5 Brilliant Puns That Movies Hid In Plain Sight
Puns might be one of the greatest inventions in the whole wide word. Sure, comedy pundamentalists will argue that puns are a lower, puny form of comedy, but they just can't handle the pundemonium. Oh, what's that, email I just got? Fired from the internet forever? Yeah, OK, I can see that.
Now that we've covered how bad puns are made, let's look at some good puns in the world around us -- specifically, puns in pop culture. There are a few famous movies which properly harness the pun, often in ways that you had no idea about. But a pun doesn't need to be something as insanely clever as shoving the word "pun" into things. It can be stuff like ...
The Name Of The Island In The Incredibles Reveals The Movie's Theme
Pixar's The Incredibles is the story of a superpowered family coming together to defeat the evil forces of egalitarianism in the form of Syndrome, a super "villain" who wants to make superpower-granting gadgets available on the free market. Of course, the "heroes" cannot allow that, because there is a difference between being born with the ability to stick your fist right up physics' ass and manipulate it like a Muppet and paying cash to do it. The movie doesn't specify what that difference is, but it is pretty sure that the latter is wrong somehow.
Thankfully, that's not the main takeaway from the movie. Near the end, the super-strong Mr. Incredible must defeat Syndrome's super robot, but finds he is super unable to super do that. So, putting his pride and fears aside, he lets his family help him, and together they manage to save the day and prove that when we work together, there is nothing we cannot do. And the thing is, that message of cooperation and teamwork was foreshadowed about a third of the way in via one ingenious pun.
In the beginning, Mr. Incredible is tricked into helping Syndrome develop his killer robot by fighting it on a deserted island. Now, the island's name is mentioned only one time, by an autopilot program which pronounces it "Noh-mah-nisan." Which, yeah, sounds vaguely Pacific-island-y, so almost no one gave it a second thought. But the name is in fact spelled "Nomanisan." As in "No Man Is An," as in "No Man Is An Island," as in "This wasn't the deal, Hollywood! We don't watch movies to learn about the writings of 17th-century poet John Donne!"
Donne first coined the phrase "No man is an island" in 1624 to explain his idea that humans are their best selves when they work together and depend on each other, because we are all the same noble creatures endowed with the spark of the divine. Four centuries later, Pixar ignored the existence of internet comment sections and embraced that notion by turning it into a heartfelt message about the importance of family, all hinted at through some very clever wordplay. Then, for whatever reason, they slightly Ayn-Rand-ed the whole thing by adding in stuff about how us puntermensch should submit to a race of natural-born superhumans. Hey, at least we'll have that nice pun to remember when the Incredible family forces us to go into hiding beneath the earth when they eventually turn on humanity. So it's not gonna be all bad, right?
The Hallway Shootout From Terminator 2 Was A Crafty Guns N' Roses Reference
Much like porn, puns bring pleasure to people everywhere AND work whether they are written or visual. I don't have a good segue between porn and Arnold Schwarzenegger, other than the video of him comparing working out to ejaculation (and this video that Luis Prada found). And since I really don't want to talk about that, let's pretend I cleverly connected visual puns, porn, and Arnold, and just continue, OK? Thanks, I owe you one.
One of the best Arnie movies to date is, without a doubt, Terminator 2, a groundbreaking action sci-fi flick that totally flipped the script and portrayed an attempt to kill an annoying teenager as a bad thing. We first realize this when Arnie's time-traveling robot character tracks down John Connor, pulls a shotgun out of a box of flowers, and protects the kid from Robert Patrick's unstoppable Mercury Splooge Man.
It's one of the most iconic scenes in action movie history. But surprisingly, it's also a brilliant visual pun. See, to promote Terminator 2, the movie's executive producer, Larry Kasanoff, wanted to make a T2 music video. However, Arnie said that he would only agree "if you get the best band in the world to do it." By which he meant Guns N' Roses. As you may have guessed, this was before people's reaction to GNR was "Dear god, what happened to Axl Rose? He looks like Kirby ate Kid Rock after developing a crippling meth habit."
It took a lot of schmoozing from Arnold and director James Cameron, but the band finally let the film use their tune "You Could Be Mine" as a theme song. This is where the hallway shootout comes into play, as it was filmed either as a thanks or as an ego-boosting incentive for the band. It sounds obvious when you hear it, but during the flower firepower sequence, Arnold pulls a GUN out of a box of ROSES. Guns. Roses. Guns and roses. '80s-ize it with some deliberately bad spelling, and suddenly Axl Rose is all up inside of you. At least this time it was just a visual pun on his band's name instead of the sounds of Rose boning his drummer's girlfriend.
There's A Super Obscure Nerd Pun Hidden In A Deeply Emotional Scene In Iron Man 2
Iron Man 2 is a bad movie full of pacing problems, tired cliches, and Mickey Rourke giving us the weirdest supervillain performance since Danny DeVito spit up bile for two hours in Batman Returns. It does, however, have one thing going for it. Iron Man 2 is possibly the most in-depth character study of Tony Stark ever put on film. See, in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Tony doesn't have a good relationship with his dad. He always thought of him as an emotionless workaholic who put his work above his family, and yet Tony never really stopped trying to impress him. His entire career is really just asking "Did I do a good job now?" He always yearned for his father's approval, but little did he know ... he already had it.
After alienating all of his friends and getting drunk (known professionally as a "Tony Tuesday"), Ol' Irony receives Howard Stark's home movies and watches them while leafing through his notebook. Then he discovers that his dad was pretty much like him: a man who was half science and half alcohol, with a kind of dickish sense of humor (played by the guy from Mad Men doing a Walt Disney impression).
More importantly, though, Tony discovers that his dad thought of him as a mini-Jesus. Howard firmly believed that technology had the potential to change the world for the better, which is why he dedicated his life to it at the expense of his family. But when he scienced all the science that was scientifically possible at the time, he realized that he'd have to leave the future of all humanity in the hands of the next generation: his son. This is all revealed in his videos. It's an incredibly complex, emotionally rich scene that you don't often see in superhero movies. And it's interrupted partway through with a super nerdy pun.
While perusing his dad's notes, there is a brief moment when you can see that Howard wrote about an "Anomalous Zeeman Effect." I'm not even going to pretend that I can explain and/or understand this concept, but I know that according to smart people, the Zeeman effect is analogous to the "Stark effect."
Yup, during one of best scenes in any of the Marvel movies, someone couldn't resist throwing in a scientific pun reference that shared Tony Stark's name. Now, I don't think anyone in the audience was eagle-eyed enough to catch this, and even if they were, it wouldn't matter because, well ... Say you had a sandwich made from stale bread, funky-smelling brie, and a tiny piece of high-quality Kobe beef hidden deep inside it somewhere. You're pretty proud of the Kobe beef that you secretly slipped in there, but the people devouring the sandwich can only seem to complain about the cheese smell. That's essentially Iron Man 2: a sliver of Kobe beef hiding inside a sandwich that tastes like farts.
One Of The Addresses Joker Gives Batman In The Dark Knight Is Actually Brilliant Foreshadowing
The Dark Knight is the story of a paramilitary clown trying to prove to the world that he is normal by committing domestic terrorism. It's a pretty awesome story, no doubt about it, but it's also very straightforward. It's not like there are any hidden messages in it ... except maybe for this one thing (two things if you count a theory floated by some fat internet nerd).
I actually wasn't kidding before about how Ledger's Joker thinks he is normal. On some level, he truly believes that if it wasn't for his disfigurement / emotional trauma / that time he walked in on his dad furiously jacking it to clown porn, he would have turned out a pretty regular dude. That's where his "one bad day" philosophy comes into play. In the end, it turns out that Doc J's main plan was to slam-dunk Harvey Dent straight into insanity and prove that with just the slightest push (and horrific physical pain), anyone, even Gotham's "White Knight," could become a villain. And the thing is, he pretty much said all of that to Batman when he gave him the addresses where he was holding the kidnapped Harvey and his girlfriend, Rachel.
Joker tells Batman that Harvey is at 250 52nd Street, while Rachel is at the corner of Whatever Street and Notreallyimportanttomypoint Avenue. Batman, of course, goes after Rachel, but finds that the lying, manipulative psychopath LIED to him (THE VERY NERVE), and he ends up rescuing Harvey while Rachel dies. But let's talk more about the first address the Joker gave him.
250 52nd street might look at first glance like a reference to DC's New 52 ... but it's also a palindrome. It's exactly the same whether you read it forward or backward, like "taco cat," but slightly less adorable. Because, well, doesn't it just explain Joker's philosophy perfectly? The guy thinks that his reaction to whatever horrible thing happened to him is perfectly reasonable, and that anyone in his situation would also snap. In short, he believes that he and Harvey Dent, two people who at first glance look like total opposites, are really one and the same ... or in other words, that they're human palindromes.
That's why Joker said he stashed Harvey at an address that was essentially a numerical pun of sorts -- a play on numbers, if you will. It was his way of saying that if Harvey also put on just a little more mascara, they'd basically be twinsies.
An Infuriatingly Magnificent Pun In Back To The Future Part II Has Been Staring Us In The Face For Years
In Back To The Future Part II, Doc Brown does exactly two things:
1) Screams about how meeting your own self from another timeline will create a paradox, causing the Universe to bend over backwards, enter its own asshole, and blink out of existence, or something to that effect.
2) Meets and talks to his own self from another timeline.
It's actually a very tense moment. After Marty almost screws all of time and space like it was his mother, the Doc freaking runs into his 1950s self by sheer accident. Fortunately, back in the '50s, actually looking at the person you talked to was apparently considered a marriage proposal, so the Doc's younger version never realizes that the guy he's chatting up is himself from the future. And so a paradox is averted. Only it isn't. Let's examine the evidence.
So after sending the video to the FBI for analysis and spending 24 hours in a holding cell for "wasting government effort," I had a lot of time to think about the scene of the two characters meeting. Once I crunched the numbers, I concluded that there were two of them, and a funny thing about the number two isn't just that it's a euphemism for poop. Another word for "two" is "pair." But a pair of what, you ask? Doctors. Or "docs," for short. Two doctors. A pair of doctors. A pair of docs. Pair o' docs. PARADOX! There's your paradox, and that sound you just heard is your brain slapping itself for not noticing this before / being impressed by the whole thing.
Now, normally I'd have declared this line of thinking to be the biggest stretch since Plastic Man and Elongated Man got in a dick-measuring contest. But the piece of the score which accompanies the two Docs meeting is called "Pair O'Docs," so ...
Look, I don't like this any more than you, but we have to deal with the fact that we've been trolled by one of the most infuriatingly brilliant puns in movie history for nearly 30 years, and there's nothing we can do about it. Except invent an actual time machine and destroy the movie before it's too late. Someone get Neil deGrasse Tyson on the phone. Maybe he knows how to contact Stephen Hawking.
Cezary Jan Strusiewicz is a Cracked columnist, interviewer, and editor. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter.
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