Warning: major spoilers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens ahead.
I loved the film. Seriously, I did. And yet it also has more plot holes than any film I've ever seen, which makes the reviews it's getting pretty irksome. Why can't we just admit that BB-8 is adorable, Finn is hilarious, Rey is badass, seeing Han and Chewie again was awesome, the special effects were tremendous, Poe is Soloesque, Kylo Ren is intriguing, and this movie makes absolutely no sense whatsoever?
Below are 40 plot holes in The Force Awakens. A few are trifling, but most are pretty damning. All of them were entirely unnecessary -- given the amount of time put into this film, the number of people who worked on it, and the amount of money everyone involved in it knew it stood to make -- and in this respect can be deemed unforgivable.
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. To destroy the exponentially larger and better-protected "Starkiller Base" in The Force Awakens, all that was needed was a janitor with no special skills, a few run-of-the-mill handheld explosives, a couple not very difficult X-wing blaster strikes, and some moxie. It also helped that the Millennium Falcon was able to "fly low."
2. The wily Han Solo loses track of his most prized possession, the Millennium Falcon, for more than a dozen years. He has no idea where it is -- in the entire Galaxy. When you lose something in your house, that's bad; when you lose something on your planet, you kiss it goodbye but pray for a miracle; when you lose something in the entire Galaxy, you just get on with your life. And yet, less than a minute after Rey begins piloting the Millennium Falcon, Han looks out the window of his freighter and says, "Oh, there it is."
3. Kylo Ren, a powerful Force-user, fights a light saber duel with an ex-janitor who has never held a light saber and yet (a) never uses the Force on his opponent, though doing so would have ended the duel immediately, and (b) barely wins the fight, suggesting that he is simultaneously one of the least strategic wielders of the Force the Dark Side has ever seen and, despite his training, absolutely terrible with a light saber. None of this stops Kylo Ren from designing and building his own, completely impractical cross-barred lightsaber.
4. Rey becomes nearly as effective a Force-user in a few hours as Luke Skywalker did in a few years.
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.
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. Such bad timing for Rey! (Damn you, deus-ex-geology!)
7. Rey, who has never left her home planet since she was a child, can speak Wookie. Nobody can speak Wookie -- it's a running joke in the Star Wars universe. But Rey being able to speak Wookie surprises neither her, Han Solo, nor Chewbacca himself.
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.
9. What is all this nonsense about the First Order only wanting to destroy the Republic because the Republic is supporting the Resistance? First of all, isn't the Resistance part of the Republic, not a separate operation? And if it is separate, why has the First Order only just now discovered the not-very-well-hidden fact that the Republic is supporting the Resistance? And if the Resistance is in fact a part of the Republic, why didn't Starkiller Base destroy the Republic's planets and moons much, much earlier? In other words, what is the status of the war between the Republic and the First Order at the beginning of The Force Awakens, such that this precise moment is when General Hux decides to simply press a button and destroy the Republic?
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.
11. Kylo Ren is the head of the Knights of Ren, but there are no other Knights of Ren in the movie.
12. Captain Phasma is supposed to be a big-deal character in The Force Awakens, if the merchandising and casting are any indication, and yet (a) how bad of a commanding officer do you have to be, how thoroughly inept in military tactics and strategy, to command the worst-trained fighting force in the Galaxy (the Stormtroopers hit even less with their blasters in The Force Awakens than in any preceding Star Wars film); (b) she's only in three scenes, in one of which she relays an order from Kylo Ren to initiate a massacre of innocents (hardcore!) and in another of which she immediately surrenders to Han, Rey, and Finn as soon as they encounter her and then does exactly everything they ask of her (pathetic!), making her character incomprehensible; and (c) in her third scene she effectively reveals that Finn's character is incomprehensible, as she notes that he has in fact been trained since birth to obey all orders, and has never in his life disobeyed even a single order until the day he decides to act like he's never been trained, indoctrinated, or dehumanized at all.
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?
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. Apparently, there's a premium on janitors in this quadrant of the Galaxy. Sure, Finn killed some people during his escape, but doesn't the First Order emphasize with every tactical decision it makes that it considers its soldiers thoroughly expendable, and don't they quite obviously have much bigger fish to fry during the events of The Force Awakens than to worry about Finn? Why wouldn't this be obvious to him?
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. Luke chills on an island, and Han on a smuggler's freighter, while untold thousands or millions of innocents are killed by the Order. Can we even comprehend how pissed Leia would be at both of them, and how cowardly Leia (at least the Leia we see in the first three films) would consider them both? And yet she seems only mildly peeved at Luke, and, despite Han implying otherwise, is almost entirely happy to see him when he turns up at the Resistance stronghold.
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, but the fact that we're given this impression makes the climactic discovery of Luke on an isolated island entirely irrelevant. After all, what need does the Resistance have of Luke now? Why should anyone care, at this point, if he's found? Because there are two bad dudes left in the entire Galaxy, one of whom only shows up anywhere as a hologram? And okay, let's say, for the sake of argument, that there are millions more First Order soldiers elsewhere in the Galaxy; isn't it strange that the film gives absolutely no indication whatsoever that this is 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?
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?
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?
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?
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.
22. How lame is Han's attempt to convert his son? Han knows Ren (Ben) has just participated in the genocide of literally billions of people on multiple planets and moons, and he basically says to him, "Hey, this just isn't you, buddy..." Of course his son kills him! What else was going to happen?
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?
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.
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?
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?
27. How did Kylo Ren manage to get Darth Vader's mask into his little fetish den? This is only the most significant piece of memorabilia in the entire Galaxy. Not a plot hole per se, but still odd. And yet a similar question could be asked of Rey: how did she get that X-wing pilot helmet, and why doesn't she sell it for food? And why does Teedo (a fellow scavenger on Jakku) just give Rey BB-8 after capturing the droid, given that as an experienced trader Teedo would already know that (as Rey quickly discovers) BB-8 is worth 100 times more than any random pile of junk either he or Rey could ever offer Plutt? Now that is a plot hole.
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?
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?
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? There's no real reason for Poe to trust Finn -- or care about his well-being -- at all. Rather, he would assume, as anyone would, that whatever Finn did or did not do on Jakku, he surely had committed other atrocities for the First Order (and killed many a Resistance fighter) before then.
32. Kylo Ren takes his mask off pretty readily, and in pretty mixed company, for someone determined to wear super uncomfortable headgear perpetually.
33. Why does Kylo Ren assign just a single Stormtrooper to guard Rey, the most valuable prisoner in the history of the First Order?
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?
35. Why do the Rathtars immediately kill every human they encounter -- except Finn, who is randomly dragged off just long enough to be rescued?
36. Why are all Stormtroopers human (or humanoid)? If by the time of the First Order any clones being raised to be Stormtroopers are no longer clones of Jango Fett, why aren't there now Stormtroopers of every species as well as every (human) race? Why aren't there flying Stormtroopers from the same species as, say, Watto (from The Phantom Menace)?
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.
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?
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!
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? Luke destroys a Death Star; Lando destroys a bigger Death Star; Poe destroys the biggest Death Star. Anakin kills (the Jedi's) Younglings; Kylo Ren kills (Luke's) Younglings. Leia, Luke, Han, and Chewie end up in a trash compactor; Captain Phasma ends up in a trash compacter. Poe and Finn steal a ship they're not supposed to steal from a hanger; a young Anakin steals a ship he's not supposed to steal from a hanger. Luke watches Obi-Wan die; Rey watches Han Solo die. The Emperor and Snoke both appear (at first) exclusively via holograms. The Millennium Falcon negotiates tight spaces at top speeds in every film. There's a den of iniquity on Tatooine, and a visually identical one on Takodana (Maz Kanata's home). Rey climbs dangerously on the interior of a Death Star, as did Luke. Han gets shown up (as to military and technical smarts) first by Leia, then many years later by Rey. Obi-Wan disappears where no one can find him but Luke, then Luke disappears where no one can find him but Rey. Kylo Ren and Darth Vader use the Force for an interrogation. The First Order's General Hux is the same Nazi-with-a-British-accent as every Empire officer or petty official before him. Rey falls in love (we think) with a young scamp, as did Padme. The Resistance headquarters seems to be the same movie set as the Rebel headquarters from decades earlier. Poe is a crack shot, like Luke. BB-8 is the new R2D2. Kylo Ren is related to Han, just as Darth Vader was related to Luke.
Yes, yes, we all know the old refrain "history repeats itself," and we know too that soap operas (space or otherwise) recreate the basic mythic plotlines long ago identified by Joseph Campbell, but was it really impossible for one of the most expensive, carefully planned, and universally invested-in movies in cinema history to not retread images, plotlines, characters, and tropes from not one but two preceding trilogies under the same title? Every twist Abrams added to the Star Wars mix -- a (black) Stormtrooper turncoat, a female lead, and so on -- was more or less a home run, so why in the world did so much of this movie have to be recycled? Wasn't the point of getting this franchise away from George Lucas finally reaching escape velocity from Lucas' peculiar form of self-indulgent self-emulation?
For 20 more plot holes, click here.
Seth Abramson is Series Editor for Best American Experimental Writing and an Assistant Professor of English at University of New Hampshire. His most recent book is Metamericana (BlazeVOX, 2015).
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