1. Where was the Joker during The Dark Knight Rises?

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The Joker is one of Batman's most enduring villains - one of the key concepts of their relationship is that neither one can ever kill the other (Batman because of his morals, The Joker because he likes having Batman around), so they're doomed to continue their back-and-forth battle. The Joker even says this pretty much in his last lines of The Dark Knight:

You just couldn't let me go, could you? This is what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. You truly are incorruptible, aren't you? You won't kill me out of some misplaced sense of self-righteousness. And I won't kill you because you're just too much fun. I think you and I are destined to do this forever.

Yet, right after setting this up, The Joker is never heard from again. He and Batman never battle again. Hell, Batman's able to RETIRE - something that would have been inconceivable in pretty much any other iteration of Batman, simply due to the ongoing threat of the Joker. Hell, even when Bane releases every single criminal in all of Gotham - including old villain The Scarecrow - The Joker is unseen and not released. So what gives?

...other than Heath Ledger's death, obviously.

The Answer:

Turns out The Joker was being held as the lone resident of the brand new Arkham Asylum - rebuilt after the events of Batman Begins. To make matters worse for poor Joker, he was in solitary confinement, giving him no one to "play with." Guess even though Bane and Talia al-Ghul wanted to destroy Gotham with a nuke, releasing the Joker would have been TOO crazy for them.

 

2. Why can there only be two Sith at a time, as established in The Phantom Menace?

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Users of the Dark Side of the Force existed in Star Wars since the very beginning - but they hadn't been given the same kind of definitely the Jedi had until The Phantom Menace came out in 1999, where it was established that there could only ever be two Sith at any given time - a master and an apprentice. This is, uh, an incredibly dumb strategy...on its face at least. Why not try to have as many Sith as possible? There's no limit on how many Jedi there can be - shouldn't you want to keep up with your enemy?

The Answer:

Luckily, the novelization of The Phantom Menace shed a little bit of light on this weird detail: turns out "gather as many Sith as possible" USED to be their modus operandi, 2000 years ago, when the Sith were first established. The problem with gathering up a bunch of ambitious, self-serving, betrayal-minded, Dark Siders is that they'll constantly betray and undermine and murder each other, leaving the Sith incredibly weak as a group.

One member was able to survive the first purge of the Sith - Darth Bane. Bane, reflecting on how Sith folks are - by nature - pretty much completely incapable of working with one another, decided to make the maximum membership 2. And it worked out pretty well!

 

3. Where does Gizmo from Gremlins come from?

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Gizmo is the adorable Mogwai in Gremlins, who sadly undergoes a terrifying and grotesque birthing process every time he gets at all wet and mutates terribly every time he eats food at the wrong time. Who would make something like this? Why does it exist at all in the first place?!

The Answer:

Turns out, Mogwai were created as an ultra-peaceful, pacificist race by an alien scientist named (not joking here) Mogturmen. A Mogwai was to be sent to every planet in the universe in order to inspire its inhabitants to be kind and peace-loving as well (or get stolen by mysterious Chinese shopkeepers, either way). Earth was one of the first "test" planets.

Obviously there were still some bugs to work out - since all of the Mogwai birthed from Gizmo turned out to be sneaky, evil assholes. Mogturmen made the "give birth by gettin' wet" deal so that Mogwai could easily reproduce quickly and help spread the message of peace. It's never really made clear why the "no food after midnight" rule was implemented - probably just a bug that he was working on. 



4. What is going with the Precursors in Pacific Rim?

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We don't ever get to learn much about the bad guy aliens behind everything in Pacific Rim - we find out they're called "The Precursors" (convenient they have an English name, huh?), they're cloning the Kaiju and sending them to Earth, and that they live in a weird colorful world accessed through a portal at the bottom of the ocean.

The Answer:

The novelization helps build the world of Pacific Rim considerably, going into more detail on characters, events, and - finally - the Precursors, who come from a dying world, and want to conquer ours so they can live here and escape their own personal Krypton.

 

5. What's the deal with E.T.'s powers in E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial?

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E.T. has a few notable powers - he can resurrect stuff with his glow-y finger, he has a psychic connection with Elliott, and he has a MAD hankerin' for Reese's Pieces.

The Answer:

The novelization explains that E.T.'s psychic connections go far wider than just Elliott - he can communicate and listen to the thoughts of other people, animals, and even plants. Elliott's dog thinks long and hard about all of the shoes he's eaten over the years, Elliott's mom thinks about her abilities as a single parent a lot, etc. - and E.T. can hear it all.

Also, E.T. can live a LONG time - he's about 10 million years old and is of the Brodo Asogian species.

Plus, he's into M&Ms, not Reese's Pieces.

 

6. What the heck is going on at the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey?

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At the end of 2001, astronaut David Bowman encounters another of the mysterious monoliths that appear throughout the film, and it causes him to experience trippy visions of the universe, that eventually land him in an oddly-lit room, where he witnesses himself through his whole life, ending with him (as an old man) lying down, pointing at a black monolith at the foot of his bed. He then transforms into a glowing fetus in a bubble, some fabulous music plays, and the newly-born "Star Child" floats around Earth. Because, yeah, sure?

The Answer:

The novelization to 2001 is slightly different than most - it was written by Arthur C. Clarke concurrently with the film version (co-written with Stanley Kubrick), although released after. And while Kubrick preferred the experimental, surreal nature of the ending to be left somewhat open to interpretation, there are much more concrete-ish answers in the novel. Bowman is actually seeing other galaxies and star systems - then the beings behind the monoliths land him in the mysterious "hotel room", where they suck away his lifeforce and memories so that he may become the immortal "Star Child", now a being that's able to survive in the void of space.

And, apparently has a bunch of other powers - like the ability to blow up nukes in space. Because he does that - the implication that Bowman was brought to a higher form of being just in time to save humanity from destruction. See, those monoliths that appear throughout were left by hyper-advanced aliens to bring life to "the next stage" (like when the apes at the beginning encounter the monolith and suddenly understand how to use tools and weaponry).

The further novels go into greater detail about the monoliths, the Star Child transformation, and what it all means, but the main takeaway should be that those last ten minutes of the movie kinda DO make sense.



7. Why was Luke living on Tatooine with Owen and Beru Lars?

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Here's a good question that has pretty wildly different implications before and after the release of The Phantom Menace: why would Luke Skywalker be living with Owen and Beru Lars on Tatooine? If he and Leia were secretly brother and sister, why was she sent off to live a life of a royal heiress while Luke was stuck farming moisture in the desert?

Prior to the prequels, there wasn't much of an answer - it was just a mystery. Were Owen and Beru Luke's actual aunt and uncle? It seemed unlikely. It was probably just because Tatooine was an Outer Rim planet that fell outside of the Empire's influence, so Obi-Wan (who had been watching over Luke from afar) could feel secure that Vader would not find out about his lost son.

However, the answer - according to the prequels - is that Owen was literally Luke's uncle (well, step-uncle) and Obi-Wan left him there...for some reason? Even though Darth Vader's home planet would probably be THE FIRST place he would check, especially if any records surfaced of someone with the surname "Skywalker" living with Darth Vader's only living relative. Really, the prequels' attempt at explaining this just complicated it a lot more.

The (More Logical) Answer:

Weirdly, there already was a different explanation in the novelization of Return of the Jedi: Owen Lars was actually Obi-Wan's brother, not Darth Vader's step-brother. So Obi-Wan was entrusting his brother to raise young Luke - a move that actually makes sense, particularly at a time when there was no indication that Vader/Anakin came from Tatooine or had any personal stake in the planet.

The novelization ALSO reveals why Leia claims she can remember their mother: in the novelization, it's established that Luke and Leia's mother died when they were 4 years old...instead of "literally while giving birth to them" (thanks prequels!), which made Leia's memory either an outright lie or a complete delusion.