NOTE: SPOILERS FOR STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS THROUGHOUT
"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 Death Star was a wholly artificial construction, whilst the Starkiller is built into the surface of a pre-existing planet. In effect, it was a series of installations to be destroyed rather than an entire, purpose-built space station. Finn had worked in the installation before and knew his way around, and where the weak points were because he was a trained soldier. Poe Dameron's preternatural flying skills are a bit of a stretch (fan theories that he is Force sensitive, albeit possibly only at a low level, remain only theories) but the same could be said of Han Solo flying through an asteroid field or Lando Calrissian navigating the complex interior of the second Death Star. Amazing flying skills (backed up by droid/computer assistance) are not unusual in this setting.
The idea that either Death Star or the Starkiller could be destroyed so easily beggars belief, of course, but the notion of a massive superweapon which can be brought down easily by a few fighters has certainly been thoroughly established in the setting.
"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.""
This is partially fair. However, it is established that Han Solo and Chewbacca left the ship on Jakku, knew it was there and also had means to track it when it was powered, operational and in flight. Given Han's paranoia about losing the ship to Jabba in the original trilogy and the frequency with which he had to leave it around whilst going on adventures, a mechanism for locating the ship if stolen is highly plausible. Finding it so fast rather than a few days or weeks later, of course, is a much bigger plot hole. In fact, the way hyperspace is treated in The Force Awakens throughout the movie is a bit weird and not in keeping with the six previous films.
"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."
Finn has never (presumably) held a lightsabre before but has held and trained with those melee pikes wielded by the stormtroopers, as it is part of their mandatory training. So he certainly has melee combat training, if limited experience in the field. However, it is also unclear how often Kylo Ren has had to engage in melee combat with an opponent. There's certainly a dearth of Jedi at this point. We also have no knowledge of how much training Luke Skywalker gave Kylo Ren in lightsabre combat: Yoda completely neglected it during his training of Luke on Dagobah and Obi-Wan really only gave Luke enough on the Falcon to stop him injuring himself. Luke's training and combat abilities with a lightsabre were limited, especially compared to the Clone Wars era, and his primary opponent was a heavily-compromised cyborg fighting at well past his best. The impracticality and rough finish of Ren's lightsabre (compared to Luke's replacement sabre shown in Return of the Jedi) in fact suggest that Ren only built his lightsabre after turning on Luke and departing his service, suggesting that whatever lightsabre skills he has gained since then are self-taught, learned via remotes or from Snoke.
In addition, rendering the above point nonsensical, Kyle Ren is extremely injured during this fight and can barely stand up. He also does use the Force to knock Finn out at the end of the fight. In fact, he injures Finn so severely he is still not conscious by the end of the film.
"4. Rey becomes nearly as effective a Force-user in a few hours as Luke Skywalker did in a few years."
Within hours of meeting Obi-Wan Kenobi, Luke had gained enough understanding of the Force to communicate with Obi-Wan's Force ghost and guide his proton torpedoes to destroy the Death Star. Despite a total lack of experience, Luke also used a blaster well enough to gun down dozens of Imperial crack troops without taking a return hit himself, shot down two TIE fighters from the laser turret of an unfamiliar spacecraft and then, on his very first try, shot down multiple enemies fighters and carried out a mission objective in an X-wing starfighter when dozens of pilots with decades of experience were blown to pieces all around him. Assuming that Luke was not the greatest prodigy who ever lived, we can assume that the Force assisted him in doing all of these things.
Similarly, we can assume the Force played a role in guiding and assisting the nine-year-old Anakin Skywalker in destroying the Droid Control Ship at the Battle of Naboo and piloting a dangerous pod vehicle at beyond-insane speeds through near-impassable terrain.
Against this, Rey using the Force to influence a stormtrooper (but not without difficulty) and hold her own in a fight against a Force-user of greater experience but apparently grossly inferior strength does not seem unreasonable.
"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."
Indeed. In fact, although severely injured, Kylo Ren is shown to still be conscious after the fight with Rey and capable of signalling for help. The notion of Snoke actually placing a tracking device on his hot-headed protege is also not completely implausible. Finally, Hux simply conducing a life-sign reading of the area where Kylo Ren was last seen headed would have located him instantly.
"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!)"
This is a fair point and a genuine bit of plot convenience (it's not impossible Ren used the Force to help open the chasm, but there is zero on-screen evidence for this). It would have been better for Rey to have decided to spare him from her own sense of morality, providing further moral complexity in later movies when (presumably) Ren returns to wreck more havoc. The convenient earthquake removed agency from Rey's decision at this pivotal moment.
"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."
Plenty of people can speak Wookiee, including Solo, Yoda and of course Threepio. It's also implied Lando can understand Chewie as well (otherwise that was one awkward flight they went on at the end of The Empire Strikes Back). And yes, it's a running joke in the Star Wars Expanded Universe, but that no longer exists. In the six previous films, the Wookiee language is not presented as something that's particularly difficult to learn.
"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."
Agreed, this is an awkward moment of writing and plotting. Of course, it was necessitated by Poe Dameron's character supposedly dying in the crash but Abrams changing his mind and keeping him alive for the climactic battle, necessitating last-minute rewrites.
Of course, this isn't unprecedented. Hope and Empire spend an immense amount of time setting up Han Solo's capture by Jabba the Hutt, only for him to be rescued in the opening half-hour of Jedi and fairly easily, rendering the whole thing pointless in the overall context of the trilogy (although still powerful for Empire's finale). This was the result of rewrites in that instance as well - in the original draft, Han Solo died in Jedi, giving his earlier rescue more of a tragic dimension. And of course the prequel trilogy tries to keep the identity of Darth Sidious secret, in a not-trying-very-hard-at-all kind of way.
"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?"
This is material that is not particularly well-explained in the film. Basically, the First Order is a small (ish) operation based in the outer rim, the Republic is a large (but nowhere near as big as the Old Republic of the prequels) force in the core worlds and the Resistance is a military organisation set up by Leia to fight the First Order which gets some funding from the Republic but is highly controversial. Much of this is implied in the film, but not well-explained.
As for why this moment is when Starkiller Base gets operational and starts blowing stuff up, that's simple plot convenience again, like why the first Death Star only became operational during the events of the original movie or why Obi-Wan appeared to Luke on Hoth three years after the Battle of Yavin, when him telling to go to Yoda immediately after Hope would have made a hell of a lot more sense.
"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."
Er, no, the Republic has never been intergalactic. I agree the film misrepresents the Republic as one star system initially, but later on it's made clear that the loss of Hosnian Prime, although a huge blow (especially as the Republic's largest fleet was located there), does not mean the destruction of the entire Republic.
Kanata's planet was not destroyed because the mission was to recover and capture the starmap leading to Luke Skywalker, so he could be killed. Frying the map would hinder that plan.
The galaxy at this time is made up of several smaller states, such as the First Order, Republic and (presumably) the Hutts. The Resistance is a Republic-supported military force working against the First Order but with deniability, as the Republic and First Order apparently do not want a massive conventional war that would drain both sides. It's not until Starkiller Base becomes operational that the First Order believes this is no longer a problem. I agree this could be spelled out better in the film.
Han Solo being able to see the Starkiller beam in the sky is pure drivel, however. The planets involved are all tens of thousands of light years from one another. Even if the phenomenon was visible from that distance (hint: it wouldn't be), the light should still take tens of thousands of years to travel between the locations involved. It should be noted that this is a peculiar, repeated failing of J.J. Abrams, who also showed Vulcan being destroyed from the surface of a completely different planet (not a moon) in his first Star Trek movie.
"11. Kylo Ren is the head of the Knights of Ren, but there are no other Knights of Ren in the movie."
Yes, there are. They appear in flashback and in Rey's Force vision. What they are up to right now is not known, but they certainly appear. Also, referencing something that doesn't appear in the movie isn't a plot hole in the first place, like how both Jabba and the Emperor were referenced in Episode IV without actually appearing.
"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."
Finn overcoming his conditioning and rebelling is noted by several people, including the First Order officers, as being highly unusual and bizarre. This suggests that Finn is either resistant to the conditioning and this is vanishingly rare, or that something else (the Force?) is to blame for allowing him to snap his conditioning.
Phasma does not do much of value in The Force Awakens, agreed, with the character clearly being set up for a stronger role in the sequels (presumably).
"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?"
Yes. Finn points out that his first assignment after training was basically janitorial work at Starkiller Base and then being transferred into Phasma's command. Some may argue that the First Order's training should have tested his conditioning previously, but if the conditioning is foolproof and hitherto infalliable (as Hux seems to be expecting), it not being judged as necessary is perfectly understandable.
"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?"
Going AWOL is one thing (although still unusual, as mentioned in the film), but Finn committed an outright act of treason in helping Poe Dameron escape and then helping Rey and BB-8 escape from Jakku. Certainly he knew in freeing Dameron and asking him to fly the TIE Fighter that he was betraying the Order, which is a far more serious crime.
As it turns out, the Order are mildly puzzled by his treachery but indeed neglect it to focus on the real priority of Dameron, BB-8, finding Luke and activating the Starkiller.
"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."
Han's leadership skills in the larger scheme of things seem to be lacking, so he certainly isn't indispensible to the Resistance and could be let go. I agree that Leia should really be more annoyed about this then is shown in the film, but they've had at least a few years to deal with some of these issues.
Luke going into seclusion when he is the only person left who might be able to stop Ren is more problematic. However, it's also possible that Luke realised he could not defeat Snoke with his extant abilities and sought out the Jedi Temple to learn more. So he may have been taking action, in his own way, against the Order that was more longer-term and required greater secrecy. This should be made clearer in Episode VIII. Again, Luke's abilities are with the Force more than as a military field commander (which Dameron has covered) or a grand strategist (which Leia has down), so his importance is more in the realm of the Force alone, and that's what he appears to have been dealing with in the case of the Temple.
"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?"
The movie never - not even remotely - gives the impression that the entire First Order consists of Starkiller Base, that single Star Destroyer and that's it. In fact, the movie makes it clear that the First Order is a large, multi-system political entity with vast military forces and resources that the Resistance has been founded to defend against. Snoke is in the First Order's base of operations, clearly located elsewhere. In fact, by converting a pre-existing planet into Starkiller Base (rather than building it from scratch), it allows the First Order to man it with a relatively small number of troops and forces compared to the many hundreds of thousands of Imperial troops deployed on each of the two Death Stars.
"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?"
He didn't put his entire army on the Starkiller, he just summoned the garrison out to tell them how rad he's being. Hux clearly loves the sound of his own voice and showing off how rad he is, a bit like Hitler. The Nuremberg rallies were pointless from a military standpoint, but for grandstanding and making your dictator look intimidating, they certainly served a purpose.
"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?"
This is a bit of a puzzle. Luke leaving instructions with Artoo on how to find him makes sense, but leaving half the instructions with him and half with Lor San Tekka on Jakku feels unnecessarily elaborate and still quite dangerous (as proves to be the case). Episode VIII may shed more light on this, but right now this feels like a problematic plot point.
"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?"
Clearly they would have attempted to extract the information, but if they had done so they would simply have found the same problem: a map of the galaxy with the missing section leading to Luke. It's never implied that the Resistance didn't see Artoo's section of the map, just that they knew they didn't have all the pieces. It's possible they saw the missing piece and that's what sent Dameron to Jakku to look for the rest.
The whole Resistance showing up would be overkill. I agree it would have made more sense if Leia had gone, but then the destruction of the Republic capital world, the resulting chaos caused by that and the military opportunities presented by the destruction of the Starkiller would have left her with a lot on her plate to deal with.
Sending a familiar face (Chewie), Luke's old lightsabre and someone strong in the Force to Luke makes sense from that perspective.
"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."
Indeed, as happened in A New Hope (Vader senses that Obi-Wan is aboard the Death Star, but not where or even that he's on board the Falcon when he's standing feet away from it) and in both Empire and Jedi (Vader loses sight of Luke in both lightsabre duels and can't find him with the Force). The Force may allow you to sense that familiar people are nearby, but it doesn't provide a detailed GPS signal of their exact location.
"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?"
It may not be logical, but it's very human. Han couldn't simply abandon all hope that his son was lost to the Dark Side and we've seen Ren struggling with his pull to the Light Side throughout the whole movie, a struggle his (Force-attuned, remember) mother is very well aware of. Han knew that bringing Kylo Ren back from the dark was unlikely to work, but as a father he had to make the attempt, and accept the consequence if he was wrong (as he did).
"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?"
They could see something was going down, they could see that Chewbacca and Han weren't firing and that Ren wasn't trying to kill Han straight away. So they gave Han the trust to let it play out his way.
"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."
Plutt has been testing and upgrading its systems (putting in the compressor, for example). Rey's familiarity with this suggests she has seen the ship in brief test-flights and may have even been aboard for one or two. All of that said, she is unaware of the ship's illustrious history, its (many) modifications and seems to merely think it's an old YT-1300 freighter with all the limited capabilities thereof. Compared to the other ship, a more recent and in-service model, it would appear to be a dubious choice to entrust her life to. The Falcon's cover appearance as a clapped-out piece of junk rather than the fastest ship in the galaxy basically worked once again (as it did several times in the original trilogy).
It's also highly unlikely that Plutt lives in the shack in the town. He likely either lives full-time in another ship or has a base or house elsewhere.
"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?"
The scavenger community relies on trust for mutual survival and profit. If Plutt sent heavies after everyone every time he wanted something, people would soon stop doing business with him altogether. So it makes sense to try to secure the droid by fair means first and only send in the heavies when that failed.
"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?"
Giving the lightsabre willy-nilly to anyone from the Resistance would seem to be risky (even if loyal to the Resistance, they might sell it as an heirloom for a bit of personal reward), and apparently Leia never stopped by and Kanata never went to any of the Resistance bases. Also, lightsabres generally are only useful to Force-wielders, which the Resistance have a dearth of. Also, it's possible that Kanata may have tried to give the sabre back to Luke years earlier but Luke told her not to and wait for a Force-user to show up who might make better use of it (Rey). Against, this is an area Episode VIII may expand on further.
"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."
Vader's funeral pyre was on Endor. Presumably the remains would have then been collected by Luke and stored somewhere for safekeeping (or even buried). Ren, as Luke's student, would have had ample opportunity to seize the remains for his own purposes.
The X-wing pilot helmet came from one of the X-wing fighters we see crashed on the planet's surface. It may be that Rey is actually holding onto it to sell when times get really tough. Or there are thousands of old helmets around and they're not worth much any more. As for BB-8, as mentioned above the scavenger society wouldn't last long if they were all at one another's throats the whole time. Teedo had clearly messed with Rey before and came off worse, so thought the droid wasn't worth the bother. It's also worth noting that BB-8 is worth so much because Plutt knows the First Order is after him, not that a droid of the same type would be worth so much in itself.
"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?"
Agreed, this is dramatic convenience, a bit like Luke just happening to crash right next to Yoda's house, Leia's speeder bike crashing near the Ewok village or any one of a hundred other things that happen in these movies.
"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?"
Rey arrived on Jakku at the age of approximately eight. We don't know what happened to her before that. It is clear that she has been surviving on Jakku for a dozen years under Plutt's rough direction (Rey was left with him as a child, as we see in the flashback). It may be that Plutt directed Rey to have some training to better defend herself and be more useful to him as a scavenger and mechanic.
"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?"
As is made clear in the film, stormtroopers are conditioned from birth to obey orders and do amoral things. As is also made clear in the film, Finn breaching this conditioning is almost a unique event. We may get a further explanation of the event (he's Force sensitive, or the Force directed the failure of his conditioning) or it might just be left as a freak event, without which the movie doesn't happen. Also, this isn't a separate "plot hole" but a mere regurgitation of the above.
"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."
Finn saved Poe's life several times during the escape. Poe owes Finn his life. Poe is a pretty straightforward, meat & potatoes kind of guy who reacts to what he sees of people (Finn saved his life and is a good shot with a laser cannon) and lets other people worry about stuff above his pay grade. He and Leia are tight, and if Leia's happy to let Finn wander around that's good enough for Poe.
"32. Kylo Ren takes his mask off pretty readily, and in pretty mixed company, for someone determined to wear super uncomfortable headgear perpetually."
I get the impression that Ren really likes wearing the head mask because Darth Vader (and other Sith before him) had one, but isn't keen on wearing it for very long periods of time. It's basically a personal affectation.
"33. Why does Kylo Ren assign just a single Stormtrooper to guard Rey, the most valuable prisoner in the history of the First Order?"
Poe was also an important prisoner who was left in the hands of a single guard. It's actually more of a plothole as to why a single trooper was left on the door after Poe's escape from, again a single stormtrooper.
More logically, Ren was unprepared for Rey's sheer strength in the Force and was unaware that she would be able to mind influence someone so quickly.
"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?"
They are accidentally released by Rey. The film makes a big deal about this.
"35. Why do the Rathtars immediately kill every human they encounter -- except Finn, who is randomly dragged off just long enough to be rescued?"
Dramatic convenience, and they also may have wished to feed and nest in a different location.
"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)?"
There might be, we just never get around to seeing them. More to the point, humans are apparently the most common species in the Star Wars galaxy and the Empire and First Order enjoy standardisation of arms, equipment, uniforms etc, which is more complex if they have to accommodate dozens of different species.
The old Empire was also heavily pro-human, with humans and (even this was a stretch) humanoid species dominating the population, military and bureaucracy of the Empire. The First Order is probably just continuing this path, but at a lesser level (since Snoke, the Supreme Leader, appears to not be human, at least not entirely).
"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."
Again, not every single person in the First Order (probably billions of people) has met Kylo Ren or chatted to him. That's absurd, a bit like expecting everyone in Nazi Germany to know Goebbels personally. Out of the billions of people in the First Order-controlled part of the galaxy, maybe dozens have directly met Kylo Ren. Based on the reaction from Finn and the other stormtroopers to the frozen blaster bolt, vanishingly few have seen him using the Force in action directly.
More to the point, if the existence of the Jedi and the full extent of their capabilities were barely known to the point that the Envoy of the Trade Federation has never met one when the Jedi were at the very height of their power, the notion that a scavenger girl on a very remote desert planet would know anything about them when there appear to be a scant handful around at best is not really implausible, at all.
"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?"
The Emperor appears as a giant hologram in The Empire Strikes Back. The rancor in Return of the Jedi is also 15 feet tall, so large, humanoid (if not sentient) creatures in the Star Wars setting are not unprecedented. But if Snoke is making himself appear larger than he should, that's an interesting insight into his psychology, not a plot hole.
"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!"
There are key differences between the Starkiller and Death Star. The Death Star needed to physically move from planet to planet to destroy them. This would require a vast expenditure of time. Starkiller Base, on the other hand, can hit any star in the galaxy without moving thanks to its hyperlight laser. Starkiller Base can also destroy muliple planets simultaneously instead of just one at a time. By being built into a pre-existing planet, rather than being a wholly artificial construction built from scratch, there are also significant cost/efficiency savings versus the Death Stars.
In short, building the Starkiller is clearly a huge undertaking and expensive, but not necessarily on the order of magnitude of the Death Stars, and the weapon has capabilities and efficiency savings over the Death Star to make it a viable alternative.
The thing being so easy to blow up is implausible, however.
"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;...
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?"
Episode VII is clearly a "back to basics" movie that resets things for a new generation, emulating what worked in the original movies and throwing out what didn't work in the prequels. They went too far with this in some aspects, with a lot of motifs that repeat from the original trilogy. In fact, I would argue that the use of borrowed motifs was a lot more effective in Knights of the Old Republic, the 2003 Star Wars video game that took a back-to-basics approach and reawoke the love for the franchise in many fans reeling from the awfulness of the prequel trilogy. That video game also had a superweapon (the Star Forge), Jedi, a main character discovering they can use the Force etc, but also had its own, unique, killer twist (one that outdid even Empire's) and brought some new ideas and characters to the table (including the first canonically gay Star Wars character). Episode VII does bring some new characters on board and adds some twists to familiar archetypes, but in general plot construction it is very similar to the original trilogy and deliberately so.
However, the movie is also clearly the starting gun for a new run of Star Wars films. Creating touchstones back to the original trilogy is fine as long as they are not now recycled endlessly: the First Order creating a new superweapon in Episode VIII and IX would be tiresome, in particular.
"1. Starkiller Base has been constructed to allow it to suck all the energy out of a star thousands of times its size. Do the math on that. Or, if you like, do the science-fictional math. Neither is anything but ludicrous; neither shows writing effort."
Starkiller Base itself only contains a certain amount of the star's energy. When it is destroyed, the resulting eruption of the stellar energy is shown to be about the size of the planet itself. The rest of the energy would appear to have been shunted into hyperspace and then projected from there.
Yes, it's preposterous, but so are the Death Stars, the Super Star Destroyers and space magic.
"2. If Starkiller Base is a weaponized, orbit-locked planet that can't be flown, it's the worst weapon ever and not one the First Order would ever have constructed. Why construct such an object directly under the nose of the very Republic it aims to destroy? Are we to assume the Republic doesn't even do the most cursory "check-ins" on nearby planets and moons to see if they are, I don't know, being turned into anything fairly denominated a "starkiller"? And if Starkiller Base is a planet-sized object that can fly on its own, why is it anywhere near Republic-held territory when it fires its killing blow at the Republic? There's no reason for that risk. More simply: how is this orbit-locked planet any improvement on the maneuverable Death Star?"
There are hundreds of billions of stars in the Star Wars galaxy. It is not possible, even using automated droids, to keep constant tabs on every single star in the galaxy. Also, the Republic at this time is relatively small and can't afford such a huge undertaking. As supporting materials show, Starkiller Base is also located in the unknown regions of the galaxy, tens of thousands of light-years from Hosnian Prime and the rest of the Republic. The Starkiller fires its beam through hyperspace to hit its targets and does not need to move.
Having said that, the film seems confused on if it merely absorbs surface plasma from the star and fires, after which the star returns to normal and can be tapped again after a few hours or days, or if it sucks the life out of the star altogether, in which case Starkiller Base needs to be able to move through hyperspace to latch onto another star. There is zero indication that the base moves between destroying Hosnian Prime and preparing to fire on the Resistance planet (indeed, if it did move Finn would not have known its location), but on the other hand it is implied it drains the star altogether before firing.
"3. Why does Maz Kanata keep her most prized and valuable possession in an unlocked chest in a publicly accessible basement? If her bar is as dangerous as Han says, wouldn't she have at least one or two or a hundred safeguards in place to ensure that no one steals Luke Skywalker's light saber? To those thinking this sort of thing isn't a plot hole, realize that it's a logical inconsistency that serves to contradict everything else said about (a) the shrewdness of Maz Kanata, (b) the value of Luke's light saber, (c) the dangerousness of Kanata's cantina, and (d) Kanata's commitment to the Resistance. If these things don't matter to you as a movie-goer, that's cool. But they do -- and should -- matter to the sort of writers who get paid mid-six figures (or more) to produce scripts for billion dollar-earning film franchises."
The chest is contained in a normally-locked storeroom, which Rey finds her way to with the influence of the Force (and possibly Kanata leaving the doors open for her). Not everyone can just wander in.
"4. Speaking of Maz Kanata's cantina, before the heroes enter it, Han (who sure as heck knows from "dangerous") makes it sound incredibly dodgy -- so much so that he tells Rey and Finn not to even look at anything once they're inside; however, the patrons they encounter couldn't be friendlier. Kanata offers them lunch; a couple dudes in a corner offer Finn a ride to the Outer Rim even though he has no money; Rey is allowed to just wander around the building's basement; and like a concerned parent, Kanata reads Finn's past and fortune. So what the heck was supposed to be scary about that place? The CGI?"
The dodgy First Order sympathisers who report on Han and Rey's arrival, thereby leading to the utter destruction of the cantina?
"5. When Rey lands on Takodana, she says that she never imagined so much green could exist in the entire galaxy. The problem here is that we also know that every single night Rey dreams of an oceanic world dotted with idyllic and gorgeously lush islands. So maybe she can imagine it, and in fact does so every night? The point here is that Abrams and his writers can't decide if Rey is a hick or someone who knows, deep down, that not only is she special but the world is waiting for her to prove it. In Star Wars, Luke's certainty that the world was vastly larger than even his imagination was critical to his character from the jump; here, it seems unclear what type of person Rey is supposed to be, or even thinks herself to be. And yet at many points in the film she's clearly portrayed as self-assured. It's a logical inconsistency."
There's a key difference between seeing something in a dream and then something in reality, which I think most people are aware of.
"6. Has any film, in any genre, ever allowed a sketchy, background-unknown defector from the Bad Guy camp (Finn) such quick in-person access to the Supreme Commander of the Good Guys (Leia) as we see here, and with so few questions asked?"
After he saved Leia's best pilot and apparently most reliable agent, recovered BB-8 with its vital data, helped (if unintendedly) reunite Leia with her husband and dispatched multiple First Order soldiers and TIE fighters? Sure, why not?
It's also worth asking why the Rebel Alliance allowed Luke Skywalker, a farmer hick from the back end of nowhere and someone who was jonesing to join the Empire as a fighter pilot a few days earlier, to not just sign up but almost instantly fly their best starfighter in the most critical mission in their history? If you can buy that, Finn being allowed to talk to Leia isn't too bad at all.
"7. Rey remembers quite clearly that she's been told not to leave Jakku, in fact that memory is so imprinted on her psyche that it's effectively her Prime Directive, and yet she has no memory whatsoever of the face of the person (or any of the people) who communicated to her that life-defining piece of information. There's coincidence, and then there's logical inconsistency. This is the latter."
Rey's backstory is clearly being saved for Episode VIII or IX, so at the moment there is insufficient data to draw a conclusion from. If the message to stay on Jakku was Force-imprinted (and other memories were removed at the same time), this makes sense.
"8. Why are there Stormtroopers using giant tasers in this film? In what possible way does a taser (let alone a taser shaped like a less-handy light saber) improve on a blaster, especially if the user has no access to the Force? This is another plot point clearly driven by toy merchandising, and yes, it is a logical inconsistency. The technological superiority of the First Order is kind of the entire point of the film -- think Starkiller Base -- so why is it okay to send Stormtroopers into the field with laughably inept (and inapt) weaponry? It undercuts the movie's core contention: that the First Order is an existential threat to the entire galaxy."
The stormtroopers appear to have received training on what to do when fighting opponents with lightsabres, which appears to be not to shoot the guy (as they can deflect the laser bolts) but to engage with a melee weapon. The weapon doesn't appear to be a taser either, just an energy-enhanced stick that is presumably cheaper and easier to make than a lightsabre. Note that the trooper was using a laser weapon until it became clear that Finn was using a lightsabre, at which point he switched to the melee weapon.
"9. Sticking with the "Second-Rate First Order" theme, let's just say it: "Flametroopers" are (a) cool-looking, and (b) have absolutely no place in the Star Wars universe. The Star Wars universe is a place in which just a couple blaster strikes can cause anything to combust; the only reason for The Force Awakens to feature WW2-era weaponry like a flamethrower is because you want to sell toys and "Stormtroopers" with slightly updated helmets won't cut it. Enter "Flametroopers," who smack way too much of the bottom-of-the-barrel G.I. Joe characters of the 1980s. Maybe this is why Flametroopers only make one (very brief) appearance in the film. On the other hand, the Flametrooper division helps make the case for a stand-alone Star Wars film from the perspective of one of the First Order's silliest military contingents: an idea the several clerks of Clerks, but also many others, would love."
This is fair enough. When your laser weapons already have explosive bolts and you can use grenades, using flamethrowers would seem unnecessary. Mind you, that was also the case in WWII when most of the armies had bazookas and grenades and still deployed flamethrowers on occasion.
"10. One more toy-related gripe: certain toys licensed for the movie appear to not be in the movie -- suggesting another egregious money-grab. Anyone see that battle involving Resistance speeder bikes and open-air First Order snowspeeders? Me neither. Is this a plot hole? Maybe, maybe not. The case for "not": it's something left out of the movie, not something wrongly put into it. The case "for": a film franchise like Star Wars has always been not just the films but also the canon surrounding it, and for The Force Awakens, an already confusing movie, a lot of "preemptive canon" was released that only underscores logical inconsistencies in the film. For instance, why didn't the Resistance have more of a presence (e.g. speeder bikes) on Takodana? Why didn't the Resistance ever contemplate a ground invasion (e.g., one that would force them to confront First Order snowspeeders) in the many years the Starkiller Base was being created? To send a handful of X-wings in the final minutes of the Republic just makes Leia look inept, which she isn't. Look at it this way: when Star Wars fans wonder openly about the absence of Constable Zuvio from The Force Awakens, on the one hand it's pretty derpy, on the other it probably means they've picked up on (a) something that was cut from the film for non-artistic reasons, and (b) something that, once cut, created a plot hole."
This is stuff that aws cut from the film: there was supposed to be a battle between the speeder bikes and snowspeeders on the way to Starkiller Base but it was cut for time and pacing, long after the toys had been made. It's also worth noting that scenes in the very trailer - like Kylo Ren igniting his lightsabre - were cut from the movie itself. This is nothing new.
"11. Since when, in the history of space films, have spacecraft in a well-guarded spaceship hangar needed to be tethered? This is just silly on so many levels. But it elongates a cool escape scene by thirty seconds, so hooray!"
I agree it's an inconsistency with the Star Wars universe, where tractor beams are more commonly used, but the use of tethers to hold ships in place is commonplace in written and screen science fiction, not to mention the real space program.
"12. Han Solo and Chewbacca have spent nearly every day together for forty years, often fighting off baddies in small skirmishes and giant battles, but Han has never before tried Chewbacca's bowcaster? The scene in which he does so is a little cringe-worthy, as it's clearly just a sight-gag and a poor excuse for a one-liner. Yet is also undermines the central premise of the Han-Chewie relationship, which is that these two know everything about one another. The gag wasn't worth it."
Erm. The whole point of the scene is to set up the fact that the bowcaster is powerful, so when Chewie shoots Kylo Ren with it, we know it hurts and we know it injured him severely (apparently a forlorn hope, given how many viewers overlooked him staggering through the trees, dripping blood and clutching his sides in agony every few seconds) and helps Finn and Rey defeat him.
Han never using Chewie's bowcaster may seem implausible, but it's not completely impossible. It may also be that Chewie recently upgraded his bowcaster to be more powerful and it's this that Han is surprised by, not the weapon in itself.
"13. Returning to the "Tasertrooper": the only reason Finn doesn't die in this movie is that a Stormtrooper on Takodana inexplicably chose to fight him with a taser rather than shooting him with a blaster. This is "Indiana Jones fighting a guy with a whip"-level ridiculous -- by which I mean, it's as ridiculous as it would have been had Harrison Ford taken out a whip to fight that whip-wielding assassin rather than just shooting him in the chest with the gun already in his hand. Anyway, it's a good thing for the saber-armed but saber-untrained Finn that he's the only one who ever gets to (er, has to) fight these Tasertrooper toys (er, soldiers)."
If the stormtrooper shot him with a blaster, Finn would have deflected the bolt with the lightsabre, so he knew it was pointless and resorted to a melee weapon. Clearly, the stormtroopers have been trained (by Phasma and maybe Ren himself, if these are his elite troops) to switch to a melee weapon when confronted by a lightsabre-wielding opponent.
"14. For folks trying to hide BB-8 from the First Order, BB-8's friends sure make some inexplicable, unnecessary decisions to trot him out in public."
This is somewhat accurate. BB-8 doesn't do much to hide on Jakku and his friends are a little bit too relaxed in letting him wander around with them rather than being kept locked up on the Falcon. I like to think it's because they copied the map to Luke onto fifty different flash drives and hid them all over the Falcon for safekeeping, so BB-8 wasn't strictly necessary, but it's more likely to be narrative convenience.
"15. When Finn, a First Order defector who no one knows very well, reveals to Han and Chewie that he's lied to them about his knowledge of Starkiller Base, and that he's really only there to rescue his prospective girlfriend, who's also a big unknown to Han and Chewie, why doesn't Han let Leia know that they've been had? Exactly as Han expected, the lack of a credible assault plan subsequently leads to many needless deaths among the members of the Resistance. So did Han's "Oh, you scamp!"-type reaction really make any sense at all?"
At this point they were committed to the operation and had to press on as it was too late to abort. Finn also overstates his unreliability in this sequence, since it turns out that his original advice (destroying the oscillator to destroy the entire planet) was perfectly sound after all. This scene doesn't entirely work with the rest of the movie and it feels a bit like a bit that survived from an earlier draft when Finn was being more completely selfish.
"16. Why can't Starkiller Base be used until it's dark, as Poe (oddly) insists? Seems like it can be used whenever it's taken in enough energy, which would be, well, whenever it's taken in enough energy. Time of day should have nothing to do with it."
This is a legitimately confusing point. Earlier in the movie and in the supporting materials, it states that the Starkiller draws plasma from the surface of the sun and then fires this through hyperspace. However, later in the movie it seems to be suggesting that the entire star is drained and then fired through hyperspace, in which case the sun vanishes altogether (and shortly after this the Starkiller planet would become completely uninhabitable, making using it as a weapon problematic). It's not entirely clear what the hell is going on.
"17. I know that in sci-fi, people survive crazy crashes all the time -- but at some point it gets ridiculous. Usually, a film utilizing the vehicle edition of the "narrow escape" trope shows us the final moments before a big crash happens -- for instance, a shot in which a crack pilot somehow manages to get his craft just enough under control to keep the crash from being fatal. Here, Poe and Finn seem to lose all navigation control over their Tie Fighter and crash head-on into a planet from an unimaginable (literally hyper-atmospheric) height. And yet both survive unharmed. Poe, in particular, is so unharmed that he's already walked miles away, entirely out of sight, by the time Finn awakes. So maybe we did need a shot of some extraordinary, last-second piloting? Especially if no one's going to be hurt at all in a fiery crash? Hell, as it turns out, quicksand is way more dangerous than freefalling into a planet at an unimaginable rate of speed from a height of hundreds of miles."
Spacecraft in the Star Wars universe appear to generally be AI-assisted. So the TIE fighter (especially a Special Operations TIE fighter) appears to have tried directing its crash towards a settlement (hence why it crashed to close to Rey's home) and making an emergency landing, possibly involving the craft's repulsorlifts.
It's not massively plausible, but then Luke flew blind through a thickly forested swamp with zero visibility when he landed on Dagobah in Empire without killing himself or anyone else. Han flying through an asteroid field in the same field is the same level of insanity. You can assume plot convenience or some kind of AI (or in the Dagobah sequence, Artoo) assistance, whatever makes you feel happier.
"18. Kylo Ren can read Rey's mind from a distance, which is why he tells his subordinates that she's going to steal a plane from the hanger to escape -- so why didn't he know exactly where she was on Starkiller Base? And if he wasn't reading her mind, and was instead just speculating, where was that foresight when he left a single lightly armed Stormtrooper/James Bond to guard her -- despite already knowing she was a Force-user as powerful (or even more powerful) than him?"
Ren was extrapolating what was going on. As mentioned earlier (not for the first time, this is a repeat of an earlier plot hole rather than a new one) and firmly established in the prior films, a Force user can sense the general presence of another person in the same area, but not their exact location, otherwise this movie series would have been a hell of a lot shorter.
"19. A little petty, but still irksome: since when do blaster wounds cause massive bleeding? Maybe I'm wrong, but is this the first Star Wars film ever in which a non-decapitated Stormtrooper who's still wearing his armor somehow bleeds through that armor profusely? A buddy of Finn's, as he's dying, smears blood all over Finn's helmet. It struck a dissonant note for me at the time, and I couldn't figure out why. Maybe it's because it's a significant change in the visual rhetoric of the combat of the Star Wars universe? I don't mean that it's gory, but that it's actually a significant change in what we're supposed to understand is happening when there's a blaster battle. I assumed it was electrocution, blunt-force trauma, maybe neural damage; now it appears that blasters are lacerating people all over the place. So shouldn't every Star Wars battle be bloody now?"
Star Wars has been inconsistent with this. The very first time we see Obi-Wan use a lightsabre, he chops off someone's limb and blood is left splattered on the floor, despite the fact the lightsabre cauterises the wound in everyone instance it happens.
Yeah, it's a change to the visual rhetoric of the film but it's also not unrealistic: a laser blast forces the armour the wrong way into the stormstrooper's skin, resulting in a puncture wound? Plausible.
"20. Even accepting that Jakku was Finn's first military assignment of any kind, as many readers of my first article on the film clearly did, are we to assume that he was entirely in the dark about the giant, racist, homicidal, Galaxy-spanning terrorist organization he was mopping floors for? Again, I think Finn is the best thing to happen to the Star Wars universe in basically forever. But if you're not acknowledging that at this point his "conversion" narrative makes no sense, or that (see above) virtually nothing about Rey's character makes any sense, you're on some level giving Abrams a pass, I feel. While I realize that a trilogy is a trilogy, and some things do get explained over time, a "logical inconsistency" in a script that won't be cleared up for two years is only okay if it doesn't dent our enjoyment of the current film more than a scintilla. As I've tooled around the Internet the past few days, I've seen many people saying, like me, that they enjoyed the film and will see it several times -- but very few who are desperately excited for the next installment. I think the reason for this is not that people didn't like the film, as clearly most people did, but rather that there are so many unexplained questions in this new trilogy -- a great many of which will simply turn out to have been gaping plot holes -- that there's as much trepidation for the next film as there is excitement. In any case, somewhere in the world Peter Jackson is seething, as his first installment of The Hobbit got nothing like the total pass legions of Star Wars fans are giving SW: TFA."
A bizarre statement. Finn was raised by and indoctrinated in the ideology of the First Order from a very young age. That's like asking why more members of the Hitler Youth didn't rebel against it because it was so obviously evil, rather than hundreds of thousands of them following it willingly. That's not even taking into account the fact that the First Order's conditioning seems rather more insidious (genetic?) than simple propaganda. Finn rebelling against it was, as has already been said, a highly unusual, freak event.
On the other points, excitement for Episode VIII is very high everywhere I've seen online, and if there is anything muted about it, it's because people would rather talk about Rogue One, which will be in cinemas a lot sooner. As this article has explained, many of these "plot holes" are actually answered in the film, in the six previous films, or by common sense. Some are indeed atrocious, major problems (the destruction of Hosnian Prime being visible across the entire galaxy was moronic), but the majority are really non-issues.
As for the Peter Jackson comparison, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was actually not that bad a film, but it was way overlong (a good 40 minutes longer than The Force Awakens with nothing approaching the plot, character or thematic depth), had dramatically worse and less convincing CGI (apart from Gollum) and was very badly paced with some appalling, extended action sequences. Or to put it another way, The Force Awakens is simply a vastly superior film, even with all its problems.