5 Strangely Specific Movie Tropes That Keep Popping Up
In the rare event a movie successfully crafts a truly original scene or character, you can bet it'll be immediately ripped off by 17 other movies before it even finishes its run. And sure, you have the big trends. ("What if the house is haunted by, like, a weird-looking dead woman?") But then there are the oddly specific tropes which somehow spread just as quickly. Think about how ...
Mentally Ill People Love To Headbutt Stuff Now
So you're trying to create a character so insane that they'll actually shock an audience in 2019, a year in which actual spree killers can't stay in the headlines for more than an hour or so. Fortunately, there's one piece of visual shorthand that we've decided conveys total madness: headbutting random surfaces, hopefully ones made of glass.
For example, there are at least two instances of Arthur Fleck smacking his noggin against inanimate objects in Joker. First he clobbers the side of a phone booth after getting fired from his clowning job, and later he headbutts the cage between himself and a guard when stealing his mother's files from Arkham.
Both scenes mark a major step in Fleck's transition from a strange-but-friendly clown to a clown who does Joker crimes. But mostly they're there to show you that this dude is CRAZY. I mean, he's headbutting things! What kind of sane man (who doesn't fight in UFC) does that? And weirdly enough, he's not even our only clown example.
In the second It, Pennywise flexes his crazy by methodically smashing through a plate-glass window with his bulbous head. Of course, he then goes on to eat a child -- an activity primarily reserved for the mentally unstable -- but I've seen clowns eat children dozens of times before. It's the headbutting that sticks out as a modern move.
But it's not just clowns who butt heads. As everybody in Bird Box loses their minds upon glimpsing aliens flashing their taint or whatever, what does the very first crazy person do? Headbutt a damn window. And because my own brain is broken, every single one of these scenes reminds me of feral vampire zombie things in I Am Legend headbutting Will Smith's various windows.
That was all the way back in 2007, so maybe it's time to think of another movie shorthand for "Whoa, there should definitely be more of a barrier between us and that dude."
Related: 6 Weirdly Specific Tropes Movies Got Briefly Obsessed With
Suddenly There Are Tons Of Funhouse Mirror Sequences
I've never been in one, but I'm sure funhouse mirror mazes are a real thing, if only because movie characters can't go more than a couple minutes without wandering into one and probably dueling a monster. Seriously, think about how popular such scenes are now. Watchmen flashes back to a naive Jehovah's Witness who gets sexually harassed in a funhouse just as a giant squid crash-lands and kills 3 million people in NYC.
Season 3 of Stranger Things has us watch Hopper sloppily punch and shoot thick-necked Russians in a Hawkins funhouse:
The entire plot of Us hinges on a pivotal moment in a Santa Cruz funhouse:
And hey! That aforementioned headbutting / child-eating scene in It: Chapter 2also happened in one!
Many movies set outside the '80s still absolutely have to have "distorted mirror battle sequences," but are self-aware enough to realize these aren't exactly a common feature of the landscape anymore. So they instead claim some BS like " Magical mirrors block Xavier's telepathy somehow." Hell, a big mirror/glass room battle happens in two straight John Wick movies, which seems less like creative bankruptcy (It's John Wick! It's great!) and more like "We know how much you love seeing badass mirror stuff, so why not double dip?" Is this all just because modern CGI makes it really easy to erase the film crew's reflection?
Superpowered Women Smile After Getting Punched
As of now, there are still really only two major female superhero movie stars: Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel. Yes, Scarlet Witch can obliterate civilians with magic, and Gamora is green, but neither have had a blockbuster film with their name in the title. And Black Widow is great, but also, she's dead. Not a lot of future franchise potential there besides whatever prequels Kevin Feige farts into theaters. Now that I've won that argument, let's hold off on congratulating me in the comments section and focus on how both characters are introduced to audiences.
Wonder Woman first appears in the Rotten Tomatoes 100% fresh film Batman v. Superman: Dawn Of Justice. (Don't check my sources, I'm pretty sure I'm right.) After a few scenes of her attending galas, stealing information, and generally being blockbuster DLC, she finally dons her traditional Amazonian armor to help the Sons of Martha battle Doomsday. Cue squealing electric guitars. A couple minutes into the fight, she gets falcon puuunched through several low-lying walls littering the battlefield. She comes to a stop long enough for the camera to pan around and reveal ... a come-hither smile.
Then Captain Marvel from Captain Marvel does almost the exact same thing. We're introduced to her fighting abilities in a tense sweaty sparring session with her good friend Jude Law. Law knocks Marvel to the ground, pissing her off. She considers using her super-fist to recede what's left of his hairline, but instead she reconsiders and smiles like, "Ooooh, I like it when you hit me and say mean, serious things."
Not that it's just superheroes who do this. The badass bounty hunter Cara Dune in The Mandalorian does the "big smile after a face punch" move in Episode 7.
Usually, characters who smile or laugh whilst getting slapped around are unhinged villains (see the Joker in The Dark Knight, or in any other movie the Joker's been in). For female superheroes, though, the implication seems to be that they smile in battle because they're super extra tough, so we don't need to feel too worried about their crap getting beaten out of them (which we're about to see a ton of). Oh, and ...
Related: 5 Oddly Specific Tropes Famous Directors Slip In Every Movie
Women Usually Fight Other Women
If a movie or TV show features a kickass lady, there is a better-than-average chance her final boss fight is against a female villain. For example, despite having virtually the entire team ready and able to fight in Guardians Of The Galaxy, Gamora duels Nebula one-on-one in a sister spat for the ages while the men (and male flora/fauna) head off to guard the galaxy.
In Infinity War, Scarlet Witch squares off with Proxima Midnight's alluring feminine horns while Vision shoots head lasers at the ... uh, boy alien. (Did he have a name?) There's not a scene wherein they flip a coin to see who fights who; they go into the fight knowing that segregating the sexes during battle is the only way to get Disney's approval. In The Incredibles 2, Elastigirl gets the spotlight, and in the least shocking twist of all time, the secret villain turns out to be a woman.
Mission: Impossible, Total Recall, Die Another Day, Dredd, and others all go out of their way to ensure their female heroes duke it out with same-sex antagonists in key moments. In Van Helsing, Anna is even told via prophecy that she'll kill Dracula ... but she only gets to kill his bride. Hell, even freaking Mean Girls has Lindsay Lohan algebra-duel the only other girl on the opposing math team. Hey, that's the rule! Nothing we can do about it.
Related: 6 Absurd Action Tropes You Never Noticed And Can't Unsee
Action Movie Characters Keep Forgetting Guns Exist
It's important to me that a main character can not only shoot faces off at close range, but also punch hearts so hard that they pop. Otherwise, how will I respect them? A well-crafted action film like The Matrix alternates between armed and unarmed fight scenes seamlessly (and also explains why guns can be useless in that universe). But most movies today just hope we don't notice when an entire warehouse full of professional criminals forget that for them, every day is bring-your-gun-to-work day.
Neo has gotten pretty slow by John Wick 3, so bad guys help him out by conveniently forgetting they were armed five seconds ago and instead respectfully laying aside their guns to pick up knives or go in for the slap.
For context, Wick is fighting the dude on the right, and the dude on the left gets up from the floor, ignores the gun, and goes for a good stab. Also, Wick started this scene with a gun he spent five minutes putting together and then firing exactly one time.
The climax of The Raid 2 (which is an otherwise perfect film, don't get me wrong) doesn't include a single gun-wielding bad guy. Main ass-kicker Rama breaks into the criminal headquarters and obliterates dozens of enemies armed with, at best ... baseballs?
Speaking of headquarters, why are Snoke's personal guards armed exclusively with spears and sci-fi whips In The Last Jedi? I get that lightsabers negate blasters somewhat, but there are, like, two in existence. What are the chances these guards needed to prepare exclusively for lightsaber battles? And even still, surely it'd help to have at least one with a bowcaster or something to fire bolts at the back of Kylo's head.
Or how about the stormtrooper in Force Awakens who literally throws aside his blaster to duel Finn with his spinny shocky baton? He knows Finn is no Jedi and wouldn't be able to use the lightsaber to block blaster bolts, but screw it, let's dance.
Honestly, I could do this all day. Hobbs And Shaw has The Rock accidentally forget to pack his gun when visiting his childhood home, despite being pursued by supervillains. His mom has inexplicably sold all the family guns, and nobody wants to make a Walmart run, so instead they invent some magic hack code that disables the bad guys guns, forcing the two opposing groups of bald men to try to bicep their way to victory.
And why don't Thanos' alien soldiers use guns? And why do the Wakandans mostly eschew their ranged weapons too? We know from a flashback that Thanos' dudes had lasers on Gamora's homeworld, and we see glimpses of Wakandan spears shooting lasers, but it's a rarely used feature that's all but forgotten as they open with a needless all-out charge.
Shouldn't there be some plausible reason everyone leaves the guns behind? Is it really enough that hand-to-hand fighting is 10 times more badass? Eh, probably, yeah.
Jordan Breeding also writes for a whole mess of other people, the Twitter, and a weird amount of gas station bathrooms.
For more, check out 5 Bizarrely Specific Ways Every Movie Trailer Looks The Same - Spit Take Theater:
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