5 Really Specific Things Movies Are Stealing From Each Other

Some weirdly specific story tropes have been popping up, one movie after another.
5 Really Specific Things Movies Are Stealing From Each Other

Around the time we were on our third Spider-Man reboot, people were starting to suspect that Hollywood was running out of ideas. But it's not just movies themselves that are being rehashed. In the last few years, some weirdly specific and niche story tropes have been popping up in one movie after another. Here are some of the weirdest (very spoilery) examples.

The World's Greatest Assassins Are All Middle-Aged Dudes

They don't make them like they used to, and by "they" we mean Hollywood, and by "them" we mean hired killers. These days, the entire roster of cinematic assassins seems to consist of 50-year-old geezers pulled out of retirement for one last slaughter.

In the 2014 film Three Days To Kill, Kevin Costner is a 59-year-old CIA operative who quits his job executing people for Uncle Sam after being diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor. But guess what? The agency has an experimental cure, which it is willing to give to Costner, but only if he neglects his family and goes out to kill the very uncreatively named villain The Wolf.

Relativity Media
"Did you see how we put half of him in shadow to represent-"

But it's more than "one more job" that keeps these grey-haired gunmen from enjoying their twilight years. In The Equalizer (which also came out in 2014), Denzel Washington clearly selected the added vigilante option in his government killer retirement package, using his CIA (and surprisingly, Home Depot) training to save a young sex worker from the Russian mob.

Columbia Pictures
"Just like your dad's old stereo, you don't want to mess with ..."

And in 2017, we saw Jackie Chan (who is 64 years old but at least still looks like he gets carded in bars) kick some butt in The Foreigner after his daughter dies in a terrorist attack. While he can't bring his daughter back, he does get his ass-kicking ability back, and isn't that almost as good?

But right now, the king of this character type has to be Keanu Reeves, the world's most badass action star who also needs a yearly prostate exam. As John Wick, he has tumbled through carnage after carnage, renewing his dusty hitman union card after some mobsters kill his greatest love: a puppy.

Of course, this trend started with the Taken series, wherein Liam Neeson shoots his way through every European ethnicity to un-kidnap an assortment of helpless women. Neeson is still riding that violent old man wave to the bank, having starred in old-em-ups like Non-Stop, A Walk Among The Tombstones. and most recently The Commuter, where this time he has to use his old hands to kill young'uns on a train. You know, trains, that hip new mode of transportation? Maybe in the next one, Neeson can be called in to shoot up a hostage situation in a bingo parlor.

It's not hard to see why these movies are so popular. For one, unlike other schlocky action movies, they tend to attract big actors, as we now have a whole bunch of aging movie stars eager for one last action-packed hurrah before they spend the rest of their careers playing someone's sassy granddad. But it's also because Hollywood clearly has found a lucrative new demographic. By portraying a bunch of sad and lonely old dudes who did shitty things when they were younger but are suddenly needed again to fix things, Hollywood has also found a shortcut to the most lucrative, still-DVD-buying demographic of them all: bitter divorced dads.

Star Wars Has Become Obsessed With Pointless Heroic Suicides

Star Wars now has enough movies that it can fill every inch of its galaxy far far away with characters we're supposed to give a damn about. But the writers seemed to have found a preferred way to slim down the franchise so we don't have to memorize so many weird-sounding names: martyrdom.

It seems that in the current run of Star Wars movies, not a single story can happen without one of the heroes bravely sacrificing themselves at the drop of a hat. In Solo, young Han and a team of scrappy outlaws are robbing a train to get their hands on some expensive fuel. But when the plan gets complicated by the arrival of a rival gang, one of Solo's buddies, Val (Thandie Newton), decides to blow herself up to give her crew some extra time. That's quite the noble streak for a cautious hardened criminal one job away from retirement.

At least the martyrs in The Last Jedi are actual good guys, though that doesn't make their sacrifices any less stupid and pointless. The movie opens with Rose's sister suicide-bombing the enemy, which turns out to achieve ... absolutely nothing. How does the Resistance make up for this mistake? By having the leader of their fleet also suicide attack the First Order. Because if at first you don't succeed in kamikaze-ing the enemy ...

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"Look, it worked in Independence Day!"

In fact, one of the most dramatic moments in the movie is when Rose stops Finn from achieving yet another suicide run. Luckily, they immediately follow that up by having Luke Skywalker meditate himself to death so that the Rebels don't have to break out into a jog while escaping, so fans had plenty of other things to be angry about.

But the award for most pointless sacrifice has to go to Saw Gerrera, Jyn Erso's fake uncle in Rogue One -- and it's already hard to stand out as a martyr in that movie, given that the entire premise is one big suicide mission. When the Death Star slowly blows up his base, he refuses to evacuate because ... well, just because. The only justification the audience gets is "I will run no longer." Maybe he simply knew that as a mentor in Star Wars, you either die like a badass midway through the story or live long enough to see your apprentice turn into an emo douche.

Villains Want To Stop Overpopulation

Punk band Bad Religion, our age's Nostradamus, warned that there would be ten billion people by 2010. Clearly, that's too many people. Fortunately, all the bland bad guys in movies seem to agree, and they're working to fix it.

2015's Kingsman: The Secret Service started the ball rolling with a lisping Samuel L. Jackson, who figures out the perfect plan to kill all the dumb people in the world: giving away free phones. The phones broadcast a repetitive and annoying noise that drives everyone who listens to it into a murderous rage (much like Elton John's cameo in the sequel). The ringtone Purge will weed out all the extra people, while Jackson's personally selected elite are kept safe -- the rich, the educated, the famous ... and presumably a whole bunch of old people who don't use those smartphone whatchamacallits.

5 Really Specific Things Movies Are Stealing From Each Other
A brilliant plan, until he realizes no one's left to make him a Big Mac.

If you think that plan's a bit messy, you might prefer the villain from Inferno, the third Da Vinci Code movie. (Yes, there was a third Da Vinci Code movie; ask your aunt if you don't believe us.) In it, "transhuman scientist " Bertrand Zobrist, who clearly got his weird degree at the same place he got his weird name, offers a simple and elegant solution to halt overpopulation: Sterilize a third of mankind. An even creepier plan than Jackson's, though these two nerds did seem somehow get their idea from the same passage in The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy.

But despite having these oh-so-noble intentions at heart, there's a good reason to stop these humanitarian villains: They tend to screw everything up. In the final Resident Evil film, evil corporation Umbrella Corp reveals that the reason they spilled the bio-organic weapons that started the whole zombie apocalypse wasn't shocking incompetence, but in fact a clever ruse to save the planet from overpopulation, global warming, disease, and famine. We'd be more inclined to believe them if this didn't end with an overpopulated White House being besieged by a diseased, hungry horde that's being fought by burning the Earth.

5 Really Specific Things Movies Are Stealing From Each Other
Screen Gems
Pictured: a foolproof plan.

And last but certainly not least, there's Thanos, who knows the Universe has finite resources, and yet we all won't stop breeding. So he randomly selects half of everyone and turns them to dust. What a devious and harsh scheme, reducing humanity's population to what it was ... 50 years ago. Best keep those snapping fingers limber, Thanos, because you're going to need to do this every half-century or so.

5 Really Specific Things Movies Are Stealing From Each Other
Columbia Pictures
Not even villains were safe.

In 2017, Every Movie Wanted A John Denver Song

John Denver, all-American folk singer and (mostly) chillest dude in the world, was riding a career high in 2017. Pretty impressive, considering he's been dead for over 20 years. But for some reason, movies were all over his back catalog that year. Remember Okja, the surreal Korean film about a genetically engineered giant pig? What better way to score that movie than with the slow-dance wedding staple "Annie's Song"?

Or do you prefer your romantic ballads more in British action-comedies about arms deals gone bad? Here it is again in Free Fire, also released in 2017:

But John Denver's most popular track isn't "Annie's Song," is it? No, it's the one about West Virginia that your drunk friends keep singing on the Uber ride home. Well, not only was Denver's "Take Me Home, Country Roads" featured in several Hollywood soundtracks in 2017, but it was a key plot point in not one, two, but three separate films! Here it is in Alien: Covenant, where the song's whiny garbling lures our plucky space explorers to investigate its origin, with predictably bad consequences.

Danny McBride's character even says John Denver's name out loud in the scene, so if you thought it was weird that John Denver was popular in 2017, apparently he's still as hot as ever in 2104. But let's get back to the present -- specifically, the time of Logan Lucky, in which Channing Tatum, playing a blue-collar Danny Ocean, rushes through his daring heist so can get home in time to hear his daughter sing the Denver classic at a pageant.

Tatum must be sick of that song by now, because that wasn't the only one of his movies it featured in that year. Let's go back to the Kingsman series. In The Golden Circle, a character actually sings the song aloud to play himself off as he makes a Star Wars-worthy heroic sacrifice, in the process proving yet again that everything's better if sung in a Scottish accent. Take it away, Mark Strong!

And the Denver train doesn't appear to be slowing down. In 2018, "Take Me Home, Country Roads" has already appeared in the latest Fallout game trailer, teasing its possible location. So why so much John Denver? It might be because of one man: Brian L. Schwartz, who now manages Denver's estate. He was allegedly hired by Denver's children to try to get his music back into the public eye. By all accounts, the dude's doing a bang-up job.

Neon Lights Are The Way The Future Is Lit

Remember 2010? A nation fell in love with Johnny Depp's Mad Hatter, vuvuzelas were ruining the World Cup, and us nerds here at Cracked started noticing how every new movie was vibrantly orange and teal for some reason.

Warner Bros. Pictures
Look how happy Nick Hoult is!

Well it's 2018 now, aka "the worst possible future," and we finally are rid of that repetitive color scheme. Now everything's a dim and depressing violet and blue! How diverse!

5 Really Specific Things Movies Are Stealing From Each Other
Studio Canal
Look how sad Nick Hoult is.

Actually, some consider it diverse indeed. The color scheme has been called "bisexual lighting" after the colors of the bisexual pride flag. It's become kind of an internet meme to suggest that the lighting scheme is used to represent bisexuality itself. There are definitely examples of that (more commonly in TV and music videos than in movies), but what it's mostly used for is to showcase urban sleaze, like in Blade Runner 2049.

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Warner Bros
Not a face that screams "I'm embracing my bisexuality."

Unlike orange and teal, violet and blue tends to be used to convey a specific atmosphere -- namely seedy, futuristic inner-city nightlife. If you want to show a rave where the chances of getting laid and getting shot are about 50/50, the color of '80s neon signs is the way to go. Here we see it in a seedy part of town in John Wick 2 ...

5 Really Specific Things Movies Are Stealing From Each Other

... a seedy part of town in Atomic Blonde ...

5 Really Specific Things Movies Are Stealing From Each Other
Focus Features

... a seedy part of town in Knight Of Cups ...

Broad Green Pictures
Accurately replicated in the porn version, Night Of D-Cups.

... oh, and a seedy part of town in Logan:

20th Century Fox

And of course, there's literally everywhere in Ready Player One, a movie that bleeds '80s neon when you cut it.

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Warner Bros. Pictures
And screams John Hughes quotes when you twist the knife.

If someone's about to cry in a nightclub, don't even crack that Pantone color wheel; you already know what to do. And if your protagonist goes to a strip club to have an emotional breakdown, are you going to light that shit with lilac and summer lime?! Heck no. Violet and blue has been the law since at least Closer in 2004.

5 Really Specific Things Movies Are Stealing From Each Other
Columbia Pictures
"Cut! Dammit, who gave Natalie a pink wig?"

Which does raise the question: What is the real origin of this seemingly universal creative decision? Our theory is that there's a really depressing strip club with this color scheme somewhere in Hollywood, and every cinematographer secretly picks up shifts there to make ends meet. And if you know where that is, please let us know. We really want to meet Roger Deakins.

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