4 Scenes That Keep Showing Up In Every New Film
Movie studios have crammed their schedules full of stories about superheroes fighting villains, robots fighting monsters, and Tom Cruise fighting the fact that he's in his mid-50s. Perhaps inevitably, as big-budget adventure movies are becoming as regular as the president of Bran Flakes, some details start to get a tad familiar. Since we don't want to be deprived of another several decades of brain-numbing spectacle, here are some currently overused tropes that future blockbusters might want to steer clear of.
The Hero Is Magically Admired By Everyone For No Reason
It's no secret that fans worship their pop culture heroes. Hell, Detroit's erecting a statue of RoboCop just for saving their town at a fictional future date. We love characters like James Bond and Indiana Jones, even though one's a sociopathic alcoholic and Raiders Of The Lost Ark would have taken place in a jail cell if To Catch A Predator had existed in the 1920s.
Lately, though, movies have been trying to shoehorn an admiration for the character into the story itself, even when that doesn't make a whole lot of sense. It's as if filmmakers are trying to kick-start franchise success by making their protagonists beloved icons within their own universes. Take King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword, Guy Ritchie's latest attempt to take classic British stories and inject them with 80 percent more slow-motion shirtless punching scenes. The movie finds Arthur, the true heir to the throne, staging an uprising against its usurper, King Jude Law.
In one of the first big battle scenes, Arthur busts out his magic sword and kills every goddamn person in sight.
In the aftermath, Merlin's mage tells him how important he is to the people, and how they are fighting in his name.
But ... why? First of all, Arthur's the damn rightful heir to the throne; whether or not the people like him is beside the point. But also, he's barely done anything except bust out a magical murder sword of death. So yeah, people probably do want to be on his side. It's as if this movie wants to have it both ways. Arthur is a folk hero, but also part of the decidedly undemocratic monarchy.
Most importantly, everyone looks up to Arthur because the filmmakers need them to. Why? So they could launch the friggin' King Arthur cinematic universe. Of course, the movie didn't do well enough to spawn any sequels, despite the Arthur character becoming an instant icon amongst the people. Though, again, they may have simply been afraid of his magic sword.
Similarly, when Jennifer Lawrence's Mystique shows up in X-Men: Apocalypse, she's treated almost messianically by the gaggle of superpowered students.
Wait, they "look up" to her? She betrayed the guy who runs their school and became an assassin! Why does everyone find that admirable, exactly? The real reason might have more to do with the fact that Apocalypse was Lawrence's last contractually obligated X-Men movie. It makes sense that the filmmakers might want to artificially inflate Mystique's importance to keep her around.
It even happens with non-humans. Since Kong: Skull Island, as part of the giant monster cinematic universe, couldn't tell the full story of the original King Kong, the movie concocts a storyline wherein the humans learn to love Kong after finding out he's worshiped by the island natives because ... well, what the hell else are you supposed to worship on Skull Island?
In more established series, it's less noticeable. We don't question why citizens worship superheroes like Batman or Superman (as hard as Zack Snyder tries to make us wonder about it). And in J.J. Abrams' Star Trek reboot, Kirk is promoted to captain despite the fact that in this new timeline, he's extremely unqualified, but we make that logical leap because the character is so beloved. It's as if Hollywood thinks all those background characters are gonna pay money to see the sequels too.
A Bunch Of Characters Become "Family" Out Of The Blue
Like with alcohol, TV, and the occasional broom closet, movies are often used to escape family. Even so, a lot of movies are actually about families. More and more, blockbusters find a protagonist eschewing their blood relatives to embrace a new family, likely made up of a ragtag gang of miscreants. Of course, the clearest example of this is the Fast & Furious movies, in which the word "family" is used more than "fast" or "furious" -- probably even "and" and "the."
As we all know by now, these movies are about family, or the idea of finding a new family -- in this case, a particularly greasy, muscular family. If you don't believe us, here's a video of every single time they talk about family. It's exhausting.
While the prevailing theme of the Fast & Furious series apparently originated with a half-assed Vin Diesel ad lib, other recent movies have embraced this theme as well. In Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2, Star-Lord discovers that (spoilers) his dad is an anthropomorphic planet, and also a total dick. So in the end, he has to kill his dad, realizing that Rooker Smurf was his true father all along, and his crewmates of raccoons and tree people are his family now.
While that payoff works in this case, other movies try to force this sentiment into the story with zero justification. The worst offender is Suicide Squad, in which the titular gang of hardened criminals who look like an Evanescence cover band know each other for, like, two days. They have one brief drink together.
Then at the climactic battle, El Diablo sacrifices himself, saying, "I lost one family. I'm not gonna lose another!"
Really? These guys are your family? You literally just met them, but OK, these fellow cons you shared a shot of Jim Beam with for six minutes are on par with your dead wife and child.
Hero Left For Dead + Usurper = Giant Battle At The End
Superhero movies are to Hollywood what pizza is to the Ninja Turtles or gross violations of your privacy are to Facebook -- the point being they aren't going anywhere. While the genre is starting to diversify, mostly through having beloved heroes hacking off limbs and branding sex criminals, three recent examples have gone through surprisingly similar paces.
The Dark Knight Rises, Thor: Ragnarok, and Black Panther are all unique, successful movies, but their story beats are quite similar. In each one, the lead hero is usurped by the main villain, who then becomes the new ruler of their kingdom. There's Bane taking over Gotham, Hela taking over Asgard, and of course, Killmonger taking over Wakanda.
While each villain takes over as ruler, the hero is exiled and left for dead. Bruce Wayne is shipped off to the world's shiftiest prison, Thor is marooned on Jeff Goldblum's garbage-filled hedonism planet, and T'Challa is tossed off a waterfall and presumed dead for a time.
Then the hero reclaims their kingdom by staging an epic battle with the help of a surprise army -- the Gotham police, Thor's gladiator buddies, and the Jabari Tribe.
Ragnarok and Black Panther end with their protagonists putting an end to their parents' legacies by, respectively, allowing Asgard to be destroyed and letting the world know that Wakanda is secretly Hill Valley circa 2015. The Dark Knight Rises is the outlier here, ending with a dementia-ridden Alfred hallucinating that Batman's downing espresso in an Italian cafe. That, or Bruce is alive and the pattern holds, since he's blowing off his parents' remaining fortune on European hotels and cat-themed lingerie.
Everyone's Got Mommy/Daddy Issues
It's no secret that some of our greatest movies are layered with Freudian subtext. Star Wars is essentially the story of a young boy trying to kill his dad with an electric dildo, and Titanic is practically porn for iceberg fetishists, whom we assume exist somewhere.
Lately, though, Freud's theory of an Oedipal complex (an unconscious lust for the mother and hatred for the father) keeps manifesting in a surprising amount of mainstream movies. Take Justice League, for example. It's no secret that the DC Expanded Universe is a tangled web of neuroses and anxieties, but this one really wears its psycho-sexual issues on its (presumably padded rubber) sleeve. For starters, the whole movie is about the villain trying to get the all-powerful "Mother Box."
The fact that it's kept on a giant phallic pedestal doesn't help, either. Reportedly, the original script was even more overt, with the villain Steppenwolf straight up using the box to get his mommy back. And let's not forget that this is a sequel to a movie in which two superpowered bros only stop murdering each other because they love their moms so much.
Marvel gets in on this action too. Again, Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 found Star-Lord fighting and killing his space dad, enraged when he learns the dad killed his mother. Even Spider-Man: Homecoming played out the Oedipal urge, albeit one that was obfuscated through different roles. Peter Parker's maternal figure is Aunt May, who almost everyone relates to sexually.
In a surprise twist, Peter's enemy turns out to be ... his girlfriend's father.
So while this is not his actual dad, Peter's ascent to manhood is still dependent upon him taking out a dad -- who's also '80s Batman, so basically the meta dad for all modern superheroes.
Similarly, Baby Driver finds the hero (whose lack of sexual experience is underscored by the fact that his name is "Baby") falling in love. Who does he fall in love with? Why, a waitress named Debora ... from the same diner where his mom worked.
If that wasn't enough, in Baby's fantasies, he gives Debora a different haircut that looks more like his mom's.
Fulfilling the "wanting to murder your dad" quotient of the complex, we learn that Baby's mom was abused by his alcoholic dad. The third act then finds Baby battling against a wrathful Jon Hamm -- the guy famous for playing a crappy alcoholic dad on TV.
So at the end of the movie, Baby confronts the trauma of his childhood by killing his (metaphorical) dad and saving his (metaphorical) mom.
Of course, it's possible that this isn't a played out trope, but rather a fundamental psychological underpinning of popular entertainment. After all, without the Oedipal complex, we wouldn't have Labyrinth, or Psycho, and Back To The Future would just be a 20-minute movie with the sole purpose of trolling Chuck Berry.
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For more Hollywood tropes, check out 12 Specific Scenes That Superhero Movies Have Perfected and 7 Things That Are Bizarrely Identical In Every Modern Movie.
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