the stupid in these scenes.

          • I suspect this is true (some writers having fun).
            Like how they try to sneak in dirty jokes or innuendos here and there and see if it slides through the process or not.

            I have no issues with that. But yeah those NCIS examples are kind of a little over the top.

            If one had said “Quick, login through the 2nd terminal” and the other had then gone to another screen and keyboard then that would have made sense.

            Also a computer setup like that would normally be a terminal hooked to a server/mainframe of sorts.
            There is no reason why that computer alone would have all that stuff stored on it.

            Other weirdness are all the windows popping up, a hacker would not “use” the programs, if anything they’d want to NOT open windows or be noticed.

            Then again, TV show and stuff needs to be visually looking “wowing”.

            I really can’t think of any TV show or movie that actually did computers/hacking correctly.

            The latest trend seems to be (sorry MicroSoft) Windows systems with what looks like Metro/Surface tablets, and to show or play something they just press the “Video” icon and magically it shows it. A lot of the time it’s not even clear if they show it just then or if it was previously paused or not.

            The show NCIS: Los Angeles is a tad unusual though (especially in contrast with NCIS) in that the stuff you see on the screen are actually there and when they move/click/point they are actually interacting with it. (no green screen or post effects).
            It also looks more like they are working at terminals or PC’s that also act as dual as a terminal.
            But still everything are somewhat flashy images or video, but letting the actors actually do things and interact makes it look better, and feel better, some of the actors mentioned this during a interview.

            Oh and all the beeping, holy shit all this stuff makes a lot of noise, it’s a s silly as the beeping bomb trope.

          • A writer for TV (he displayed a certificate of some kind and I believe an Emmy award as proof without revealing his identity) said it wasn’t so much trolling the audience as trolling the producers/directors who are absolutely clueless about technology and how it works.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Uncrop.The best parody of tv mumbo jumbo.

      • Jabrwock says:

        I thought that scene was making fun of Blade Runner?

        • RCN says:

          It can easily be both.

          Man, British comedy writers really are geniuses. You need to show an incredible knowledge AND have incredible faith in your audience to show all that at face value and trust your audience will pick the joke.

          I mean, I know they go ALL FAR OUT in ridiculousness to make it sure it is being ridiculous, but I hostly wouldn’t have found it out of the ordinary watching the precise same scene being done the precise same way in, say, CSI.

          Particularly, the “uncrop” line is something that could easily be flung into the american audience without thinking twice, even though it only needs a cursory amount of common sense to know it can’t be possible, and the more knowledge you have about everything else involved, the more ridiculous it becomes. It’s comedy that becomes FUNNIER the more you know about the subject, instead of drama that becomes DUMBER the more you know.

        • Kagato says:

          I’d always assumed the photo in Blade Runner was supposed to actually be a 3D image like a hologram, or at least encoded a 3D representation of the scene (even though it was clearly represented by a 2D photograph); and that the ESPER machine just allowed a degree of fine magnification and analysis not possible with the naked eye.

          The alternative — that the ESPER machine is generating the hidden content internally — implies that the machine really is psychic as its name suggests… or that Deckard based the rest of his investigation on bogus procedurally generated imagery. (Meaning ESPERs are pseudoscience, their data is as useful to law enforcement as those scam bomb detectors, and Deckard only made progress on his case through sheer dumb luck.)

          • guy says:

            When there’s future tech in play, I am willing to buy that they have a machine which can accurately interpolate details not actually present in the original based on what is present.

  20. Adam Haase says:

    For the record, if you watch ST:TOS, you’ll quickly discover there isn’t a great deal of consistency, and plot holes still abound everywhere.

    In one episode, the Enterprise uses lithium crystals for power, instead of dilithium. There’s plenty of TOS episodes featuring androids that are never mentioned again and in TNG they make a big deal about Data being the “only” one. And so on and so on…

    And there’s still plenty of attractive women in scanty clothing too.

    • MikhailBorg says:

      We used to while away many a geeky evening trying to paper over the inconsistencies. For example, an early episode had a special “phaser firing room” that never appeared again. OTOH, not having the phaser fire automated nearly got the Enterprise crew killed that episode, so it wasn’t hard to imagine why they’d have re-engineered that.

      • Jabrwock says:

        I thought that room was more like the phaser maintenance room? Coolant, maintenance hatches, control circuitry, auxiliary phaser control, etc. So when it was hit, it was the same as shooting the “fly by wire” links the bridge had to the phasers.

        The equivalent of “local control” in warships. If the gun fire control system links are severed between the guns and the bridge, the local crew can still fire the weapon. Just nowhere near as accurately, because they can’t coordinate with other weapons, radar, etc.

        But if you hit the local control room, then the bridge can’t fire the weapon because it’s control links are down, and the local backup crew can’t fire the weapon, because they were in the control room that got hit. Doubly screwed.

        • RCN says:

          Yeah, I never had a problem with that phaser firing room either. You’d need a ridiculous amount of redundant systems to avoid having a place like that, and one has to assume that you won’t have the space to add as much redundancies as you want in a ship, regardless of size.

          The game Stardrive does a good job of showing it. It’s a strategy game where you can design your own ships. The ships can be built by piling up on the systems and armors and weapons. You can create an extremely efficient ship that has only precisely the systems and the power it needs, and it will be very powerful, but it will also be extremely fragile. If it loses a single system, it can become completely bricked. On the other hand you can add redundancies on top of redundancies and have a really resilient ship that will stay operant even after more than half of the ship was wrecked, but it will be far less effective and efficient than other ships.

          I found these mechanics to be a delightful experience. I actually found it to be a tough dilemma to overcome. It is SO tempting to just go for every drop of efficiency possible out of the ships, but they are just so impractical in actual battle. It’s the same old “theory vs practice” debate, being elegantly put to the test. Not that the game is perfect, it is very clumsy in other areas, but in this particular area of ship design, the game is aces.

        • MikhailBorg says:

          In the episode in question, no one on the bridge pushed a button. Kirk shouted, “Phaser crew, fire!” and someone down there pushed one. Since that’s a bit inefficient, one must assume there wasn’t a wire link to the bridge then, or Sulu would just have fired them directly, as it appears he did so in later episodes.

          But hey, I won’t demand that your scenario is incorrect. It’s close enough to what we see to be another plausible explanation.

          • WJS says:

            You realise that you’re basically complaining that the only time we see the gunnery spaces is when something dramatic happens there… which is exactly what you’d expect on a TV show.

  21. Jay says:

    Personally, J.J. Abrams lost me in the first scene of his first Trek movie. I was like, “Red matter? That’s how hard they’re working on this movie? Red matter?”.

    I have enough of a physics background to immediately spot the conservation of mass problem inherent in “red matter”, so that didn’t help.

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