Even the manliest of men cry at the movies, though they might not admit it.
Hey guys, Dan Epstein from No Right Answer here. It’s hard to label a movie as “Manly” without feeling exclusionary toward female movie goers. I’m not saying “Manly” means only guys can enjoy them, but from a marketing perspective they’ve been geared towards the male demographic. Ask MovieBob to go in depth on that one; I’ll let him get the hate mail. Women can fully enjoy “Manly” movies, and in fact my wife has seen and enjoyed far more Rocky and Bond movies than I. I am reminded of this constantly.
Seriously, make her stop.
That being said, the diehard hopeless fanatics of “Manly” movies will ridicule lovers of “Romantic Comedies” and the like, questioning why fans would want to cry. “There’s no explosions,” they scoff, chugging Mountain Dew and pouring saline in their eyes after a seventeen-hour Call of Duty marathon, “How can you watch such flowery stuff when there are REAL movies to watch?” Well I’ve got a secret that someone’s paid me off to reveal (see Greg Tito): There’s crying in “Manly” movies too. Quite a lot, I’m afraid. Below is a compiled list of the top five, and we’re going to dish some dirt on what Mr. (or Ms.) Macho is really doing with all those wadded up tissues. Ok, probably not the best metaphor.
1. Terminator 2: Judgment Day
I apologize for the whiplash you all just suffered, throwing your collective heads back in a chorus of “OF COURSE!” My lawyers inform me you have no grounds for lawsuits, sorry. This is not just a movie about time travel and murdering robots. This is the SEQUEL to a movie about time travel and murdering robots! That means we as movie goers have only to watch the first installment to get a sense of what we’re in for. Murder, murder, time travel, murder, sex scene (natch), murder, explosion, killer theme song. This is not conventional Valentine’s Day material here.
This movie has all the boxes checked off for a great “Manly” movie. The heroes crack wise with each other, they escape guns and explosions, mom Sarah Conner is rescued, and still to this day I’m confused as to whether I’m attracted to or frightened by her. Nowhere in this film do we expect to care for the cannon-fodder that is strewn across the screen. Sure, John’s foster parents were killed, but he hated them anyways and by extension so did we. Sure, Sarah’s pleas to the psych warden to see her son were ignored, but then she stabbed him with a needle, so it’s all good! (Kyle’s Edit: The Escapist does not endorse the deaths of foster parents or the stabbing of psych wardens.)
Then James Cameron comes along, cracks his knuckles, and gives us what can only be short-handed as “The Thumbs-up Scene.” Again, no whiplash-related lawsuits will be accepted. We spend the run-time of the movie witnessing robo-Austrian from the first film becoming not only a good guy, but a surrogate father to the whiney John Connor. They fix a truck together and talk about John’s crappy surrogate fathers over the years, and why it’s human to cry, and just have a genuine father-son moment. If one of them wasn’t a robot assassin from the future, this would be an Oscar-bait premise.
Then the bomb drops. No, not the judgment day bomb, that was earlier in the film in a dream sequence. I mean the drama-bomb. (Kyle’s Edit: That was my nickname in high school.) Robo-dad says that the only way to stop two more horrible Terminator movies from being made is for him to take a lava-bath. WHAT? Fathers everywhere tense up, thinking about what they would do to protect their kids. Kids everywhere tense up, thinking about how they will miss their Dads when they’re gone. Really young kids tense up because this is a Rated-R movie and they might be caught. OH, what’s that? He can’t self-terminate and Sarah has to kill him?! WTF Cameron?! That’s some heavy stuff right there.
And as Cyborg-papa is melting and feeling what can gently be called “supernova-level agony,” he uses the last of his sentient capabilities to give John a thumbs-up, which the boy taught him earlier in an attempt to teach him human-ese. Holy hell, he gives John a thumbs-up. A final acknowledgment that he was listening, he learned, their time together was valuable to him, even in the face of his own destruction. Why are my eyes leaking?
2. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
No, not the debatably crappy remake where everyone played musical chairs and Robocop was there for some reason. I mean the original, covered in rich Corinthian leather. Keep in mind, Sylar and “no other franchise” new Kirk (Kyle’s Edit: Ah, the cool, refreshing taste of New Kirk, from your friends at the Kirka-Cola Co.) were dumped in our laps, but Wrath of Khan was after three years of TV episodes and a feature film. We as the audience were invested in these characters from the get-go. That being said, this was the show that coined the term “red shirts,” which meant if three name-brand actors and some guy with a mustache go on an away mission, you know who’s getting a tribble up the phase bank.
Again, a very “Manly” movie featuring revenge, mind-controlling ear parasites, and an oddly high amount of dead bodies for a Star Trek flick. Ricardo Bear-Chest (Kyle’s Edit: I think Dan may have meant Bare-Chest, but it works both ways) waltzes in and takes over the place, then the Shatner hits the fan and yells at Ricardo really loudly. Like, really loud…He made it weird. Khan wants to steal some sort of “sperm-nuke” that impregnates everything it blows up. Now THAT’S “Manly” if I do say so myself! The Enterprise was damaged by Shatner’s acting and they can’t get away quick enough to avoid the pregnancy-shockwave. Don’t worry, Spock will fix the reactor. Scotty yells something about it being dangerous, but come on…this is Star Trek. No one important dies in Star Trek…I’m sure he’ll be fine.
He wasn’t fine.
He dies, while giving such a simultaneously emotional speech and impeccable “I’m dying” acting display, it makes Scotty break out his bagpipes. Spock, the one so logical, finds his own death as necessary to save the crew. He does not show fear, or sadness. Instead he reminds Kirk of their lifelong bro-hood, and then he rasps out one last “live long and prosper.” But this isn’t a Vulcan platitude. He’s urging Kirk to embrace the old age that has crept up on him, to accept that the old adventures are over. And then the movie ended. And then we didn’t want to stand up because maybe the movie would come back on and he would wake up and wink at the camera.
I’m giving this one a bit of a pass because as good as it was, I don’t think anyone would consider it a “classic.” Not that you have to be a classic to be on this list, but still. A continuation and conclusion of the wildly popular cult show Firefly, this film was a miracle just for existing. The show had been cancelled for quite a while, and only through DVD box set sales did someone say “Hey, maybe we could make more money if we made more supply that people are demanding?” Visionary, that person was.
So this crew gets together again, and we have an entire TV season off which our expectations are based for this film. Everyone will get beaten up severely, then tell jokes that are just soooooooo funny that everything will work out in the end. Maybe even see Nathan Fillion’s butt, but don’t get greedy. There are bad guys chasing them, other bad guys chasing them, and they are also bad guys themselves, but they’re funny about it. (Kyle’s Edit: Spoilers? I guess? I’m not sure Dan remembers the plot of Serenity, guys.)
First Joss “I own Jupiter now” Whedon knocks off the priest, or “Shepherd” as people who cared about his character would protest. This lulled the audience into a false sense of security, because surely Joss would only kill off one of the original crew. And if you were going to have someone die, it would probably be the one with the least screen time or established plot from the series. There could be a Serenity 2: Electric Boogaloo without Shepherd Book. Suddenly, things start getting dicey and they have to make an emergency landing and HOLY CRAP NOOOOOOOOOOO! (Kyle’s Edit: over 30 additional O’s removed from that. You’re welcome.)
Wash, the fan favorite, the funny guy, the heart of the ship, got his heart stabbed by a clipper ship, or something pointy that vaguely resembled one. It was sudden, it was unceremonious, and we hate you Joss. (Kyle’s Edit: Dan’s opinions are his own, and do not reflect the rest of the human race’s feelings for the esteemed Mr. Whedon.) Keep making those Marvel movies, but we hate you. WAAAAAAAAAASH!
4. I Am Legend
Don’t be thrown off by the fact that this was a horrible movie. Will Smith was acting up a tropical storm the best he could, but nothing could overcome the early-90s CG travesties that were the “zombies” in this film. (Kyle’s Edit: For clarification, Dan does not think this movie was made in the early 90s, he thinks the CGI effects in this 2007 film look like it.) That being said, if you ignore the latter half of the film wherein things take a right turn at quality and fall off a cliff into raw sewage, you’re left with a fantastic short film about a man, his dog, and an unseen zombie threat. This is basically Old Yeller plus Cast Away, but with zombies. That’s probably how they should have pitched it to the studios.
And we all know what’s best remembered from Old Yeller. The Fresh Prince of Zombie New York spends his days either talking to himself, the humanoid remains of our fallen society, or his dog. The latter makes the most sense, especially when it’s revealed through flashbacks that the dog was given to him by his daughter before being blown up in a massive plot explosion. So this dog basically represents his daughter, and he pours all his paternal instincts into it. “Eat your vegetables” he says. “Don’t chase zombies” he says. Dads are the worst, am I right?
Only problem is, even though Agent J’s pure uncut charisma makes him immune to the outbreak, the dog has just been lucky. So, like a comic book villain using the hero’s family as his only weakness, the plot says “F-you, guy from Independence Day!” and gets the dog infected. At this point it’s been established that Will is no closer to finding a cure than his son is to being a legitimate movie star, so we know the dog’s a goner. At least Will can shoot her from a distance, make it quick just like Old Yeller, right?
Old Yeller was a cake-walk compared to this. Will hugs the dog while the last traces of humanity (dog-manity?) drain from her, then choke-holds her to death. Not only is he forced to kill the last remaining companion he has, but also the last symbol of the life and family he lost. It’s slow, it’s not easy, and he didn’t enjoy it. None of us did. Somehow there are more tears for that dog than there are for the entire human race, and it feels appropriate.
There are two things with this entry that I think will surprise readers. First, that anything from Michael “if I could only find a way to explode boobs, my life’s work would be complete” Bay is on this list at all, and second, I’m not going with the obvious emotional moment from this movie. As for the first point, even broken clocks are right twice a day, so let’s move to the second.
This is a standard end-of-the-world movie, so the bad guy in this flick is a Texas-sized rock of death. Why not, right? But oh no, the trained astronauts can’t go because reeeaaasoons! So a rag-tag group (is there any other kind of tag?) of oil drillers have to come together and blow it up from the inside, mostly because Michael Bay can’t explode anything without some sort of penetration. Bruce Willis and future-Batman are at odds with one another because one is Liv Tyler’s dad and the other is her boyfriend. I’ll leave it to you to figure out which is which.
“I assume you’re going for the scene where Die Hard saves Daredevil’s life by sacrificing himself to blow up space-Texas?” No, I’m not, and don’t assume things, it makes an ass out of you and me. Maybe it’s the father in me, but the scene that really hit me right in the feels is before the shuttles even leave NASA.
When Baldy McGreat-on-Falling-Skies (Kyle’s edit: Will Patton. His name is Will Patton.) goes to say goodbye to his kid, he’s closure-blocked by his ex-wife. We are led to believe this is not something new because he gives up pretty easily in seeing his only child before shooting himself out of a cannon at a rock in space. In such an action-packed film loaded with melodramatic crying moments, this muted little tragedy stands out as an actual piece of pathos. The man just wants to say goodbye to the child who never knew him, before embarking on certain death with a side order of Steve Buscemi. He’s got a perfectly valid explanation that would melt any ice-barriers the mother would erect, but he legally can’t give it. So he leaves a space shuttle toy for his kid. No explanation, for all his ex-wife knows he’s just being a deadbeat.
Sure there’s the pay off with his family when he got back, but in that one moment, just wanting to say goodbye to his kid…and she didn’t let him…and when his kid asked who was at the door…SHE LIED AND SAID IT WAS A SALESMAN!? Michael Bay just exploded my heart. It was glorious. (Kyle’s Edit: Dan’s heart exploded? I figured mine was the shoddy ticker.)