Superheroes, action men, clones, kaiju, news anchors, politicians, pub-crawlers and ninjas battled it out on cinema screens this year, and we cheered them all. As Christmas approaches, here’s a festive reminder that nothing delights and unites us like spectacular conflict. Er... or something...
P.S. There are fights in certain movies released in the second half of December that are worthy of this list, but we'll hold back on including them here until January, for fear of spoiling them for anyone.
THE SMALLVILLE FIGHT
Film: Man Of Steel
The 9/11 Metropolis carnage left an unpleasant aftertaste for many audiences, but Smallville was a battle that Man of Steel got gloriously right. Kal pays at least lip service to protecting civilians here, and the exuberant three-way rumble between Supes and his Kryptonian adversaries – with the U.S. military incoming – provides our happiest couple of minutes, with Antje Traue as a bonus.
LOGAN VS. SHINGEN
Film: The Wolverine
It’s a storm of swords and adamantium claws as Logan takes on the new boss of the Yashida family; the former still weak from his poisoning by Viper but growing stronger by the second. Shingen delivers what should be the coup de gras, driving his katana through Wolverine’s chest – but the mutant is recovered and his healing factor is back on full. What kind of monster is he? He’s Huge Ackman!
GOSLING GOES DOWN
Film: Only God Forgives
Wanna fight? About an hour into Nicolas Winding Refn’s divisive opus, Ryan Gosling loosens his tie, steps into a boxing ring with Vithaya Pansringarm and gets his ass handed to him, encasing him in disfiguring make-up for the rest of the movie. Apparently it was Gosling’s own idea – the pressure of being Empire’s fourth sexiest man in the world must have gotten to him.
NICK FROST IS THE PINK HULK
Film: The World's End
How do you top the 'Don’t Stop Me Now' sequence from Shaun Of The Dead? With an epic pub-fu sequence that sees Nick Frost hulk out to an orchestral remix of Silver Bullet’s '20 Seconds To Comply', that’s how. Turns out he can wield dual bar stools like Chow Yun-fat rocks handguns, with Pegg and the rest not acquitting themselves badly either. Pure pandemonium.
THE HONG KONG FIGHT
Film: Pacific Rim
The coolest of many awesome smackdowns in Pacific Rim saw a double-kaiju attack destroy two jaegers and disable a third – at epic length. Last-resort jaeger Gypsy Danger is dispatched into the fray, and at one point clubs category-four kaiju Otachi with a boat plucked from the harbour. A large boat. Neon-lit and rain soaked, there have been few monster mashes more stylish.
NINJAS ON THE MOUNTAIN
Film: G.I. Joe: Retaliation
Buried in Jon M. Chu’s unaccountably dull action sequel – despite the best efforts of The Rock – was this joyful sequence of Himalayan martial arts action. Ray Park and Elodie Yung fly around mountains on ziplines as ninjas swarm on their own fragile ropes. Audiences worldwide woke up for ten minutes.
Film: Olympus Has Fallen
You can debate the comparative merits of this year’s two White House action movies all day long. But what White House Down didn’t have was a scene of Gerard Butler caving someone’s head in with a bust of Abraham Lincoln, making Olympus Has Fallen the clear victor in the skull-crushing-with-presidential-likeness stakes. If there are more important stakes we’d like to know about them.
CRUISE ON CRUISE
Tech 49 encounters Tech 52 in Joseph Kosinski’s clone sci-fi. Sadly, they don’t get along. What happens when an unstoppable Tom Cruise meets an immovable Tom Cruise? Thigh choking and drone sabotage, as it turns out, which will come as a surprise to anyone expecting a mega-watt exchange of grins and a high-five.
THE MEAT FEAST
Film: The Escape Plan
Arnie and Sly spent virtually two decades throwing verbal punches at each other. But that, of course, was off-screen. So when the old stagers started smacking each other into the middle of the 1980s in this otherwise fairly risible prison actioner, it felt like history in the making. Points awarded for Arnie's "You hit like a vegetarian" quip. Points deducted for the fight itself being something of a sham; a pantomime aimed at Jim Caviezel's Warden McBastard. Points, ultimately, shared. Maybe next time we'll have a clear winner.
THE HOUSE DEBATES
Their fidelity to documented history might be debatable (no pun intended), but the pivotal confrontations in the House of Representatives in Spielberg’s stately biopic ably make the case that thrilling sparring can be verbal as well as physical, and the final vote is as nail-biting as any desperate final crane kick or upper cut.
N.B. The next slide contains spoilers for Oblivion, so be warned...