Even the best movies ever made leave unanswered questions in their wake. Some refer to these as “plot holes,” but why not give the filmmakers the benefit of the doubt? Maybe they had a perfectly reasonable explanation in mind, and simply… forgot to include it in the movie.
Some movies’ unanswered questions are integral to their plots, as with Citizen Kane‘s famous issue that nobody was around to hear Charles Foster Kane say “Rosebud” as he died. Most of the time the questions are less important than that, but still can affect your enjoyment of the film, for better or worse — yes, some movies are improved, because without unanswered questions to argue about, there would be little to really discuss about the movie. The Transformers movies are prime examples.
So, then, here is GeekDad’s list of the ten best unanswered questions from geeky movies. What do we mean by “best?” Well, these are ones that are fun to talk about, but that aren’t so significant as to seriously detract from the movie’s quality.
10. Independence Day: The computer virus – This movie has so many unanswered questions that one is forced to conclude that most, if not all, really are just plot holes after all. But then there’s the computer virus that Jeff Goldblum uploads into the alien mothership, that is ultimately what allows the humans to defeat the invaders. Ask any software developer, and they will tell you that it is ridiculously hard to write a virus on a PC that works on a Mac, or vice-versa, and those are two computer systems that were designed and built by human beings. The likelihood of being able to successfully write a virus on a human-built computer of any sort that would affect a computer built by telepathic aliens is infinitesimal. Of course, this is an alien species that has managed to travel in huge ships across vast distances but has never invented a clock (hence the countdown timer they use before initiating their attack), so who knows what sort of vulnerabilities their computers might have?
9. Raiders of the Lost Ark: Indy on the U-boat– The Nazis stop the cargo ship and take the Ark and Marion to their submarine. The crewman tells the captain he can’t find Indy, but then notices that Indy has, of course, swum over to the sub and is climbing onto it. There’s stirring music, Indy waves at the crewmen, he climbs up onto the conning tower, he looks around for a second, and then… the movie cuts to the interior of the sub, where it gets underway, and then we see the red line moving across the map. So how, exactly, does Indy survive this journey? He has no special equipment, can’t get into the sub (the hatches have already been closed, since they’re about to get underway), and it’s about to, y’know, go under the water, in that way subs do. Now, I remember reading once that they scripted (and possibly even filmed) a scene where Indy ties himself to the periscope with his whip. This is, of course, patently ridiculous, since it requires that the sub go no lower than periscope depth on the whole trip and, even if that happened, he’d still probably die. But Indy does tons of things that should get him killed, so we’d have believed that if they’d shown it. But they didn’t.
8. Back to the Future: Marty’s parents’ bad memory – Even though Marty is only in 1955 for a week, he plays a pretty pivotal role in his future parents’ lives. It stands to reason, then, that they would remember him pretty well, don’t you think? Now, I’m not George McFly, but most men would probably have a few questions if one of their children grew up to look exactly like a friend from high school that their wife dated briefly.
7. Star Trek (the 2009 movie): Old Spock biding his time – Kirk gets marooned on the ice planet by Young Spock, and Old Spock saves his life. Then Old Spock tells Kirk that there’s a Starfleet outpost nearby, and they trudge through the snow to get there. Now, Old Spock was marooned there a while before by Nero, and he knew that Nero was going to try to destroy Vulcan. So why didn’t he seek out this Starfleet outpost he knew about until after Kirk arrived? Don’t you think that maybe it would’ve been a smart idea to warn Starfleet that someone was about to try to destroy Vulcan, and, oh, by the way, he’s from the future?
6. Spider-Man 2: Doctor Octavius’s arms – OK, so Octavius had to invent these heat- and magnet-proof metal arms, controlled by sophisticated AI, that attach directly to a human body and interface directly with the brain. So why, exactly, does he need Harry Osborn to finance his big fusion experiment? Is there any doubt that the technology behind these arms would be worth millions, if not billions, of dollars? He could buy and sell Harry.
5. Star Trek IV: The ease of time warp – So, all you have to do to go back in time is slingshot around the sun on a carefully-calculated route, right? It’s the same thing they did in the TOS episode Tomorrow Is Yesterday. If it’s really that easy, then any warp-enabled ship can do it any time, so surely someone in the Klingon or Romulan empires must have figured this out. The Klingons might be too honorable, but why haven’t the Romulans taken advantage of this, and used it for all sorts of nefarious purposes?
4. Star Wars: The Death Star’s slow attack – So the Death Star follows the tracking device on the Millennium Falcon to the rebel base. They jump out of light speed, and, for no clear reason, emerge on the far side of the planet Yavin from the moon where the base is. This light-speed jump takes a split-second, but now they have to wait minutes so they can clear the planet. Not only that, but the Death Star is capable of blowing up entire planets, not just moons, so why don’t they just blow up the entire planet of Yavin? Surely that would effectively destroy anything on its moons as well.
3. Gremlins: Feeding after midnight – Don’t get them wet; OK, fine. Don’t expose them to sunlight; sure, why not? Don’t feed them after midnight; um, how’s that again? If you can’t feed them “after midnight,” at what point during the day does it cease to be “after midnight” so you can feed them again? For that matter, how does the mogwai know what time zone it’s in? Suppose I get my mogwai in New York and then take a vacation to San Francisco — should I not feed my mogwai after midnight Eastern Time or Pacific Time? And what about Daylight Saving Time? Considering the consequences, these details seem pretty important.
2. The Empire Strikes Back: Time dilation – Luke and R2D2 leave Hoth to go to Dagobah at the same time Han, Leia, Chewbacca, and C3PO leave to go… well, they never really say what their initial destination is. Anyway, on Dagobah, Luke embarks on an intensive Jedi training course with Yoda — it’s never stated, but it’s heavily implied that this takes a long time; and besides, you would think a full course of Jedi training would take at least months, right? (We know it’s a full course, because when Luke comes back in Jedi, Yoda tells him he doesn’t need more training.) So, at the same time that Luke finishes this months-long training and runs off to Cloud City, his friends have clearly just gotten there a short time before. Yet all they did on the way was flee from a Star Destroyer and fly down the gullet of a giant space worm. That must have taken hours, not months. So was the Millennium Falcon flying at close to the speed of light (but not at light speed) for a while and thus experiencing time dilation? Yeah, that’s the ticket.
1. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: Was all that really necessary? – It would really have been useful if Henry Jones Sr. had found out, or, if he knew, mentioned the bit about the Great Seal. You know, the Great Seal that the Grail Knight tells them the Grail can’t pass, and which sets off a highly localized earthquake when Elsa tries to pass with the Grail. Because, as it turns out, the whole race against the Nazis to get to the temple and giving a fake grail to Donovan so he could die gruesomely wasn’t necessary at all. The Nazis could never have removed the Grail from the temple anyway! I mean, leave aside the point that Donovan clearly had no idea how to get past the booby traps, and Elsa wasn’t much help to him, so without Indy and his dad there they probably wouldn’t have gotten to the Grail anyway. Once Henry Sr. had been rescued, they could’ve just gone home.
Know of any other good ones? Tell us about it in the comments.