In Defence Of Plot Holes

There’s been a lot of chatter online regarding a certain new space opera movie. I forget what it’s called. Flash Starkiller and The Laser Sword of Doom or something. In amongst all the manbaby cries of “You ruined my childhood by making it for girls!” there is a common criticism that actually carries some heft. Here’s when one reply I got when I blogged about how much I liked the film…

It can’t be denied that the film has plot holes. One occured to me only this morning: if Luke flew his X-Wing to Ach-To, how did he do it without Artoo? I didn’t think you could fly an X-Wing without an astromech… okay, maybe you can, or because The Force, or whatever?

That’s just one of many little niggles in the story, but here’s the thing, and you might want to be sitting down for this one… Ready? You sure…?

ALL OF THOSE SPACE LASER SWORD MOVIES ARE FULL OF PLOT HOLES!

All of ’em. Here’s a few that come to mind…

  • Just how long was Luke traning on Dagobah? The weeks/months/years it takes to become a Jedi, or the few hours it took the Falcon to fly to Bespin?
  • Why would Obi Wan take a baby Skywalker to the planet where his dad was born and not bother to change the kid’s name?
  • Why did the Death Star come out of hyperspace so far away from Yavin and give the Rebels so much time to prepare?
  • Who did Leia’s hair and makeup in the Ewok village?

And that beloved saga isn’t the only one suffering from holy story syndrome:

  • How did Andy’s poster get back on the wall in his cell in The Shawshank Redemption?
  • Who heard Charles Foster Kane say “Rosebud”?
  • What was Bruce Willis doing in his downtime when he wasn’t hanging out with the kid on the Sixth Sense?
  • Almost all of the finale of Ocean’s 11
  • Every Bond film ever made
  • Just how did Tom Hagen cut that horse’s head off in the Godfather without waking anyone? And I’ll buy lunch for anyone who can explain the plot of The Godfather II to me without hesitation, repetition or deviation.

Most, if not all, stories have plot holes in them. I would go so far as to say that life itself is full of plot holes, but this isn’t a post-Brexit therapy group so let’s move on.

We’re willing to gloss over plot holes because WE RESPOND TO STORIES ON AN EMOTIONAL LEVEL. And boy do we get emotional when we talk about beloved series and characters. And because they’re so beloved they’re put under far more scrutiny than those lesser movies we might watch once and then forget.

As a writer, this doesn’t mean you now have licence to fill your script with gaping plot holes. We all vary in our tolerance of plot holes, and you need to work hard to ensure that your story makes sense. When you spot a hole you need to fix it, and don’t just paper over the cracks hoping we won’t notice.

Always work under the supposition that your audience is smarter than you are.However, it’s inevitable that one or two might slip through, no matter how rigorous you are, especially if you’re writing science fiction and fantasy where you’re working with magic and hyperspace and other wonders that don’t exist.

But ask yourself what’s more important: a watertight logic puzzle, or a fairytale that punches you in the gut? I know it’s not an either/or situation, but I know which end of the spectrum I veer towards.

May The Force Be With You and Toto’s still going to be put down by Mrs. Gulch when Dorothy wakes…

Until next time, happy writing!

Mark

PS. Don’t get me started on people who think they’re clever pointing out petty continuity errors in movies.

PPS. That novel I wrote with Mark Desvaux doesn’t have a single plot hole in it. Not one. I dare you to find one. Grab your copy here and prove me wrong.

PPPS. Oh, and if you want to support our work on the podcast, we now have a Patreon. Do please support us and we can keep this train rolling.

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Skyfall and how the writers made the most of a unique opportunity **massive spoilers**

First of all, apologies for two Bond posts in a row (but it’s all Bond fever round these parts, y’know), and secondly if you haven’t seen Skyfall, then read no further. This one’s riddled with spoilers

All good? Let’s go…

Skyfall is getting the kind of notices that genre movies dream of; fans and critics alike seem to be united on praising this as one of the best Bonds ever. And it deserves it, with some great action, a fun villain and a light smattering of Komodo dragons.

But what really sets this Bond apart is that Sam Mendes and the writers have taken advantage of a fairly unique situation that gives them the chance to tell a story with real emotional heft, the likes of which Bond fans haven’t seen since On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Just checking one more time – spoilers ahoy – anyone here who hasn’t seen the film should leave now. We’ll be here waiting for you when you get back…

Okay, as we all know, Judi Dench’s M dies at the end of the film. I guess she announced to the producers that she was retiring from the role and that she wanted to go out with a bang. So, for once in a Bond movie, we get to see the death of someone who really matters to us and to Bond. She’s been in the role since 1995, she’s done seven movies – as many as Connery and Moore – and she’s a national treasure. Everybody loves her. How often does a Bond writer get a chance like that?

So it’s great that Purvis, Wade, Logan and Mendes made the most of it and caused friends of mine, who aren’t big Bond fans, to shed a tear at the end.

But here’s the rub; some poor sod has to follow that. Okay, it’s probably going to be Logan. A fine writer. But at the end of Skyfall, we’ve hit a reset button. We have a new M, Moneypenny, and the set of M’s office now looks like the wood-panelled room of the Roger Moore era. You can’t help but feel that they’ve painted themselves into a corner and been too clever for the franchise.

I recently caught the beginning of The Man With The Golden Gun on TV and cringed at how it had the look and feel of an ATV series like The Persuaders: episodic, flat lighting and odd pacing. I don’t think for a second that Craig’s next films will end up like that, but by their nature Bond films are episodic and do seem to have a boom and bust cycle to them. So how long before Craig is driving an invisible car into a low Earth orbit space station to the tune of a penny whistle?

I once met Judi Dench. She really is lovely. Here she is giving me orders to kill the photographer.

PS. Oh and Albert Finney at the end… He was great, but do you not think that role was written with Connery in mind? 50th anniversary and all that…

PPS. Regarding Connery, I told you so…

So, what happened to the other Bonds…?


There is a theory, and not a very good one, that the name James Bond is a nom de guerre that comes with the 007 job, thus explaining all the different incarnations over the years. This theory is typical fanboy fodder – we just love to tie up all the loose ends – and it even seeped up to the film makers themselves, with DIE ANOTHER DAY director Lee Tamahouri wanting to include a scene where a retired Connery Bond passed on advice to the then-active Brosnan’s Bond. This would have been fascinating and no doubt a lot more watchable than the godawful CGI parasailing sequence that somehow found its way into the film.

But if this theory is true*, then what happened to all the other Bonds over the years?

The first incarnation of Bond died of emphysema and cirrhosis of the liver aged 44.

Waiter! 40 Bensons and a Vodka Martini.

The second incarnation retired in anger after nearly dying when a British Navy sub sub capsized his lifeboat…

“Is that a submarine in your pocket, or…?”

After some years advising the Chicago Police Department (“He pullsh a knife, you pull a gun…”) he’s now happily residing in the Darby O’Gill home for the elderly.

After the tragic murder of his wife, the third incarnation…

Do you get Fry’s with that?

… suffered from a severe lack of self-confidence, and on his second mission had reconstructive surgery to look like his predecessor. But whatever he tried, he could never quite get the hair right…

Matching the eyebrows was the hardest part.

He later died in a foolhardy attempt to retrieve diamonds from an orbiting satellite.

 
The fourth incarnation enjoyed a long and successful career…

It’s like you’re actually there!

… but was tracked down and beaten to death by this man…

… who was set free by a sympathetic jury once his defence lawyer successfully proved he had suffered years of mental anguish at the hands of the deceased. A Venetian pigeon was a key witness.

The fifth incarnation caused a scandal when he turned down an offer from M to rejoin MI6. He eventually moved to Sandford in Somerset where he became the manager of a branch of Somerfield.


The sixth incarnation was last seen driving an invisible car off a cliff after seeing the film Mamma Mia.

Though there are reports that he’s been seen as a gun for hire in Ireland…

 

 

 

Of course, these are just theories. Feel free to add your own.

 

 

*And it doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny: Connery, Moore and Brosnan all make reference to the death of Diana Rigg’s Contessa at some point… THEY’RE ONLY FILMS, PEOPLE!