10FTW: Bad-Ass Movie Dads

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Being a dad in a movie is tough; often, dads are portrayed as slovenly, uncaring, even abusive individuals who care more about drinking beer, watching football, cheating on their spouses, or work than their kids. It’s a bit of a cliché at this point and also quite a bum rap, to be honest, and often seems like a case of lazy writing to have the dad be the cause of all the problems and negativity in a child’s life in a film.

I suppose it makes sense, in a way; many movies involve a story about a child, son, or daughter standing up to adversity or challenging, even confronting, their neglectful parents to say nothing of the myriad of stories out there of fathers more concerned with work than the well-being of their child. Still, good movie dads do exist, even while being flawed characters in their own right, and so, seeing as today is Father’s Day, I’m going to run through ten that I consider to be amongst the most bad-ass of all movie dads…

10FTW: Badass Movie Dads
10 Steven Freeling – Poltergeist (Hooper, 1982)

If I’m being completely honest, Poltergeist is more the story of a bad-ass mother as, throughout the film, it is Diane (JoBeth Williams) who eventually steps up after the demonic force inhabiting their house kidnaps her daughter, Carol Anne (Heather O’Rourke). Diane is the one who first feels and alerts her family to the presence in their house, she’s also far more emotionally stable despite her exhaustion and grief, and of course there’s the fact that she leaps into the “other side” to rescue Carol Anne and then has to suffer through a veritable horror show as their house is torn inside and out.

Though often second fiddle to his wife, Steven is a reliable and useful supporting character.

Yet Steven (Craig T. Nelson) is the ever-reliable rock of the household; a bit of a goofball and perhaps (even by his own admission) too soft on his kids, he is the one who contacts a group of parapsychologists to assist them (despite his scepticism) and let’s not forget that Diane and Carol Anne never would have made it to back to the real world had Steven not been holding their literal lifeline. Despite his will weakening, Steven steps up even more in the sequel, Poltergeist II: The Other Side (Gibson, 1989), even landing what appears to be a killing blow to the malevolent Reverend Henry Kane (Julian Beck) who has been terrorising them, but, while reliability is an admirable quality, he takes the lowest spot for largely just being a supporting player (and for him and Diane sending Carol Anne away out of fear by the third film).

9 Frank – 28 Days Later (Boyle, 2002)

Here’s a shocking revelation for you: I’m not actually that big a fan of 28 Days Later. It starts off with such promise and with all those eerie shots of London but it’s a slow, plodding, miserable little film and the only thing I really like about it is that it made zombies faster, more aggressive, and ferocious as, for me, it otherwise wastes its potential. Still, amidst all of this we have Frank (Brendan Gleeson), a former cab driver and one of the few survivors of the infection.

Even as Frank succumbs to the Rage virus, his priority is to keep his daughter safe.

Initially hostile and a largely grouchy character, to say the least, Frank’s sole concern (beyond survival) is the safety of his daughter, Hannah (Megan Burns) but he soon bonds with Jim (Cillian Murphy) and Selena (Naomie Harris). Sadly, though, Frank can’t place much higher as, despite his capability as a father and a combatant, he grows complacent; in a world where the highly contagious Rage plague has turned the majority of the population into ravenous, zombie-like creatures, characters must constantly be on their guard and, for a split second, Frank lowers his. However, even while the Rage quickly overwhelms his body, his first thought is to warn Hannah back for her own safety before he is summarily put down.

8 Rick O’Connell – The Mummy Returns (Sommers, 2001)

I miss Brendan Fraser; whatever happened to him? Arguably best known for his appearances in the Mummy trilogy (ibid/Cohen, 1999 to 2008), in which he portrayed a quick-witted and capable Indiana Jones-style adventurer, Fraser’s Rick O’Connell undergoes an interesting character arc throughout the trilogy, beginning as a disillusioned soldier and transforming from a reluctant hero motivated only by his libido to a doting father and content family man who was happy to put his adventuring days behind him.

Though happy to be a simple family man, Rick braves any foe to safeguard his family.

In The Mummy Returns, Rick is mortified when Imhotep’s (Arnold Vosloo) minions kidnap his smart-alecky little git of a son, Alex (Freddie Boath), and relentlessly uses every resource at his command to track Imhotep across the globe to rescue his son. Encouraging of the boy’s mischievous nature, one could argue that Alex only gets himself into a position to be kidnapped thanks to his father’s influence and their relationship has soured somewhat by the start of the third movie but that doesn’t take away from the fact that Rick travels across the world braving sea, air, and all manner of mummified atrocities to rescue his boy. When his beloved Evelyn (Rachel Weisz) is temporarily killed, we see a heartbreaking vulnerability to Rick’s usual bravado and his first action is to shield Alex from watching his mother suffer and die. Fuelled by rage and vengeance, he then takes on a now-mortal Imhotep in a fist-fight and rapidly accepts his destiny as a Medjai to deliver a killing blow to the monstrous Scorpion King (The Rock) to not only avenge his fallen wife but also as payback for putting his son in danger.

7 John McClane – Die Hard 4.0 (Wiseman, 2007)

In my experience, Die Hard 4.0 (also known by the far better title, Live Free or Die Hard) is generally not as highly regarded as its predecessors and I will always take issue with this; sure, it’s massively over the top and essentially turns the wise-cracking John McClane (Bruce Willis) into a superhero but that doesn’t make it bad. For me, it’s easily in the top three of the Die Hard films (Various, 1988 to 2013) thanks to Willis’ portrayal of McClane as weary, out of touch, and hiding a lot of his emotions behind a snarky attitude and grouchy demeanour.

McClane really puts himself through the wringer to rescue his gorgeous daughter.

Now, to be fair, McClane doesn’t start the film as the greatest father; his daughter, Lucy (the always appealing Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is initially hostile towards him, refusing to call him “Dad” and preferring to take her mother’s last name. However, when she is kidnapped by Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant) as payback for McClane interfering in his “fire sale”, McClane doesn’t hesitate to throw himself into danger to rescue her, accumulating numerous injuries, enduring shots from a F-35B Lightning II, and even shooting himself in the shoulder at point-blank range to kill Gabriel. When taken by Gabriel, Lucy not only fights back at every opportunity but knows full well that her father will stop at nothing to rescue her, defiantly taking his last name and ultimately reconciling with him after seeing the lengths he would go to for her safety.

6 Darren McCord – Sudden Death (Hyams, 1995)

I feel like people don’t talk about Sudden Death enough; sure, it’s just “Die Hard on a boat” but it’s pretty decent for the most part, even with Jean-Claude Van Damme’s characteristically awkward acting and line delivery. McCord is very much like McClane, being a normal, average fire-fighter-turned-fire-inspector who has the odds against him. Though he’s much less cynical and grouchy compared to McClane, he is tormented by his failure to save a young girl from a house fire and has an extremely strained relationship with his ex wife.

McCord has only his wits and impressive kicks to take down an group of armed terrorists.

Similar to McClane, McCord’s relationship with his kids is a little shaky at the start of the film; Emily (Whittni Wright) views him with a heroic awe, believing him to still be a fire-fighter, while Tyler (Ross Malinger) is slightly more antagonistic and resentful. Still, he does obediently stay in his seat even as the hockey arena falls into chaos around him and Emily bravely stands up to terrorist Joshua Foss (Powers Boothe) after she is kidnapped, never faltering in her belief that her father will come to rescue her. For his part, McCord is slightly irresponsible as he leaves his young kids alone at the hockey game but more than makes up for it by taking it upon himself to disarm as many of Foss’s bombs as he can and take out the terrorists with little more than his wits, ingenuity, and some impressive kicks.

5 Damon Macready / Big Daddy – Kick-Ass (Vaughn, 2010)

Although his look and the specifics of his motivations were wildly different from his comic book counterpart, Nicolas Cage really stole the show for this awesome adaptation of the comic book of the same name (Mark Millar, John Romita Jr, et al, 2008 to 2014). Channelling the spirit of Adam West while wearing a particularly Tim Burton-esque “Bat-Suit”, Cage channelled his usual manic energy into a far more nuanced, complex performance that showed Macready to be both slightly unhinged and eerily logical.

He might have trained his daughter to be a relentless killer but Macready was still a doting father.

To be fair, you could argue that Macready is a pretty awful father since he pulled his daughter, Mindy (Chloë Grace Moretz) out of school and trained her to be his crimefighting partner, Hit-Girl, causing her to be more interested in elaborate knives and skewering criminals than…whatever it is pre-teen girls are into these days. However, you’d be forgetting the fact that Macready is tough but fair on Mindy, always encouraging her and pushing her to test her limits. Thanks to his training, she’s fully capable of taking out entire rooms full of armed men with ease; not only that, he also does cool stuff like purchase a whole bunch of weapons, toys, and even a jetpack. When’s the last time your dad bought you a jet pack!? Plus, there’s the fact that he continues to encourage and help his daughter even while burning to death before her eyes.

4 Harry Tasker – True Lies (Cameron, 1994)

Arnold Schwarzenegger has a bit of an iffy record when it comes to portraying dads, as we’ll see; sometimes he’s the career-obsessed type, other times he’s the overly protective type. In True Lies, he lies to his wife, Helen (Jamie Lee Curtis) and daughter, Dana (Eliza Dushku), on a daily basis to keep his true identity as a secret agent just that: a secret. As a result, and because she’s in that moody teenage phase of her life, his relationship with Dana is somewhat strained at the start of the film in that she sees him as dull and unreliable, unappreciative of the token gifts he brings her, casually stealing from his partner, Albert Gibson (Tom Arnold), and running off with her boyfriend or to her room to escape from him.

Moody teen Dana is overwhelmed when her unassuming father turns out to be a super spy!

However, like her mother, Dana’s entire perception of Harry is changed after she is kidnapped by terrorist Salim Abu Aziz (Art Malik) and it is her unassuming father who comes to her rescue…in a Harrier Jump Jet, no less! What makes Harry a bad-ass dad is that, when the chips are down, he drops all pretenses and shows his family exactly what he is capable of, gunning down countless terrorists and flying through city airspace just to rescue his daughter and shouldering the burden of keeping his true life from them in order to protect them. Once the secret is out, though, his relationships with both alter dramatically and they become a much more stable, contented, and united family.

3 Cameron Poe – Con Air (West, 1997)

Aaah, yes, Con Air; a ridiculously over-the-top action film, to be sure, featuring Nicolas Cage not only with an absolutely gorgeous head of hair and henched up to the nines but also sporting possibly the worst Southern draw I’ve ever heard outside of The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (Morgan, 2006). Still, as ridiculous as Cage sounds (and as ludicrous as it is that his character, a decorated Army Ranger, would be sent to prison for ten years for what amounted to a clear case of self defense, at best, and manslaughter, at worst), the film is full of equally bombastic action and performances, with John Malkovich, especially, stealing the show (and, presumably, all that scenery he chewed) as the malicious Cyrus “The Virus” Grissom.

Though imprisoned for his daughter’s entire life, there’s nothing Poe won’t do to get back to her.

Poe stands out from the other dads on this list as he doesn’t actually meet his daughter, Casey (Landry Allbright), until the film’s conclusion; however, through his numerous correspondences with Casey, he encourages her to stay in school and listen to her mother and builds the best, loving relationship he can given his position. His entire motivation throughout the film is to get back to his daughter and, while he’s tempted to simply let things play out in order to meet that goal, his morals won’t let him stand idly by and he fights through overwhelming odds and explosions galore to not only finally meet Casey but also to teach her valuable lessons about paying for your sins and standing up against injustice.

So, I said early that Schwarzenegger has a bit of an iffy reputation as a movie dad. Well, Commando, in addition to being, perhaps, the quintessential action movie of the eighties, also showcases Arnie as one of the most devoted and bad-ass dads ever put to film. A retired Colonel, Matrix (a gloriously ridiculous name if there ever was one) is perfectly content to have put down his guns and to live peacefully amidst nature with his young daughter, Jenny (Alyssa Milano). However, when Matrix’s past (or, more specifically, the fantastically sadistic Bennett (Vernon Wells)) catches up with him and Jenny is taken as a hostage, Matrix has only around twelve hours to track Bennett down to recover his daughter.

Matrix is a nigh-unstoppable one-man army who goes to any lengths to rescue his daughter.

Like Poe, Matrix’s entire motivation is geared towards rescuing Jenny but, while Poe (and many of the dads on this list), must use subterfuge to meet this end, Matrix instead literally moves Heaven and Earth to find Jenny, violently dispatching of all of Bennett’s henchmen and literally walking right into a camp full of seemingly-endless, fully armed soldiers, mowing them down with such reckless abandon that he barely needs to aim or reload. Witty, determined, and possessing a razor-sharp focus, Matrix is a veritable one-man army, capable of besting anyone who stands in his way, and yet still vulnerable and human enough to be injured when dramatically appropriate and fully prepared to go to any lengths to rescue her since, as he puts it: “All that matters to [him] now is Jenny”.

1 Bryan Mills – Taken (Morel, 2008)

I mean, honestly, could it really be any other dad? Who else but Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) could make the top of a list like this? Like a lot of the other dads I’ve talked about, Mills is a devoted father who has left behind a violent life to focus on building a relationship with his daughter (Kim (Maggie Grace), in this instance) despite having a frosty relationship with his ex-wife, Lenore Mills-St John (Famke Janssen). Having lost his marriage, and many years of bonding with Kim, due to his work as a “preventer” for the government, Mills is a loyal, if somewhat overprotective, father who just wants to be there for Kim and to encourage her dreams of being a singer.

If there’s a dad more efficient and committed than Bryan Mills then I’ve yet to see him.

However, when she is taken by Albanian sex traffickers, Mills puts his unique set of skills to good use; like Matrix, his entire motivation revolves around finding his daughter but Mills has even less to go on and yet, within twenty-four hours, manages to track down enough of a lead to bring him within arm’s reach of Kim’s location. Along the way, Mills dispatches anyone who opposes him with a cold, calculating efficiency; age, clearly, hasn’t dwindled his skills or resources and, for the most part, he’s still able to function at peak efficiency with very little sleep or food. Of all the dad’s on this list, Mills is the most determined and competent; every movement is premeditated, meticulously thought through, and executed with alarming proficiency and yet Mills is still humble and vulnerable enough to show real pain, fatigue, and to deliver Kim back into the arms of her mother and stepfather.

Do you agree with my list? Perhaps you have another favourite movie dad who you think should have made the cut; if so, who is it and who are some of your favourite (or least favourite) movie dads? What are you doing this year for Father’s Day? Do you have any particularly fond memories of your dad? If so, feel free to share them, and any other comments, below.

10 FTW: Comic Book Crossovers We Need To See

If there’s one thing comic books allow, it’s the grandiose crossover between characters. Ever since Barry Allen met Jay Garrick all the way back in 1961 and introduced the idea of multiple parallel universes, comic book characters have existed in both isolated shared universes and travelled across a near infinite multiverse. However, while it’s relatively common to see Bruce Wayne/Batman and Clark Kent/Superman interact with the Justice League or the Teen Titans, or to have Peter Parker/Spider-Man randomly join forces with the Fantastic Four or the X-Men, we’ve also seen the characters of DC and Marvel Comics interact with each other. We’ve seen Superman and Batman both cross paths with Spider-Man, the X-Men team with the New Teen Titans, and both publishers’ greatest heroes go head-to-head in the epic DC Versus Marvel Comics (Marz and David, et al, 1996) crossover.

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There have been some weird crossovers in comics.

In addition, Dark Horse Comics snapped up multiple science-fiction and horror film franchises, giving us crossovers such as RoboCop Versus The Terminator (Miller, et al, 1992) and a whole slew of Aliens vs. Predator (Various, 1989 to present) comics. It doesn’t end there, either; we’ve seen Batman cross paths with Judge Dredd on multiple times and Frank Castle/The Punisher team up with not only Eminem but also pop up in Archie Comics, and it was thanks to such comic book crossovers that we finally got to see the three-way mash-up between Freddy Kruger, Jason Voorhees, and Ash Williams! Yet, as many and varied and seemingly limitless as these crossovers can be, it seems like we’ve missed out on a few seemingly-obvious crossovers. Maybe it’s because of licensing issues or the fact that DC and Marvel Comics don’t tend to do a lot of business together lately, but, either way, I figured I’d talk about ten crossovers I’d love to see in comic books.

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10 Justice Society/Watchmen

After DC Comics finally put an end to the largely-awful New 52 run, they teased Alan Moore’s seminal work, Watchmen (ibid, et al, 1986 to 1987), becoming part of DC canon when Edward Blake/The Comedian’s iconic smiley-face button turned up in the Batcave. Cue the extremely delayed publication schedule of Doomsday Clock (Johns, et al, 2017 to 2019), a storyline that revealed that Jon Osterman/Doctor Manhattan had been influencing DC canon for decades. While this, obviously, brought the characters of Watchmen (or, at least, versions of them) into conflict with Superman, Batman, and other versions of the Justice League, it’s the older, more seasoned members of the Justice Society of America (JSA) I’d like to see have extended interactions with the Crimebusters.

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A battle between these two could destroy realities, much less worlds!

The JSA were at their peak around the time of World War Two, meaning they are decidedly more optimistic and pragmatic about their approach to crimefighting. The Crimebusters, meanwhile, existed in a largely dystopian version of the 1980s that was pretty bleak and constantly on the verge of another World War, meaning this team up could produce an interesting clash of styles and philosophies that would probably be more in keeping with Moore’s more reflective text rather than an all-out brawl. Plus, who doesn’t want to see who would win a battle between Jim Corrigan/The Spectre and Doctor Manhattan?

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9 Pulp Heroes United

Before Batman and Superman, there were the pulp heroes of the 1930s to 1950s. Names like the Phantom, the Shadow, the Spirit, the Rocketeer, and Green Hornet may have faded from mainstream relevance in recent years, but they live on thanks to publications from Dynamite Comics and crossovers with DC Comics. Speaking of Dynamite Comics, they came very close to this crossover with their Masks (Various, 2014 to 2016) series, which saw the Shadow teaming up with the Green Hornet and Kato, a version of Zorro, and the Spider but this crossover has so much potential to really pay homage to the heroes of yesteryear. Ideally, such a comprehensive team up would be similar to The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Moore, et al, 1999 to 2019) in its scope and legacy; hell, I’d even have the Phantom, the Shadow, the Spirit, the Rocketeer, Green Hornet and Kato, Zorro, Doc Savage, the Lone Ranger and Tonto, and the rest of their ilk butting heads with the Martians from The War of the Worlds (Wells, 1897) at the turn of the century. A proper sepia-toned, steampunk-filled piece that sees these wildly different pulp heroes begrudgingly working together to save the world could be a great way to thrust these overlooked classic heroes back into the spotlight.

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8 Red Hood/Winter Soldier

If the comic industry was like it was back in the mid-nineties, we would surely have already seen this crossover, which is as obvious and as fitting as the team up between the Punisher and Jean-Paul Valley/Azrael during his brief tenure as Batman. Speaking of which, a team up between Jason Todd/Red Hood and the Punisher is just as enticing but, in terms of thematically complimentary characters, you’re hard pressed to find two more fitting that Jason Todd and Bucky Barnes. Both characters were well-known sidekicks to greater heroes whose deaths shaped, influenced, and affected their mentors for years, and both even returned to life as violent, broken anti-heroes around the same time.

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Jason and Bucky’s deaths weighed heavily on Bat and Cap for years.

Yet, while Bucky has gone on to not only redeem himself and assume the mantle of Captain America (and is largely far more mainstream thanks to his prominent inclusion in the Marvel Cinematic Universe), Jason Todd has floundered a little bit. It didn’t help that Jason’s resurrection was directly tied to DC’s latest reality-shattering Crisis for years (even though there have since been far less convoluted explanations, and he really should have been Hush all along) but, even ignoring that, Jason’s place is skewed as one minute he’s a sadistic killer, then he’s a violent anti-hero, then he’s wearing the Bat embalm and is an accepted (however begrudgingly) member of the Bat Family. However, both characters have carved a name out for themselves as being willing to go to any lengths to punish the guilty; each has blood on their hands, a butt load of emotional and personal issues, and a degree of augmented strength, speed, and skill thanks to their training or resurrection. While both are similar, Bucky is far more likely to be the bigger man and take the more moral ground, which would be more than enough to emphasise the differences between the two (provided Jason feels like being more antagonistic in this theoretical crossover).

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7 Judge Dredd/RoboCop

It’s no secret that RoboCop exists almost solely because of Judge Dredd; without 2000 A.D.’s no-nonsense lawman, we’d likely never have seen the excellently gore-and-satire-filled sci-fi action that is RoboCop (Verhoeven, 1987). While Batman has had more than a few run-ins with Judge Dredd, Detroit’s resident cyborg supercop has yet to meet his cinematic counterpart. The story is so simple is basically writes itself; you could have RoboCop awakened from suspended animation or reactivated after decades of being offline in the war-ravaged dystopia of Mega City One and briefly come into conflict with Dredd.

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Robo might need an upgrade to two to make things even…

I’d wager that RoboCop would be the more likely of the two to be more morally inclined; RoboCop generally operates based on very specific, law-abiding directives (or, depending on the version, his own conscience) that justify violence in service of protecting the innocent. Dredd, meanwhile, is just as likely to arrest victims of crimes as those who perpetrate them and is generally more an example of totalitarianism and uncompromising brutality in the name of the “law!” Yet, just as Dredd and Batman were able to work together despite coming to blows over their methods and philosophies, these two would make quite the formidable team once they’d ironed out their differences…though RoboCop may need an upgrade or two to survive in the future.

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6 Deadpool/The Mask

DC Comics have had many crossovers with Dark Horse over the years, resulting in numerous interactions between DC’s finest and the Xenomorphs, Predators, and Terminators. Similarly, both companies worked together on a number of crossovers revolving around the violent, big-headed cartoon anti-hero “the Mask”.

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Both characters are known for their comic violence.

It stands to reason, then, that if the Joker acquiring the magical mask and gaining its powers is a natural fit, a crossover between the near limitless power of the mask and everyone’s favourite fourth-wall breaking Mutant, Wade Wilson/Deadpool, would be just as fitting. Both characters are known for their over-the-top, cartoony violence, springing weapons out of thin air, directly addressing the reader, and busting heads with a maniacal glee. Hell, DC and Dark Horse had Lobo team up with “Big-Head” and even acquire the mask in another crossover and, given Lobo’s similarities to Deadpool, it wouldn’t bee too hard to imagine a crossover between these two being little more than a non-stop bloodbath as they tried in vain to damage each other, before Deadpool inevitably acquires the mask for himself and, in all likelihood, reduces all of conscious reality to a cheesy puff.

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5 RoboCop vs. Terminator vs. Aliens vs. Predator

Speaking of Dark Horse Comics, they really have brought us some great crossovers over the years; RoboCop Versus The Terminator and Aliens vs. Predator were natural stories to present in comics, videogames, and toys that were (arguably) too big for movies. They also merged three of these franchises together in Aliens versus Predator versus The Terminator (Schultz, et al, 20000), though that story was more a sequel to Alien: Resurrection (Jeunet, 1997) and a continuation of the Aliens vs. Predator comics than anything to do with the Terminator (Various, 1984 to 2019) films. Instead, this four-way crossover would give Dark Horse a chance to take the time-hopping, action-packed story of RoboCop Versus The Terminator and merge it with their complex Aliens vs. Predator comics.

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RoboCop should lead the fight against these monsters.

RoboCop would probably be best served as the central character of the story; a member of the human resistance could travel back in time to try and eliminate RoboCop, only to run into a T-800 right as Predators come to clean up a Xenomorph outbreak in Detroit. A time dilation could transport them to the war-ravaged future, where RoboCop could team up with a reprogrammed T-800 (or John Connor) against the aliens, or perhaps the future war would be changed by the reverse-engineering or Predator technology. There’s a lot of potential in this crossover but, for me, it only really works if you include RoboCop. Without him, you end up with a poorly-executed concept like Aliens versus Predator versus The Terminator, which really didn’t utilise the Terminator franchise enough. But imagine a Terminator/Xenomorph (or Predator) hybrid exchanging plasma blasts with a Predator-tech-upgraded RoboCop and tell me that doesn’t sound cool!

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4 Hellboy/Constantine

We’re scaling back a bit with this one. Honestly, I am very surprised we’ve never seen these two team up before, especially considering the amicable relationship DC and Dark Horse Comics have had over the years. Hell, we did get a brief team up between Hellboy and Batman but, arguably, this is the far more fitting choice. In this concept, I would go with the idea that John Constantine and Hellboy co-exist in the same world and have them cross paths when investigating the same supernatural threat or mystery. Obviously, they’d have to fight before teaming up (or, perhaps, they’d just rub each other the wrong way after being forced to team up), but can you imagine the quips and taunts and insults Constantine would have for Hellboy all throughout this crossover? Toss in guys like Swamp Thing and Etrigan, or even the Justice League Dark and the rest of Hellboy’s buddies (and absolutely have Mike Mignola provide his distinctive art style to the piece alongside co-authoring the story with either Grant Morrison or Neil Gaiman) and you could have a very dark, moody, and entertaining paranormal crossover.

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3 Batgirl/Spider-Gwen

This one is more of a light-hearted pick but there’s nothing wrong with a bit of unapologetic fun amidst all the big action set pieces and violent action. After her debut in the “Spider-Verse” (Slott, et al, 2014 to 2015) storyline and prominent inclusion in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (Persichetti, Ramsey, and Rothman, 2018), this alternative version of Gwen Stacy has gained quite the fan following over the years and has become firmly entrenched in Marvel canon as Ghost-Spider.

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These two have quite a bit in common, it seems.

Meanwhile, since the New 52, DC have returned Barbara Gordon to the role of Batgirl; this wasn’t without some controversy as, for years, Barbara had operated just fine as a paraplegic and the Batgirl mantle had been assumed by other, far more suitable candidates. Yet, DC have continued unabated, largely changing Barbara from a smart and capable tech and information wizard, to a far more catty, athletic, and socially-conscious young lady. Despite this, this has the potential to be a really fun crossover between these two; while Babs should really be the older and more mature of the two, they’re both around the same age these days (somewhere between fifteen and twenty-one, depending on DC and Marvel’s sliding timelines), meaning there would be a lot of common ground between the two. No doubt they would have plenty to say about each other’s costumes, hair, and ex boyfriends (throw Nightwing in there and have that cause a bit of tension between the two) and I would even have them team up against C-list villains, like the Vulture, Chameleon, Shocker, Mad Hatter, or Killer Moth, just to keep the focus on fast-paced, witty action rather than getting all sour and bleak.

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2 Spider-Man 2099/Batman Beyond

I know what you’re thinking: Shouldn’t this be a crossover between Batman Beyond (1999 to 2001) and Spider-Man Unlimited (1999 to 2001), considering both cartoons aired at the same time and both characters wore similar, futuristic costumes? Well, you might be right, but Spider-Man Unlimited really should have been based on the initial Spider-Man 2099 (Various, 1992 to 1996) comics as that cartoon is largely remembered for being a poor follow-up to the superior Spider-Man (1994 to 1998) animated series and for featuring a pretty neat new costume for Spidey. Instead, I’d go with Spidey’s futuristic counterpart, Miguel O’Hara, who is more famous for operating in an alternative future of Marvel Comics. Again, the easiest way for him to interact with Terry McGinnis would be to have them exist in the same world but there’s a bit of an issue with that: Batman Beyond was set in 2039 when Terry was sixteen. The Justice League Unlimited (2004 to 2006) episode “Epilogue” (Riba, 2005) jumps to fifteen years later and Terry is a thirty-one-year-old Batman but the story would probably need some kind of time travel plot to bring these characters together at their peak.

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Both characters come from similar futuristic worlds.

Luckily, neither character is no stranger to time-hopping adventures; perhaps the best way to do this would be to have two similar villains in each world experimenting with time/reality-bending technology and cause a dilation that threatens to merge both timelines unless Miguel and Terry can stop them. I’d even have them both swap places; have Miguel wake up one morning in Neo-Gotham, running into the aged, grouchy Bruce Wayne (Kevin Conroy) and battling some of Terry’s foes, while Terry randomly finds himself dumped in Nueva York and running afoul of Alchemax. After two issues of them exploring each other’s world, the third issue would be the obligatory fight between the two before they agree to team up for the fourth and final issue and sort out the problem. Both characters’ futuristic costumes have very similar traits and exist in visually interesting futuristic worlds, making a potential clash and eventual team up between them an exciting prospect for the art work and banter alone.

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1 Batman/The Crow

Easily the top choice for me, and the genesis of this list, I literally cannot shake how perfect a crossover between Batman and Eric Draven/The Crow would be. Neither are strangers to inter-company crossovers but, while the Crow has had to settle for teaming up with the likes of Razor, The X-Files (1993 to 2018), and Hack/Slash (Seeley/Various, et al, 2014 to 2018), Batman has met Al Simmons/Spawn, Spider-Man, Judge Dredd, and even Elmer Fudd and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

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Batman could put his detective skills to use when Eric comes to Gotham.

Yet, this crossover provides the opportunity to get Batman back to the gritty, noir-inspired style of stories like The Long Halloween (Loeb, et al, 1996 to 1997) utilising an art style that is part Dave McKean and part James O’Barr. As for the plot, I’d have Eric return to his undead life once again after it is revealed that there was another figure pulling the strings of Top Dollar’s gang. This would, of course, bring Eric to Gotham City, where he’d start killing members of this extended gang of thugs with his usual brand of violence and poetic justice. Naturally, this would lead him into conflict with Batman but, rather than the two descending into a poorly written, childish brawl as in Spawn/Batman (Miller and McFarlane, 1994), it would probably be better to focus on Batman’s detective skills as he investigates Eric’s murder, those behind the murder, and Eric’s violent actions on the streets of Gotham. In fact, I probably would only have the two interact right at the conclusion of the story, just as Eric is about to kill his final target; they could have a discussion on morality and the meaning of justice but, ultimately, Eric would fulfil his mission and return to the grave regardless of Batman’s protestations, leaving Batman to ponder the line between justice and vengeance.

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What comic book crossover would you like to see? Which comic book crossover has been your favourite, or most reviled? Whatever you think about comic book crossovers, leave a comment below.

10 FTW: Under-Rated Sequels

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Sequels are funny things; you have to get the balance just right between providing everything people enjoyed about the first moving but expanding upon the plot and characters in a natural way. If it’s difficult for a lot of sequels to get this right, it’s even harder for third, fourth, or other sequential entries to hit the mark.

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It’s not easy to make a sequel that surpasses the original.

There’s a few prime examples of sequels done right (Back to the Future Part II (Zemeckis, 1989), Terminator 2: Judgment Day (Cameron, 1991), and The Dark Knight (Nolan, 2008) spring to mind as some near-undisputed examples of sequels that were everything their predecessor was and more) and even fewer examples of completely perfect movie trilogies as most stumble by the third entry due to one reason or another. I can’t tell you, though, how often I’ve seen people talk shit about some sequels that are actually not that bad at all and, arguably, criminally under-rated. When movies, comics, and videogames produce remakes or other ancillary media based on these franchises, they either always complete ignore these films or openly criticise them for absolutely no reason. Today, I’m going to shed some light on ten under-rated sequels and, hopefully, try to show why they’re actually not as bad as you might think…

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10 Saw II (Bousman, 2005)

While the Saw (Various, 2004 to present) noticeably dipped in quality as Lionsgate milked the series for all its worth with sequel after sequel after sequel (most of which were actually interquels as they foolishly killed off John Kramer/Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) way too early in the series), I feel like a lot of people don’t give Saw II enough credit.

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Saw‘s terror mostly came from two guys being trapped in a room.

Saw (Wan, 2004) was an intense, terrifying experience that saw two people trapped in a room with the only option of escape being death or sawing a foot off with a rusty hacksaw. It kick-started a whole “torture porn” sub-genre of horror, despite most of its terror coming from the horrific situations rather than copious amounts of gore. Saw II, however, put the focus on Jigsaw, who was an almost mythic figure in the first movie and wasn’t fully revealed until the film’s dramatic conclusion. Here, we delve deep into his motivations for putting people through his gruesome “tests” and this film is a worthwhile watch simply for the subtle menace exuded by Tobin Bell.

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Saw II has some gruesome traps.

Not only that, Saw II ramps up the gore and the desperation by having seven shady individuals all infected with a deadly, slow-acting nerve agent and trapped in a horror house, of sorts. The film’s tension comes from the desperation of Detective Eric Matthews (Donnie Wahlberg), who is frantic to save his son from Jigsaw’s trap and to bring Jigsaw in by any means necessary. Yes, there’s more gore and more onscreen violence and, arguably, Saw II set the standard for the myriad of sequels to come by ramping up Jigsaw’s traps and plots to an absurd degree, but this was before the series fell off a cliff. Here, minor characters from the first film are expanded upon, the lore of this world is fleshed out beautifully, and we have some of the franchise’s best traps ever.

9 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (Pressman, 1991)

For many of us back in the nineties, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Barron, 1990) was the first time the “Hero” Turtles were depicted as being as violent and nuanced as in their original Mirage Comics run. Up until the release of this movie, the Turtles were cute, cuddly superheroes who we watched foil the Shredder (James Avery) week after week and whose toys we bought with reckless abandon.

Turtles II upped the sillyness to be more kid-friendly.

However, given how dark and violent the first film was, this sequel does a massive course correction, increasing the silliness and reducing the onscreen violence and decreasing the Turtles’ use of their weapons in an attempt to align the live-action movies more with their more kid-friendly, animated counterparts. Yet, that doesn’t mean this sequel isn’t good in its own right. The Turtle suits (once again brought to live by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop) look amazing and are probably better and more expressive than in the previous movie; the film also stays relatively close to its source material by focusing on the mutagenic ooze that created the Turtles, and it also introduced two mutant antagonists for the Turtles to fight.

Tokka and Rahzar are surprisingly formidable.

While they’re not Bebop (Barry Gordon and Greg Berg) and Rocksteady (Cam Clarke), Tokka (Rock Lyon and Kurt Bryant) and Rahzar (Gord Robertson and Mark Ginther) are a fun, welcome addition. It’s great seeing the Turtles kick the snot out of faceless members of the Foot Clan but Ninja Turtles has always been about the crazy mutated characters and these are two of the most impressive looking and formidable, especially considering their childlike demeanours. The Shredder (François Chau) also returned in this movie and is a lot closer to his animated incarnation, being decidedly more theatrical than in the first movie but no less intimidating. Probably the only thing that lets this movie down for me (no, it’s not the Vanilla Ice rap scene) is the final battle between the Turtles and the ooze-empowered Super Shredder (Kevin Nash) in which Shredder is unceremoniously defeated by being crushed under a pier due to his own foolishness. Apart from that, though, I feel this movie is the perfect balance between the dark, violent Mirage Comics and the light-hearted animated series and this balance is where the Ninja Turtles (a ridiculous concept to begin with) shine the brightest.

8 Batman Forever (Schumacher, 1995)

Now, admittedly, Batman Forever has its fan-base; there’s plenty of very vocal people out there who rate this quite highly among the many Batman (Various, 1966 to present) movies, especially after viewing the special edition and a lot of the deleted scenes which, had they been implemented, would probably have elevated this movie even higher. There’s a couple of reasons why this film is often unfairly attacked: one is because of how God-awful its sequel, Batman & Robin (ibid, 1997) was. That film’s over-the-top camp, painful performances, and nipple-suits are often considered so bad that both of Schumacher’s Bat-movies are unfairly lumped together and judged as a failure, when this just wasn’t the case.

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McDonald’s had Burton’s weirdness replaced with over-the-top camp.

The second reason is because of how dramatically different it is from the previous Bat-movies; after Tim Burton brought us a dark, brooding, serious interpretation of Batman (Michael Keaton) in 1989, he was given free reign on the sequel, Batman Returns (Burton, 1992). While this made for one of my personal favourite Bat-movies thanks to Burton’s Gothic sensibilities, it upset a lot of parents (…and McDonald’s) and, similar to Turtles II, Schumacher was brought in to make Batman more “kid friendly”.

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It’d be some time before Robin would truly fly again.

And yet despite the gratuitous neon lighting, the slapstick elements, and an incredibly over-the-top (and massively unsuitable) performance by Tommy Lee Jones, Batman Forever not only brought us a physically imposing Bruce Wayne/Batman (Val Kilmer) for the first time but it actually had the balls to include Dick Grayson/Robin (Chris O’Donnell). Schumacher smartly uses Robin’s origin as a parallel to Batman’s so that the film can tread familiar ground but in a new, fresh way while also bringing us one hell of a bad-ass Robin suit. Thanks to the blinkered, narrow-minded opinion that Robin (a character who has been around basically as long as Batman) is somehow “not suitable” for a Bat-movie, it wouldn’t be until the recent Titans (2018 to present) series that we would finally see Dick Grayson realised in live-action once again (though we came so close to seeing another interpretation of the character in the DC Extended Universe). Also, sue me, I grew up in the nineties and have always been a big fan of Jim Carrey’s. His performance as Edward Nygma/The Riddler might be over-the-top but his manic energy steals every scene he’s in and he genuinely looks like he’s having the time of his life channelling his inner Frank Gorshin and chewing on Schumacher’s elaborate and impractical scenery.

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7 Terminator Salvation (McG, 2009)

Okay, I’m just going to come out at say it: Terminator Salvation was, hands down, the best Terminator (Various, 1984 to 2019) sequel after Terminator 2 and always will be, no matter how many times they force Arnold Schwarzenegger to throw on the shades and the jacket.

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Salvation focused on the future war, as all Terminator 2 sequels should have.

After how perfectly Terminator 2 ended the series, the only smart way to produce further sequels was to have Terminators travel to other times and target other key members of the resistance (a plot point touched upon in the Dark Horse Comics, the dismally disappointing Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (Mostow, 2003), and threaded throughout the semi-decent Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008 to 2009) television series) or to make prequels that focused on the war against the machines in a post-apocalyptic future. This latter idea would be my preference and, as such, I absolutely love Terminator Salvation. Is it perfect? Well, no, but it’s a different type of Terminator movie…and that is a good thing, people! Rather than making yet another lacklustre retread of Terminator 2, Salvation is, ostensibly, a war movie depicting the last vestiges of humanity driven to the brink of extinction by increasingly-dangerous killer machines.

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Bale always makes for fantastic casting.

Not only that, we got Christian Bale as John Connor! After the pathetic casting and portrayal of Nick Stahl (remember him?) in the third movie, we got freakin’ Batman as the last, best hope of humankind! And he gives a great performance; stoic, gritty, hardened, this is a Connor who is on the edge of accepting his true destiny and is desperate to do anything he can to stay one step ahead of Skynet. Add to that we got a pretty decent battle between Connor and the T-800 (Roland Kickinger). People like to shit on this sequence because Kickinger has Schwarzenegger’s likeness digitally laid over his face but, honestly, it isn’t that bad an effect and, if you can’t get Arnold back, this was a great way to utilise him. The only faults I have with this movie are that Connor shouldn’t have received such a clearly-mortal wound from the T-800 (I know he was originally supposed to die but, after they changed the ending, they really should have re-edited this scene to make his wound less deadly) and that the franchise has largely ignored it with subsequent sequels rather than continuing on from its open-ended finale, meaning we’ll forever be denied the bad-ass visual of an army of Arnold’s marching over a field of human skulls!

6 Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones (Lucas, 2002)

Okay, just hear me out…Attack of the Clones is not that bad, especially after Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace (ibid, 1999) focused way too much on boring shit like “trade disputes” and politics, insulted our intelligence with the dreadful Jar Jar Binks (Ahmed Best), and sucked all of the menace and intrigue out of Darth Vader (David Prowse and James Earl Jones) by portraying Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd) a whiny, annoying little brat.

The banter between Anakin and Obi-Wan was a highlight.

Arguably, the Prequel Trilogy would have been better if Lucas had opted to have Anakin discovered as a young adult and cast Hayden Christensen in the role from the start as this would be a far better parallel to his son’s own journey to becoming a Jedi. Christensen is a decent enough actor and he was simply handicapped by Lucas’s dreadful script; if Lucas had opted to let someone else take another pass at his dialogue, we could have seen a bit more of the snarky banter Anakin shares with his mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor). Despite the copious amount of green screen and computer-generated characters thrown at us here, Attack of the Clones has a lot of visual appeal; from the city planet of Coruscant to the rain-swept Kamino and the dry lands of Geonosis, the only location that lets Attack of the Clones down is its return to the sand planet Tatooine but even that is used as a pivotal moment in Anakin’s turn towards the Dark Side.

I would’ve preferred to see what Boba Fett was capable of.

And let’s not forget the fantastic Lightsaber battles on display here; every battle is as good as the final battle from The Phantom Menace, featuring some impressive choreography and setting the stage for one hell of an epic showdown between Anakin and Obi-Wan in the next movie. While I don’t really care for Yodi (Frank Oz) being a CG character, or wielding a Lightsaber, there is a perverse pleasure to be gained from seeing Yoda flip about like a maniacal spider monkey. Oh, and this movie has freakin’ Christopher Lee in it! Unfortunately, Lee’s Count Dooku/Darth Tyranus is criminally underused in this movie and killed off all-too-soon in the sequel. Another misfire for me was Lucas wasting time introducing Jango Fett (Temuera Morrison); I’ve never really understood why people love Boba Fett (Jeremy Bulloch) so much as he’s a bit of a klutz and doesn’t really do anything, but he does have a rabid fan base and, since we never see his face in the Original Trilogy, I would have instead cast Temuera as Boba so that we could see him actually do something.

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5 Hellraiser: Bloodline (Yagher (credited as Alan Smithee), 1996)

Hellraiser (1987 to present) is a horror film series that seems to have struggled to be as successful as some of its other peers. I’ve already talked about how the original Hellraiser (Barker, 1987) really hasn’t aged very well and this applies to every sequel in the series as well as they seem to immediately age to moment they are released thanks to the decision to release every sequel after the third movie direct to video.

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Hellraiser…in space (…for about half an hour…)

Admittedly, a lot of my fondness for Hellraiser: Bloodline is based on two things: it was the first Hellraiser movie I was able to sit through from start to finish and was responsible for me becoming a fan of the series, and Event Horizon (Anderson, 1997) is one of my favourite science-fiction/horror movies. Arguably, Event Horizon is a far better version of Bloodline’s core concept (that being “Hellraiser…in Space!”) but there’s an important thing to remember about that: Bloodline isn’t set solely in space! Instead, Bloodline takes place in three different timelines and follows the descendants of Philippe Lemarchand (Bruce Ramsay), an 18th century toymaker who was unwittingly responsible for creating the magical Lament Configuration, a puzzle box that, when solved, summons Cenobites from a dimension where the lines between pleasure and pain are blurred. Cursed for this act, Lemarchand’s descendants are driven by an inherent desire to create the Elysium Configuration, a means to forever seal the Cenobites from our world forever Dr. Paul Merchant (also Ramsay) is merely the latest in a long line of these toymakers to encounter the demonic Cenobite dubbed Pinhead (Doug Bradley) and his acolytes; unlike his predecessors, Merchant actually succeeds in his mission and destroys both Pinhead, and the portal to Hell, forever using a massive space station.

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Pinhead has lofty aspirations in Bloodline.

There’s a few reasons I think people misjudge this movie: one is that it was absolutely butchered by Miramax, who demanded all kinds of reshoots and changes, meaning that the film’s original director’s cut has never been seen. Another is a holdover from Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (Hickox, 1992), which saw Pinhead ape Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) and become just another slasher villain with a twisted sense of humour. Similarly, in Bloodline, Pinhead goes from being a representative of the Order of the Gash (…lol), to wanting to unleash Hell on Earth permanently like some kind of invading force, to the point where he takes hostages and transforms people into Cenobites whether they have opened the box or not. Yet none of this changes the fact that Bloodline is a pretty decent film; we finally get to see some background into the mysterious puzzle box, there’s multiple times when the structure and history of Hell is hinted at, and there’s some really disgusting kills and gore. Personally, I rate this film higher than the second (because that film is boring) and the third simply because it doesn’t have a Cenobite with CDs jammed in its head!

4 X-Men Origins: Wolverine (Hood, 2009)

This one is gonna cost me a lot of credibility but I honestly do not get why X-Men Origins: Wolverine gets so much shit, especially considering how incoherent and screwed up the timeline and continuity of the X-Men (Various, 2000 to present) movie series became after this film. Sure, Wade Wilson/Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) is poorly represented, some of the CG is a bit wonky, and there are a lot of flaws in the plot, but there’s also a lot to like about this film.

At least Origins featured some new faces….

First, and most obvious, is the film’s opening credit sequence, which many have cited as being their favourite moment of the film. Seeing James Howlett/Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Victor Creed (Liev Schreiber) racing through various wars is stunning and I do agree that the film really should have based around this premise and their slow degeneration into bloodlust, with Logan overcoming it and Victor giving in to it to become Sabretooth. Yet, often, I see a lot of criticism about how the X-Men movies tend to always focus on Wolverine at the expense of other Mutants…yet people still hate on this movie, which puts the spotlight entirely on Wolverine and still manages to feature some new Mutants and fill in a few plot points along the way. We get to see Logan’s time in Team X, the full extent of the procedure that gave him his Adamantium skeleton (although we miss out on the feral Wolverine showcased so brilliantly in the otherwise-disappointing X-Men: Apocalypse (Singer, 2016)), and even how unknowingly pivotal he was in bringing the original X-Men together.

The cast for Origins was pretty much perfect.

The casting really makes this movie shine: Jackman is at his most jacked as Wolverine and, while he’s a little too tame compared to what you’d expect from this point in his life, he always brings a great intensity and charisma to his breakout role. Schreiber was an inspired choice to portray Logan’s brother, who (it is strongly hinted) eventually succumbs to his animalistic ways to become Sabretooth (Tyler Mane), bringing a nuanced menace and sophistication to what is normally seen as a feral character. Danny Huston is always great as a smug, scenery-chewing villain (though he doesn’t exactly resemble Brian Cox) and Reynolds gave a great tease at what he was capable of as everyone’s favourite “Merc with a Mouth” (…until it was sown shut). We also get some new Mutants, which I appreciate even more after subsequent sequels could never seem to let go of having teleporting demons involved in their plots; Fred Dukes/The Blob (Kevin Durand) is fantastically realised in the movie and has a great (and hilarious) boxing match with Logan and everyone’s favourite card-throwing Cajun, Remy LeBeau/Gambit (Taylor Kitsch) also makes his one (and, so far, only) film appearance here. I only expected a brief, unsatisfying cameo from Gambit but he actually has a surprisingly substantial role. Could it have been bigger? Sure, but I’d say he was treated a lot better than Deadpool (who, it should be remembered, was still planned to get a spin-off from this film).

3 RoboCop 2 (Kershner, 1990)

Now, don’t get me wrong: I love RoboCop (Verhoeven, 1987). It told an easily self-contained story of Detroit City police officer Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) being rebuilt from death as a bad-ass cybernetic enforcer of the law and rediscovering his humanity. It’s a classic film, with some amazing effects, hilarious commentary on consumerism, media, and corporate greed, and would be a tough act for anyone to follow.

RoboCop has never looked better than in this all-action sequel.

Yet, call me crazy, but RoboCop 2 succeeds far more than it fails. RoboCop has a fresh coat of paint and has (literally) never looked better onscreen; he’s just as efficient and pragmatic as before and, though he seems to have regressed back to a more mechanical mindset, he still exhibits a great deal of humanity but in new and interesting ways. First, he is routinely referred to as “Murphy” by other officers (particularly Anne Lewis (Nancy Allen), his partner) and struggles so badly with reconnecting with his wife and son (who believe that Murphy is dead and buried) that he routinely stalks them, which contributes to his superiors deciding to reprogram him. This results in a deliciously over-the-top sequence where RoboCop, his head full of insane, politically correct directives, tries to calm situations with talk rather than bullets. It eventually becomes so maddening that he is forced to electrocute himself just to clear his head enough for him to focus on the big bad of the film, Cain (Tom Noonan). Now, Cain and his psychopathic gang of untouchable drug dealers are great, but they’re not Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith); instead of Clarence’s manic energy, Cain brings a quiet, intellectual approach to his menace. He also manages to dismantle RoboCop’s metallic body, just as Clarence destroyed his human one, and is eventually able to go toe-to-toe with RoboCop as the frankly fantastic RoboCop 2 (or “RoboCain”).

RoboCain is an impressively ambitious inclusion.

If you liked ED-209 from the last movie, RoboCain is bigger, badder, and better. A combination of animatronics and stop-motion, RoboCain was an ambitious choice for the film and actually works really well considering the technological limitations of the time. The fight between Cain and RoboCop also holds up surprisingly well and is far more interesting than Robo’s encounters with ED-209 thanks to the villain being far more versatile than his clunky counterpart. I think what brings this movie down, for many, is that Cain’s gang aren’t as charismatic or memorable as Boddicker’s (I can only name two of Cain’s guys off the top of my head, whereas I can name at least five of Boddiker’s), some of the plot is a bit redundant (Robo’s story arc is, essentially, a truncated version of the same one from the first), and the awfulness of subsequent RoboCop movies leaving such a sour taste that people assume all RoboCop sequels are terrible…and that’s just not the case.

2 Predator 2 (Hopkins, 1990)

Okay, full disclosure: as a kid, I was not a fan of this movie. I loved Predator (McTiernan, 1987); it was over-the-top, filled with massive action heroes, and featured a tense build-up to one of cinema’s most memorable alien creatures. The sequel just seemed to be lacking something; maybe it was because we’d already seen the Predator (Kevin Peter Hall) in its full, gruesome glory and didn’t really need to go through the suspense of its eventual reveal all over again. Replacing Schwarzenegger is Danny Glover’s Lieutenant Mike Harrigan, a hardened, smart-mouthed loose cannon who plays by his own rules (as was the tradition for any cop worth a damn in cinema back then). I was in awe at Schwarzenegger as a kid so it was disappointing to go from him to Glover but, honestly, Glover is probably better in many ways: his anti-authoritative, roguish nature makes him more relatable as a character and the fact that he actually gets hurt and struggles to physically prevail makes him far more human. He’s a much more believable protagonist in a lot of ways and, thanks to his more developed acting chops, is more than a suitable replacement for Arnold.

The urban setting is a natural evolution from the jungle.

Predator 2 also takes the titular hunter out of the jungle and places him in the next most logical place: the concrete jungle. Now, a lot of people hate this change; even Arnold hated that the Predator would be in Los Angles for the sequel but…surely doing the sequel in the jungle again would have just resulted in exactly the same movie as before? It’s so weird that people rag on the city setting as it makes perfect sense, is realised really well, and even set the ground for a lot of the Dark Horse comics. No other sequel around this time repeated the first in this way; Aliens (Cameron, 1986), Terminator 2, Batman Returns, Lethal Weapon 3 (Donner, 1992), just to name a few, all fundamentally alter the concept of the first movie rather than rehashing it so why does Predator 2 get such a hard time for doing it (and doing it well, I might add)?

Predator 2 established almost all of the Predator’s lore and society.

To make matters worse, Predator 2 has been criminally overlooked in subsequent sequels; there was no mention of the film’s events at all in the otherwise-excellent Predators (Antal, 2010), a film that went out of its way to reference (both through homage and direct mention) the first movie, and it only gets a passing mention in the disappointing The Predator (Black, 2018). Jake Busey, son of Gary Busey, even featured as an expert on the Predator species but there was no mention in the film of his relationship to Busey’s character, Peter Keyes, despite the two being father and son! I’ll never understand this; it’s a real insult, to be honest. Predator 2 brought so much to the table; it defined the honour system of the Predator species, introduced a whole bunch of the alien’s iconic weaponry, and laid the foundation for comic books, videogames, and sequels and spin-offs to follow for years to come. Subsequent movies have no problem reusing the weaponry or the culture of the Predator introduced in this movie but when it comes to actually directly referencing the film’s events they shy away and why? It’s a great film! Great kills, great action, great tension, some fantastic effects, and a super enjoyable chase sequence between the Predator and Harrigan across the streets and rooftops of Los Angeles! I just don’t get the hate, I really don’t.

1 Ghostbusters II (Reitman, 1989)

Man, if you thought I was mad about Predator 2, just wait until you hear this one. Ghostbusters II suffers from a lot of the plagues of Predator 2, and other films on this list: it’s unfairly criticised for not being exactly the same as the iconic first film, it’s overlooked time and time again, and direct references to it are few and far between. Just look at the majority of Ghostbusters-related media; be it toys, videogames, or otherwise, the characters almost always look exactly like the first movie rather than this one. And why? Because it doesn’t have the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in it. Give me a fuckin’ break! As much as I love him, and that entire sequence, it wouldn’t make any sense of Mr. Stay Puft to appear in this movie! The Ghostbusters destroyed it when they defeated Gozer the Gozerian (Slavitza Jovan and Paddi Edwards) and this movie revolves around an entirely different villain and plot so why bring it back? I guess audiences were just used to antagonists returning ins equels at that time but to judge this movie just for not having Mr. Stay Puft is not only unfair, it’s down-right stupid.

The river of slime always freaked me out as a kid.

After all, it has the Statue of Liberty coming to life instead! Sure, it doesn’t match up to Stay Puft’s rampage, but it’s still pretty decent. Also, the film’s antagonist, Vigo the Carpathian (Wilhelm von Homburg), is voiced by Max von Sydow, who is an absolute legend. Vigo’s threat is arguably much higher than Gozer’s in a way as his mood slime has been brewing under New York City for decades and is the direct result of all the animosity in the world (…or, just New York, which is bad enough). It’s powerful enough to cause ghosts to go on a rampage again and turn the Ghostbusters against each other, and is a far more grounded threat than Gozer’s plot to destroy the world. The stakes are raised in Ghostbusters II through the fact that the titular ‘Busters have been forced to disband and go their separate ways. Through this, we see something that is also often overlooked about this movie: character growth. Would you criticise Ellen Ripley’s (Sigourney Weaver) character growth in Aliens? Well, yes, probably; you are the internet after all but this plot point allows Ghostbusters II, like RoboCop 2, to retread the familiar ground of the disgraced Ghostbusters being called upon to save the city in a new way. The characters are all a bit more haggard after how badly the city burned them so seeing them rise up regardless, to the point where they’re even able to resist the mood slime, is a great arc.

There are some really horrific scenes in this film…

Add to that the film’s consistent and enjoyable special effects, the truly gruesome sequence in the abandoned Beach Pneumatic Transit system, and a creepy performance (as always) by Peter MacNicol and you’ve got a film that, like Turtles II, is more than a worthy follow-up to the original. And, yet, like I said, this film is often overlooked, almost with a vendetta. It doesn’t help that co-star Bill Murray despised the movie, which is always bad press for any film; his cantankerous ways also constantly held up the long-awaited third movie to the point where we had to suffer through that God-awful reboot before a follow-up would be approved. Despite Murray’s opinions, Ghostbusters II has managed to endure in some respects, though; characters and events were directly referenced in Slimer! and the Real Ghostbusters (1988 to 1991) and Vigo’s portrait was prominently featured in the true third entry, Ghostbusters: The Video Game (Terminal Reality/Red Fly Studio, 2009). Yet I wouldn’t at be surprised if Ghostbusters: Afterlife (Reitman, 2021) completely ignores this movie, or at least brushes it off or lampoons it, especially considering the trailers seem more focused on calling back to the first film.

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Do you agree with my list? I’m guessing not and you think most of these movies are terrible but why do you think that? Are there any other under-rated sequels you can think of? Write a comment and give me your thoughts below.

10 FTW: Super-Suits

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With over eighty years of continuous publication behind him, it’s no surprise that, over the many years and through numerous alternate realities and reality-shattering Crises, Superman has gone through more than a few wardrobe changes. Initially debuting in what amounted to a traditional strongman costume, Superman soon adopted the iconic “S” shield to uphold his values of “truth, justice, and the American way” but has, over time, mixed up his colour scheme about as often as he’s developed strange new powers. Today, I’m going to go through ten of my favourite looks for Superman; a lot of these featured solely in out-of-continuity tales or were worn by Supermen from parallel Earths but some were, however briefly, an actual part of Superman’s canon.

10 The Black Recovery Suit

Superman’s black suit first appeared right at the conclusion of the “Reign of the Superman” (Jurgens, et al, 1993) storyline, the conclusion to the infamous “Death of Superman” (ibid, 1992 to 1993) storyline. After the Man of Steel was beaten to death by Doomsday, his body was placed into a Kryptonian regeneration chamber, which restored his cells to life and, when he emerged, he was forced to wear this suit while his powers recovered. Honestly, this was just an excuse to get Superman’s mullet on the list but I also dig the simplicity of this suit (and I always love a black variant); it’s just plain black with a silver symbol. It also lacks a cape, giving Superman a far more streamlined and serious look that, considering all of Superman’s replacements bore dramatically different suits of their own, cast more doubt on the identity of this new Superman. The suit made a brief return in Countdown to Final Crisis (Dini, et al, 2007 to 2008), when it was worn by Superman-Prime, and was donned by the pre-Flashpoint (Johns, et al, 2011) when he showed up (rocking a beard!) to replace the crappy New 52-Superman (whose suit will, spoilers, not be making this list), and was also set to appear in Justice League (Snyder/Whedon, 2017) before Warner Bros. re-edited the film.

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9 Speeding Bullets

Bit of a cheat here as this suit was worn a violent and brutal version of Kal-El who was raised by Thomas and Martha Kent and, thus, is actually a composite of Superman and Batman who leans far more into Batman’s characterisation than Superman’s. Still, this is a great combination of the Bat- and Super-Suits, featuring a cowl that covers Kal’s entire head and a amalgamated version of both character’s iconic emblems. If you’re a bit annoyed by me basically using a Batman suit on a Superman list, there was a more traditional Super-Suit featured in this story right at the end, when Kal is convinced to turn away from the darkness and be a symbol of hope. But, as this is a dreadful looking costume that looks way too much like the awful Injustice suit (NetherRealm Studios, 2013; 2017).

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8 Lantern Superman

Let’s face it: any time Superman gets a power ring, we are treated to an awesome variation of his suit. Whether it’s in an alternate reality where Superman operates as Green Lantern (and sports a lovely white cape and an amalgamated “G”/Green Lantern symbol), or the original, super-powerful, pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths (Wolfman, et al, 1985 to 1986) Superman, Kal-L being reanimated as a zombified Black Lantern in Blackest Night (Johns, et al, 2009 to 2010), or Superman-Prime joining the Sinestro Corps, there’s something about mixing Superman’s suit with the Lantern’s attire that always results in gold. Superman’s also been decked out as a dazzling beacon of triumph as a White Lantern and we’ve even seen a glimpse of what his suit could look like spewing blood from his mouth during Supergirl’s brief stint as a Red Lantern. Hands down, my favourite is the Black Lantern Superman though; there’s just something about a zombified Superman in a black suit with a tattered cape that is really striking to me, like all of his values and morals have been cast aside in favour of ripping hearts from chests.

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7 Overman / Red Son

I’m lumping these two together as I honestly cannot pick between the two; both suits were worn by alternative versions of Superman who were raised and indoctrinated with anti-American principles, making for a complete reversal of Superman’s traditionally patriotic views. Overman, a Nazi version of Superman, appeared during the God-awful Final Crisis (Morrison, et al, 2008 to 2009) event, while the communist version most famously appeared in Superman: Red Son (Millar, et al, 2003). Both wear a fascist symbol in place of the traditional “S” and favoured big buckles on their belts and a darker, subdued colour scheme, with Overman’s costume fittingly being reminiscent of the Schutzstaffel  uniform.

6 The Dark Side

Continuing the theme of alternative versions of Superman raised by tyrannical dictators, Superman: The Dark Side (Moore, et al, 1998) presented a version of Superman raised by Darkseid to be a ruthless soldier in the New Gods’ war against the peaceful New Genesis. Once again sporting a corrupted version of the “S” symbol (which was almost exactly the same as the Schutzstaffel symbol, something that, ironically, even Overman was missing…), Dark Side’s Superman had a haircut you could set your watch to, and a fittingly grim and stoic personality that was more akin to Darkseid’s actual son, Orion. He was also decked out in sweet jet-black armour forged from the fire pits of Apokolips, carried a sword and had no compunction about slaughtering his enemies without mercy in the name of his dark overlord.

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5 Superman Prime (DC One Million)

The Superman Prime (not to be confused with his genocidal counterpart of the same name) that appears in DC One Million (Morrison, et al, 1998) has lived for so long thanks to his Kryptonian physiology that he’s seen all his friends and family die. Despondent, he left Earth in the care of his heir, travelled the universe for a few centauries, and eventually went into self-imposed exile in the centre of the sun. Unlike the previous Super-Suits, this Superman is a glowing, golden beacon of hope and serenity; his powers amplified to almost God-like levels, this Superman is decked out entirely in gold to match his new divine stature.

4 Brutaal (Earth-2)

This version of Superman is a Bizarro-like clone engineered by Darkseid to mirror his Earth-2 counterpart, Val-Zod (another contender for this list) in very way…except for being absolutely ruthless and lacking in mercy. Very much like by his Dark Side incarnation, Brutaal stands out by wearing a suit that closely resembles versions of the Eradicator or Cyborg-Superman, favouring a largely black-and-red colour scheme (that just works for alternative, evil takes on Superman) and some wicked chains to hold his cape in place.

3 Electric Superman

Probably the most controversial choice for this list, in the late-nineties, DC Comics apparently decided that Superman needed a complete shake-up (despite the fact that he’d already returned from the dead!) and had him transform into a purely energy-based lifeform. He could now travel at the speed of light, emit energy blasts, and become incorporeal but also (for some inexplicable reason) would become completely human when he transformed back into Clark Kent! As if this wasn’t mental enough, he was then split into two beings, a red variant and a blue one, each with different personalities! None of this changes the fact, though, that the suit he wore during this time was awesome! Lacking a cape and featuring a streamlined design comprised of blue (…or red) and white and a new, more radical logo. Honestly, I feel like the suit’s design and Superman’s new powers were pretty great…just maybe not suitable for Superman. This suit actually cropped up again in the early-2000s when it was worn by Strange Visitor (Sharon Vance) but I would love to see it recycled for the likes of the Eradicator, who’s always been more energy-based in his powers anyway.

2 Rebirth / Man of Steel

After subjecting us to a God-awful characterisation of Superman throughout the five years or so of the “New 52” reboot, DC Comics finally saw sense and killed off that jerk and ditched his dreadful quasi-armoured costume in favour of not only the definitive version of Superman (pre-Flashpoint, of course) but also a far more traditional version of the Super-Suit. This suit, largely reminiscent of the equally-fantastic costume worn by Henry Cavill in the DC Extended Universe movies (Various, 2013 to present) took all the dramatic changes made by the New 52 suit and merged them with Superman’s more traditional styling. This meant that Kal again ditched the red trunks and yellow belt but also dropped the overly busy and unnecessarily detailed nature of the New 52 suit. Eventually, the trunks and the red boots would make a return but, either way, for a modern take on the classic Super-Suit, they don’t get much better than this.

1 Kingdom Come

For me, the definitive alternative version of the Super-Suit is the one designed by Alex Ross in the gorgeous and seminal Kingdom Come (Waid, et al, 1996). Taking place on Earth-22, where Superman has largely separated himself from humanity, which has begun to favour more aggressive superheroes, this Superman sports not only a streak of white hair but also a sleek, traditional Super-Suit with one noticeable different: a diagonal line against a black background in place of the traditional red-and-yellow “S” shield. It’s a small change but one that speaks volumes of this Superman’s current mindset; he’s lost faith in humanity and is in mourning. This costume has endured over the years, inspiring numerous revisions of Superman’s costume (generally whenever depicting an elderly or despondent version of Kal) but, most notably, the Earth-22 Superman later paid a visit to the mainstream DC universe to team with the Justice Society, Superman adopted a very similar version of this shield after the “Our Worlds at War” (Loeb, et al, 2001) storyline, and even prominently featured in the Crisis on Infinite Earths (Various, 2019 to 2020) crossover event that saw Brandon Routh reprise his role from Superman Returns (Singer, 2006) wearing an incredibly faithful rendition of this iconic outfit for his portrayal of a similarly-beleaguered version of Superman.

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Which Super-Suit is your favourite? Did it make the list or was there one I missed? What do you look for in a Super-Suit? Drop a comment below and share your thoughts on what makes the quintessential Super-Suit.

10 FTW: Dark Doppelgängers

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If there’s one thing any hero can count on it’s that, at some point in their illustrious career, they’re going to have to face off against themselves. Sometimes, like with the classic Demon in a Bottle (Michelinie, et al, 1979) this is a metaphorical battle against their own inner demons and foibles but. More often than not, it’s a literal battle against an evil version of the themselves.

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Sometimes they’re from another world or a parallel dimension, perhaps they’ve used stolen technology or been cloned from the hero; other times, they are of the same race or seek to replicate the hero’s powers and usurp them. Whatever the case, I’ve always enjoyed a good doppelgänger, generally because they’re just like the hero but dark and edgy or more violent and, being as I grew up in the nineties, I like that kind of stuff. An evil version of a hero can help to elevate the hero by allowing them to overcome their failings and, sometimes, will even edge out of villain territory and become either a full-fledged hero in their own right or a line-towing anti-hero. In either case, today I’m going to run through ten of my favourite dark doppelgängers; evil versions of heroes who are just cool through and through.

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10 Dark Link / Shadow Link

First appearing in Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (Nintendo EAD, 1987) this shadowy version of the heroic Link gets the number ten spot purely because he isn’t really much more than a glorified henchmen for main series villain, Ganon. In true Peter Pan (Barrie, 1902) fashion, Dark Link often takes the form of a pitch-black shadow or a dark, distorted reflection and is able to perfectly mirror all of Link’s attacks and abilities. In recent years, he’s appeared more as a phantom and been given more definition but he’s generally relegated to being a sub-boss for a game’s dungeon and never the true threat to the land of Hyrule.

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9 Wario

Debuting in Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins (Nintendo R&D1, 1992), this bloated, disgusting, twisted version of Mario is everything Nintendo’s cute and cuddly mascot isn’t: he’s rude, crude, mad, bad, and dangerous. Where Mario jumps on blocks and Koopa heads to save a delightful Princess, Wario barges through walls and tosses his enemies at each other to steal, loot, or recover treasure. Wario even has his own version of Luigi, Waluigi (who exists more for the sake of existing, I would argue) but, while he crashed onto the scene in a big way by taking over Mario’s castle, Wario has softened over the years. He’s transitioned from an anti-hero and begrudging ally to simply a master of ceremonies as Nintendo moved him away from being the star of his own series of unique games and more towards party games and mini games.

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8 Black Adam

Created by Otto Binder and C. C. Beck, Teth-Adam was originally gifted the magical powers of the wizard Shazam and chosen to be his champion, Mighty Adam. After being bewitched and corrupted, however, Adam was stripped of his powers and withered away to dust but, centuries later, was reborn when his ancestor, Theo Adam kills Billy Batson’s parents to lay claim to Adam’s power. Black Adam possesses all of the same powers as Captain Marvel/Shazam but is also gifted with a pronounced mean streak and tactical genius; he briefly reformed for a time, even joining the Justice Society of America and building a family of his own, but his quick temper and deep-seated contempt for humanity generally always drives him into a murderous rampage that few heroes can hope to oppose.

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7 Alec Trevelyan / Janus

Appearing in what is still probably the best James Bond film ever made, GoldenEye (Campbell, 1995), Alec Trevelyan (masterfully portrayed by Sean Bean) was one of MI6’s top 00 agents. However, wanting revenge against the British government for the death of his family and comrades during World War Two, Trevelyan faked his death and formed a criminal organisation named after his new alias, Janus. Trevelyan makes the list because he’s everything James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) was but twisted towards villainy; he and Bond were close friends and partners and his “death” weighed heavily on Bond’s conscious for nine years, making his betrayal even more sickening. In facing Trevelyan, Bond not only faces his biggest regret and mistake but also himself and what he could easily become if the fates were different.

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6 Slash

First appearing in ‘Slash, the Evil Turtle from Dimension X’ (Wolf, et al, 1990), Slash was originally an evil violent mirror of the heroic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles who often appeared in Turtles videogames and merchandise as a sub-boss for the Turtles to fight. For me, his most iconic look is when he’s sporting a black bandana, some spiked apparel, razor-sharp, jagged blades, and a heavy, armour-plated, spiked shell. Slash’s look and characterisation have changed significantly over the years as he’s gone from a somewhat-eloquent villain, to a rampaging monster, to an ally of the Turtles depending on which version you’re reading or watching.

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5 The Master

Originally (and, perhaps, most famously) portrayed by Roger Delgado, the Master was a renegade Time Lord who rebelled against his overbearing masters to freely wander through time and space. While this closely mirrors the story of his childhood friend, the Doctor (Various), the Master was the Doctor’s exact opposite: evil where the Doctor was good, malicious where the Doctor was kind, and wanted nothing more than to extend his lifespan, conquer other races, and destroy (or break) his oldest rival. Though sporting a deadly laser screwdriver and able to hypnotise others, the Master gets the number five spot simply because he’s been overplayed to death in recent years. Time and time again we’ve witnessed the Master at the end of his regeneration cycle, or destroyed forever, only for yet another incarnation to appear and wreck more havoc. He’s even redeemed himself and turned good before, and yet still returns to his wicked ways to plague the Doctor even when his threat should long have ended.

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4 Metal Sonic

Speeding onto the scene in Sonic the Hedgehog CD (SEGA, 1993), Metal Sonic stands head-and-shoulders above all over robot copies of Sonic the Hedgehog simply by virtue of his simplistic, bad-ass design. A fan favourite for years, Metal Sonic has made numerous appearances in multiple Sonic the Hedgehog (Sonic Team/Various, 1991 to present) videogames, comic books, and other media. Sporting a sleek, aerodynamic design, chrome plating, and a massive jet engine on his back, Metal Sonic did something no one had done at the time of his debut and not only matched Sonic’s speed, but outmatched it on more than one occasion. While Sonic CD is far from my favourite Sonic title, it’s hard to downplay the iconic race against Metal Sonic in Stardust Speedway or his impact on the franchise.

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3 Reverse-Flash

Versions of the Reverse-Flash have plagued DC Comics’ speedsters over the years, most notably Edward Clariss (The Rival), Eobard Thawne (Reverse-Flash), and Hunter Zolomon (Professor Zoom). Sporting a yellow variant of the classic Flash suit and shooting off sparks of red lightning, the Reverse-Flash is generally characterised as using his powers to torture the Flash out of a twisted desire to make him a better hero. Reverse-Flash’s threat is increased by his tendency to travel through time, evading death and plaguing different generations of the Flash; Professor Zoom was even able to manipulate the Speed Force to jump through time and appear to be faster than the Flash. Reverse-Flash has also been the cause of numerous agonies in the lives of multiple Flashes; he’s killed or threatened those closest to him (including Barry Allen’s mother) and delights in bringing the Flash to the brink of his moral code.

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2 Judge Death

Hailing from an alternate dimension where life itself is a crime (as crimes are only committed by the living), Judge Death is the dark counterpart to no-nonsense lawman Judge Dredd. First appearing in 1980 and created by John Wagner and Brian Bolland, Judge Death assumes the appearance of the Grim Reaper and uses his demonic powers to kill with a touch. Rocking a metal design (recently evoked by the Batman-Who-Laughs, another contender for this list), Judge Death takes Dredd’s uncompromising enforcement of the law and ramps it up to eleven. Alongside his fellow Dark Judges, he once slaughtered over sixty million citizens of Mega City One and, despite his corporeal form being destroyed or trapped, has returned time and time again to bring judgement upon the living.

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1 Venom

Perhaps the most popular (or, at least, mainstream) of all dark doppelgängers is the alien symbiote who, when bonded to Eddie Brock (or others), is known as Venom. Created by David Michelinie and Todd McFarlane, Venom began life as a black alien costume that absorbed Spider-Man’s powers and abilities and sought to permanently bond with him. When Spidey rejected it, it turned to Brock and, through their mutual hatred of Spider-Man, Venom was born. Sporting a super simple design (pitch-black with a white spider logo, emotionless white eyes, deadly fangs and claws, and a long, drooling tongue), Venom plagued Spidey for years. Immune to Spidey’s Spider-Sense and sporting all his powers, but double the strength and viciousness, Venom has evolved from a sadistic villain, to an anti-hero, to all-out hero over the years but, thanks to their equally violent offspring, has been the source of much death and woe to Spider-Man since day one.

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What dark doppelgänger is your favourite? Were there any I missed off this list, or do you, perhaps, feel the evil copy is a played out trope? Drop a line in the comments and pop back for more lists and articles.

10 FTW: Batsuits

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So, disappointingly, Ben Affleck is officially, 100% out as Batman. Despite my reservations about him being cast in the role, he delivered a really impressive performance as a tortured, grizzled Bruce Wayne who was driven to extremes after two decades of fighting an unwinnable war against crime in Gotham City. However, due to a multitude of reasons, Affleck is gone and, instead, The Batman (Reeves, 2021) will star Robert Pattinson in the title role as a younger Batman in his first years of activity. As with pretty much all Batman casting, this has caused some interesting ripples throughout the fandom but these discussions were only exacerbated when Reeves teased the first look at Pattinson’s Batsuit.

While this is obviously far from the clearest view, and leaked set images are showing either a much less refined stunt suit or lacking the filter of editing and post-production, there are some interesting choices at work here, such as Wayne apparently melting down the gun that killed his parents to form the symbol of his Batsuit. In any event, this seems like an appropriate time to take a look at some Batsuits from days gone by and talk about what makes them so iconic.

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10 Knightfall (Batman #500)

I am pretty certain I am in the minority here but I really dig the armoured suit that Jean-Paul valley put together during the Knightfall (Dixon, et al, 1993 to 1994) storyline. Initially, Valley just augmented the existing Batsuit with some wicked mechanical claws that could shoot out Bat-Shurikens, a grappling hook and, apparently, a laser but, for his big rematch against Bane, Valley decided to go the whole hog and produce an entirely armoured ensemble that enabled him to best Bane easily. As the Knightfall arc progressed, the suit took on a darker, far more menacing look as it changed from blue to red; Valley also became increasingly dependent upon the suit as his madness progressed, refusing to take it off and using it in increasingly violent (and fatal) ways. Eventually, however, the suit proved Valley’s undoing as he was unable to squeeze through the narrow tunnel Bruce Wayne lured him into, which finally forced him to remove the suit and begin a difficult road to redemption. What I like about this suit, though, is how futuristic and dangerous it looks; it’s got an aerodynamic flair, has all these neat gadgets and upgrades, and makes Batman look like a cold-blooded figure who takes no prisoners, which is exactly what Valley embodied. The suit rarely makes much of an appearance these days, though it did appear as a skin in Batman: Arkham Origins (WB Games Montréal, 2013) and informed Valley’s subsequent appearances as Azrael over the years.

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9 Zur-En-Arrh (Batman #113; Batman #678)

Sometimes, you just need a completely bat-shit-crazy (pun intended) Batsuit and they don’t get much weirder than this one (well, maybe the Rainbow Batman…). First appearing wayyy back in 1958, the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh was an alien who, inspired by Batman, fought giant robots. Then, in the midst of the dreadful Batman R.I.P. (Morrison, et al, 2008) storyline, “writer” (I hesitate to call him that as his writing is atrocious and obnoxiously dense) Grant Morrison resurrected the Zur-En-Arrh concept as a “backup personality” Bruce implanted within himself that would kick in should he ever be psychologically compromised. What I love about this costume is the gaudy, outlandish, outrageousness of it; it’s all a mish-mash of reds, purples, and yellows the likes of which we haven’t seen clash since Alan Scott! Add to this the ruthlessness and unhinged nature of Morrison’s interpretation and you have one mental Batsuit that makes pummelling thugs into submission in Batman: Arkham Knight (Rocksteady Studios, 2015) all the more satisfying.

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8 Batman Beyond

After wrapping up their excellent Batman: The Animated Series (Various, 1992 to 1999), Bruce Timm and Paul Dini decided to try something a little new with their animated ventures with Batman Beyond (ibid, 1999 to 2001). Batman Beyond took place quite far into the future and focused on a teenaged Batman, Terry McGinnis, who donned this futuristic Batsuit. There’s a lot to like about this Batsuit; first, there’s the trademark Dini/Timm simplicity. Second, there’s the fact that the cowl covers the entirety of Terry’s head; I’ve never really understood why Batman (and other, similarly-masked superheroes) feel the need to expose their jaw and mouth to the world so it’s great to see it obscured here. Then there’s all the futuristic modifications in the suit; it has jet boots, can glide, can turn invisible, and has all kinds of nifty gadgets to give Terry the edge in battling crime in Neo-Gotham. Since its debut, the Batman Beyond suit has cropped up more than once in comics, videogames, and other cartoons; Kate Kane, the modern Batwoman, also wears a costume that’s almost exactly identical.

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7 Gotham by Gaslight

Retroactively labelled as one of the first ‘Elseworlds’ stories created by DC Comics, Gotham by Gaslight (Augustyn, et al, 1989) presents Bruce Wayne/Batman as existing in the 19th century and engrossed in the hunt for Jack the Ripper. As such, this Batsuit has a heavy steampunk-vibe to it (and I do love me some steampunk). Like other Batsuits on this list, the Gaslight suit works because of how simple and effective it is; this is a Batman that cannot rely on futuristic tech or fancy gadgets and is, instead, simply a very focused and highly trained man in a heavy, fit-for-purpose suit. The high collar, large pouches, and heavy-duty, militaristic feel given off this suit are fantastic and it’s probably one of the closest examples of what a realistic Batsuit would look like. In addition to being featured in a pretty decent animated film, this suit seems to have inspired Pattinson’s Batsuit, as well as the suit seen in the “Knightmare” scene in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (Snyder, 2016).

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6 1970’s Batsuit

As great as the fantastically camp Batman (Various, 1966 to 1968) television series was, and how scarily accurate it was as an adaptation of the happy-go-lucky Batman of the 1960s, it was to the benefit of everyone when editor Julius Schwartz, writer Dennis O’Neil, and artist Neal Adams decided to take Batman back to his roots as a serious, crimefighting detective in the seventies. During this run, Batman stories shed all the extraneous baggage of Bruce’s past; Dick Grayson went off the college, Bruce moved into a penthouse apartment for a time, the Joker became a serious threat once again, and Bruce matched wits with iconic villains like Ra’s al Ghul. Ostensibly similar in many ways to his previous attire, this Batsuit featured the iconic pill-like compartments on the belt and ditched the small ears and stocky aesthetic for longer ears and a far more muscular, refined physique. While the blue and grey colour scheme had long been a staple of Batman, it was under this run that it gained prominence as the definitive look for the more solemn crimefighting detective.

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5 Bat-Armour

Over the years, Batman has donned many armoured suits to take down his more powerful foes but none are as iconic or as memorable as the armoured suit from The Dark Knight Returns (Miller, et al, 1986). Built specifically with the purpose of battling Superman, this suit is a hulking machine that is powered directly by Gotham’s electricity supply. Despite lacking an iconic bat symbol, this armoured suit means nothing except business; with spiked boots, massive gauntlets, and a plethora of gadgets and weapons, this armour is more than capable of subduing the Man of Steel. This suit was famously recreated in stunning detail for a similar fight scene in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, as well as obviously featuring prominently in the Dark Knight Returns’ animated films (Oliva, 2012; 2013) but pretty much every armoured Batsuit can trace its origins and aesthetic inspiration back to this iconic garb.

4 Thomas Wayne (Flashpoint #1)

After a momentary bout of uncharacteristic selfishness, Barry Allen/The Flash decided to run back in time and save his mother’s life; this one act, somehow, created an alternative timeline that was the focus of Flashpoint (Johns, et al, 2011). In this timeline, it was Bruce who died in Crime Alley rather than his parents, leaving his mother, Martha, a psychotic wreck as the Joker and his father, Thomas, as a far darker, more ruthless version of Batman. What I like about this suit is how it dramatically changes the Batsuit with only a few tweaks: the cowl has smaller ears, the eye lenses are blood red, the shoulder pads end in sharp spikes, a blood-red circle replaces the iconic yellow oval, and Thomas sports a matching blood-red utility belt and two gun holsters. That’s right, this is a Batman who revisits the character’s pulp roots and wields not one…but two pistols! Just upon first sight you can tell that this is not quite the Batman you know and love; similar to the Batsuit Jason Todd wore in the Battle for the Cowl (Daniel, et al, 2009) arc, this suit delivers a twisted, darker version of Batman and was, thankfully, also included as a DLC skin in Batman: Arkham Knight.

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3 Troika (Batman #515) / Burton

After finally reclaiming the mantle of the bat at the conclusion of the entire Knightfall saga, Bruce debuted a new Batsuit that drew heavy inspiration from Batman (Burton, 1989) in that, rather than being blue and grey, it was black and grey and comprised of heavy, sturdier Kevlar. This, for me, was a fantastic addition as, as much as I enjoyed the ‘60s show and liked the traditional blue and grey Batsuit, I much prefer an all-black or black and grey aesthetic, largely because I grew up with Burton’s Batman movies. As great as the Batman suit is, however, and as faithful as the Troika (Moench, et al, 1995) suit is to that movie, I much prefer the more armoured look Michael Keaton sported in Batman Returns (Burton, 1992). Either way, the change from blue to black was largely permanent as most Batsuits kept this colour scheme going forward and, for me, the only thing that stops this suit from being higher on the list is that it retains the yellow oval…which I’m not really a fan of.

2 Year One (Batman #404)

As lauded as The Dark Knight Returns is, I honestly feel that it is a chore to read; the art style is dodgy, the writing is dense and almost impenetrable, and, for all the work it does to present a grizzled, serious Batman, over the years I’ve come to find it doesn’t really live up to all its hype. Give me Batman: Year One (Miller, et al, 1987) any day. Presented as the first year of Bruce’s time as Batman, this Batsuit is, again, effective in its simplicity; sporting a black cowl, grey suit, and big, practical, militaristic pouches, this suit is the definitive “first time” Batsuit. Best of all, this suit ditches the yellow oval for a simple black bat chest logo, which was always and forever be my preference; I get that the embalm is double-shielded to draw enemy fire to his chest and away from his other, more vulnerable parts (…except his crotch, it seems) but I’ve never really liked the use of yellow or bright colors in Batman’s everyday attire.

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1 Jim Lee’s Batsuit

I think that a lot of the appeal of Batman’s outfit, as featured in stories like Hush (Joeb, et al, 2002 to 2003), is simply that it is drawn by Jim Lee, who even made the gaudy, over-complicated ‘New 52’ suits look appealing. Lee’s Batsuit incorporates some of the best parts of its predecessors on this list: it’s got the shorter ears, a massive black bat on the chest, it’s got a blue/grey/black-on-grey colour scheme, and sometimes it’s got the big, practical pouches and other times it has the pellets. Lee’s suit has a little bit of everything in it and is, far and away, one of the most definitive renditions of Batman’s attire ever put to page. It doesn’t seek to reinvent the wheel like the ‘Rebirth’ outfit or over-complicated the suit with unnecessary lines and augmentations; instead it’s simply a purpose-built, form-fitting Batsuit that’s the jack-of-all-trades for Bruce’s nightly jaunts.

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What Batsuits do you like? Do you have any guilty pleasures? What do you think of Robert Pattinson’s Batsuit so far? Sound off below and come back again for more lists and articles.

10 FTW: Things I Hate About Movies

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So, when it comes to movies, I am surprisingly optimistic. This may be because I would never pay to see a movie if I wasn’t reasonably sure that I was going to enjoy it and because I stick to genres and franchises that I know I like, but I usually go into a film with certain expectations and, as long as those are met, I am generally satisfied. With that said, there are some things about movies that drive me mad…or, at least, annoy me. Tropes that I would like to see less or, if not phased out entirely, and I’m come up with ten of them to rant about right now.

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10 Lack of Opening Credits

I’m fairly certain I’m the only person who cares about these days, where everyone is all about cutting right to the action, and I do understand that but there’s something I find innately lazy and annoying about not even seeing the movie’s title appear onscreen at the start of a film.

10FTWGuardians
Just slap the credits over the opening scene and I’m happy…

We have to sit through grandiose logo sequences for movie studios, some that last about three minutes and sometimes watching up to five in quick succession, but we can’t just plaster the movie’s title on the screen? I believe the earliest I was exposed to this was in RoboCop 2 (Kershner, 1990) but it’s become especially noticeably in the works of Marvel Studios. I’m not expecting entire cast credits, as these can be admittedly annoying to sit through (though you can just place them over the opening scene, as in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (Snyder, 2016) or the Guardians of the Galaxy (Gunn, 2014; 2017) films), but just throw the movie’s title up there and help me out a bit!

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9 Pointless Post-Credit Scenes

I am a sucker for post-credit scenes; Marvel Studios have popularised this to the point where it’s now expected that every movie has some kind of pre-, mid-, or post-credits scene. Unfortunately, a lot of them aren’t really worth sitting through ten minutes of credits for. Marvel have become especially lazy with this in recent years; no longer to their post-credit scenes set up further events or hints of things to come and, instead, they’re usually just throwaway gags or scenes purposely made to troll us (I’m looking at you, Spider-Man: Homecoming (Watts, 2017)!)

10FTWSuicide
Remember when Bruce Wayne got that e-mail? Neither does he!

These days, it seems like the pivotal, must-see scenes for Marvel movies now come before the credits rather than after them and the worst thing about a lot of these is that they are often used to hint at sequels that either never come or are fundamentally altered between movies; this is especially true of the DC Extended Universe but it also applies to the Dark Universe, which is seemingly dead in the water.

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8 Mismatching Title Fonts

Another thing that really bugs me is when movies use a specific title font for the posters, merchandise, and DVD covers but never actually use this font or logo in the film. Take Raiders of the Lost Ark (Spielberg, 1981), which has that awesome orange font for its logo but instead uses a simpler, less grandiose font in the film. What’s worse is that Spielberg used the Indiana Jones logo for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (ibid, 1984) but reverted back to the much less exciting font for the subsequent Indy films.

10FTWGreenLantern
Trust Green Lantern to do it the other way round!

While Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight (2005 to 2012) trilogy may not have had the most exciting title font ever, at least this was uniform across the film and merchandise. It seemed like Warner Brothers were employing this as the standard font for their DC movies…until Green Lantern (Campbell, 2011) ruined it by using the basic font on the posters and a far more exciting, comic-inspired font in the movie!

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7 Prequel Sequels

You know what really gets my arse up? Numbers in movies are sequential; you have the first movie, then the second, then the third and so forth so, when movies use a number in their title, a 2 should mean it’s the second movie and, therefore, a continuation of the first. But, instead, movies like to slap a 2, 3, or even a 4 on there when, in actual fact, it’s a prequel!

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Tell me this isn’t madness!

Tarzan 2 (Smith, 2005) and Insidious: Chapter 3 (Whannell, 2015) are perfect examples of this but, for a better example, take a look at the Scorpion King (2002 to 2018) franchises! The Scorpion King (Russell, 2002) is a spin-off of the Mummy (1999 to 2008) franchise, taking place before The Mummy (Sommers, 1999). Its sequel, The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior, despite having a 2 in its title, is actually a prequel with the subsequent three sequels all being sequels to The Scorpion King, resulting in the following viewing order:

The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior
The Scorpion King
The Scorpion King 3: Battle for Redemption (Reine, 2012)
The Scorpion King 4: Quest for Power (Elliot, 2015)
The Scorpion King: Book of Souls (Paul, 2018)
The Mummy
The Mummy Returns (Sommers, 2001)
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (Cohen, 2008)

6 Senseless CGI

I grew up in an age where special effects were constantly evolving, where complex camera techniques and detailed prosthetics were the order of the day. Consider the laborious effort that went into composting all of the matte paintings, models, and sets in Aliens (Cameron, 1986), a film that also employed fantastic suits, miniatures, and puppets that really made it seem as though there were hundreds of Xenomorphs out for Sigourney Weaver’s blood.

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Lucas doesn’t enjoy location shooting…

Nowadays, filmmakers just CGI the hell out of it and be done with it and, while this can result in some breathtaking movies and action scenes, often its an egregious use of a tool that should be used to enhance films rather than overwhelm them. Let’s talk, again, about George Lucas, one of the pioneers of practical effects, who used puppets, models, and complex filming techniques to craft his original Star Wars (1977 to 1983) trilogy. However, when it came time for him to produce the prequel trilogy (1999 to 2005), he used nothing but green screens, digitally adding almost every element of the films in after this actors stumbled through scenes with no frame of reference. Honestly, just because you can use CGI to create all the Clone Troopers doesn’t mean you should and, to me, it just seems unnecessarily lazy and an arrogant use of your time, budget, and resources.

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5 Panic Stations

I’m probably the only person who will admit to liking the Marc Webb/Andrew Garfield Amazing Spider-Man films (2012; 2014); I loved the suit in The Amazing Spider-Man, the slightly different take on Peter Parker’s origin, and that it looked like Sony were finally going to be setting up the Sinister Six…and then The Amazing Spider-Man 2 happened. Despite making $700 million worldwide against a nearly $300 million budget, reception of the film was mixed and, rather than finish the series off with a finale, Sony finally decided to cooperate with Marvel Studios and opted to bring Spider-Man into the MCU. However, rather than integrate the MCU with the Amazing films (as had been previously suggested), Marvel Studios opted to complete recast the character, bringing in Tom Holland.

Andrew who? There’s a new-new Spidey in town!

Now, I like Holland as Peter/Spidey, but his introduction in Captain America: Civil War (Russo Brothers, 2016) came just two years after Garfield’s last appearance. Considering The Amazing Spider-Man rebooted the franchise only five years after Spider-Man 3 (Raimi, 2007), that is a lot of reboots and changes to Spider-Man in a very short amount of time. Halloween (Green, 2018), Hellboy (Marshall, 2019), and Terminator: Dark Fate (Miller, 2019) are also guilty of this, falling back on rebooting, retconning, or straight-up ignoring previous movies and returning “to their roots”. The DCEU has also suffered from Warner Brothers panicking to the reactions to their darker, gritty comic book movies, which caused Justice League (Snyder/Whedon, 2017) to suffer from rewrites and drastic changes.

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4 The Wilhelm Scream

The Wilhelm Scream used to be cute, a fun little recurring gag in movies. Like the creator cameos (popularised in recent years by Stan Lee showing up in Marvel movies), this used to be a fun Easter Egg for knowing audiences. Now, though, I have come to really despise this over used sound effect. It has been done to death in the Star Wars and Indiana Jones films alone but seems to crop in every movie you see these days and I am just so sick of hearing it; it really takes me out of the experience and just makes me grimace every time it gets snuck in there.

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3 Daft Movie Titles

Movie titles should be simple and striking; they should relate what’s going to happen and give the general gist of the movie. They should not be a chore to read or be indistinguishable from other film titles and, yet, we live in a world with films like The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer (Story, 2005), and Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Wyatt, 2011). Here’s some alternative titles just for those movies: Tomb of the Mummy, Fantastic 4: Doomsday, Rise of the Apes. As for Batman v Superman, I don’t think it ever should have had a title at all; it literally should have just been the Batman and Superman logos on top of each other, with the film referred to as Batman/Superman.

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There was a lost of “Rising” back then…

Let’s not forget such lazy titles as Solo: A Star Wars Story (Howard, 2018), The Wolverine (Mangold, 2013), and The Dark Knight Rises, all of which could have easily been called Smuggler’s Run, Wolverine: Ronin, and Knightfall. Don’t even get me started on all the movies we got with Rise of, Age of, and Dawn of in their titles not that long ago!

2 Repeating Past Mistakes

I’m looking at Spider-Man 3 for this one; by the time that movie came out, it was pretty well known that a lot of comic book fans weren’t too happy with the revelation that Jack Napier/the Joker (Jack Nicholson) was the man who gunned down Bruce Wayne’s (Michael Keaton) parents in Batman (Burton, 1989). Yet, Sam Raimi seemingly didn’t hesitate at all to do exactly the same thing when he fingered Flint Marko/Sandman (Thomas Hayden Church) as the gun man in his movie. And why? Just so there would be a “connection” between Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tobey Maguire) and Sandman…despite the fact we already had a personal connection between Spidey and Harry Osborn/”New Goblin” (James Franco). It wasn’t the only mistake he made in that movie but it was one of the most baffling, especially considering all the controversy surrounding the Joker revelation.

“Like this…but yellow!”

We saw a similar situation when Green Lantern decided that Parallax (Clancy Brown) would be much more effective as a big ol’, CGI mess of a space cloud, something that worked out just as well for Galactus in 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer. Similarly, Justice League didn’t earn itself any favours by repeated the same “big fight against a CGI monstrosity” from both Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad (Ayer, 2016), which were its direct predecessors and the subject of a lot of online backlash.

1 Ignoring Continuity

I touched on this earlier but there’s nothing I hate more than a film series or sequels completely ignoring their established continuity. The X-Men (Various, 2000 to present) series is the worst offender of this, throwing continuity out of the window with every entry and thinking it’s cute to poke fun at it in their Deadpool (Various, 2016; 2018) spin-offs.

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I would’ve liked to have seen more of this but, again, what do I know?

The Terminator (Various, 1984 to present) series is also just as bad with this, mainly because the film rights keep being passed between different studios and bodies, but it seems like every new Terminator movie disregards chunks of, if not the entirety of, their previous entries, making for a disjointed franchise that’s difficult to care about, with the upcoming Dark Fate looking like a mish-mash of its predecessors rather than something fresh and new. I get that, sometimes, aspects of films or entire movies/sequels aren’t received too well but I would much rather the screenwriters tried to address and move on from any problems rather than simply ignoring them or waving them away. If you’re just going to ignore what’s come before, make a remake or reboot and start completely fresh; otherwise, try something a little lazy than just ignoring entire movies.

How about you? What tropes of movies and cinema do you dislike? Let me know in the comments, or if you think I’m full of shit.

10 FTW: Films That Need Remakes

10FTW

It seems blasphemous to say it but, sometimes, films do deserve a modern remake. The stigma that remakes are “bad” or “unnecessary” is one that I have already contested before, as some of the best films in cinema history are actually remakes. However, whether because they haven’t aged too well, or sequels ruined the original concept or expanded upon it in ways that actually affect the original negatively, or there is the potential that some films could just be done better, I put it to you that there are some movies that totally are in need of a remake and here are just some of them.

10 X-Men

I’ve already discussed, at length, my ideas for the surely-inevitable X-Men reboot that will come once Marvel Studios decides to integrate Mutants into the Marvel Cinematic Universe but it needs repeating here: the X-Men franchise is a mess! 20th Century Fox could have rebooted the franchise with X-Men: First Class (Vaughn, 2011) but, instead, they chose to produce a sloppy mish-mash of sequel, reboot, and retcon because God forbid that they lose the revenue produced every time Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine pops his claws. Similarly, X-Men: Days of Future Past (Singer, 2014) could have straightened things out using time travel but that clearly was asking too much; the focus was on powering through with a nonsensical, confusing timeline, not on any sense of continuity or logic. Therefore, X-Men really needs to have the plug pulled and a whole new retelling to help bring some kind of order and logic to one of Marvel’s biggest and most profitable franchises.

9StreetFighter
9 Street Fighter

What’s that, you say? “Street Fighter already had a reboot; Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li (Bartkowiak, 2009)!” Really? You’re happy for that atrocity to stand as your Street Fighter adaptation? Jeez, at least Street Fighter (de Souza, 1994) was fun; dumb, yes, but fun. The only things Legend of Chun-Li had going for it were higher production values, Robin Shou, and the use of chi; literally everything else was a slap in the face to any fan of the videogames or action movies in general. Now, you might also be wondering why I didn’t pick Mortal Kombat (Anderson, 1995) and the answer is simple: it is a fantastic film; fun, witty, with some great fight scenes and decent effects. Street Fighter, however, is still waiting for a halfway decent adaptation; go old-school with it, make it a gritty, Kickboxer (DiSalle and Worth, 1989)/Bloodsport (Arnold, 1988)-style action movie; maybe throw in some inspiration from Warrior (O’Connor, 2011). In today’s climate, where MMA and UFC are mainstream and popular, Street Fighter has the potential to be a pretty solid action film if handled correctly.

8TheMask
8 The Mask

Our first remake where my overriding advice is simple: “Go back to the source material!” Don’t get me wrong, I love The Mask (Russell, 1994); it’s a great vehicle for Jim Carrey’s talents and looks fantastic as a live-action cartoon but it’s not really a great adaptation of Mike Richardson’s original comic book. In the comics, “Big-Head” was a complete and utter psychopath and the titular Mask was anything but a force for wacky comedy. Therefore, rather than simply trying to ape Carrey’s performance, do a complete 1800 and make a super-stylised, hyper-violent action/horror movie. Honestly, given how successful Deadpool (Miller, 2016) and its sequel were, I am surprised that we haven’t heard rumblings of a new Mask movie as it’s basically the same premise but even more over the top, if you can believe that!

7Resident Evil
7 Resident Evil

Easily the most inevitable of all of these films given recent news that a director has already been picked, I once again would advise revisiting the source material this time around (or, you know, actually bother to look at the source material at all) as the movies churned out by Paul W. S. Anderson have little to no resemblance to Capcom’s survival-horror series. Seriously, stop trying to copy Aliens (Cameron, 1986) and concentrate on making a dark (literally and figuratively), tense, atmospheric movie where two characters have to survival against some gory, fucked up zombies and gristly, practically-created (CGI just for enhancement, please!) monsters. It’s a bad sign when Doom (Bartkowiak, 2005) is a better Resident Evil movie than any of the actual Resident Evil movies so, come on, bring back the splatter-gore zombies movies of old and make a real Resident Evil adaptation for once!

(Side note: I actually love Doom. Fight me).

6 The Crow

Here’s one that’s been in and out of development hell for decades now; we have come so close to getting a new Crow movie so many times, with names like Bradley Cooper and Jason Mamoa both attached at one point, only to have it snatched away at the last second. Honestly, I am fine with this as The Crow (Proyas, 1994) remains one of the most haunting and beautiful movies (and adaptations) of all time. However, while I am in no hurry to see a remake, if we do ever get one I again urge those behind it to look a little closer at James O’Barr’s original 1989 comic book, if only to differentiate the new film from the original. Go for a moody, stylised, neo-noir piece, taking inspiration from Sin City (Miller and Rodriguez, 2005), and craft a dark, sombre film that has little to do with heroism and more to do with cold, uncompromising vengeance.

5LXG
5 The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

Ah, yes, the film that notoriously caused Sean Connery to retire from Hollywood altogether. Again, I am actually a bit of a fan of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Norrington, 2003); it’s not perfect but I liked seeing all these literary characters come together and the steampunk aesthetic of the movie. However, I would not be against Hollywood giving this one another go as it could definitely be done better. Keep the steampunk aesthetic but really emphasise the gritty, world-weary nature of these characters; you’re bringing together some of the most beloved, nuanced, and interesting fictional characters ever created so don’t belittle them with goofy antics. Go back to Alan Moore’s comic books, maybe take some inspiration from the second volume in which Moore has the League participate in the War of the Worlds (Wells, 1897) and for God’s sake do not promote the movie as “LXG”!

4 Fantastic Four

Another pick that is surely inevitable given Disney’s purchase of 20th Century Fox, I could go into a lot of detail about how the first family of Marvel Comics should be introduced into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (and hey, maybe I still will!) but, suffice it to say, the Fantastic Four really need a movie deserving of their longevity and popularity. There were things I liked about both of Tim Story’s movies, and even the much-maligned reboot by Josh Trank, but all three films failed to capture the essence of the Fantastic Four and really do them justice. This is a chance for Marvel Studios to make a film with actual responsible adults in it; bring in an older cast for Reed Richards and Susan Storm (Bruce Campbell is a great choice for Reed but may be a bit too old; I’d suggest Pierce Brosnan, if he isn’t used for Magneto), get a popular, utterly handsome guy in his mid-twenties-to-late-thirties for Johnny Storm (Zac Efron?), and use that patented Marvel CGI wizardry (preferably in conjunction with practical effects) to create a truly lifelike Thing (voiced by, I dunno, Danny DeVito?). Whatever they do, though, it is crucial (and I mean absolutely crucial) that they get Doctor Doom right (and I mean pitch perfect); Doom should be a premier villain in the MCU and they shouldn’t shy away from his mystical origins. Get someone who isn’t afraid to wear a mask the entire time and who has the presence and gravitas to pull off such an enigmatic role (again, I would go the older route, maybe try and bring in Arnold Vosloo?)

3Spawn
3 Spawn

Oh, Spawn, you’re so very nineties! A Spawn remake/reboot has also been kicking around for decades, with creator Todd McFarlane constantly banging on about how it’s being scripted, in production, coming soon, won’t feature Spawn much (which is insanity!), will be super dark, super scary, and loads of other talk but, until we see a poster, a trailer, and the film in cinemas it’s just that: talk. Spawn (Dippé, 1997) is not a great film; you could argue that it’s not even a good film. It’s rushed, sloppy, disjointed, and some of the effects have aged terribly. This is the reason we need a new movie, one that isn’t afraid to go dark, be super violent, and really do justice to the character and his original run. Take the effects work from Venom (Fleischer, 2018), go balls-deep with the violence and surreal nature of the concept, take notes from the excellent animated series, and bring in Denzel Washington to play the titular hellspawn and you could have a winning formula.

2 Hellraiser

Here’s another remake that’s been doing the rounds for a while; despite all the talk and anticipation of a remake, however, it seems we’re doomed to getting ashcan sequels and direct-to-DVD releases that keep this franchise limping along on life support (would you believe that there are ten films in this series!?) Hellraiser makes the list because the original 1987 movie and its immediate sequels have not aged well; in fact, they have aged terribly. I applaud them for using practical effects and making the most of their obviously limited budget but it’s clear to see that this movie could be made so much better with modern filmmaking techniques. Indeed, one of the few good points of the later sequels is how much better the effects are and, done right, a Hellraiser remake could really surprise at the box office. So, I say to you: Go back to Hellraiser and Clive Barker’s original novel, look at the lore and legacy of the series, and put some time, effort, and money into making a truly nightmarish, surreal, and atmospheric horror movie. And if you’re not going to cast Doug Bradley as Pinhead, at least have him dub the lines or something.

1Highlander
1 Highlander

Oooh, boy, this film. Similar to Hellraiser, Highlander (Mulcahy, 1986) makes the list because it just doesn’t hold up; the effects are bad, the fight sequences are shit, and, thanks to all of the nonsense introduced in the sequels, the original movie is a laborious chore to sit through. Yet, the concept is a good one; the franchise clearly had some staying power as well, if the television series is anything to go by. However, we really need to look at the lore and iron out some specifics: what is the Prize? How many Immortals are there and will we address where they come from? What is the exact nature of the Quickening? Seriously, these concepts are so ill-defined in the original and bogged down with retcons and illogical additions in the sequels that I have no idea what’s going on. Either get a clear picture and make a decent fantasy film based on that or ignore some of the sequels and bring back Christopher Lambert in the mentor role; either way, you absolutely must cast Thomas Jane in the title role…and maybe Dave Bautista as the Kurrgan.

10 FTW: Massive Plot Holes in Otherwise Great Movies

I’m not really one for chasing plot holes and, honestly, I am not really one to nit-pick; usually, I can watch a film and be perfectly satisfied with it even if there are a few questions or plot conveniences being employed to tie everything together. Generally, though, after seeing a film for the first time or after multiple viewings, I’ll replay the movie in my head and, sometimes, this is where glaring plot holes will jump out at me that, once you’ve noticed them, are hard to ignore.

With that in mind, here are ten pretty massive plot holes in movies that are otherwise great (spoilers, and all that, but that seems obvious at this point):

Gladiator
10 Gladiator (Scott, 2000)

There’s actually a couple of plot holes that jumped out of me in Ridley Scott’s otherwise flawless Roman epic. The first is during the reunion between Maximus (Russell Crowe) and Lucilla (Connie Nielsen), in which Maximus mentions that he heard that Lucilla has a son and Lucilla says that Lucius (Spencer Treat Clark) is nearly eight. Now, we’re not told how long it’s been since Maximus and Lucilla last saw each other but, surely, Maximus must have known about Lucius before this reunion? Considering he hasn’t been home in “two years, two-hundred-and-sixty-four days, and this morning”, we can infer that he has only been at war for about three years; so, was he at home for the other five years with no word about his former flame? Seems unlikely. But, if you find that plot hole a bit too tenuous, how about the fact that Maximus is later taken out into the Germanian wilderness to be executed, fights himself free, and ends up wandering around in a half-dead daze only to somehow gallop his way back home, to Spain, on the strength of a prophetic dream? Thanks to the editing of this sequence, it seems as though he arrives shortly after the attack but this seems awfully convenient and unlikely to me.

9 Terminator 2: Judgment Day (Cameron, 1991)

I love this plot hole. So, The Terminator (ibid, 1984) establishes that the time-displacement machine only allows living human tissue to travel through time; the T-800 Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) was able to make the trip because its metallic endoskeleton was covered by uncannily realistic flesh. Yet, in James Cameron’s all-action sequel, the T-1000 (Robert Patrick) is able to make the same journey despite being composed entirely of liquid metal! The best part is that, if you’re new to the franchise and you watch them in order, you can see that this plot hole is necessary to allow Terminator 2 to be structured as though the T-800 is still the emotionless, remorseless killer from the first film and Robert is the unassuming human soldier sent back to protect the future. Seriously, watch T2 again up to the showdown between Robert and Arnold with fresh eyes and you’ll see what I mean. I guess we have to assume that the T-1000 was coated in some kind of disposable flesh cocoon to allow for this.

Dark Knight Rises
8 The Dark Knight Rises (Nolan, 2012)

You know what this is going to be: how the hell does Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) return to Gotham City after being dumped in that pit by Bane (Tom Hardy)? I can almost forgive the plot convenience of the “clean slate” and Bruce’s absurd recovery time from his injuries (I have to assume that Bane injured Bruce severely but didn’t snap his spine as in the Knightfall comics arc) but, with Bane having Gotham under complete lockdown and Bruce left without any means of using what limited assets he has left, how did Bruce manage to get back into the city? Not only that but the editing makes it seem as though the flight to and from the pit is mere hours and that Bruce is gone for a matter of weeks rather than months. Seriously, “because he’s Batman!” is not an explanation for this and it was a curiously sloppy inclusion on Nolan’s part. I guess we just have to assume that Bruce knows of secret ways in and out of the city, perhaps through the same tunnels that lead to the Batcave?

Logan
7 Logan (Mangold, 2017)

This is one that didn’t hit me for a few hours after seeing the film, such was the impact of Wolverine’s (Hugh Jackman) final outing but, even considering the convoluted mess that is the timeline of the X-Men (Various, 2000 to present) films, how the hell does Logan know his real name? At numerous points in the film, the name James Howlett appears onscreen and is used by Logan in reference to himself but, even if you don’t consider X-Men Origins: Wolverine (Hood, 2009) to be canon, X-Men (Singer, 2000) sure as hell is supposed to be according to Logan’s narrative and I don’t recall him regaining his memories in that film, or any other movie for that matter. It’s such a minor blink-and-miss it thing but it really took me out of the movie as I ended up thinking and asking questions about things that were distracting me from Logan’s emotionally weighty narrative. I guess we just have to assume that, at some point between The Wolverine (Mangold, 2013) and Logan, Wolverine just happened to regain the memory of his long-forgotten real name. Or, maybe, all of his memories were restored as a result of X-Men: Days of Future Past (Singer, 2014), though thee is no indication of this in either film. Also, while we’re at it, how the hell did Future Wolverine regain his adamantium claws after The Wolverine? And how the hell is Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) still alive? I mean, I know the after credits of X-Men: The Last Stand (Ratner, 2006) showed that he had survived but how did he get his old body back? Gah! I cannot wait for Marvel Studios to reboot this franchise with some cohesion!

Spider-Man 3
6 Spider-Man 3 (Raimi, 2007)

I know what you’re thinking: Spider-Man 3 is not a “great film” and maybe you’re right but it’s not actually that bad. Eddie Brock (Topher Grace) in the black suit (I’d love to call them Venom but they’re never called that in the film so…) was pretty awesome and the big climactic team-up between Peter (Tobey Maguire) and Harry (James Franco) was really exciting at the time, before cinematic superhero team-ups were the norm. With that said, though, poor attempts on Raimi’s part to properly include Venom in the film coupled with lazy editing mean that the Sandman (Thomas Haden Church) is able to just randomly ambush Eddie in mid-air, with Eddie briefly mentioning that he’s been “looking for” Sandman to propose a team-up rather than actually putting some effort into this meeting (or, you know, just writing Sandman out completely after his encounter with Symbiote Spider-Man and saving the scene of his survival for an after- or mid-credits scene).

5 Back to the Future (Zemeckis, 1985)

Here’s one that’s been argued to death: why don’t Marty’s (Michael J. Fox) parents recognise him as “Calvin Klein”, the mysterious boy so pivotal to them getting together as teenagers? The most common argument I’ve seen is that they do but choose not to acknowledge it, or that they simply do not remember events from nearly thirty years ago with perfect recall. Honestly, this is a pretty weak argument for me; if a handsome lad had helped me overcome my issues and get with a pretty girl back when I was in secondary school, I think I would notice if my son looked exactly like him! You can’t even say it’s because of the malleability of time travel as other characters, such as Biff (Thomas F. Wilson), can remember the past pretty well but nobody seems to put two-and-two together when it comes to Marty and “Calvin”.

Batman Returns
4 Batman Returns (Burton, 1992)

So, there’s a pretty pivotal scene in one of the most underrated movies ever in which the Penguin (Danny DeVito) reveals that his Red Triangle Circus Gang is planning to “disassemble [Batman’s (Michael Keaton)] Batmobile and turn it into an H-bomb on wheels”. They are able to do this by following a rather detailed set of blueprints on the wall of the Penguin’s office. The question is: how the hell did he get a hold of those blueprints? According to the novelisation by Craig Shaw Gardner, the blueprints were obtained at considerable cost by Max Shreck (Christopher Walken) but that seems pretty improbable given that, later in the film, Bruce is repairing the Batmobile and appears to be self-reliant rather than commissioning outside sources to provide his tech. There appears to be no in-movie explanation as to how the Penguin got the blueprints, though, so I guess it’s just “one of those things”, like how his gang just conveniently find the Batmobile later on.

Fight Club
3 Fight Club (Fincher, 1999)

According to Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), the first rule of Fight Club is that you do not talk about Fight Club and the second rule of Fight Club is you do not talk about Fight Club. However, the final rule is that, if it’s your first night at Fight Club, you have to fight. Anyone else seeing a bit of a contradiction here? If members are doubly banned from talking about Fight Club then how the hell can it ever be anyone’s “first night” at the club? After a while, every one of the original members should have had their first fight so that, in conjunction with the first two rules, would make the final rule obsolete pretty quickly, surely? Perhaps Tyler knew that the members would talk about the club (Bob (Meat Loaf) did later on, after all) and the rules were more an unstated understanding that members do not talk about the club to any authority figures but, still, to have a rule that directly contradicts the others seems pretty foolish for such a smart guy.

Jurassic Park
2 Jurassic Park (Spielberg, 1993)

So, imagine this: you’re John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) and you have a theme park that contains the closest approximations of real-life dinosaurs in billions of years and you need the world’s foremost expert on Velociraptors, Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill), to come along and verify that the park is safe and the attractions are as good as they seem. Then, just as a baby ‘raptor hatches from an egg right before his eyes, your expert turns around and asks, “what species is this?” like some kind of air-headed novice! Now, sure, Grant seemed to take the discovery that dinosaurs were once again walking the Earth pretty hard, reacting with shock and awe and even having trouble breathing so maybe, maybe, he was simply still reeling from this revelation. Also, yes, while I’m sure Grant had seen the bones of a baby ‘raptor before, he’s obviously never held a live one and, finally, he probably knew (like we do now) that ‘raptors actually looked very different to how they are portrayed in Jurassic Park but still! I mean, come on, isn’t this like Ford unveiling their new motor at a Ford press conference and Jeremy Clarkson saying, “what make is this?”

Timecop
1 Timecop (Richardson, 1994)

Can we stop for a moment to talk about how absolutely fantastic Timecop is? Seriously, it’s one of those films that doesn’t get talked about enough and is, perhaps, Jean-Claude Van Damme’s greatest film ever (for fellow perverts, there’s also one cracker of a sex scene in it!) I love this film and could, honestly, watch it every day but there’s just one tiny little thing that takes me right out of it. The first scene of the film is a little dick-measuring contest between George Spota (Scott Lawrence) and some government types in which George breaks the news that the good ol’ US-of-A has cracked time travel. He lays down the rules of the film (you can’t travel forward because the future hasn’t happened yet but you can travel back…raising the entirely separate question of how you get back to the present, which would be considered the future, from the past; I guess because that future has happened?) and convinces the government types that the Time Enforcement Commission must be formed to protect and police time from anyone who would seek to change history by altering the past. George even says that this has already happened and the question is…how, exactly? At that point, there was one time travel device, firmly under lock and key we can assume, so how the hell did someone manage to travel back to the past already? And, if they have done, how they hell did George even know about it when they had no means of monitoring or preventing this so, surely, the events that were altered world just be the current history (as happens later in the film)?

Later, it is revealed that there are two machines; the primary one and a prototype that Senator Aaron McComb (Ron Silver) uses to change time in his favour but this wasn’t true at the meeting at the start of the film so I have to agree with the young McComb when he asks why they don’t “just prevent time travel rather than spending stupendous amounts of money trying to police it”. Also…how come they travel to the past in that big rocket but it disappears when they get there and all they have to do is hit a return button, jump into a wormhole, and end up back in the present in the same rocket (that’s now facing the other way around)?

10 FTW: Movies with Ambiguous Endings

You’ve paid your money and you’ve sat down in the cinema or in front of your television; you’ve got some snacks and a drink and you’re ready to suspend your disbelief for anywhere between ninety minutes to three hours with a good, old fashioned movie. The plot is intriguing, the characters relatable, the antagonist layered, and the film’s construction has sucked you right in. Then, out of the blue, the film ends in an ambiguous way, leaving questions swimming around in your head.

For me, a great movie with an ambiguous ending that either turns the entire events that preceded it upside down or allows me to interpret what has happened makes for an extremely enjoyable experience, not least because it means that you can re-watch the movie and interpret the ending and the plot in different ways each time. Some might disagree, obviously, but I’m not them so here are ten of the best moves with interpretative endings and some of my thoughts about them:

Blade Runner
10 Blade Runner (Scott, 1982)

Kicking things off with one of the forefathers of the ambiguous ending, we’re really opening a can of worms with this one considering just how many different versions and endings exist for Blade Runner. Controversially, though, I’m not that big a fan of Blade Runner; as a film, it’s very slow and plodding, with long sections where seemingly nothing happens. This is married to some gorgeous sets and a realistic, lived-in feel to the future world we are presented with. Consequently, my Blade Runner experience begins and ends with Ridley Scott’s 2007 Final Cut version of the film, in which Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) finds an origami unicorn on the floor of his apartment, strongly hinting (as Deckard had previously dreamt of a unicorn) that Deckard is a Replicant. Apparently, this is the philosophy that Scott subscribes to though I disagree as there isn’t really any real evidence in The Final Cut to support this beyond the ambiguity of the final scene. Supporting this further, the question about Deckard’s humanity was left unanswered in Blade Runner 2049 (Villeneuve, 2017), despite other versions of Blade Runner hinting more strongly that Deckard was actually a Replicant all along.

Shutter Island
9 Shutter Island (Scorsese, 2010)

Throughout Shutter Island, Edward “Teddy” Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) is forced to confront some personal demons as he uncovers the mysterious disappearance of a patient of the asylum housed on the titular island. As events begin to unravel, we learn that Teddy is, in fact, a patient of the asylum and he was allowed to play out an elaborate fantasy in an attempt to force him to confront the truth that he murdered his wife. Despite scepticism from Dr. John Cawley (Ben Kingsley), this unconventional method appears to have finally worked as Teddy finally admits his guilt. However, later on, he appears to have regressed to his fantasy world once more, leaving the hospital no choice but to have him lobotomised. As the orderlies come to take him away, he questions whether it is worse to live as a monster or die as a good man, casting doubt as to whether he has truly regressed or simply wishes to end his sane life on a high note; personally, I prefer the latter interpretation, as that line seems a deliberate inclusion to make us think that Teddy is merely feigning his regression to “die” as a hero.

The Thing
8 John Carpenter’s The Thing (Carpenter, 1982)

This is the second time that The Thing has made one of my top ten lists, and with good reason; not only is it a masterpiece of practical effect wizardry, it’s also an excellent tale of isolation and paranoia. After uncovering an alien spacecraft and unwittingly unthawing a gruesome, shape-changing parasitic lifeform, the residents of an Antarctic research outpost succumb to paranoia and fear as the titular Thing assimilates them one by one. In the end, with the Thing seemingly destroyed and the outpost up in flames, our hero – R.J. MacReady (Kurt Russell) – sits alone and exhausted by a dwindling fire when he is confronted by Childs (Keith David), his hot-headed rival who had mysteriously vanished right as the chaos started to really ramp up. Also exhausted, Childs sits with MacReady and they share the remnants of a bottle of scotch, both too tired to act on their suspicions that the other might be the Thing and succumbing to the knowledge that, once the fires burn out, it won’t matter soon anyway. Doubts about who is really human are raised when one observes that, unlike MacReady, Child’s breath does not show in the freezing weather but, in this case, I feel that both are actually human and the ending has a more morbid message: both men, whether human or alien, are paying the price for human nature and that, given the volatile relationship between the two characters, it’s likely they would find any excuse to try to kill each other but are simply too fatigued to continue their hostilities.

The Descent
7 The Descent (Marshall, 2005)

The Descent was a welcome surprise when I first saw it; despite some questionable acting from the lead females, the film quickly descends (hah!) into an atmospheric, claustrophobic nightmare when six cave-diving friends find themselves trapped in an unchartered cavern and being attacked by cannibalistic mutated humans. With fear and paranoia setting in, and beset by the vicious crawlers at every turn, the party is eventually whittled down to central protagonist Sarah Carter (Shauna Macdonald) who, after being knocked unconscious, awakens to find herself before an exit and frantically scrambles free, screaming with maniacal glee as she makes it to her car and speeds away. Overcome by the gruesome events that have taken her friends from her, she pulls over and breaks down in tears, only to find the screaming corpse of her headstrong friend Juno Kaplan (Natalie Mendoza) in the passenger seat. For American audiences, this jump-scare is where the film ends but, for us Brits, the scare causes Sarah to awaken to find herself still trapped in the cave with no exit in sight and her fire slowly burning away. With no escape, and the sounds of the ferocious crawlers echoing all around her, she finds solace in a hallucination of her dead daughter as the film fades to black. If you ignore The Descent: Part 2 (Harris, 2009), which reveals that Sarah did actually escape the cave in the end (and is inexplicably convinced to return to that nightmare), this ending is a massive downer and really reflective of the differences in American and British audiences; we Brits love us a good bleak ending laced with ambiguity, as the final haunting shot raises the possibility that all of the events that occurred were a hallucination of Sarah’s to justify her slaughtering all of her friends.

Event Horizon
6 Event Horizon (Anderson, 1997)

Here’s a film that doesn’t get enough love, Event Horizon is a truly horrific science-fiction horror revolving around a spaceship that, having crossed through time and space, has returned as a semi-sentient haunted vessel that desires only to kill its inhabitants in increasingly gruesome ways and return to the hell dimension that it passed through. Event Horizon actually has two ambiguous endings: the first comes when Captain Miller (Laurence Fishburne) sacrifices himself to split the Event Horizon in two, allowing the remainder of his crew to be spared while he and the demonically possessed Dr. William Weir (Sam Neill in a commendably menacing role) be transported back to “Hell”. When I first watched Event Horizon, I assumed, based on Weir’s agonised “Noooo!” and the editing of this scene, that Miller had died in the ensuing explosion but, upon repeated viewing, you can clearly see the aft section of the craft disappear into a black hole, meaning that Weir was merely expressing his frustration at only taking one victim to “Hell” instead of the entire crew, making Miller’s sacrifice even more tragic as he now has to suffer unimaginable horrors. However, it doesn’t end there as the forward section of the ship is later recovered and Miller’s crew freed from stasis; upon awakening, and suffering from shock, Lieutenant Starck (Joely Richardson) looks upon her rescuer and sees only Weir’s scarred face grinning back at her. Descending into a screaming fit, and comforted by Cooper (Richard T. Jones), it appears as though Starck is simply severely traumatised by the horrific events she has barely survived but, as the film fades to black, the doors of the Event Horizon close by themselves, suggesting that the demonic force haunting the ship is still present.

5 The Grey (Carnahan, 2011)

Boy, was this film a surprise. Given the odd marketing campaign, you would be forgiven for going into The Grey believing it was simply about Liam Neeson fighting wolves but it is so much more than that. Haunted by the death of his wife, John Ottway (Neeson) is struggling with suicidal tendencies when the plane he is flying on crashes in the middle of the frozen Alasakan wilderness. With limited resources, tensions running high, and a pack of ravenous wolves stalking them at every turn, Ottway is forced to rely on his survival instincts and knowledge of wolves to lead the survivors in a seemingly hopeless search for safety. Inexplicably surviving what appears to be an unsurvivable plane crash potentially gave Ottway a concussion, however, as it is eventually revealed, once all of the other survivors have tragically perished due to injuries, the elements, or the increasingly emboldened wolves, that he has been heading directly towards the wolves’ den the entire time. Left alone and forced to confront the Alpha Male, Neeson straps broken bottles and other make-shift weaponry to his fists and prepares to fight to the death as the film abruptly cuts to black. A brief after credits scenes offers little in the way of closure, affording only a glimpse of what appears to be Ottway resting atop a slowly dying wolf, leaving the character’s ultimate fate entirely up to the interpretation of the viewer. I honestly understand the negative backlash this caused as the marketing made a big deal out of the showdown between Neeson and the Alpha, man against nature, and all that but, honestly, when I first saw it and Ottway was reciting his father’s beloved poem, burying the wallets of his fallen comrades, and preparing to fight to the death with a voracious wolf…man tears, every time. I always like to think that there was only ever going to be one outcome: Ottway put up a great fight but was ultimately killed by either the Alpha or one of the other wolves. Yet the short scene after the credits presents the slim possibility that Ottway survived the battle, if with serious injuries, allowing those who prefer a more positive ending to believe that he came out victorious and is merely exhausted from the conflict.

4 Total Recall (Verhoeven, 1990)

Can we stop for a second and recognise that Total Recall is still one of the greatest science-fiction movies ever created? Honestly, this movie has aged incredibly well; it’s use of practical effects, model shots, the rising action and over-the-top fight scenes, all married with two truly memorable villains and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s undeniable charisma make for one of the best action/sci-fi experience ever conceived. That it also presents an extremely and surprisingly complex and deep narrative only adds to its stature, in my mind. Douglas Quaid (Schwarzenegger) is obsessed with Mars, dreaming of it every night and is so desperate to visit the red planet that he pays a visit to Rekall Inc. to purchase a memory implant of having vacationed for two weeks as an undercover secret agent. Immediately however, there are complications; Quaid goes psychotic during the procedure and is suddenly attacked by friends and foes alike for no discernible reason. Eventually driven to Mars, he learns that he was once Hauser, a former employee of the villainous Vilo Cohaagen (the wonderful Ronny Cox) who volunteered to have his memory wiped so that Cohaagen and his sadistic enforcer, Richter (fantastically portrayed by Michael Ironside), could wipe out the rebellion opposing his authority on Mars.

Rejecting his former life, Quaid opts instead to activate an alien device that provides Mars with a breathable atmosphere, freeing the populace from Cohaagen’s air tax and ending the film with a conspicuous white light as Quaid shares a kiss with his dream woman, Melina (Rachel Ticotin). I say conspicuous because, traditionally, films end on a fade to black and this is only one of many indications that the events we have witnessed are not entirely what they seem. At Rekall Inc., Quaid tailors the memory he will receive to the finest detail, describing Melina as his love interest, viewing pictures of places he later visits on Mars, and being told that the vacation will involve him overcoming an interplanetary conspiracy. Later, Dr. Edgemar (Roy Brocksmith) attempts to convince Quaid that everything he is witnessing is a free-form delusion that he has allowed himself to be trapped in and that, unless he chooses to wake up, he will end up lobotomised. Quaid rejects this when he notices that Edgemar is clearly sweating with fear and discomfort and, in doing so, commits himself to seeing his path towards being the saviour of Mars. Total Recall presents both possibilities simultaneously; the over-the-top action and increasingly coincidental set pieces lend a credibility to Edgemar’s claim that Quaid is trapped in a dream world but scenes where Quaid is entirely absent, such as during conversations between Cohaagen and Richter, suggest that the plot against Quiad is very real. In the end, the white out could simply be a sign of a new beginning for Mars or the brain cells in Quaid’s head dying from psychosis; sometimes I will watch the film and believe that Quaid is a former mercenary turned rebel leader and, others, I choose to believe that he has simply allowed himself to be lost to an extremely realistic dream.

The Wrestler
3 The Wrestler (Aronofsky, 2008)

After years in obscurity, Mickey Rourke began a bit of a comeback in the mid-to-late-2000s and perhaps no other role really showed how much he had matured and was ready to be taken seriously as an actor than that of Robin Ramzinski (AKA Randy “The Ram” Robinson). Ram, his best years as an athlete behind him, has fallen on hard times and really been through the wringer; he is estranged from his daughter (the delectable Evan Rachel Wood), in constant pain, works a menial job where he is the source of constant ridicule, and is forced to take bookings in venues barely a quarter of the size he was headlining in his prime. After he suffers a heart attack and is advised that he must never wrestle again, Ram takes the advice to heart and begins reconciling with his daughter and trying to make a future with his only confidante, an ageing stripper named Cassidy (Marisa Tomei). In the end, though, after a drink and drug filled bender causes his daughter to sever all ties with him, Ram returns to the one place he has only ever felt loved and valuable, the ring, knowing full well that it could be not only his last match but the last decision he ever makes. During a rematch against his greatest opponent, the Ayatollah (Ernest Miller), Ram begins to suffer chest pains and is in considerable visible pain. Despite the Ayatollah’s concerns and pleas to end the match quickly, Ram fights through the pain and disorientation to mount the top rope and leap into the air as the film cuts to black. Did Ram make the splash, win the match, and walk away victorious or did he crash in a dying heap on his fallen adversary? Honestly, considering the poor hand Ram has been dealt in his twilight years, I actually prefer the idea of him going out in a blaze of glory than living through another heart attack and having only a resentful daughter and a guilt-filled stripper to wake up to.

American Psycho
2 American Psycho (Harron, 2000)

Adapted from the book of the same name by Brett Easton Ellis, American Psycho is an incredibly enjoyable dark comedy revolving around Wall Street yuppie Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) who, by day, enjoys the frivolities of greed, sex, and consumerism but, by night, stalks the streets for victims to kill. Fully acknowledging that his urge to kill is a deep-rooted psychological disorder over which he is slowly losing control, Bateman takes out his frustrations at being mistaken for other co-workers, his fiancée’s infidelity, and his peers having better positions, clientèle, and even business cards by murdering co-workers, vagrants, and prostitutes. Eventually, his urges become too much to contain and he embarks on a killing spree throughout the city night, shooting innocent bystanders left and right before finally calling his lawyer (Stephen Bogaert) and, through maniacal tears, listing his numerous transgressions in a frantic confession. However, the next morning, his lawyer fails to recognise Bateman, believing him to be a man named Davis and that the call was an elaborate prank, reasoning that Bateman is far too spineless to engage in such activity.

Bateman calmly states that he not only committed the crimes he confessed to but enjoyed them, only for his lawyer to brush him off. Returning to his seat, Bateman reasons that, despite his confession, he has learned nothing about himself or the world and that the hollow emptiness he feels inside has only grow larger as a result of his actions. However, it is left up to the audience to decide whether the increasingly elaborate events we have witnessed actually took place or if they were simply the deluded fantasies of a bored, morbid, and repressed individual (further exemplified by his secretary, Jean (Chloë Sevigny), finding Bateman’s journal filled with doodles depicting murder and rape). Prior to visiting his lawyer, Bateman attempts to clean up the apartment of one of his victims, only to find it in pristine condition and being sold by a realtor, who reacts to Bateman’s presence with a clear discomfort, if not fear, suggesting that the gruesome murder actually took place. For me, as a big fan of the film and the book (which provides few answers and raises more questions, if anything), I like to think that some of the murders took place but maybe not all of them; given that Bateman and his co-workers are completely interchangeable and the dark satire at work in the film, I think it’s entirely possible that Bateman is so incredibly repressed and striving for attention and to stand out that he has killed vagrants and prostitutes but, in doing so, has simply allowed his dark fantasies to conjure increasingly elaborate murders and scenarios to distract him from the fact that he is nothing more than a faceless corporate snob amidst a sea of faceless corporate snobs.

Inception
1 Inception (Nolan, 2010)

Perhaps one of cinema’s most unique and original ideas since The Matrix (The Wachowski Brothers, 1999), Inception presents a world in which thieves like Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) can enter a person’s dreams and subconscious to extract information. Unable to return to his children due to his wife, Mal (Marion Cotillard), having framed him for her suicide, Dom is tasked with putting together a team and planting an idea in the head of the heir to a business empire in exchange for his criminal record being expunged. Inception takes full advantage of modern effects and technology to realise the infinite possibilities of the dream world, allowing reality to bend and warp in unique ways. As Dom and his crew are forced to dream within a dream, the film plays with perceptions of time as much as reality as Dom risks losing himself to the elaborate dream world he has created. Eventually, Dom confronts his demons and completes his mission, passing through customs without a hitch. All throughout the movie Dom has been haunted by not only his wife’s suicide but also the fact that he left in such a hurry that he was denied one final look at his children’s faces. Returning home, as Hans Zimmer’s powerful score builds to what appears to be a victorious crescendo, Dom, frantic to prove that his dreams have actually come true, conducts one final test, setting off a spinning top that will topple over if he is in the real world and spin indefinitely in the dream world. However, he never stays to see their result, as, finally, he sees his children and they not only turn to face him but run, overjoyed, into his arms. As he carries them out of frame and the score fades down, the shot lingers on Dom’s spinning top as it spins and spins and spins…faltering only slightly as the film cuts to black.

If The Grey brought out the man tears when I first watched it, Inception opened an absolute floodgate! I never thought that I would care so much about whether Leonardo DiCaprio got a happy ending but Nolan really sucked me into this world and had me so emotionally invested in all of his characters, especially DiCaprio’s Dom. The composition of this final shot, with the score and the sense of catharsis, never fails to be overwhelming; I was so happy to see him finally see his children’s faces and was on the edge of my seat waiting to see the top topple over and truly saddened that it didn’t because, in that first viewing, my knee-jerk reaction was that Dom had gotten lost in the deepest layers of his dream and had chosen fantasy over reality. However, the ambiguity of the ending allows one to view this film similar to Total Recall; you can watch it one time and believe that Dom emerges victorious or choose the depressing ending if you wish. Evidence can be found for both: it is said that one must had a totem unique to them but Dom carries and uses his dead wife’s spinning top as his totem.

It equally seems unlikely that Dom’s client would have the connections necessary to wipe his criminal record clean, and Dom is repeatedly told that he has to “wake up” and “face reality”, as though he has been trapped in a dream ever since he and Mal first experimented with deep dreaming. However, I felt so strongly for Dom and wanted so badly for him to see his kids and return home that it is hard to not believe that everything worked out for him…if not for that damn spinning top, endlessly spinning away, casting doubt over everything except for the fact that, in that moment, Dom does not care whether he is dreaming or awake; whatever the case, he has accepted this as reality without even a cursory look back.