The 7 Most Mismatched Final Fights in Movie History
When I watch an action movie, the final confrontation between the good guy and the bad guy is something I anxiously anticipate as soon as the opening credits stop rolling. That's because I think the climax of any good adventure should be an intense ultimate battle forged of pure destiny, like the one between Connor MacLeod and the Kurgan at the end of Highlander (honestly, I think every movie should end with that fight, regardless of genre). But sometimes the final fight winds up being more vaudevillianly one-sided than the Hulk furiously smashing Loki into the floor of Tony Stark's penthouse like a sack of rabid possums at the end of The Avengers. These are all memorable examples of that second type.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles -- Shredder vs. Splinter
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie had a greater impact on my childhood than my parents' divorce. The hype of seeing four short men in Muppet costumes talk like Bart Simpson and smack disenfranchised street kids with blunt ninja weapons on the big screen was more exciting than finding out that Santa Claus was not only real, but a cybernetic tyrannosaurus from both space and the future. And the whole movie was building up toward a huge showdown with the Shredder, one of the greatest villains of 1980s children's literature -- halfway through the film, Splinter reveals that he was the pet of a ninja master who moved to America to be a construction worker and get murdered by the Shredder (apparently the foreman would only hire one Japanese guy and the Shredder was tired of living at home with his mom). Splinter managed to break free of his cage (this was when he was still a normal rat and not a 4-foot-tall living night terror) in enough time to scar the Shredder's face before he escaped, and the two have spent the intervening decade and a half waiting to finish that fight. Splinter never got to do anything but hobble around like the Turtles' butler in the cartoons, so seeing him in a deadly wheel kick competition against the Shredder was guaranteed to send our tender young minds blasting through the back of our skulls like a jazz trumpet solo.
Sure enough, when the climactic rooftop confrontation rolls around, Shredder handily dismantles all four Turtles in embarrassingly short order just in time for Splinter to show up. They have a fierce exposition-laden staredown, an unspoken requirement of final ultimate battles, and then Shredder takes his mask off and charges at Splinter from the other side of the roof, bellowing like John Rhys-Davies getting his dick tattooed in a hurricane.
We're expecting the two of them to collide in a 17-megaton karate-fist explosion powerful enough to spontaneously incinerate every single VHS copy of The Karate Kid on the planet. MC Hammer will probably have to write a whole other rap song just about their fight, in addition to the one he already contributed to the soundtrack, and this was back in 1990, when a statement like that meant adding another $200,000 to your film's budget, as opposed to the airport brunch and "Great Job, Hammer!" sticker it would cost today. However, rather than engage in a tornado of raw martial arts talent that would've reversed the Earth's rotation and sent us all back in time like in Superman: The Movie, Splinter just judo-flips the Shredder right over the lip of the brownstone, dropping him several stories down into a trash compactor where his probably-already-dead body is crushed into jellied oblivion.
Not even Sam Rockwell could cure that disappointment, because when I was 7 years old I didn't know who the hell Sam Rockwell was.
Sam Rockwell didn't even know who Sam Rockwell was.
Gladiator -- Russell Crowe vs. Joaquin Phoenix
Gladiator is a movie about a guy who fights people for a living and then gets screwed out of his retirement and forced to fight even more people until everyone in the ancient world has been stabbed to death by Russell Crowe. There are tiger battles, chariots that chop people in half, Muscle & Fitness models swinging spiked flails into people's faces, and more theatrical impalement than The Running Man and the Mortal Kombat movie combined. A film as overloaded with assbeat as Gladiator should have nothing short of a monster truck rally for its final sequence.
Instead, Joaquin Phoenix challenges Russell Crowe to a duel in the middle of the Roman Colosseum. Which is fine, really -- we've spent almost three hours watching Joaquin make Russell's life as shitty as he possibly can by systematically murdering Russell's family and all of his friends. Closing the show with the two of them in an epic sword fight seems more than appropriate. Even better, Joaquin sneaks in and mortally wounds Russell before the fight even starts, leaving Russell stumbling around dead on his feet. That's like Ted DiBiase throwing powder into the Macho Man's eyes while the referee's back is turned. They could've ended the movie right there and told everyone in the audience that Russell needed our applause in order to defeat Joaquin Phoenix but the only way to help him was to buy the final fight for $39.99 on pay-per-view and most of us would've done it.
"He also needs each one of you to buy CDs of his terrible, terrible music!"
But the movie continues rolling, so we all settle in for what is sure to be a nail-biting finale. The bell rings, and Russell immediately begins smacking Joaquin around like an angry stepfather looking for his stolen pornography.
Joaquin barely lands a single blow. Russell disarms him, backhands him all over the place like John McEnroe, and then stabs him in the throat with his own dagger.
The fight is over so quickly, even Russell seems upset and confused.
"It makes me feel like singing. People would watch a three-hour movie about me singing, right?"
Batman Returns -- Batman vs. The Penguin
Toward the end of Batman Returns, Batman infiltrates the Penguin's zoo lair and smashes his Bat-Winged Jet Ski Speedboat into the Penguin's Giant Circus Duckmobile, because the movie had reached a critical mass of ridiculousness at that point and both cars simply could not continue to exist without the universe imploding around them.
The two then square off in the snow. Penguin produces a switchblade umbrella (see "critical mass," above) and slashes wildly at Batman like he's trying to carve his way through the cobwebbed underhalls of a Victorian ghost mansion, but he only manages to succeed in breaking his sword after Batman easily dodges every attack. He is able to knock a remote out of Batman's hand, though, and Batman rewards his cunning with a jaw-numbing backhand.
Penguin presses the button on the remote, releasing a swarm of giant bats that send him stumbling backward through a skylight 50 feet down into an aquarium in a hailstorm of glass. Evidently Batman tricked him by labeling the remote "Press This Button to Immediately Win Everything."
The Penguin heaves himself out of the water about 10 minutes later to gurgle out a depressing joke, fall flat on his face, and die. Batman barely had to do anything -- the Penguin just bumbles his way into a spectacular calamity like Super Dave Osborne and winds up killing himself.
To be fair, this is how all of Super Dave's stunts would end in real life.
Die Hard 2 -- Bruce Willis vs. William Sadler
In Die Hard 2, Bruce Willis has his final confrontation against the movie's villain, William Sadler, on the wing of a taxiing jumbo jet full of drug-dealing military terrorists. At this point in the film, Bill Sadler has already personally tried to kill Bruce Willis with machine guns and hand grenades and crashed a passenger jet full of innocent people by tricking Colm Meaney into thinking the ground didn't exist.
Admittedly, that isn't too hard.
So we're totally ready to see Bruce Willis clobber him with meaty fists of New York rage. But we've also been given a firm demonstration of Bill Sadler's formidable naked karate skills, so we know it's going to be a close fight.
Except when the ultimate battle finally begins, William Sadler proceeds to pummel Bruce like a bunch of Ozzie Canseco cards in the spokes of a Huffy beach cruiser. The only offense Bruce Willis is able to mount is biting Bill Sadler's hand really hard, as if Bill Sadler is swatting him with a rolled-up magazine for peeing on the carpet.
Bear in mind, this is Bruce Willis as John McClane, one of the biggest action stars ever playing his most famous action hero ever, getting absolutely trashed by William Sadler, whose only other memorable cinematic battle was attempting to defeat Keanu Reeves at Clue in Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey. After a minute or two of solid crushification, he finally superkicks Bruce Willis right off of the damn plane and goes back inside to enjoy some champagne.
Bruno was not invited.
Dredd -- Judge Dredd vs. Ma-Ma
Judge Dredd frowns intensely through a tower of villains to get to Ma-Ma, played by Lena Headey, who reveals that she has a detonator attached to her wrist that will set off a bomb big enough to destroy the entire building (and the thousands of people living inside it) should her heart cease to beat.
The deadliest slap bracelet known to man.
Pitting Dredd's morality against his sworn duty to murder every criminal on sight is a clever gambit, and we wait with breathless anticipation to see how this titanic battle of wits will play out, because if you're anything like me, a mental chess match between Karl Urban and Lena Headey is just as satisfying a conclusion to an action movie as a rooftop punch contest between Dwayne Johnson and Mechagodzilla. However, Dredd's response to this moral quandary is to immediately shoot Lena in the stomach and fling her out of a 200-story window.
"I could attempt to deconstruct that problem. Or, I could do this."
His reasoning is that the building is so far up that the detonator will be too far out of range to trigger an explosion by the time she hits the ground and dies, but still, he devotes precisely two seconds of thought to Lena's elaborate mass-murdering riddle before saying "Fuck it, YOLO" and pitching her through a windowpane.
Steven Seagal Cannot Be Defeated in an Under Siege Film
Steven Seagal apparently has some clause in his acting contract that forbids him not only from ever being defeated in a fistfight, but also from ever appearing as if he is at a disadvantage. Consequently, the final confrontations in his Under Siege movies tend to be about as intense as Jason Statham making a 2-year-old sit in the corner for spilling a box of grape juice.
In Under Siege, Seagal faces off against Tommy Lee Jones in a stolen battleship, which is a sentence that needs no punchline. However, in the film, Tommy Lee Jones plays a man that is so dangerous, the U.S. government can't even manage to assassinate him. He was also able to take over an active warship, so he's clearly no slouch.
But Seagal strolls into the control room of the ship for a brief slap fight against Tommy, then gouges his eye out, stabs a knife into the top of his head like he's carving a jack-o'-lantern, and finally throws Tommy's mortificated skull dome through an instrument panel, which then explodes in a shower of electricity like a Bon Jovi video.
That's like three different bad guy deaths, and Seagal cashed them all in on the same person in less time than it took to read this paragraph.
In Under Siege 2, Seagal finds himself on a train loaded with mercenaries hired by a villainous computer-hacking mastermind to help him accomplish whatever fairy-tale bullshit '90s cinema relentlessly believed computer hackers were capable of doing. Seagal lazily karate chops his way through a bunch of subordinates until he makes it to the badass mercenary leader, who challenges him to a knife fight. This quickly devolves into Seagal waving his hands around like an interpretive Daft Punk dance and slapping (literally slapping) the mercenary leader into dizzying submission.
Seagal's hands are too blazingly fast for mortal humans to react.
He then lifts the mercenary leader's defeated body off of the ground to snap his neck and deliver the flabby, inflectionless Seagal equivalent of a witty one-liner.
And although we weren't expecting much of a fight against the computer-hacking mastermind, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the fact that Seagal defeats him by slicing all his fingers off and dropping him into an immolating fireball blazing up from the wreckage of a detonating train.
Apparently neither one of these villains had seen the first movie.
Rambo -- Rambo vs. An Entire Army
Rambo is the ballad of John Rambo killing his way through the Burmese jungle to rescue a bunch of missionary workers from the clutches of an evil general armed with molesto-vision CHiPs glasses and the hyperactive sweat glands of an Uncanny X-Man.
Rambo locates the missing people being held on a riverbed by the bad guy's entire army, because that's just the way things turn out when Rambo is on the case. In previous installments, we've seen him disrupt villainous compounds from within, so we're expecting a fairly drawn-out sequence of Rambo stealthily creeping his way down to the river, systematically eliminating enemies as he goes, and freeing the hostages to get them clear of the ensuing bullet festival. Now picture in your mind the exact opposite of that sentence. That's what Rambo does in this movie.
He sprints up to an enemy jeep like he's being chased by a giant scorpion, chops the gunner's head off to steal the power of his Quickening, then turns the vehicle's 50-caliber machine gun onto the bad guy's army and kills every single one of them, down to the last man. He just blasts them all into oblivion in about four minutes while making Angry Stallone Face.
General Rapestache tries to run away, but Rambo teleports in front of him.
Rambo then hacks the villain's stomach open with a boat propeller and sends him tumbling down a hill with his guts noodling out like a bunch of Fruit Roll-Ups in an old wet lunch sack, and we all listen to Slayer on the drive home from the theater.
Looks like he won't be in The Expendables 3, either.