6 Oddly-Specific Trends Movies Went With
Most movies are born from an executive looking at a current profitable film and saying, "Make me one of those!" So it's no surprise that Hollywood trends tend to get driven into the ground. But sometimes filmmakers will get fixated on ultra-specific elements that honestly shouldn't have come up more than once or twice. Like ...
In The Early 2010s, Villains Were Always Getting Thrown In Glass Prisons
If you've ever been to prison and your prior knowledge of them came entirely from blockbuster movies from a few years ago, you were probably a bit disappointed. After all, when an especially bad guy went to movie jail, he'd always wind up in a clean, well-lit cell that was inexplicably made entirely of glass. Welcome to Hell, Loki!
Spoiler for your prison experience: Real cells aren't like that! If you find yourself in a locked glass case, you've either A) been kidnapped into an alien zoo, or B) are in some billionaire's basement, and are about to have to fight someone or something to the death for his amusement.
You may point out that Loki's was a special cell created for a super-being. But it's really the default design in the corrections systems of action movie universes. In Skyfall, terrorist and former secret agent Silva's big plan is to get caught, escape, and then kill M. The heroes -- who are very experienced with this type of guy and this kind of plan -- know that only one kind of cell could ever hold such a monster! It could also double as an aquarium:
Star Trek Into Darkness puts Khan behind a glass wall, mostly because movies decided long ago that Glass = The Future ...
... and then a week later, Fast & Furious 6, aka Fa6t & Furiou6, put villain Owen Shaw behind some glass, leading to the quietest moment that franchise has ever experienced:
All of this was within a couple of years, by the way, around 2012-2013. It was the era of glass prison cells. All of these franchises, too embarrassed to look each other in the eye, quietly retired this trope until it was gloriously resurrected in Season 3 of Hannibal, presumably because Mads Mikkelsen is just too handsome for normal, brick-y prison:
That's probably appropriate, as we're assuming this was the result of lots of filmmakers who had grown up with Silence Of The Lambs a couple of decades earlier, and who knew that to have a truly badass battle of wits between hero and captive, you need a gleaming glass wall in between them, usually with some holes in it. Just note that in a real prison, that thing's probably going to get smeared with poop pretty quickly.
The 2000s Were Obsessed With People Made Out Of Bugs
A lot of horror monsters are born from basic math. Clowns are scary. Dark, cramped places are scary. So here's a clown who lives in a sewer. Well, a while back, Hollywood figured that monsters are creepy, and so are bugs, so why not a whole monster made of bugs?
Don't get me wrong, it was probably pretty cool the first time we saw it, which for many of us was the centipede-and-fly demon from 2005's Constantine:
Then we got that weird scene in 2007's Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End, where Davy Jones' 50-foot-tall goddess ex-girlfriend turns into a swarm of crabs:
Then the Other Mr Bobinski from 2009's Coraline turned out to be a swarm of rats infesting a torn costume:
And then the villain from 2010's The Sorcerer's Apprentice turned out to be made of a horde of cockroaches:
2006's Eragon even altered villains from the book so that they'd be made out of mud and worms.
On TV, meanwhile, it was hard to find a fantasy or sci-fi show that DIDN'T have a villain made from bugs. Buffy The Vampire Slayer villain Norman Pfister was a swarm of maggots that could copy a human, which is handily explained by this diagram:
Norman gets killed when the good guys literally just stomp him to death. Turns out it's not that hard to kill a guy made out of bugs. A 2001 episode of The X-Files features a teenage boy who can control insects and store them in his body, which really seems like the opposite of a superpower.
The list goes on and on, from Farscape to Power Rangers to Smallville. Because how is the audience gonna know who the villain is if they're not constantly exploding into a shower of fish bait?
In The Late '80s, People Loved Improvising Hijinks With Dead Bodies
There are a bunch of very obvious tropes from the '80s that you can probably name off the top of your head if you were alive back then -- masked killers butchering horny teens, training montages, people breaking their partners' spines after attempting the lift from the end of Dirty Dancing. But here's one that was just as prevalent but slipped under the radar: You couldn't walk three feet in the '80s without tripping over a dead body being used in hilarious ways.
Of course, the magnum opus of the '80s dead body comedy is Weekend At Bernie's, in which two almost-mullet-having dudes have to keep up the charade that their murdered boss is still alive.
But Bernie wasn't the only schmuck to have his corpse paraded around for comedy, or even the first. The 1985 film Clue does this with no fewer than three bodies, staging an elaborate party scene with a dead Mr. Boddy, his cook, and a stranded motorist propped up to fool a police officer. As it turns out, unless the '80s cop was Murtaugh, Riggs, or McLane, they could be tricked by any number of dead bodies, as long they had all their limbs still attached.
Wacky corpse adventures weren't just limited to zany comedies, though. Every genre wanted to put their finger in that sweet decomposing pie. Arnold Schwarzenegger did it in Commando, snapping a guy's neck on an airplane and covering for it by telling the stewardess not to investigate because his friend is "dead tired." She complies, because back in the '80s, people trusted each other, damn it.
Sean Connery pulled it off in The Untouchables, wherein he double murders a guy to get a confession out of a mobster. Even Eddie Murphy did it in the Beverly Hills Cop 3,using a corpse as a puppet to fool a pack of villains with little in the way of critical thinking skills:
Hollywood, certain that audiences simply could not get enough of wacky corpse tomfoolery, persisted with this well into the early '90s, with such comedic masterpieces as Don't Tell Mom The Babysitter's Dead, in which ... actually, the title is really all you need to know about that one.
In the Late 2000s, Everyone Was Killed By Finger Guns
This inexplicably specific gag seems to have started with the 2006 action movie / Four Loko binge Crank, which features a pretty clever scene in which a character shoots at his enemies with a finger gun and they are hit by real bullets. Then the camera slowly reveals there was another shooter with an actual gun behind him. Yes, the Jason Statham film where his character has public sex with Amy Smart was revolutionary in at least one aspect.
It was a pretty cool scene, so naturally The Losers completely ripped it off in 2010. In their version, Chris Evans points finger guns at a group of enemies, they are shot, and it is revealed that there was actually a sniper in the distance doing the shooting. Which is to say, it was the exact same thing.
In 2012's Chronicle, Andrew robs a group of thugs by brandishing a finger gun. They laugh and mockingly finger gun back, thinking that they're about to beat this kid into hamburger, until he shows that his finger gun is loaded with telepathic powers that can in fact kill them dead.
But the finger gun fake-out was not limited to non-Oscar-winning movies. In The Dark Knight, two kids shoot finger guns at a car before it explodes, to the shock of everyone. And then, surprise, it is revealed that Batman actually shot the car with a missile. Eat it, kids. Batman's the only one who gets to be awesome around these parts.
In 1999, Bugs Were Crawling Under Everyone's Skin
When a movie that needs a PG-13 rating gets a R, one of two things happens: "Yippee Ki Yay mother fudger," or the filmmakers get creative with violence. To perfectly illustrate the latter, 1999's The Mummy gave us one of the grossest special effects in "totally allowed in a PG-13 movie" history: the scarabs that dig underneath peoples' skin and crawl around while they writhe and scream.
See? There's a lot of horror, very little blood, and you can air it on Sunday at 2 p.m. on TNT. But then everyone else bizarrely had the exact same idea. That same year, The Faculty featured an alien taking over a school by infecting teachers one by one with little parasites. In the film's climax (careful, we're going to spoil the hit 1999 film The Faculty), Elijah Wood's character defeats the alien queen, but gets injected with some last-minute worm parasites.
And of course, in 1999's The Matrix, the agents bug Neo by dropping a mechanical scorpion onto his stomach, which burrows into his belly button as he, you guessed it, writhes around and screams.
Maybe they all saw the same 1996 episode of The X-Files in which mechanical cockroaches kill people, because the alien abduction storyline was the least weird part of that show by a long shot. In that episode, a kid on acid thinks that he's seeing them crawling under his skin, and he kills himself trying to get them out.
Or maybe they were inspired by 1993's Ticks, which is about what you think it is about. Not only does that film have the greatest line in screenwriting history ("They call me Panic, 'cause I never do"), but it also has famed "That guy's in this movie?" actor Clint Howard shouting "I'M INFESTED" into the camera, and thus into our hearts.
When Parkour Went Viral, Every Movie Had To Shoehorn In A Parkour Scene
2001 saw the release of Yamakazi, a French movie responsible for introducing parkour to the world. And for the entire duration of the decade after the first movie executive watched Yamakazi, it became Hollywood law that all action movies had to feature one (but never more than that) scene of people stylishly running and jumping over obstacles, or even from one building to another.
It started off alright with Casino Royale, in which Daniel Craig chases a villain who parkours his way through a construction site. Eventually he gets caught and killed by the regular-running Bond, who successfully prevented parkour from ever showing up again in the series.
Then there was Live Free Or Die Hard, wherein Bruce Willis has to chase a henchman who spends all the parkour powers he'd been gathering for his entire life in one scene. That dude learned how to climb a girder before he ever learned to walk.
This apparently prompted Kevin Smith to insert parkour into one scene in his own Bruce Willis movie, Cop Out. And there was also Colombiana, a movie in which a little girl manages to outrun grown adults through sheer power of style. In the second Twilight movie, Taylor Lautner spontaneously climbs a tree with what I'm sad to admit is a cool as hell parkour move:
Even otherwise-inept Sam Witwicky became a parkour master for three seconds in the Transformers films when he clearly could have simply avoided running straight at cars. But the winner for the best parkour scene of all time will forever be Punisher: War Zone, in which Frank Castle accurately demonstrates how we all feel about parkour at this point:
Justin is an Atlantic Canadian filmmaker. Some writing/editing/evidence in a future deposition can be found at his website.
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