A View from Atlas Park: Fight! Fight! Fight!

Violence: a very direct way of solving problems, but one that often ends in responses in kind (thus creating new problems) and is frowned on by society in general. It is something that everyone is aware of and would much rather be a spectator to than immediately involved in (UFC fighters excepted). Violence is also something that is intimately connected to superhero comics to the point that large sections of the comic-book reading audience are turned off if there isn’t at least some fighting in an issue.

One of the great staples of comic book stories is seeing well-toned people beating on each other with their fists / legs. Don’t look at me like that – it’s true. There may be variations on the theme – Cyclops may blast someone with his force blast before punching them unconscious – but comic books are full of people fighting each other, usually in a melee fashion. As a form of escapism, watching two (or more) opponents face off against each other can be a great release, regardless of what those Seduction of the Innocent-types tell you.

I had thought about doing a ‘Top 5 Fights In Comics’ column, but quickly realised that I haven’t read nearly enough comics to be able to do something like that authoratively. Complications also arise since everyone has a favourite fight involving a favourite character and that it is very hard to judge fights between (as examples) Batman vs the Joker and Galactus vs Ego the Living Planet – the power scales are just too different. Instead, I thought I’d look at the ‘Top 5 Fights in Comic Book and Superhero Movies’ – the field is a little smaller and easier to grade. That said, I’m sure I’ll miss some that should be included – if you think I have, please drop me a line and let me know.

In my personal opinion, the top five fights in comic book / superhero movies that I’ve seen are:

5. Blade vs Nomak (“Blade 2”)

From the very start of the film its obvious that at Blade and Nomak are going to have a big fight at the end. It’s par for the course for the action film genre. What isn’t so obvious is how good that fight it going to be. It is a hard and brutal affair – martial arts mixed with brawling mixed with wrestling – and one that rings truer to life than some other action films where the fights are look more choreographed than a ballet.

It also serves well to demonstrate what a fight between two enhanced humans (well… vampiric humans) would be like. During the fight things are damaged and destroyed, including one point where Blade’s head clips and takes a chunk off a cement pillar – superpowers or not, that’s gotta hurt!

The end of this fight sees Blade just manage to land the killing blow and Nomak finally achieve peace through death. Although not highly imaginative as an ending, it was fitting to give Nomak a noble death. Overall, there have been many ‘main good guy versus main bad guy’ endings to action films, but few have handled the one-on-one fight as well as “Blade 2”.

4. Logan vs Special Ops Soldiers (“X-Men 2”)

This was a tough call – Logan ends up fighting Sabertooth, Mystique and Lady Deathstrike (not that she’s ever called that) in the X-Men movies available thus far. However, it is his running battle with Special Ops Soldiers in Professor X’s mansion that stood out for me.

Arguably, it is a different type of fight – Logan is up against normal humans as opposed to the mutants he faces in the more climatic battles. But it is in this fight that we see Logan’s capability for violence much more clearly than in his one-on-one fights. He is quick, brutal and opportunistic in taking out the soldiers while protecting those in the mansion – exactly how he should be to stick with his character.

It would have been very easy for “X-Men 2” to show a kinder, gentler Logan by having him withdraw his blades and just knock his opponents unconscious, but it served both the movie and the character well by not toning down the action (the near-complete lack of blood is noted – I’m not bloodthirsty, but the lack of blood made things ring a bit false given the mayhem involved). It was good to see the film recognise that Logan is dangerous and the reality of his violence – should he ever let loose, it would take an awful lot to stop him and people would die.

3. Spiderman vs the train (“Spiderman 2”)

To be honest, the fights in the “Spiderman” films have been a bit disappointing. Spiderman’s abilities are shown only fleetingly as the movies try to balance out the mess Peter Parker makes of his life with the superpowered experiences he has as Spiderman. However, “Spiderman 2” included a scene that showed the true mettle of its lead character.

Having temporarily fought off Doctor Octopus, Spiderman is left to contend with a passenger-filled train that is out of control and heading towards disaster. Out of options, he can see no choice other than to get in front of the train and use himself (and his webbing abilities) to hold it back.

This is a great scene because it showed the self-sacrificing nature of Spiderman and that being heroics isn’t pretty – it takes everything Spiderman has to stop that train and he doesn’t look good doing it. However, he manages to succeed, which is what counts. In the following scene (despite the blatant symbolism) it was also great to see some positive recognition being given by the public to Spiderman – to that point, most of the opinions of Spiderman have been delivered by J. Jonah Jameson, who really isn’t that happy with the webhead.

2. The Burly Brawl (“The Matrix Reloaded”)

It is my opinion that “The Matrix” trilogy are superhero films – just look at Neo’s cape, his other special powers inside the Matrix, the extended beatings he can take – and the best fight scene in this series was the Burly Brawl, which saw Neo take on an almost endless supply of Agents Smith.

I know the complaints about this scene: “It didn’t look real” or “That was so fake”. I don’t care. CGI fu, such as it currently is, makes everyone look shiny. If you can’t get over that, I hear that “Bride and Prejudice” has lots of tickets available (either that, or see the last paragraph in this column for another movie suggestion). For everyone else who can accept that perhaps action films aren’t 100% real, then watching Neo take on Smith after Smith after Smith was a great and surprising experience. It was a fight scene that I don’t believe anyone could honestly say “I’ve seen that before” and was also a great introduction to show just how dangerous Agent Smith had become.

“The Matrix” series had other memorable fights between Neo and Smith – the Subway fight in “The Matrix” and the final battle in “The Matrix Revolutions”- but it was the Burly Brawl that was filled with the most novelty and is least likely to ever be repeated. It may have marked the start of CGI fu being included in every action movie from that point on, but at times we have to take the bad with the good.

1. The Crow boardroom battle (“The Crow”)

Ah, the controversial first choice. This fight sees a resurrected Eric Draven (raised back to life by a crow) taking on an upstairs boardroom full of bad guys on the way to executing his final target – the last remaining killer of himself and his fiancee. Although this scene does include gunplay, for the most part it is done by the bad guys.

What made this fight scene my favourite is in watching Draven move like a force of nature through his opponents. The fighting isn’t pretty – it’s more of a ‘whatever works’ style – but it generally looks unforced and natural. It also showed that Draven was pretty much unstoppable in going after his goals and exactly what a force of vengence he had become.

When Draven eventually does get to his target (a drug addict called Skank) it’s almost an anti-climax – Skank’s been driven out of his mind by fear and almost seems not worth the effort. Revenge being what it is, Draven still throws him out a window.

This scene scores top place due to the overall character motivation seen in “The Crow”. Draven is after some absolute villains who did terrible things to him and his fiancee. His actions are (in my opinion, anyway) quite justified. Unlike some films, where the motivation for all the violence that takes place is quite minimal, “The Crow” continually reinforces what happened and why Draven is so determined to obtain revenge. The boardroom fight comes as the climax to this revenge, and since the bad guys in the boardroom stand between Draven and Skank, then the bad guys have got to go…

And that’s the list.

The above fights were the ones I thought most stood out in terms of demonstrating what a character could do – not just physically, but from a motivational and emotional perspective as well. Lest people think that this list is too heavily skewed towards new films (which it is), I was strongly tempted to include a fight from the “Lone Wolf and Cub” series, but couldn’t choose just one.

What made me think of this was going to see a movie called “Ong Bak” last week (which may have also been released under the title “Dare Devil”, but given that this may cause confusion with the Ben Affleck “Daredevil”, I’ll stick to calling it “Ong Bak”). If you want to see an old-school martial arts film – think “Drunken Master II” by way of “Bloodsport” – then I heartily recommend you check “Ong Bak” out. Tony Jaa in the lead role possesses an incredible athleticism and given that the action in this movie is done without wires and CGI – I’ll repeat: a martial arts film done without wires and CGI – there are a number of times you’ll be left wondering how someone could do what you’ve just seen. There’s no real plot to speak of, but that you’ll forget that such things matter after you get to the fight scenes – trust me.

[p] – UnSub [email protected] 4/13/05

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