6 Movies Where Centuries-Old Problems Got Fixed In 2 Seconds
A lot of movies use the plot point of long-dormant evil forces reemerging to threaten the world. These forces can take the form of powerful relics, unstoppable ghosts, or large men of marshmallow itself. But a surprising number of these ancient, supposedly terrifying threats are easily treated with obvious, sometimes even moronic solutions which somebody should have figured out long ago. For example ...
The Hobbit Movies Quickly Kill Smaug, Accidentally Rendering The Whole Plot Irrelevant
In the book version of The Hobbit, the dragon Smaug has armored his soft underbelly to protect himself from harm, a strategy that had kept him alive for centuries (hell, he'd been sitting on that pile of gold for more than 150 years). But using the power of the One Ring, Bilbo Baggins is able to sneak into Smaug's lair and observe a tiny gap in the armor. He passes this info on to Bard the Bowman, who luckily turns out to be a pretty good bowman. Armed with the knowledge of Smaug's secret weakness, Bard is able to take down the dragon who had terrorized the region for hundreds of years. It's a really good book.
Despite The Hobbit being a not-too-long novel, it got adapted into three films, each of them quite bad and about 19 hours long. You could have a dwarf play-read the whole of Koyaanisqatsi out loud in the middle of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, and it would be a welcome burst of momentum. But despite having enough time for every single extra from Lord Of The Rings to get a 30-minute cameo and a love interest, Peter Jackson still looked at the book's very straightforward plot and decided they needed to make some cuts.
The Weirdly Easy Solution:
In Jackson's version, Smaug has still been fucking shit up for hundreds of years, and he still has a weak spot on his belly, but the movies don't bother with Bilbo finding out about it. Instead, it's quite obvious, and Bard simply kills the dragon with a special dragon-killing arrow that the men had the entire time. In fact, it's mentioned that the weak spot was created by Bard's ancestor, who knocked off a scale using the special anti-dragon arrows.
Um ... so why has this dragon been built up as such a huge threat? The dragon arrow clearly works. There's lip service paid to how there's only one left in the area, but still, it does kill Smaug almost as soon as he attacks the town. Was there anyone watching this movie who saw a dragon with a famous weak spot attack a town containing an archer with anti-dragon arrows and thought, "Oh man! How is this going to end!?"
As an added bonus, the film also makes Bilbo and the dwarves' epic mission completely pointless. They don't discover the secret to taking down Smaug; they only piss him off and cause the town attack. And in that attack, the townsfolk kill him in like 20 minutes, which it seems they could have done at any point. Jesus, three movies for that?
In The Conjuring 2, An Ancient Demon Is Repelled By Yelling Its Name
You might have missed The Conjuring 2, wherein the demonic antagonist and president of Hell, Valak, spends decades haunting a London home. At the risk of terrifying you, this haunting mainly involves moving furniture around.
Valak is a giant dick. But we suppose you don't become president of Hell because someone forgot to baptize you. Besides shoving couches, he orchestrates one of the most chilling massacres in U.S. history, the Amityville murders. So viewers probably expected him to be a formidable opponent. And sure enough, the two paranormal investigators who go up against him looked seriously outmatched. They're taking on a metaphysical monster without a single nuclear accelerator on their backs.
The Weirdly Easy Solution:
Valak has one very stupid weakness: his name. If you speak his name, he is banished back to Hell. This raises a few questions. Why should this work? Does it work if you scream his Twitter handle? Can you give him a nickname and then scream it? All we know is that a demon should probably never tell anyone his name for any reason. Which, unfortunately, Valak does at the very first opportunity.
This idiot demon, who obviously didn't read even the first page of his haunting manual, can't help but answer the protagonist's question "Who are you?!" by yelling his name out loud. The exchange occurs within a chilling dream sequence, so it's possible that Valak, Lord of Terror, got overexcited and dropped the ball. Either way, you'd expect a conniving archdemon to have a little more sense.
The protagonist later recites the name and promptly brings Valak's antics to an end. This is at the point when Valak has moved from interior decoration to full-on demolition, tearing the haunted house asunder and endangering its inhabitants. But within moments of his name being called out, the reign of terror ends. The dumber-than-dumb demon is defeated and the movie gets a happy ending. We're maybe not in a position to make fun of someone for who they elect president, but nice work, Hell. Your president sucks.
In The Mummy, The Ancient Evil's Weakness Is Laughably Obvious (Also, Cats)
In the fun The Mummy (1999), not to be confused with the miserable The Mummy (2017), everyone's favorite '90s actor, Brendan Fraser, manages to save the world from an insanely powerful evil. He goes up against an undead beetlemancer so deadly that the world had been living in fear of him for millennia. There was an army formed specifically to fight against him, but with no real means of defeating him, it was more of a heavily regulated suicide pact.
Instead, this ancient, unstoppable evil is brought down by Brendan, a spunky librarian obsessed with a lost city, and a drunk idiot who won a magic book key in a card game -- a combination of plot shortcuts so efficient that they cut 40 minutes off the movie.
As the plot speeds along, we learn that Fraser was part of a lost French Legion patrol that tried to find the lost city. As most anyone could have predicted, sending confused soldiers into a magic deathtrap did not go well. The mummy goes on an unimpeded eyeball-tearing, beetle-squirting rampage. This continues for a while before the forces of good finally stop him, but ... did it have to go that way?
The Weirdly Easy Solution:
OK, so the Medjai are useless, despite having the truly amazing ability to convince soldiers that ancient mummy sorcerers are real even after thousands of uneventful years. They had an entire brigade of mummy scholars and mummy fighters, and not one of them noticed how they already had the answer to defeating mummies all along. It took a plucky junior librarian to find a detail they all overlooked. Hidden behind a puzzle barely complicated enough for a Resident Evil tutorial are some books that take away the mummy's powers. And worse than that, Brendan Fraser figures out a much dumber mummy solution -- it turns out the Mummy is fucking afraid of house cats.
In Children Of The Corn, You Can Burn Down The Evil God's House?
The seminal '80s horror classic Children Of The Corn is about a group of children who kill all the adults in a Nebraska town to appease He Who Walks Behind the Rows, a demon god who demands ritual murder. Everyone who reaches the age of 18 is sent to their death in the cornfield, and yes, it might be a metaphor about graduating from high school and entering the job market in 1980s Nebraska.
The main plot follows a couple, Burt and Vicky, travelling cross-country for work when they run over a boy running out of the corn. They start looking for help and run into an elderly mechanic. He is not very helpful. Indeed, he has a pact with the cult whereby he supplies them with gas and they let him live in terror as the last adult. So he sends Burt and Vicky straight into Corn-Murder Town.
Burt and Vicky make it to town and run into the spooky kids doing spooky things for their spooky god, but they discover that not all of the children are down with murder. Two children with names that are totally not heavy-handed biblical symbolism, Job and Sarah, join the adults in resisting the cult. They eventually seek shelter in a barn, where Bible research and a psychic vision from Sarah lead them to the conclusion that they must destroy the cornfield and He Who Walks Behind the Rows. Well, yeah. No shit.
The Weirdly Easy Solution:
The vision and the Bible passage give no special prescription on how to kill He Who Walks Behind the Rows and stop the cult. Because seriously, how do you kill an evil corn god? So they figure they'll set the cornfield on fire. And here's what's crazy: It totally works. That's it. Burt and Job splash around a few gallons of gasoline and throw a Molotov cocktail, and BOOM, Corn God is dead.
No incantations or ceremonial daggers; just a regular fire. There's a man with a gas station living in fear of Corn God and his child slaves, and he never thought to try fire? You might not be brave enough to admit we're right, but every adult who loses a fight to a cornfield without trying fire deserves to die.
In Ella Enchanted, A Magic Curse Is Instantly And Ridiculously Outwitted
Look, we realize that very few people have strong memories of the 2004 Anne Hathaway vehicle Ella Enchanted. It's a disappointingly unfaithful adaptation of a beloved children's book about a girl who is placed under a terrible fairy curse which compels her to be completely obedient and follow any instruction she is given. As creepy as it sounds, the fairy in question thought it would be a blessing, since Ella wouldn't stop crying as a baby.
The curse no doubt created several troubling fetishes in our world, but caused some difficulties in Ella's as well. It applies to even casual comments -- if someone tells Ella to pat herself on the back, she has to literally do it. This makes her life a nightmare, although Ella remains fairly upbeat, maybe because when people say "Have a nice day," she has no choice but to spend the next 24 hours in lovely contentment.
For as long as she can remember, Ella has had to find inventive ways of hiding her affliction, since it would leave her at the mercy of anyone who wanted to control her. She finally fails and an evil regent learns about her curse. Ella knew this skin-crawling day would come, but it takes a different direction than you might expect. He orders her to murder her true love. What can she do but kill him and then settle in for a lifetime of unspeakable experiences?
The Weirdly Easy Solution:
When you hear this, it's going to sound too obvious to be possible. But here we go: Ella glimpses herself in a mirror, and tells herself not to obey any more commands, freeing herself from the curse. It's almost something a person might try if this awful curse was all they thought about all day, every day. Even if Ella didn't think to give herself commands, why didn't her mother ever try it? This went on for like two decades. She never thought to tell herself to not be cursed? Her plan was to hope no one told her to do things? Has she never even heard of sexism? The world's dumbest moron would at least think to blow out their eardrums with air horns and deliberately avoid learning sign language. TRY GIVING ME ORDERS NOW, DICKHEADS.
Ancient Civilizations Keep Hiding Evil Artifacts That Can Be Destroyed Really Easily
Let's role-play this one out. You're the Shark-King of old Atlantis, and you've coughed up a delicate mystic crystal that lets you control the waves. But the power of the crystal is too great, and you worry that the sinister Manta Society plots to steal it for themselves. What can you do to keep the world safe from your deadly creation? If you said "Crush the thing and move on with your day," then congratulations! You're smarter than every ancient civilization in movies ever.
Take the first Tomb Raider movie, in which Angelina Jolie bravely battles both the script and the Illuminati. The latter are hunting an ancient triangle which has the power to control time. It's explained that the triangle was created by an advanced ancient civilization, but its misuse eventually destroyed their city and they realized it was too dangerous for mankind to possess. So they broke it into two pieces and hid them in Cambodia and Siberia. However, the Illuminati plans to unite them during an eclipse. It's all very standard stuff.
The Weirdly Easy Solution:
Lara Croft shoots the triangle, destroying it. Seriously, it's broken really easily by ordinary, non-magical weapons. There's no clear reason the ancient civilization that created the triangle didn't do this. They snapped it in two with a big hammer ... why not keep whacking it into powder instead of building huge mystical temples at opposite ends of Asia and hiding the easily reassembled triangle there for 5,000 years? And Croft isn't the only superhero wasting her time with easily solved shit.
We've mentioned before how in Hellboy: The Golden Army, there's an unstoppable army of elf-bots controlled by a magic crown, and the Elf King breaks the crown into three pieces to protect the world. When it gets reassembled by his evil son, the Hellboy team gets the crown back and ... melts it? Couldn't the Elf King have done that? It's made extremely clear that he wasn't willing to use the crown under any circumstances, even as his people were dying out, so why keep it around at all? At least break it into 50 pieces instead of three, Jesus.
The same thing happens again in RIPD. According to the Ryan Reynolds trainwreck, the Staff of Jericho is an incredibly powerful ancient gold pillar which allows the dead to return and conquer Earth. It's mentioned that the RIPD death cops seized and destroyed it 3,000 years ago. But when they say "destroyed it," they apparently meant "broke it into a small number of large pieces and left it scattered around the Earth." This is especially inexplicable considering how they completely shatter it by dropping a bulldozer on it at the end of the movie. The point is, ancient civilizations need to either stop making weapons of mass destruction or actually fucking get rid of them when they get cold feet about destroying the world.
When E.M. Caris is not writing for Cracked, you can read his food writing over at the spice subscription service allyoucanspice.com. Alex Perry is a freelancer who wrote an adult novel about time-traveling stalker and a heartwarming kid's book about a boy and his genetically modified pig / organ donor. You can follow her on Twitter.
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