This past week I’ve seen an article pop up a few times listing 40 Plot Holes from The Force Awakens. The list really is not very good, partially because I enjoyed The Force Awakens immensely but mainly because it’s just a low-quality article written by someone who seems not to understand how movies work in general or who wasn’t paying attention to this movie specifically. To demonstrate this, I will go through each proffered “plot hole” and assign it to one of four categories. These categories are:
Coincidence: The Star Wars universe is one where things are sometimes guided by the Force. The proton torpedoes sometimes just make it into that two-meter exhaust port. Sometimes the droid lands exactly where it needs to on the planet right near the very people who will help it get to where it needs to go. Scoundrels like Han might call it “luck,” but others know it to be the workings of a higher power. These aren’t plot holes–they’re how Star Wars movies work.
Future: The Force Awakens is the first movie in a planned trilogy, just like A New Hope. Yes, there are some unanswered questions, but that’s how trilogies work. Some things are intentionally left out and would have made the movie incredibly unwieldy and plodding. If these are unanswered after Episodes VIII and IX then maybe it’s a problem, but for the present let’s chill, shall we?
Not a plot hole: Some of these are just pouty reactions by someone looking for other problems to pad out a list of 40 plot holes. Let’s call them like they are, shall we?
Plot hole: The rarest of the categories (as we shall see), this is just something that can’t be readily explained or is an actual problem that better writing could have fixed/anticipated.
Finally, MAJOR SPOILERS in the rest of the article. With that warning, let’s have a blow-by-blow account of the list, shall we? (I’ve reproduced the questions in italics before my answers so you don’t need to go back and forth between articles, but I’ve left off the elaborations each question has in the original article unless they’re part of my response or relevant)
1. To blow up the 120-km “Death Star” in Star Wars, the rebels needed detailed plans for the base and a full-scale invasion force — as well as the supernatural targeting skills of the most powerful Force-user in the galaxy.
The rebels in IV did not have “a full scale invasion force.” They had perhaps as many fighters as the Resistance. Hardly more impressive. They had the scouting report and also Finn’s knowledge plus the skills of the most powerful Force-user in the galaxy, just like the Rebellion. Inaccurate criticism. Next.
2. The wily Han Solo loses track of his most prized possession, the Millennium Falcon, for more than a dozen years.
3. Kylo Ren, a powerful Force-user, fights a light saber duel with an ex-janitor who has never held a light saber
Kylo Ren is hurt the entire fight. He is also perhaps toying with Finn. He’s also just killed a major character and dealing with the psychological repercussions. Believable and not a plot hole.
4. Rey becomes nearly as effective a Force-user in a few hours as Luke Skywalker did in a few years.
False comparison. Her force usage is unconscious and natural, not trained like Luke’s is after a few years. Is she incredibly powerful? Yes. But she’s also in an incredibly dangerous situation that brings these latent abilities out. And let’s be real: the main critique here by most folks is probably sexist, as they’re taking issue with a gifted girl quickly learning to use her latent Force abilities in a saga dominated so far by two boys who quickly learn to use their latent Force abilities (Anakin and Luke). Next.
5. Just minutes before Starkiller Base explodes, Supreme Leader Snoke tells Hux to go get Kylo Ren and take him off the planet. Unfortunately, Ren had recently (unbeknownst to Hux) run into the woods like a lunatic, leaving no information about his whereabouts. It’s no problem, though, because Hux apparently has special Kylo Ren GPS and (one assumes) goes right to the spot in the middle of the forest where Ren is bleeding to death; otherwise, Ren would have died on the planet along with everybody else from the First Order.
This one is our first actual potential “plot hole.” Wow, they find Kylo Ren in the middle of the planet before it explodes so he can be in the next movie even though he has run off without leaving where he’s going. “That’s why you always leave a note.” But you knew he wasn’t going to die anyways—that’s how movies work. So let’s chalk this one up to future and also movie magic…but we’ll count it. Plot hole #1.
6. The reason Ren was slowly bleeding to death — instead of being dead by Rey’s hand — is that a massive a chasm had just miraculously opened up in the several feet between the two of them.
Coincidence. Update: also, the planet IS imploding beneath them. If ever there was a time where this was believable, this would be it.
7. Rey, who has never left her home planet since she was a child, can speak Wookie.
Coincidence also perhaps future.
8. It’s okay that Poe survived a Tie Fighter crash; after all, so did Finn. But has any film ever cared less about (a) giving the false impression a character has died, and then (b) having that character show up later with no one being surprised by it? Even Finn doesn’t seem to care very much what the explanation is.
Who cares? This is not a “plot hole” so much as potentially poor depiction of characters’ reactions (if you even choose to see it as an objection). The way he survived is explained in the movie, so no plot hole.
9. What is all this nonsense about the First Order only wanting to destroy the Republic because the Republic is supporting the Resistance?
No one said “only” because the Republic is supporting the Resistance. But if you’re the First Order, you want to destroy anyone who could potentially stand in your way. Also: anyone who is your enemy from the past who has humiliated and defeated you. I.e. the Republic. Non-plot hole.
10. For that matter, why is it made to seem like the entire Republic is centered in just one star system? Let alone one whose planets and moons are all visible to one another with the naked eye? Isn’t the Republic intergalactic? And why did the First Order choose to destroy all the planets and moons visible from Maz Kanata’s home-world, but then initiate a conventional invasion of the latter planet? Why not just fire one more planet-killing beam and destroy Kanata’s planet too? Because not doing that leads to a significant military defeat for the First Order that was totally avoidable. And another thing: if the Republic is in power, why is the Resistance the “Resistance”? What are they resisting? Isn’t the First Order the “Resistance,” as they’re resisting the hegemony of the Republic? It’s like someone on-set said “the Rebels need a new name,” without realizing that the political situation in the Galaxy had totally changed since the events of the previous films.
Of COURSE the Republic is centered in one star system. That’s like asking why the United States is centered in one district. It’s called the CAPITAL. And the First Order invaded Kanata’s planet in order to get the map. Blow up the planet, no map, no Skywalker.
11. Kylo Ren is the head of the Knights of Ren, but there are no other Knights of Ren in the movie.
Again, not a plot hole. No knights of Ren in this movie is just not a plot hole. “Oh there’s no other Jedi in this movie aside from Luke so plot hole.” Nope. Also, that’s probably them in Rey’s vision. But we’ll just chalk this up to future.
12. Captain Phasma is supposed to be a big-deal character in The Force Awakens, if the merchandising and casting are any indication…
Not a plot hole. Just because you assume a character will be a big deal in the movie based on marketing and then they aren’t doesn’t make it a plot hole. Next.
13. Really? Was there no previous order Finn had ever refused to execute?Was the slaughter on Jakku actually the first naughty thing the First Order had ever required of him?
Really. Yes. That was his first action. Not a plot hole.
14. Finn is an ex-janitor who goes AWOL from a Stormtrooper force numbering in the tens of thousands. Yet he is absolutely convinced, despite being someone of no importance whatsoever to the First Order, that he will be chased across the galaxy for having defected…
Coincidence. Update: Also, pretty believable considering everything we know about the First Order.
15. Let’s be clear: Han’s son joins the First Order, and Luke’s attempts to train new Jedis goes horribly wrong, and both men respond to these setbacks by, well, *abandoning the Resistance to be utterly slaughtered by the First Order*.
Future. We don’t know enough about their reactions at the time to evaluate their decisions.
16. By the end of the movie, the impression is left that every single First Order soldier is dead besides Supreme Leader Snoke, General Hux, and Kylo Ren. That probably won’t turn out to be the case…
Same impression is made by A New Hope (except for Vader). Not a plot hole. Future. (as implied by the sentence “that probably won’t turn out to be the case).
17. Why does General Hux need to gather all of his troops just to tell them he’s about to press a button and destroy the entire Republic? Can’t he do that without a cattle-call of his entire army? Because it really ends badly for him, putting his entire army on the very planet he’s about to make Resistance Target #1. No chance anybody saw that coming?
Doesn’t “put his entire army” on the planet—they were mostly already there! And it’s called psyching the troops up. Not plot hole.
18. How pissy is it of Luke to (a) abandon the Resistance, and then (b) leave an obnoxiously coy trail of bread-crumbs to sort of (but not really) help people find him (at some unspecified time)? Why did he leave multiple maps out there in the ether, anyway, given that him having done so allows the First Order to find one of them?
The map definitely is a McGuffin, but it isn’t a plot hole. Calling something “pissy” doesn’t make it a plot hole. And as for why Luke did what he did, I’m chalking that up to future (but it very much matches what Obi-Wan and Yoda did in Episode III after Anakin fell to the Dark Side, so it’s got some strong internal consistency when the whole saga is considered).
19. Why wasn’t the Resistance able to access R2D2’s data archives *at any point* over the course of the many years Luke was gone? Why did they, instead, simply prop him up in a corner, when they had to know that he knew Luke’s whereabouts — as he always has in the past?
R2-D2 waking up when he does is definitely a deus ex machina, but it isn’t a plot hole. Why didn’t the Resistance ask him earlier or try to access his databanks? Maybe because they we’re looking for the OTHER map? Or maybe they did look but didn’t find anything! This is the closest our whole list has come to a plot hole though, so in fairness I’ll count it. Plot hole #2.
20. When the Resistance finally figures out where Luke is, after looking for him for many years, why do they send only Chewbacca and a random girl who Leia just met to collect him?
Not a plot hole. They send Rey and Chewie because of everything that has just happened. Combo of non-issue and future.
21. Kylo Ren has such a Force-enabled sense of where his father is in the Galaxy that when his father lands on Starkiller Base, Ren immediately exclaims to himself, “Solo!” Yet a few minutes later, when Ren is just twenty feet from Solo, he can’t detect him — and actually starts searching for him in the wrong direction.
Coincidence. Update: Also, we’re never told just how specific Ben’s sense is. Yes, he can tell that Han is on the same planet. But he never says “Solo: he’s 1,356 meters away and closing and I can track him every step of the way. There’s no way he’ll escape me now!” It’s much more likely that he has a vague impression that he’s there (just like Vader had of that other Ben on the Death Star in IV) that may grow stronger as they get closer but still requires that he use his eyes to look around and pinpoint him.
22. How lame is Han’s attempt to convert his son?
Saying something is “lame” does not mean it is plot hole. Next.
23. Why do Rey and Finn just stand by watching as Ren murders Han?They didn’t know Ren was Han’s son, so the drama on the catwalk must have looked absolutely bizarre to them. Why didn’t they think to fire even a single blaster shot down at Ren (given that he was just standing there on the catwalk) until — from their vantage-point, with the knowledge they had at the time, *entirely predictably* — Ren killed Han?
Perhaps they are afraid he will just go ahead and kill him anyways if they interfere. Perhaps they think Han knows what he’s doing. But it isn’t explained to my knowledge, so I’ll again give this as a plot hole. (Must be feeling generous). Plot hole #3.
Update: If I was writing this list today, I wouldn’t count this as a plot hole. Rey and Finn are either 1) too far away to accurately shoot Kylo without risking shooting Han or 2) close enough to hear Kylo call Han his father. Either way, they have sufficient motivation to not interfere (as much as they might want to).
24. Rey says that the Millennium Falcon is “garbage” and hasn’t been flown in many, many years. Indeed, it’s such junk, in her view, that she won’t even board it when she’s about to be ripped to pieces by twenty Tie Fighters. Then she gets on board and it basically flies perfectly. So much so that it’s not at all clear why no one has been flying it, let alone why its owner (Unkar Plutt) hasn’t tried to sell it at any point over the past dozen years — despite the fact that Plutt appears to live in a hovel.
It’s garbage in comparison to the other ship. Also, it flying “perfectly” is partly due to her skill as a pilot. Not a plot hole. Again, every single point of history that goes unexplained is not automatically a plot hole.
25. Why does Plutt offer Rey 250 times her usual pay for BB-8 and then, when she says “no,” simply tell some of his heavies to just steal it? If Plutt is enough of a baddie to order it stolen at all, why not just steal it from the outset instead of first offering some random urchin the biggest financial windfall she’s ever seen?
Because all the other scavengers will see and notice and stop bringing their stuff to the guy who just takes what he wants instead of paying fairly for it! Next.
26. Maz Kanata is a friend to the Resistance. So why is she hiding Luke’s light saber from them? Wouldn’t she give them anything she could to help them find Luke, and doesn’t it in fact turn out (as anyone could have supposed) that Luke’s light saber is indeed helpful in tracking the last Jedi down?
Future. Also perhaps coincidence. Update: also, Luke’s lightsaber has (as far as I can tell) nothing to do with helping track him down. Yes, Rey and Finn use it. But it’s not like there’s a homing beacon in it or another piece of the map engraved on the hilt or anything.
27. How did Kylo Ren manage to get Darth Vader’s mask into his little fetish den? …Now that *is* a plot hole.
Future. P.s. If you have to put “now that is a plot hole” after one of your listed plot holes, what does that say about your other “plot holes”???
28. How does Finn find Rey’s settlement, given that the film makes clear that all Finn can see, after his Tie Fighter crashes, is endless dunes in every direction?
29. Who trained Rey to fight with a staff as effectively as she does, given that (a) she is an orphan with no friends or family, and (b) she has never been in a battle, but is, rather, merely a scrap-metal scavenger?
Future. P.s. again…every bit of a character’s backstory not being explained is not a “plot hole.”
30. If Finn is such a good guy that he would try to save Rey the moment he saw she was in distress, doesn’t it further call into question just how in the world the order to kill civilians on Jakku was the first time he’d ever had qualms about doing something the First Order had asked him to do?
Rehash of 13. Again, not a plot hole.
31. Given that all Poe knows about Finn is that he’s a First Order defector, why does he seem happy to see Finn just seconds after (and perhaps as) BB-8 tells him Finn is alive?
Oh I don’t know, maybe because he owes him his life??? (Sorry, these are just so bad that I can’t help it haha)
32. Kylo Ren takes his mask off pretty readily, and in pretty mixed company, for someone determined to wear super uncomfortable headgear perpetually.
Not a plot hole. (facepalm) Update: The only times he removes the helmet are 1) interrogating Rey and 2) on the bridge with Han. He does keep it off for a bit after #1, but two removals hardly qualifies as “pretty readily, and in pretty mixed company.”
33. Why does Kylo Ren assign just a single Stormtrooper to guard Rey, the most valuable prisoner in the history of the First Order?
Because she’s securely fastened and he’s shaken by his encounter with her. But this does again at least ride the line between coincidence and plot hole. We’re running out of potential plot holes, so I’ll give this one too. Plot hole #4.
34. How do the Rathtars on Han’s freighter get loose? If he’s just keeping them loose in the hanger, why don’t they kill him when he’s walking through the freighter toward the Millennium Falcon, or at any other time? And if he’s got them chained up, how do they escape?
BECAUSE REY RELEASES THEM. SERIOUSLY, DID YOU WATCH THE MOVIE??
35. Why do the Rathtars immediately kill every human they encounter — except Finn, who is randomly dragged off just long enough to be rescued?
Maybe because they aren’t starving anymore, maybe because something else. This is another almost-coincidence, but I’ll give it as a plot hole because the REAL explanation is “because Finn is a main character. Plot hole #5.
36. Why are all Stormtroopers human (or humanoid)?
Future. Also probably the Empire/First Order’s xenophobia/speciesism/racism.
37. If basically everyone in the Galaxy knows the Force is not a myth — for instance, every single Stormtrooper in the First Order, who has seen Kylo Ren use it or heard tell of him using it; every single person in the Resistance, who knows the Resistance is looking for Luke Skywalker; every single person in the Republic, which was first established in part by the heroism of the Jedis — how is the existence of the Force a total shock to Rey? Jakku is sheltered, but as we know from the film (cf. Lor San Tekka) there are many people on Jakku who either have seen the Force first-hand or heard first-hand accounts of it from visitors to the planet.
I think the shock is that the Force is available to her rather than that it exists. Not a plot hole. Also, it doesn’t take very long for things to be regarded as mythical in this universe. The clone wars are legendary by the time Episode IV rolls around, and so too the events of IV V and VI are mythical by the time TFA occurs. So in the same way I might be familiar with the IDEA of dragons today but be shocked to see one sitting on my front lawn, Rey might be familiar with the concept of the Force but be blown away by her experience of it.
38. Is Supreme Leader Snoke actually a giant? Because if not, wouldn’t him using holographic technology to make himself *appear* huge be a pathetic affection signaling deep-seeded insecurities? Even the Emperor never did that; he just appeared normal-sized or tiny. And if Snoke is a giant, how come we’ve never seen a humanoid that size in Star Wars before?
Future. Also, intimidation. Again, calling something “pathetic” does not make it a plot hole. UPDATE: Also, the Emperor TOTALLY DID DO THAT. In Episode V (at least in the non-Special-Edition release) his hologram is MUCH larger than Vader. Is he Snoke-sized? Hard to tell. But the fact remains that this is just something bad guys do.
39. Why would the First Order spend untold quadrillions of [insert unit of money here] to build the Starkiller Base, when a similar concept and design plan had twice before been destroyed with minimal difficulty by the rebels? And doesn’t the recurrence of this tactical error for the third time in the (relatively) brief history of the Empire/First Order suggest that everyone in the First Order who was involved in the construction of Starkiller Base, at every level of management and authority, should be instantly shot in the head? (Of course, it’s too late for that by the end of the film, but still.) How positively brain-dead is Snoke to have learned literally nothing from history? And for those who say that clearly a solar-powered Death Star is way better than a non-solar-powered Death Star, well, *clearly not*!
I’m gonna chalk this one up to future. We just don’t know WHY Snoke had the First Order do any of this. He very well may have had them do something like this knowing full well they would fail. I may end up being wrong on this one, but we just don’t know but probably will.
40. Is there any other film franchise in the history of cinema that would be permitted, by its fans and by critics, to recycle so many plot points?
Off the top of my head, Bond, Star Trek, Jurassic Park, Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Batman, Spider-Man, Transformers, Indiana Jones, the Fast and the Furious, Oceans 11, Rocky, Terminator, Mission: Impossible, and SO MANY OTHERS all recycle familiar elements and plot points. Again, this is not a plot hole. This is just someone being unsatisfied with the movie, which is fine. But This is the state of movies in 2015. Every studio wants their franchise that they can just release movie after movie and have people watch again and again. So this is not a critique of The Force Awakens so much as a critique of the state of Hollywood in 2015.
Is The Force Awakens extremely similar to Episode IV in particular? Yes! But it’s also significantly different in many many ways. And it succeeds in so many areas—the characters, the sets, the design, the humor, the practical and special effects, the evocation of wonder that made the original ones so amazing—that it automatically surpasses the prequels in quality and may actually have a shot at cracking the top 3 Star Wars movies! So to conclude, it’s fine if you didn’t like the movie. But call it what it is: YOU not LIKING the movie. Don’t call it “plot holes.”
Final count: 5 Plot holes out of 40. Article grade: F- (12.5%)