5 Movie Moments American Audiences Totally Missed
Sometimes even broad-minded, well-traveled Americans who learn a lot about other cultures and totally studied abroad once and shoehorn this fact into conversations whenever they're eating that nationality of food or when the World Cup is on or- what were we saying? Oh yeah, sometimes even they miss certain colorful details in movies that aren't entirely Uncle-Sam-centric. Here are five examples of movie moments which might've gone over your apple-pie-lovin' head. (And if they didn't, feel free to jump right to the comments and scream "I KNEW THAT," and we will all diligently take note.)
The American Edit Completely Ruined The Whole Point Of Godzilla
You're likely aware that Godzilla was inspired by Japan's (sooooomewhat justified) fear of nuclear annihilation in the 1950s. American audiences, however, weren't clued in to this for years because of a couple of very specific, very stupid changes made to the U.S. release of the original 1954 film.
Because of strict censorship guidelines, Japanese filmmakers in the 1950s couldn't come straight out and make politically charged films about the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. So instead, director Ishiro Honda and his collaborators created "Gojira," a potent, subversive metaphor for nuclear anxiety. The creature itself was created by nuclear power, grew beyond human control, and wreaked unstoppable havoc on cities. Its grotesque appearance was meant to evoke the "burnt, scarred skin" of A-bomb victims. Pretty harrowing stuff for the "guys in rubber suits stomping on cardboard buildings" genre.
Then the movie made its way to America, and Hollywood decided to alter the film ever so slightly by deleting any mention of nuclear testing. To make up for it, they then added 30 minutes of new scenes with a character played by Raymond "Perry Mason" Burr to refocus the movie around an American protagonist. So not only did the U.S. version completely neuter the film's political message, but it also made an American the hero of a movie about the horrors of the U.S. bombing Japan. It's like reediting Citizen Kane into the triumphant story of how American materialism turns a lowly sledding child into a laser-focused billionaire with a rockin' pad. U-S-A! U-S-A!
Dumbledore's Phoenix Has A "Loaded" Name In The UK
While not a main character or anything, in the Harry Potter series, Dumbledore's pet phoenix Fawkes is important enough to inspire the name of one of the books (... And The Order Of The Phoenix), and the Magic-Hitler-killing secret society revealed therein. You're likely aware that the name "Fawkes" comes with some British historical baggage. That is, unless you didn't read the books and thought the movie characters were saying "Fox," and assumed it was Lucius Fox from Batman in a Easter egg before the film universes eventually connected.
But for the other ... everyone, who didn't think that, "Fawkes" should've called to mind Guy Fawkes Night, the annual celebration in the UK commemorating the guy who attempted to blow up Parliament in 1605 and was drawn and quartered as a result, leaving behind a legacy of fireworks celebrations and those V For Vendetta / Anonymous masks.
The Harry Potter parallels run deeper. Every 5th of November, people honor Fawkes by burning his image in effigy:
It's not unlike how the phoenix burns to ash, then resurrects:
Also, Fawkes the phoenix serves to inspire the children to rebel with the Order, in the same way that Guy Fawkes' rebellion serves as an anti-establishment touchstone that far exceeds his actual reach as one (pro-fascism!) dude who was sentenced to have his genitals cut off for an explosion that didn't even go off.
The series also features Harry and his pals breaking into government offices, a bank, and attacking their own school -- though Harry ultimately escapes the ending that befell Fawkes, who broke his neck falling from the gallows and died before they could carry out the full "cutting out of his intestines" that he'd been assigned. The parallels end just short of there.
Tech Billionaire Tony Stark Uses A Cheap, Low-End Chinese Phone
Tony Stark's phone in Civil War isn't an iPhone or an Android or even a Stark. It's a ... Vivo?
Probably some made-up company that Marvel can use as a stand-in for real-life telecom brands to avoid a conflict of interests? That, or they got the fictional phone its own Netflix spinoff that's somehow already in Season 2, and it's surprisingly well-written and violent, but every episode always has 28 minutes left in it whenever you check. Right?
Nope! Vivo is a real phone -- the cheap, low-end offering from a Chinese company that doesn't even sell it in the U.S. It's a product placement shot, plain and simple, to appeal to Marvel's massive Chinese audience ...
... while still appearing to just be some throwaway nondescript fictional phone to western audiences. That's some Black-Widow-level puppet mastery there from Marvel's branded content team. This covert cash grab, however, rips all sorts of plot holes into the otherwise 1,000 percent airtight Marvel Universe. Tony Stark is a mega-billionaire and an avowed technophile, and he chooses to rely on the Chinese knockoff Boost Mobile? The Avengers text intergalactically confidential information over cellphones whose brands are sold in the U.S. unlocked because no carrier has picked them up. The tech genius who built himself a flying robo death squad is more reckless with his phone security than pot dealers from 2002. And so is Captain America, but anything that's not rotary blows his mind.
A Running Joke In The World's End Is All About The UK's Gentrification Problem
In The World's End, there's a running joke whereby the gang's legendary pub crawl brings them back to the watering holes of their youth, only for them to find that each one has been completely remodeled by a corporate chain (and secretly taken over by alien body snatchers).
Each pub on their crawl has been taken over by the same chain and redone in exactly the same way. The screencap below? Not same one as above.
It's a funny joke, but American audiences might not realize quite how dire the evisceration of the English pub scene has gotten. While gentrification is an issue facing lots of growing cities, London's pub culture has been hit exceptionally hard. 1,220 pubs have closed across London since 2001, making for a staggering 25 percent drop. Again, this isn't a trend exclusive to London, but it stings even more there because of the high cost of living and usually smaller living spaces, leaving people more reliant on pubs for public gathering. It's like someone came in to remodel and jack up the prices of your own living room.
Heineken, for example, recently struck a deal to acquire 1,900 additional pubs in the UK to go along with the 1,000 they already own, setting the stage for the country's three largest pub groups to control 20 percent of all pubs. So basically, that one punchline in The World's End is in fact a crushing, not-even-exaggerated elegy for the rapid death of culture at the hands of swelling corporate juggernauts. Fun times!
The Pale Man From Pan's Labyrinth Represents The Pro-Fascist Spanish Priesthood
A decade before Guillermo del Toro won Best Picture for his exploration of a human / fish god sex marathon ignited by a mutual love of eggs, he took on a lighter subject in Pan's Labyrinth: that time the church stole a bunch of kids while kissing a dictator's ass.
You see, Pan's Labyrinth takes place during the Spanish Civil War. And no, that's not the part that American audiences missed, although if you did miss that, well, buckle up to REALLY have your mind blown. Within this historical framework, the film's characters and magical elements act as allegories for aspects of the conflict. Captain Vidal, the militaristic, appeal-to-duty antagonist, represents Francisco Franco's eventually triumphant Nationalist regime, while Ofelia -- the youthful, overmatched protagonist who ends up martyring herself for the cause -- stands in for the leftist Republican side that fell to Franco's forces. Meanwhile, that eyeless, child-eating monster merely stands for ... an eyeless, child-eating monster, right? Nope, it's somehow creepier than that.
In case you blocked it from your brain, the film's most memorable scene features Ofelia's escape from the child-devouring Pale Man (played by the same actor as the gentle fish monster -- what range!). You may have noticed that the Pale Man's chamber is painted with ornate, cathedral-looking portraits, albeit slightly darker than what you'd usually see in a cathedral:
And you definitely noticed that he sits in front of a huge table full of food that Ofelia isn't allowed to touch. Hmmm, solemn art and arbitrary rules children can't break? What's that all about? According to del Toro, the Pale Man stands for the Catholic Church and its complicity in Spanish fascism. Under Franco, the church literally stole children from families and redistributed them to more "upstanding" Catholic parents under the guise of moralism. As del Toro spells out in an interview, the Pale Man "represents fascism and the Church eating the children when they have a perversely abundant banquet in front of them." Non-coincidentally, earlier in the film, we see an actual priest (eyes intact) sitting at Captain Vidal's side during an ornate banquet, further emphasizing the allusion.
So the next time you see this fella in your nightmares, remember: He's just a totally chill man of the cloth tryin' to spread the JC gospel to the next gen. NBD!
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