Tuesday, December 22, 2015

No Plot-Holes Here! Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Warning: major spoilers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens follow this text.

The latest installment of Star Wars has been out barely a week and the usual whiners have started their “unforgivable plot-holes” ranting. I don’t know what it is about Star Wars in particular that attracts such infantile outbursts by the pseudo-intellectual, but you can bet your Millennium Falcon in a game of sabacc that the man-child whining will begin the minute the weekend box office receipts are tallied.

Star Wars is a fairy tale set a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. In a fairy-tale version of space, TIE Fighters growl, even though we know sound doesn’t travel through a vacuum, and gravity and inertia don’t follow the laws of physics either. In our real world, there’s no magical “Force” that “surrounds us, binding us all together.”

You don’t get the same kind of complaining about the plot holes in other fairy tales like Snow White and The Seven Dwarves. Who could believe that a young, beautiful woman could live in a tiny cottage with a bunch of miners and not have some shenanigans?

Fairy-tales are a genre of story that require the reader or audience to relax, sit back and let your heart be your guide. Emotion is in charge. That said, if you read some of these “plot-hole” rants, you’d find plenty of errors in the “thinking” of the ranters. Case in point, Seth Abramson's Huffington Post article, “40 Unforgivable Plot Holes in ‘Star Wars: The ForceAwakens.’ “ He calls out each plot-hole by number and I’ll do my best to counter each one.
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."

The “janitor” has just completed rigorous military training and if you know anything about military training, you don’t keep calling Finn, a “janitor”, unless you have some other internal bias. The guy risks everything against all odds and you keep calling him a “janitor”?

Poe Dameron’s way into the superstructure of Starkiller Base is made possible by Han & Chewbacca’s well-placed explosives. They’re a couple of scoundrel pirates, who’ve have been doing this kind of thing for years, and Dameron is “the best pilot in the galaxy,” who flies through a fiery split in the structure to place some well aimed shots at each of the Starkiller’s power concentrators.

Luke isn’t even an apprentice when he targets a tiny port on the Death Star. He’s done a few minutes of training with Ben Kenobi using a light-saber and a remote. He’s not the “most powerful Force-user” yet. His father, Anakin/Darth Vader is.

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."
A house? It's not like he lost his car keys. Have you ever had a car stolen? There are folks who spend years restoring a classic car, only to have it taken from them while shopping at a mall, never to see it again? Do a simple search on the subject and you’ll find dozens of stories. Earth isn’t as big as the galaxy, and if a stolen car takes a while to find here, you can bet it would be hard to find the Millennium Falcon on a big galaxy. And did you hear Han say to Chewie, “I told you we should'a checked Jakku!”

Do you comprehend that the “Force” has been “awakened” and is pulling together all its good guys (the light-side) from everywhere in that huge galaxy, because the bad guys (the dark-side) have just completed construction on a solar-system-killing-machine? The fricken movie is called “The Force Awakens” for Hans-Sake!
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.
Ex-janitor? Refuted.

Kylo isn’t entirely stable, so I’m not sure that he has his emotions, his force-use, or his intellect in check when he takes on a “traitorous” ex-Storm Trooper who has wreaked havoc on his plans to hunt down Luke. Kylo’s a little rusty since he’s had no Jedi to fight for over ten years.

*Kylo has been badly wounded by Chewbacca's updated* bowcaster and his confidence is shaken by Rey's ability to quickly master the force. As Yoda tells us the force is used for "defense, never attack," and the force will flow through you when you are "calm and at peace." Kylo is clearly not able to use the force because he is out of control. (*edited Jan 11 2016 -- helped by commenter Caitlin Robinson)

As far as the cross-barred light-saber’s impracticality, think about the repeated loss of hands among the Jedi (Anakin, Luke, & Mace) and Count Dooku. See the excellent article by John Brownlee who points out that it’s a dangerously insane weapon made by an unhinged soul.
4. Rey becomes nearly as effective a Force-user in a few hours as Luke Skywalker did in a few years.
We don’t know who Rey is the child of. We don’t know if Snoke manipulated her birth, as Anakin's birth was. We do know that the Force is working hard to gather the light-side forces to fight a particularly nasty technological terror that the dark-side has just completed. Let’s just say that Rey’s skills are the highest we’ve yet seen.

Why does Luke have to be the most powerful Jedi ever? Wasn’t that Anakin, previously? Why do some bloggers who hardly ever write on their blogs have better reasoning skills than bloggers who write for a major website and are University English professors? Talent, that’s why. Talent: that unquantifiable, surprising trait that pops up occasionally and is bestowed by fate, by muses, by God or the Force.
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.
Ren’s rescue happens off-screen, so I don’t know what your problem is. Do you really want an expository scene spelling it all out for you? Really? How about we find out that Snoke uses the force to direct Hux to him, or Hux has a tracking device on his unstable ally. Do you really need that spelled out to you? I don’t. I have a life.
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!)
Light-saber injuries are cauterized, mostly, so “bleeding-to-death” is reaching. Rey may have stayed her hand (light-side behavior) rather than kill him out-right. The planet’s blowing up, and the process is Poe Dameron’s doing, so I hardly call that Deus-ex-machina, unless Poe is a God? Oh my Poe? Are you a God, Poe? He’s pretty sexy, though. I’ll give you that.

*(edited 11-12-16 from my reply to comments)

You've completely forgotten what Deus Ex-Machina is, professor.

Merriam-Webster: a character or thing that suddenly enters the story in a novel, play, movie, etc., and solves a problem that had previously seemed impossible to solve.

A Deus Ex Machina contrivance would be the land between Kylo and Rey splitting apart without the Resistance attack on the Starkiller. You have ignored the buildup starting with the Resistance meeting on D'Qar where Admiral Statura (Ken Leung) even wonders aloud if crippling Starkiller will also destroy the planet. They both dodge a couple of small collapses of the planet before that moment. There is no suddenly contrived Deus Ex Machina; it's all a laid out and set up.
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.
See my response to 4. She’s gifted; Han and Chewie show plenty of surprise, and oh, Han, he speaks rookie. Last I checked, Han isn't "no one."
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.
BB-8 nearly knocks Finn on his butt to get to Poe when he spots him. Poe and Finn hug it out. It’s a thrilling moment for fans, where were you?
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?
Hux’s speech to the troops pretty much spells it out that they’ve just finished the weapon, and Hux is waiting for the Supreme Leader’s okay. You may as well ask why any evil army chooses any specific time to attack. They’re evil. Evil doesn’t need a reason.
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.
Ren and Hux don’t destroy Maz Kanata’s planet, Takodana, because they’re looking for BB-8 who has the map to Skywalker. Zapping the planet will destroy the map.

The galactic core is fairy-tale-dense with planets orbiting their stars. Astronomers haven’t figured out what dark matter and dark energy is, so who knows: perhaps physics works differently in the center of a galaxy than it does in the outer rim.
11. Kylo Ren is the head of the Knights of Ren, but there are no other Knights of Ren in the movie.
The Knights of Ren are shown during Rey’s force flash-back after she touched Luke’s light-saber. Again, do you really need an expository scene about the Knights? Why can’t we wait to meet Kylo’s gang in the next episode?
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.
The Force Awakens is just part one of a trilogy so who knows what part Phasma will play ultimately. She's not one of the leads. She's another Boba Fett and she gets about the same treatment here. Who knows what part she'll play in the future. She's an enigma, like Fett. Do you really not want any mysteries left for future episodes?

The Stormtroopers on Jakku were pretty bad-ass. They disable Poe's X-Wing, destroy an entire village of the Resistance and capture Poe. 

Finn isn't incomprehensible. He's a conscientious objector on his first mission. I suspect he's force sensitive and his awakening is really when he gets painted with his buddies' blood. If you've ever had a conversation with someone who has suffered from PTSD after a battle, Finn is completely comprehensible. 

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?
The movie clocks in at two hours and fifteen minutes. I suppose there could have been more exposition, say of Finn, hearing of some bad shizz happening on Planet X, but we’ve have had our fill of exposition in Star Wars. We know this universe, and we know what the Dark Side is like, so come on!
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?
Finn is not a Janitor anymore, but a trained fighter. That you miss this point and keep minimizing Finn, speaks volumes.  Star Wars is all about that seemingly insignificant person who saves the galaxy from another terrible threat.

Finn isn’t worried about being chased across the galaxy; he’s worried about going back to Jakku where he originally escaped. Only an idiot who wants to be caught goes back to the scene of his crime.
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.
You’re forgetting that even Obi-wan and Yoda went into hiding after suffering great loss at the hands of Chancellor Palpatine. While they hid, the Empire grew. Those events happen off-screen and we don’t yet know just how Luke’s training of Jedi failed, but we do know that even the greatest of heroes can grow weary of fighting. The mightiest among us can suffer great loss that causes one to temporarily give up.
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?
Luke doesn’t necessarily know what’s happened. Even if he did, he may have no means for leaving his island. Leia wants her brother found, and Rey wants him to train her. You’re grasping here, because it’s a beautiful moment and you’ve missed it.
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?
It’s the ultimate axiom of a bad guy in pulp fiction: monologue your evil intentions before you push the button. Don’t you teach writing?
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?
You’ve already asked a), and I’ve answered it above. For b), there is only one map of Luke’s retreat. The Resistance, now entirely on it’s own after the New Republic has been destroyed, lacks a data map of the entire galaxy to see where it fits.
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?
The Resistance doesn’t have the one map to Luke’s location until BB-8 arrives. They have no need for the map until they’ve first eliminated the imminent threat of Starkiller base. R2 is in low power mode after Luke abandoned him. ThreePio says he's been unresponsive since. When R2 hears that a map to Luke has been found, he wakes up, having been actually monitoring, hoping for news about Luke all along. (Edited 1-12-16)
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?
Leia sends Luke a new, very-strong-with-the-force apprentice to give him hope. Star Wars is all about hope. Hope will bring Luke back. Hope brings Obi-wan and Yoda back.
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.
Kylo can only sense his father’s presence. In all the Star Wars films, those with force sensitivity are only able to sense presence. The Force isn’t an electronic appliance that you can switch on and off in seconds, like a GPS. Side note: even a GPS needs time to locate its reference satellites.
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?
Yeah, it’s lame. Fathers and Sons do a lot of stupid, tragic things to each other. You might want to read Sophocles or Shakespeare for further elucidation, professor.
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?
Rey & Finn are in shock. If you’ve ever seen something shocking, you know it takes time for we humans to process and take appropriate action.
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.
Rey is given two choices to escape. Her first choice is blown up, so she runs to the second choice. That simple.

Classic car collectors find really old, junked cars that start-up and drive fine. This is an infinite source of pleasure to collectors. Star Wars space ships are basically classic car analogues because George Lucas has always loved cool classic automobiles.

This was one of the funniest moments in the film and you didn't get it?

----the following was added on Jan 5
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?
If you were paying close attention while Rey was being blasted with visions from the Force after touching the lightsaber, you'd remember that Plutt was holding Rey's hand as her family's ship departed Jakku. Its not a stretch that he agreed to care for Rey, and Plutt like so many foster parents on this planet isn't all bad or all good when it comes to his ward. When she defies him by not trading him BB-8, Plutt remembers "all that he's done for the little brat" and decides to take what he feels should be his. He's making it up as he goes along and he's stupid enough to let a cool ship like the Millennium Falcon just lay there, slowly disintegrating, so clearly the man is not too bright.
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?
Maz may be a friend to the resistance, but she doesn't spend time with them regularly, doesn't like to leave her place -- she has a business to run, and doesn't even know that they're looking for Skywalker. We're going to find out that she's got lots of treasures in castle and over a thousand years she's accumulated and lost track of lots of stuff. Luke's lights saber contributes nothing to tracking him. Again, what movie where you watching?
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.
None of these three items matter in this story. Sure,  they're unanswered questions, but that doesn't make them plot-holes. Boy, you must hate 2001: A Space Odyssey! You might as well ask where did Hamlet get Yorick's skull and how the heck did he know him? Is he grave robber, or what? Vader's helmet is a prop. If you must know how he got it, read the Marvel comic, Shattered Empire or Aftermath, both give clues as to how some things went in the 30 years since Return of the Jedi (plural, btw for Luke and Leia!) Ditto for the X-wing pilot helmet.

Yeedo doesn't just give Rey BB-8, she takes it from him, she's much bigger than the little dug and you see what she does to Stormtroopers. She's a force-sensitive badass having to fight other scavengers for snaps all her life. I don't think you, a poet with soft hands would have a chance in hell against her and the little dug, Teedo could beat YOUR ass.

I wouldn't go against her and I'm a captain (master) of my own 60 foot, 5 level, 44 ton wooden yacht. Keeping her bristol is tough work, my hands are rough, I'm strong,  but not tough enough too take Rey. She may be fictional, but Jeez, RESPECT, brah!
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?
Another request for unneeded exposition. Do you need to watch The Dude look for his car keys, start his car, drive to the grocery store, park, walk through the doors, down the aisle to the dairy case before he opens his quart of half and half and sniffs it (reference to The Big Lebowski)? No. People find their way out of the desert all the time. Oh, they cut out the part where Finn and Poe notice the small village they're flying over before they eject. BFD! I don't need it to follow the story, sorry that you do. Namaste, professor!
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?
I don't know who trained her, I don't need to know because I was able to figure out that she is one gifted woman!

Have you seen the savant Jazz pianist, Joey Alexander. He taught himself to play and a year later he's blowing away the best Jazz musicians in the world. The force is with him.You can't explain talent. No one really tight me how to read, I just knew how. No one taught me how to write or read music, I just knew how. You've probably met student poets who were incredible at writing, needing very little instruction they soar. Happens all the time.

That said, you know Jakku is a tough place. You feel it on screen. You know she had to fight to survive. If she could't defend herself, her scavenged items, her home, her food, she'd have died a long time ago.
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?
What part of his "first deployment" don't you get? You are as dense as a week old loaf of San Francisco sourdough!
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.
Poe is happy to see the guy that saved his life, and since he couldn't find him in the desert before he was rescued, he's happy to see that the guy who saved him is alive. They're further happy to see other because they bonded during their escape from the New Order. They fought together, Finn blowing up a bank of Star Destroyer guns and a few TIE fighters. For must of us, that's enough to make us friends for life.
32. Kylo Ren takes his mask off pretty readily, and in pretty mixed company, for someone determined to wear super uncomfortable headgear perpetually.
Cool, humor, I like it. Well he's gotta dupe his daddy with a sad face, showing lots of regret. I think dropping the mask just makes Kylo even more evil and badass!And of course since Daddy just made fun of him by saying, "Take it off, you don't need it (to breathe! You're not Darth Vader, sonny boy!)." Total fatal (nearly) last words to your son. He said that and I knew he was dead. Fathers and Sons, tragic stuff.
33. Why does Kylo Ren assign just a single Stormtrooper to guard Rey, the most valuable prisoner in the history of the First Order? 
We know very little of the First Order's history, so that's stretching it. but even if she is the "most valuable prisoner," Kylo is thrown off by Rey's ability to resist him and then turn the force probing back on him. He flees to his adoptive "father" Snoke to help him figure out what just happened. That he left Rey with one Stormtrooper as a guard, shows that he's fallible and continues to underestimate his opponent. That's also a standard storytelling trope in this genre: the basic flaw of evil, thinking that they are so much more clever than everyone else. Today we just call that narcissism, or trolling...
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?
Rey trips the wrong circuit breaker and that cuts power to the Rathtar's holding cells. I know you figured out that you snoozed on this one, but I keep thinking that this is indicative of most of what you've written on this film. I know you're a published poet and writer, I hope you get that I've been teasing you here, jabbing you a bit, but I'm really astounded by the questions. Am I gonna win a golden ticket or something? These seem too easy to answer! Time consuming, but easy.
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)? 
Good question. I guess they need recruits to fit in a vary narrow range of armor to keep costs down. The New Order, like the Empire before it had a racist preference for humanoids, especially white folk with british or transatlantic accents.
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 don't know why Rey has a blindspot here. I guess she never gave it much thought. If she did, maybe she would have found her powers earlier. There is a awakening, I guess we're watching that awakening unfold during the course of the film.
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?
Smoke could be like the wizard of  Oz, a small man behind the curtain.Emperor Palpatine was a giant scary head in The Empire Strikes Back. I think we'll have to wait and see if he's a giant or not. WARNING POSSIBLE SPOILER----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Some think Snoke is Darth Plagueis, the wise, who was Darth Sideous' mentor. The thought here is that Plagueis tricked Sideous into thinking he's killed him, etc, and that he's was gravely wounded but not killed. Once Palpatine died, Plagueis reappeared as Snoke. If that's all true, Snoke is from the race of the Muun and they are quite tall, eight feet plus, but not as tall as Snoke's holoprojection suggests.
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? 
You mostly win me over on this one, but I have to rely on the old bad guy trope -- they make stupid mistakes ultimately. I aways wonder, it's so much easier to do the right thing, the good thing. You sleep better at night, you make more friends and have a better support system. Being with the bad guys, you always have to look over your shoulder and watch your back! Why do so many wealthy people feel like they have to make money on the backs of others. Haven't they heard of game theory? My hubbies and my success has come at doing it the right way, the good way. Life is good!

So, I don't know why evil never doubts its methodology. In the story genre universe that Star Wars is part of, this isn't supposed to be a big deal. You might want to read up on Robert McKee's 'Story' or look up The Story Grid, or Genres' Five Leaf Clover Theory.

And this brings us to:
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?
You weren't alone on this one, Seth, many felt the same way. Star Wars is all about echoes and reflections from the past to the future, from generation to generation. For those of us who are musically inclined, John Williams' score echoes this idea as well; themes are turned inside out, reflecting each other, motifs transforming into new ones, playing off the older ones.

There's a Vimeo video that reflects this really well.  Read the article here.

Whew, OK, Seth, it wasn't really as easy as I've claimed earlier, but I don't know what to say. I'm able to enjoy the film as it is and can't wait to see it for a fourth time! Who knows, if I haven't been too much a jerk, maybe if you're out in San Francisco sometime we can watch it together in my screening room and we can videotape our debate. Add a few beers form the concession kegs and it might even be entertaining!

Maybe some of you have just outgrown Star Wars. George Lucas always said that they were designed to be kiddie movies like Flash Gordon Saturday Serials. They're supposed to be fun and a bit ridiculous.  If you can't be a kid again, maybe it's time to hang up the Boba Fett helmet, give your kid that battle proof $500.00 lightsaber from Vader's Vault and join your significant other for a good chick-flick/weepie on the couch. Or, go to Sundance and watch a bunch of independent films, examine naval lint, and rotten familial relationships... err... yeah.

And there's always Star Wars: Rogue One. They won't even have to come up with a new Super Death Star GalaxyKiller! They get to blow up the first one all over again. I really can't wait!

In the meantime, May the Force be With You.

But wait! There's more! Seth Abramson found 20 More Plot Holes in 'Star Wars the Force Awakens' and I attempt to take them down here: Misanthropes and Star Wars