Now is time to put on your nit-picking socks, movie fans, as this week’s installment of B-Movies Extended (which is, in case this is your first go-‘round with us, a special addendum to CraveOnline’s very own The B-Movies Podcast, which has been chugging quietly away for 61 weeks now), as we are going to, in no uncertain terms, looking through some plot holes. It’s something we discussed on the show, and it’s something we’re going to (over)analyze here. We’re gonna pick our scabs.
There is a phenomenon in filmgoing called “The Refrigerator Test.” This is a test you yourself have probably put films through. Imagine that you are sitting in a film, enjoying yourself. The film ends, and you think to yourself that it was just fine. You and your friends confer, and you trade opinions with them. (Your friends are, of course, incorrect.) You part ways and you go home. On the trip home, you contemplate the film, and hold that it was still enjoyable. When you arrive home, you go to the refrigerator to get a drink or a snack. While you’re looking over the food and drink in your fridge, that’s when it hits you. Wait a second. How did that one guy know to be in that one room when the bad guy came in? How did the hero manage to drive a motorcycle such a great distance in such a short amount of time? The film’s plot flaws all begin to beset your mind. This is how a film fails The Refrigerator Test. While you stand in front of an open fridge, the cracks form.
No doubt this has happened to you several times. When you really analyze them, it’s astonishing how many films – especially mainstream genre films – are rife with storytelling flaws and pot holes. Sometimes it takes a review or an article or a peer to point it out to you, but such mistakes are everywhere. And I’m not just talking about little continuity errors, like the level of liquid changing in a glass from edit to edit, or a roaming bullet wound that creeps from the front of the hero’s arm to the side. No. I’m talking about basic narrative errors.
There are countless such lists online, as over-analyzing seems to be a merry hobby of the honest-to-goodness film nerd. Indeed, the phenomenon of the “Cranky Critic” could be considered a legitimate subculture unto itself, and pointing to plot flaws and continuity errors is a gleeful requirement of the occupation. There’s even one particular website that seems almost as extensive at the Internet Movie Database on the topic.
I typically am forgiving of small errors and storytelling flubs, provided the film is still moving, and contains interesting ideas. It’s only if I’m only half on-board with a film that I’ll start to make inner gripes about plot holes. Plot holes are, I feel, a vice rather than a proper sin. It’s only when the plot holes stack up too much, or when they openly and boldly contradict previously established premises that I will openly complain about them. Or, if my camp knob is cranked particularly high that day, I will praise them for their clunkiness. Plot holes, just like bad performances or chintzy special effects, can have their charm.
Sometimes, indeed, spotting a plot hole or a continuity error on a well-loved and favorite film can kind of humanize it and make it more charming. You begin to sense, in a very warm and pragmatic fashion, that the film isn’t perfect after all. But that you, as a fan, still love it, tiny little warts and all.
Here, then, are some movie plot holes that I spotted and was kind of fond of over the years.
The Time Paradox in Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Time travel stories are, necessarily, going to have some paradoxes. How do you, after all, travel back in time without profoundly changing the present? Some films are cute and clever about the paradoxes (Back to the Future famously featured newspapers and tombstones that would slowly change before your very eyes), but most are going to have to fudge causality in order to tell an interesting story. When Terminator 2 came out in 1991, when I was a wee lad of 12, I was proud of myself that I caught this. In one of the film’s final scenes, you’ll recall (and I’m assuming you’ve seen this film, so I won’t be ruining anything), the three heroes have defeated the shape-changing bad guy, and the young John Connor will now be allowed to grow up. They then logically deduce that the eventual Machine War will not take place if they destroy the friendly Terminator robot that they have fought with. The robot decides to kill itself nobly to prevent the war. Skynet had been destroyed earlier in the film. The machine war would indeed be averted.
But, if that was the case, the Terminator would never have gone back in time, Michael Biehn would never have impregnated Linda Hamilton, and everything we had just watched would have been quickly erased, only to be replaced by a timeline wherein Sarah Connor is still working as a waitress (as she was at the outset of the first Terminator film). I was only 12, and I knew enough about time travel paradoxes to notice that. There’s one of these in just about every time travel film. They’re hard to ignore.
Just About Everything in the Resident Evil Movies
I have managed to see all four of these films to date, and I’m not rightly sure why. Many people describe the first as being “kinda entertaining,” but that sort of vague descriptor is about as far as you can go in praising them. They are goofy movies and, as the sequels extend (the fifth is due out in September), the premise just gets more and more farfetched. As I sat in the theater, watching the 3-D version of Resident Evil: Afterlife, I found myself drifting off from the movie, asking myself vague questions about the series’ plotting.
The premise of the series, by the way, is that a huge multinational corporation called Umbrella has developed a super-virus of some sort (I don’t rightly recall the details) that kills people and resurrects them as zombies. It can also mutate people into creatures at a moment’s notice. Later in the series, the same virus will also be able to grant people psychic powers. It spreads like a virus sometimes, but, in the case of the superpowers, doesn’t seem to be contagious. It can infect dogs and crows, and by the third film, has spread over the entire world and killed almost everyone.
The plot holes come in with the Umbrella Corporation. Okay, I get that they wanted to make a weaponized virus, and I buy that it can make zombies, and that it spread all over the world. I even kind of (kind of) buy that Umbrella has also been experimenting with cloning in order to make psychic supersoldiers. But why does Umbrella continue their experiments after the world has ended? What is their ultimate purpose? Wouldn’t the company have been ousted when, I dunno, almost everyone on the planet became a zombie? And why have they kept bunkers full of zombies peppered across the ruined landscape? Is this some twisted experiment? For the third and fourth film, Umbrella seems to have access to vehicles, holograms, aircraft carriers and clean, white techno-labs. And yet, there are hardly any people left. Their constant wasteful activities is what drives the plot, such as it is. A single line of explanatory dialogue would have worked for me. But no dice. The plot is driven by the never-explained nefarious purposes of a corporate entity.
Don’t you dare tell me it’s more carefully explained in the video game. I will kick you in the shin.
The Eyeball in Minority Report
True, there was a bigger time travel paradox at the center of Steven Spielberg’s excellent sci-fi flick Minority Report (if the crime-predicting psychics were really predicting the future, wouldn’t they also predict that the crime was stopped by the pre-crime division?), but I will instead focus on a little plot oversight that the film didn’t bother to address, and that tugged at my pant leg throughout the film.
In Minority Report, the pre-crime supercop John Anderton has been implicated by the crime prediction system. To evade capture from his other pre-crime cop buddies, he goes on the lam, hiding his identity, and even going so far as having a skeevy under-the-table surgeon replace his eyeballs, which would be the only way the spider-shaped scanning computers would be able to identify him. In the scene where he gets his eyes replaced, he is warned by the surgeon to leave the bandages over his eyes for a very precise amount of time (which is even indicated on a red digital clock), or else the light might immediately blind him, and he’ll have to find new eyes again. It was right when he was blindfolded that the spider-shaped robots infiltrated his operation room and decided to scan whatever eyeballs they could find. Anderton tries hiding under some cold water to avoid detection, but the spiders find him anyway. They pull the bandages up, and scan one of his eyeballs, clearly not all the way healed. The camera kept cutting to the digital clock to show that the appropriate healing time had not yet elapsed.
This would imply, then, that John Anderton spent the remainder of the film blind in one eye, right? Well, sadly, it is not addressed ever again. Maybe there was a line of dialogue or a short scene that got cut which explained that he was indeed blind in one eye, but it wasn’t in the final film. This would up the stakes, right? Knowing that our hero isn’t at 100% vision? This little detail is never explained, and Anderton has perfect vision for the rest of the film. “Sorry about that plot point. Turns out it wasn’t a plot point at all.”