Fight scenes: I love ‘em.
I’ll add the disclaimer that in real life I would never view fighting as a desirable solution to a problem… As far as movies are concerned, however, I’m probably going to find the movie a lot more interesting if two or more people, starships, robots, etc. start beating on each other. It should come as no surprise, then, that fight scenes are often the highlight of a movie for me. (I’m really setting myself apart from the crowd with that statement, aren’t I?) Certain fight scenes have stood out in my memory over the years as exceptionally enjoyable for one reason or another, and I figured that a list of them would be fun to write, so here we are.
Note that for this list, I’m defining “fight scene” as involving a primarily one-on-one confrontation, using mostly bare fists or melee weapons. So… no battles between armies and no gunfights for this list. And as is always the case when I start to go on about movies, you can expect spoilers.
5: Huo Yuanjia vs. Qin Lei – Fearless (2006)
Beijing Film Studio
I remember this fight from Fearless for one specific reason: I was always amused by it. The fight certainly isn’t meant to be funny; I’d say it’s meant to be tragic. This duel and its eventual consequences start the chain of events that lead to Huo’s maturation in the movie. Nevertheless, I can’t stop myself from at least smiling a bit when I see it. That’s because it always looks to me like the two martial artists go out of their way to wreck the restaurant they’re fighting in. Tables, chairs, floors, stairs… you name it: it gets destroyed, not to mention the open season on wine jugs. I find myself imagining a deleted segment where Masters Huo and Qin stop fighting each other and try to settle their feud by seeing who can smash the most tables.
4: Blade vs. Nomak – Blade II (2002)
New Line Cinema
Simply put: this was one hell of a fight. Blade II’s main villain/final boss is Nomak, a super vampire created through experimentation. This of course means he’s crazy powerful. An over-the-top comic book fight ensues. These two don’t hold anything back for the final battle; Nomak and Blade pound on each other with everything they have. Unfortunately for Blade, Nomak is unstoppable. He sends Blade flying across the room three times. Hell, Blade impales Nomak with his sword at the start of the fight, and Nomak simply breaks Blade’s blade and pulls it out. He heals so fast that a compound fracture of his arm requires just a little working around to fix. Nomak is pretty much the winner of the fight until Blade manages to stab him in the heart with a piece of his sword. This isn’t even enough kill him, though it manages to make him stop killing Blade temporarily. Luckily for Blade, Nomak ends up deciding to push the sword piece in further and kill himself. If he hadn’t decided to do so, I can’t help but think that Nomak could have pulled it out and finished Blade off, given how quickly he shrugs off injury.
3: Riddick vs. the Lord Marshal – The Chronicles of Riddick (2004)
I wish that I could find a better video to embed here. I tried, but this is the best I could do, and it doesn’t even show the whole fight! It’s too bad, because this fight is eye candy. When The Chronicles of Riddick was in the theaters, I went back and watched it multiple times. While, as I mentioned in a recent post, I like Riddick the character so I’m favorably biased towards any Riddick movie, I’m pretty sure the final fight was a factor. (Well, that and not having much else to do in June of 2004. It was either Riddick or driving around aimlessly, and Riddick burned less gas.) I’d certainly enjoy the rest of the movie, especially all big and loud on a movie screen with powerful speakers, but as the fight drew near I’d be practically twitching with anticipation. It was so much fun to watch. The Lord Marshal’s ability to zoom around all hyper-fast and blurry captivated me. For all I know it didn’t impress anyone else, but I loved it. I’d say the sound effects and music helped make this fight seem extra epic to me, too. The whoosh-y zooming sounds, the hard clang of that spear/statue ear pick thing as it smacks against the floor, the frantic feeling of the music, they all definitely help. (And seriously, look at the video. That statue was totally sticking a sharp thing into its ear; these Necromongers have interior design aesthetics that remind me of people I knew in college.) It’s a great fight all around. It’s fun to watch and fun to hear. Oh, and there’s also the whole “skewering Riddick (or his armor, at least), lifting him up, and running across the room” thing. That’s just badass.
2: Ozymandias vs. the Comedian – Watchmen (2009)
Another comic book movie fight? Clearly I like my movie fights pretty and stylized. I’m not saying I can’t appreciate a grittier, more realistic fight scene. If anything I’d say I appreciate them more for favoring realism over looking cool. But I guess the beautiful fight scenes do tend to stick in my memory more and are a lot more fun to watch, and that’s a big part of why this fight is here. I love the way this fight is shot. Yes, it has the standard Zack Snyder trick of suuuuuupppperrrr slooooooow mooootion followed by holyshitreallyfast motion. To me, that was awesome for 300, but may not be necessary anywhere else. The aspect that I specifically like is the utter lack of shaky camera syndrome. I’m not a fan of shaky camera work in fights. For that matter, are there fans of shaky cameras? If so, I’d be interested in hearing why. Seems like I only ever hear it being decried by critics and reviewers, but it keeps getting used. Is shaky camera work a good way to hide otherwise crappy effects/choreography, perhaps?
Back on topic… Watchmen’s opening fight has no shaky camera syndrome. You can see every move the opponents make. Visually, it’s certainly more restrained than the previous items on this list, but I still like it. It’s still clear we’ve got two very tough, strong fighters, especially from the damage that the apartment sustains. (I’m going to assume that the Comedian doesn’t happen to live in the flimsiest apartment ever.)
This fight is also a hell of a one-sided ass-kicking. I like the fact that the Comedian, who if you’re familiar with Watchmen very much looks the part of the stereotypical badass, is so easily beaten by Ozymandias, who normally looks like someone you’ve never suspect of being so physically dangerous. There’s also a bit of a revenge aspect to the fight. Ozymandias attacks and kills the Comedian primarily for much bigger reasons than petty revenge, but the original comic book mentions that the Comedian did beat Ozymandias in a fight once when the latter was younger. With that in mind, I always see just a bit of a “taking revenge on someone who wronged me when I was young” fight going on here. I do tend to like revenge stories.
1: Bane vs. Batman – The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Well, here we are: my number one pick. So, why is this fight taking the top spot? This might sound like a very underwhelming explanation, but basically I think this fight is really cool. That’s all. Even just watching it to collect my thoughts before writing this, I was having a blast. I’ve already previously mentioned that I really liked Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, so that’s certainly a factor, as well. I’d say the buildup to this fight was well done, also. We’ve already seen Bane do some cool stuff like the whole plane stunt at the beginning of the film and sticking it to stockbrokers with witty one-liners. Then there was also Alfred warning Bruce about how dangerous Bane could be. Alfred was spot-on, clearly, because Batman got his ass handed to him in the fight.
So basically, this fight stands out as an exceptionally well distilled piece of pure Bane awesomeness. Every blow he lands on Batman feels absolutely crushing, and Bane even lets himself get hit repeatedly with no apparent effect. Hell, I usually think it’s cheesy when a combatant talks while fighting, but Bane even makes that work for me. I’ll give exceptional props to three bits from the fight: First, the point where Bane does that big spinning jumping punch that drops Batman like a sack of potatoes. Second, there’s his “Oh… you think darkness is your ally” speech. (I’ve parodied that one so many times that I think my wife contemplates throwing things at me when I do.) And finally, of course, there’s the “I was wondering what we’d break first: your spirit, or your body” finisher. I don’t know what else to say; Bane’s awesome.