The Train Scene
Spider-Man 2 (2004)
Directed By: Sam Raimi
I talk about Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 a lot. That’s because it’s currently my favorite superhero movie. From beginning to end, Spider-Man 2 is spectacular. But the last thirty minutes are truly brilliant. It’s been said before, but the train scene (Featured Above) might be the single best sequence in all of the modern superhero movies. That’s because it doesn’t just capture the essence of the character, it captures the essence of superheroes. Why they matter, why they’re so enduring.
One of the reasons why it’s great is that it presents us with an innovative fight scene that elicits emotion not because it’s forced but because it’s organic to the scene. While the fight between Doctor Octopus and Spider-Man is action packed and the scene where Peter stops the train is breathtaking, it’s the conclusion to the scene that really ties it together.
“He’s just a kid. No older than my son.”
The ending to the train scene is one of my favorite scenes in superhero films. It sums up why Spider-Man is such a relatable character. He’s … us. Just like you and I, Peter Parker deals with financial and social issues, stress and loneliness. In Spider-Man 2, Peter has to deal with all of those things and ask himself, how can you save others, if you can’t save yourself?
I’d be remissed if I didn’t mention Alfred Molina as well, whose Doctor Octopus is one of the rare superhero movie villains who gets redemption at the end. “I will not die a monster.” While the entire city might be at stake at the end of Spider-Man 2, the actual stakes of that final sequence are quite small. It’s the lives of the people on that train, Peter’s friendship with Harry, his relationship with MJ, and Doc Oc’s soul.
My favorite thing about Spider-Man 2 is that it leans into everything that makes the superhero comic movie work. It fully embraces and finds the greatness in the genre.
King Kong vs. T-Rex
King Kong (2005)
Directed By: Peter Jackson
Peter Jackson’s King Kong gets a lot of unjust hate. I agree that it’s a little long (Clocking in at 3 hrs 21 minutes — with the extended edition adding an additional 12) and that some of the performances could’ve been better. However, if there’s one thing that the film absolutely nails, it’s the relationship between Kong and Naomi Watts’ Ann Darrow.
There are astonishments to behold in Peter Jackson’s new “King Kong,” but one sequence, relatively subdued, holds the key to the movie’s success. Kong has captured Ann Darrow and carried her to his perch high on the mountain. He puts her down, not roughly, and then begins to roar, bare his teeth and pound his chest. Ann, an unemployed vaudeville acrobat, somehow instinctively knows that the gorilla is not threatening her but trying to impress her by behaving as an alpha male — the King of the Jungle. She doesn’t know how Queen Kong would respond, but she does what she can: She goes into her stage routine, doing backflips, dancing like Chaplin, juggling three stones.
Her instincts and empathy serve her well. Kong’s eyes widen in curiosity, wonder and finally what may pass for delight. From then on, he thinks of himself as the girl’s possessor and protector. She is like a tiny beautiful toy that he has been given for his very own, and before long, they are regarding the sunset together, both of them silenced by its majesty.
Thus, as Ann’s newly appointed protector, when a group of T-Rex come and attack her, Kong does everything in his power to protect her. This scene is absolutely mesmerizing. Andy Serkis (coming off of his great performance as Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy) does some amazing work here. Not only does Kong have to fight off the T-Rex, he also has to continuously contort his body to protect Ann.
The scene above is one of the many reasons why in 2005, King Kong became the most expensive movie ever produced ($207 Million — beating the previous highest, Spider-Man 2). I remember watching this in the theater and when it was all said and done, turning to my buddy and being like, “Heck yeah.” When Kong pounds his chest, my theater absolutely lost it.
Big shoutout to the ice skating scene from this movie too. A brief moment of beauty before an ending of chaos.
Crossing The Bridge
Directed By: William Friedkin
Sometimes, I like to imagine a an alternate timeline where William Friedkin’s Sorcerer didn’t come out weeks after the revelatory Star Wars and we’re all still talking about it. (I do love Star Wars though).
A loose adaptation of the timeless 1953 classic, The Wages of Fear, Sorcerer depicts four outcasts from varied backgrounds meeting in a South American village, where they are assigned to transport cargoes of nitroglycerin. Starring Roy Scheider, Bruno Cremer, Francisco Rabal, Amidou, and featuring an impressive electronic score by Tangerine Dream, this movie is a fever rush.
While we can talk about the majority of the movie (like the prologue, which features four vignettes that introduce our main characters and give us their backstories), the most famous scene in the film is “The Bridge Scene.” One of the most harrowing scenes ever put on film, it uses NO special effects. This thing is purely practical. I could write an entire article on how they filmed this scene alone. The numerous rebuilds of the set, the low rainfall they received making it nigh impossible to shoot, etc. I advise you to read about it on your own time.
Needless to say, Sorcerer is an underrated masterpiece and one of Friedkin’s best. Highly recommend both this and The Wages of Fear. Also, because I think this scene is absolutely incredible and needs to be seen in the context of the film, I’m not embedding it. Instead you get the trailer. Think of the bridge scene as your reward (one of many) for watching this classic. Trust me, it’s worth it.
The Impossible (2012)
Directed By: J.A. Bayona
The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami is one of the most devastating natural disasters to ever happen. Claiming the lives of upwards 280,000 people, it was simply devastating. One incredible true story to come out of the Tsunami was that of a tourist family in Thailand caught in the destruction and chaotic aftermath of the Tsunami. Against all odds, they managed to find one another. J.A. Bayona’s The Impossible tells that story.
While the entire film is great and features all-star performances by Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor and a young Tom Holland, it’s the Tsunami scene that truly took my breath away. Created with a mixture of digital effects and real water surges filmed in slow motion, the scene was shot in a water tank in Spain using miniatures that were recreated and then destroyed by a huge wave. Bayona committed to working with real water rather than a CGI because he wanted the story to be authentic. This meant Watts and Holland spent five weeks filming physically and psychologically demanding scenes in a massive water tank. The set took over one year to build and they only had one shot to get it exactly right. Naomi Watts was strapped to a chair and placed underwater to simulate her spinning out of control, being swept away by the current.
It’s a truly remarkable set piece. While I wasn’t a fan of the recent Jurassic World movie, I’m excited to see where Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom takes us under Bayona’s direction.
“3:10 To Yuma”
3:10 To Yuma (2007)
Directed By: James Mangold
Before he would tackle The Wolverine and Logan, James Mangold remade the classic western, 3:10 To Yuma. Starring Christian Bale and Russell Crowe, this adaptation is strong. The film’s about drought-impoverished rancher Dan Evans (Christian Bale) taking on the dangerous job of taking notorious outlaw Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) to justice.
The finale comes after a beautiful scene where Wade tells Evans that he should just let him go and walk away from this all. Evans, having never accomplished anything in his life (he was discharged from the Civil war after his leg was shot), chooses to take Wade into custody anyway so that his family will have the money to continue their farming business. The only problem is that Wade’s entire posse is outside ready to gun him down. Not only that, they hired the rest of the town to take out Evans as well.
The scene works because of the relationship that Wade and Evans have built up throughout the course of the movie. Wade respects Evans and the things that he represents. A really great scene to cap off a wonderful remake. Also check out the “Walk Away” scene I mentioned below.
Directed By: Michael Mann
Michael Mann knows cool. We’ve already talked about the director in Part I of this series (Where we took a look at the finale of Heat), so I won’t spend too much time retreading old ground. That being said, where has Thief been all my life? Mann’s first theatrical film, Thief stars James Caan as Frank, a hardened ex-convict jewel thief. Since getting out of prison, Frank has introduced structure into his life and acts accordingly.
After the retrieval of money from a heist goes sideways, Frank heads out to investigate. After learning what happened to his money, Frank begins to deal with Leo, a high-level fence and Chicago Outfit boss. As he prepares for a job with Leo, he meets Jessie, who he begins dating. As one might expect with a Mann film, things go south and Frank is left with having to take out Leo and his entire gang.
The final 20 minutes of this movie are true treat. Frank goes about erasing his entire existence. He heads from one location to another and burns it all to the ground. The film ends when Frank heads to Leo’s for a climactic shootout while Tangerine Dreams’ stunning soundtrack plays behind him. Then, with a handful of bodies lying in the street, Frank just walks into the night. What a badass. Props to Willie Nelson and Jim Belushi for great supporting roles in this.