I wanted to get all of these done in January, but, that’s obviously not going to happen. Instead, I will try to enjoy the absurdity of continuing to celebrate my favorite things from 2009 in February of 2010. Hopefully, you will join me. Today’s list is part one of my favorite (or in one case, least favorite) fights and action scenes from the year.
***I have to warn you now, these lists are often filled to the brim with spoilers. Not every description of why a character or moment made the list is spoiler-heavy, but it may be safer for you to just skip the ones from films you haven’t seen but plan to enjoy in the future. I don’t want to be that guy who ruins a great movie for someone, so, you’ve been warned.***
1. Star Trek finale
What’s not to love about the final face-off between Nero and the crew of the Starship Enterprise? Kirk pulls off his first daring, insane plan to save the world as he and Spock learn to work together, there is a cliché but nonetheless exhilarating nick of time rescue as the Enterprise swoops in like the proverbial cavalry to save the three brave Starfleet members aboard the mining ship, and we get to see Kirk swing from underdog to swagger in just a few short minutes of screen time. It was everything a smart action crescendo should be.
And all the people said, ‘Amen.’
2. Mike Tyson vs. Zach Galifianakis – The Hangover
It was certainly the shortest fight of the year, so short in fact that it was over before Galifianakis’ character Alan Garner knew he was in a fight. Mike Tyson’s still got it. For all its brevity, it is still one of my favorite fight scenes of the year. How can you top a one punch knockout of a bizarre fat guy with a bearded face by crazy ex-heavy weight champ with a tattooed face and a lisp?
I’ve got a fever, and the only prescription is more Zach Galifianakis!
3. FOX vs. Wolverine
Growing up, all the boys and many of the girls I knew wanted to be Wolverine. He was the ultimate badass. He had claws coated in indestructible metal that spawned from his fists at will, and regardless of what injuries befell him, he would be healed in short order by his remarkable healing factor. Plus, he could hunt man and animal alike by smell and instinct alone. Pretty awesome.
More importantly, he was really short, thus validating my own vertical challenges, and he was angry all the time but still a hero, thus making me less alone in personally being angry all the time but still wanting to be a good guy.
As an adult, I still admire the character of Wolverine. He struggles to hold an internal tension between brutality and gentleness, between the grace of Eastern philosophy with the vicious nature of the Samurai. He is always pulled in two directions, trying to reconcile the dark past and savage urges that are always just beneath the surface with the intense goodness and nobility in him.
He is also loads of fun in being nearly unbeatable. A formidable foe who many have tried to destroy only to face the wrath of his adamantium justice. Yet, somehow, the villains at Fox succeeded in destroying this fearsome hero. They took everything that is great and complex about Wolverine and flushed it down the toilet, replacing it with infuriatingly stupid ideas they decided would resonate better with a mainstream audience (because, you know, dark stories like The Dark Knight don’t resonate with mainstream audiences, thus they don’t make any money… wait, that’s not right). X-Men Origins: Wolverine still made a lot of money, but it would have made 3x as much if they had let Wolvie be himself. Fox didn’t think our tiny little brains could handle the conflict within Logan, so they split the character in two and made one Sabertooth, who is now his brother. Forget the fact that adolescents have been reveling in this inner conflict for decades, Fox knows better, we just can’t understand it.
Fox is, to put it simply, pure evil, and even a great hero like Wolverine was no match for their diabolical machinations.
4. Gypsy Lady vs. Christine Brown – Drag Me To Hell
This isn’t the first or the last time this movie made a list, and that is really surprising to me (more on that in a future list). This time it makes it because the first attack Scary Gypsy Lady (SGL) launches on poor Christine Brown is a hilariously good time to watch. Something special happens when a filmmaker abandons all pretense and decides they are just going to revel in the ridiculous. Sam Raimi is the master of it, and this scene is proof.
Christine isn’t the sort of character to just take an ass-whooping lying down, and SGL isn’t the sort of old lady to let a certain concussion, the loss of false teeth, or even staples to the forehead (to name just a few of the things that happen) keep her from laying a black magic smack down. It was awesome.
5. Avatar Finale
Much has been said and written about Avatar, so I won’t add much. Concerning the claims that the dialogue was flat and the story was predictable, it should be pointed out that people are wrong in assuming this was an accident, James Cameron knows what he is doing, and he knew that the safest way to introduce this remarkably expensive new technology on the world, he had to keep everything in the realm of the simple and familiar. It wasn’t that the story didn’t make sense, it just didn’t introduce anything new. The result is that he now has the highest grossing movie worldwide, and will soon have the highest grossing film domestically of all time, topping some hack who has held the record for quite a while now, James Cameron. But, you know, maybe he’s wrong.
The conclusion of Avatar was so visually stunning. Technology always advances over time in film, yet we haven’t seen a jump so stark between what was possible before and what is possible now since a vocal audio recording replaced a dude with a piano. That’s right, I just wrote that, bitches.
There were scenes in Avatar where I thought, ‘Oh, that must be a bit of real footage mixed in with the computer generated world to add some depth.. no, wait, those islands are floating in the sky… none of that is real. Holy shit.’ The rules about what can be done to tell a story in film is completely different now, and the finale of Avatar is the flourish that closes the argument. At the very least, Avatar is a visual and technological achievement of the highest degree.
It’s a brave new world folks, get used to it.