Plot Holes That Have Bothered Me
By Jeff Salter
This week’s topic was originally proposed by me so long ago that I can’t recall if I had anything in particular on my mind at that moment. If so, I’ve long forgotten it. Ha!
But as it happens, this very week I’m reading one of Don Pendleton’s novels in which an ultra secret team of good guys is closing in on arch villains who’ve destroyed many lives and resources and have mounted a well-funded, super-organized scheme to control the entire world’s oil reserves. Let’s call this ultra secret team of good guys, Group A. Well, when Group A is demolishing the HQ of most of the arch villains, their criminal masterminds manage to escape by boat en route to the airport, from which they’ll flee to a foreign country. The Group A leader is informed by Group B leader that HIS team has the bad guys in their sights and the villains are about to board their getaway plane. Instead of letting Group B continue with the attack / capture of the international criminals, Group A leader insists his good guy partners back off and wait for him to arrive… since he’s the one who should get personal satisfaction for their apprehension (or some such nonsense). As I’m reading this, I’m thinking: “Really? You’re willing to let the bad guys ESCAPE – knowing you can’t possibly arrive in time – just because you want the credit?” In that same breath, I totally realize the author has constructed this bizarre – totally unrealistic – situation simply so the bad guys CAN escape… and return in the final third of the novel. But that’s not enough for me. If you need the bad guys to escape (to reappear later)… give me a plausible reason. Maybe Group B didn’t arrive in time either. Maybe Group B had the wrong plane in sight. Maybe the Group B leader was a traitor actually working for the evil guys. Give me SOMETHING… other than, “you guys step back, this is my collar.”
Here’s a plot hole that I’ve spotted too often to even remember a good example. It goes like this: some world-wide cataclysm is occurring and the top-top-top person in some particular field (let’s say it’s ABCDEFG) is suddenly tasked to be on the small, elite group of FIXERS. It’s their job to prevent the cataclysm or at least mollify its effects. Guess who is also on that team, as the foremost expert in the world in the field of TUVWXYZ? Yep, the ex-spouse or ex-fiance of Expert A. Now what are the chances of the only two experts in the world (who can deal with this cataclysm) being about the same age? Wouldn’t one of them be an elderly professor at some think tank? And what are the chances of these two experts even knowing each other (except by reputation)? Much less having been married / engaged to each other. And, of course, they have LOTS of emotional baggage to contend with. Just what you need when you wanted top-top-top experts to deal with the world-wide cataclysm.
When I Googled top ten plot holes, this one came up on every list I saw… and it’s one of the points I raised when I reviewed this very movie for my Possum Trot Posts. I’ll let one of the list compilers speak for himself:
Armageddon — Oil drillers vs. astronauts
There’s a lot wrong with this movie — many different scientists have pointed out how drilling a hole into an asteroid wouldn’t be an effective or efficient way to save the planet. But we’ll look past that. This glaring plot hole was hilariously pointed out by none other than Ben Affleck in the Armageddon DVD commentary.
“I asked Michael (Bay) why it was easier to train oil drillers to become astronauts than it was to train astronauts to become oil drillers and he told me to shut up. So that was the end of that talk … like eight months is not enough time to learn how to drill a hole, but in a week we’re gonna learn how to be astronauts.” There’s really no better way to say it.
My final example is more of a Plot GIMMICK than a Plot HOLE — though the difference between those two is merely a matter of scale, I suppose. I’ve seen it in LOTS of films, especially from Hollywood’s golden age. In this example I recall the actor was Alan Hale and the story was like set around the 17th or 18th century … a swashbuckler, I think. Anyway, Hale and his compatriots have been imprisoned, beat-up, and are doomed to be executed. By some sleight of hand, they manage to over-power the guard(s) and are finally FREE! Do they quickly exit the cell and hustle down the corridors toward freedom? No, Hale stands there with his hands on his hips and LAUGHS heartily. Not just “ha ha ha”, but something like 30 seconds of hearty belly laughter. I’m sure you’re already ahead of me here… because you know the rest of the guards quickly swoop in and subdue Hale and his buddies again! Now they’re even worse off than before (because they conked that other guard or two). Wouldn’t it have been better to just shut up and quickly tip toe out of the prison? Gad.
What about YOU? Got any good examples of plot holes that perturb you?
[JLS # 539]