So many great (and occasionally terrible) movies came out this year (more on them as a whole later this week), but within the genre films of 2019, there were individual moments that delighted or disappointed us. Allow us to share them with you.
Obviously, there’s going to be spoilers in this piece, so be warned: if you’ve not seen (deep breath!) Hobbs & Shaw, Us, Avengers: Endgame, Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Captain Marvel, Glass, Ad Astra, Spider-Man: Far From Home, Terminator: Dark Fate, X-Men: Dark Phoenix, Detective Pikachu, Joker, Midsommar, Ready or Not, or Zombieland: Double Tap yet...turn around now.
Though we knew there was going to be a ginger cat in Captain Marvel, and Disney was all about that marketing, we weren’t sure just how big a role Goose would play. Turns out, pretty big! Not only did Goose help save the day by scaring off some bad guys with his Flerken-tentacled mouth, he swallowed that all-powerful Tesseract for safekeeping. But what goes down must come up, and come up it did...all over Nick Fury’s desk in the post-credit scene of the film. Look. Any cat owner will tell you...vomit is just an unfortunate part of the furry package, so when we saw that trademark heaving start, we knew exactly what was about to happen. And it was glorious.
Avengers: Endgame is basically “Epic Payoff: The Movie.” So much of what’s great about it is because of things set up in films of the past. Like, for example, the moment in 2015's Avengers: Age of Ultron when Steve Rogers almost moves Thor’s hammer and Thor reacts with shock. Fast-forward four years and, just as Thanos is about to kill Thor, that same hammer hits Thanos in the back. “But wait, Thor’s on the ground, who could have thrown it?” Boom. Steve freaking Rogers, that’s who. “I knew it,” Thor shouts as every audience who saw the film exploded out of their seats. It’s a moment so filled with excitement and so reliant on patience that its emotional reward is just off the charts.
You might have your own powerful feelings about the best moment in Endgame: Captain America’s trip to the hardware store, Captain Marvel’s trip through a space ship, that Thor reaction above, or just Iron Man doing some clutch finger-snapping. But another big moment that stood out to us was when Ant-Man goes into the quantum tunnel and a god damn baby comes out.
Endgame was a funny film in a way these big-budget superhero films rarely are. The jokes came fast and furious, and while some didn’t land (that whole ripping on Back to the Future bit was a travesty), when they did land it punctuated the growing dread of the story, releasing all the tension and letting you guffaw at a tiny child in a giant suit. You could remember Endgame for all the deaths (or the paltry roles of the female cast), but we’ll also remember just how much fun it was, and few moments nailed that as well as that dang baby.
The first of Far From Home’s post-credits scenes represents an incredibly bold new problem for Peter Parker: Mysterio, playing one last deception on the world from beyond the grave, posthumously released edited footage to frame Spider-Man as the villain behind the drone and elemental attacks occurring across the world over the movie. On top of that, he adds the killer reveal of publicly outing Peter Parker as the boy behind Spidey’s mask.
But it’s not this earth-shattering twist that had fans, like Peter himself, screaming out a hearty WTF in the theater. It was how that footage was disseminated: a brand new, Infowars-ian take on the Daily Bugle, an internet news channel run by none other than the infamous J. Jonah Jameson. And not just any JJ. Arguably, to many, the live-action JJ: J.K. Simmons, reprising his beloved role from the Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy, returned to bring the tempestuous journalist to life in the MCU, and now Spidey has one of his most stalwart thorns in his side to deal with once more. We wouldn’t want it any other way, Parker luck be damned.
While Far From Home gets by on some of its more shocking reveals and its wider connections to the aftermath of Avengers: Endgame, one of its most jaw-dropping moments isn’t really a major twist or big reference to the grand Marvel continuity. Mysterio, having had his duplicity exposed by Peter and MJ, traps the young hero in Berlin, turning his hologram-projecting drones on Peter to create a nightmarish display of trickery that flings Peter through a visually stunning house of horrors.
From being trapped in a snow globe made out of Mysterio’s own fishbowl helmet, to being chased by a zombified Tony Stark, to a Last Jedi-esque row of Peter reflections, it’s the moment the film finally truly revels in Mysterio’s status as a master of illusions and deception—and makes a power often just treated as a gimmicky joke feel as horrifying as it is gorgeous.
Midsommar is filled with shocking moments, from the first-act family tragedy that destroys the life of main character Dani (Florence Pugh), to the gruesome ritual suicide she witnesses while on vacation in a seemingly idyllic Swedish village. But Midsommar writer-director Ari Aster isn’t in the business of freaking out his characters (and by extension, the audience) with cheap jump scares; he’s more of an architect of dread, and he knows how to stick the finish.
His previous film, Hereditary, ended with a grim reveal that implied more nightmares to come. Midsommar also ends with a horrific reveal, but it gives way to an incredible moment of catharsis that’s dangerously close to being upbeat, as we watch Dani—who’s agreed to allow her fuckboi boyfriend to be stitched inside a bear corpse and then burned alive as a human sacrifice—witness her boyfriend’s fiery final moments. As the villagers around her pantomime shrieks of agony (just another macabre eccentricity of a culture that embraces both murder and empathy), Dani—whose status as the newly-crowned May Queen means she’s cocooned in an almost comically voluminous blanket of brilliant flowers—also howls in anguish...until suddenly, a weight is lifted. She’s free. She’s finally free, and though it’s been a hell of a road to get there, she’s finally feeling inner peace. It’s the best “happy” horror movie ending since Thomasin floated off with Satan at the end of The Witch.
The latest installment to the Terminator franchise sadly did not do well at the box office. Even though we enjoyed this one thoroughly and it was coming at the story with fresh eyes, we can’t blame audiences for their fatigue. That said, Tim Miller’s action set pieces were extremely fun to watch and one stood above the rest. In the third act of the film, our heroes are gathered to take on the Rev-9 and Mackenzie Davis’ Grace did so with pep. Considering all the fire-power they’d already tried to throw at the Terminator, a giant chain seemed considerably low-tech for the job at hand, but it worked wonders and Davis swung that thing around beautifully.
King of the Monsters is a gloriously dumb movie filled with gloriously dumb humans doing things you really shouldn’t care about between the things you should care about: giant monsters smashing the bejesus out of each other. There’s a lot of that in the film, but the absolute best of it is saved for the climactic battle in Boston. After Millie Bobbie Brown’s Madison summons all the film’s Kaiju to the evacuated city with her mother’s Kaiju-call device (for...reasons), Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan, and Ghidorah go into battle with each other in a doubles scrap for the ages.
It is absolutely everything you’d want out of a modern-day action sequence with these iconic creatures. Godzilla and Ghidorah get to just throw themselves at each other, two giant slabs of monstrous muscle and energy blasts smashing together. Mothra and Rodan knock each other out, only for Mothra to use her dying throes to not just save Godzilla from certain death with a suicidal charge against Ghidorah–but to transfer her energy to him to transform the king of all Kaiju into the legendary Burning Godzilla, a fanservice-laden tribute to the iconic power-up from Godzilla vs Destoroyah. It’s big, it’s bold, it is more than worth the price of your ticket. It’s your just desserts for sitting through all the dumb human stuff, and it is pure, monster-driven joy.
Zombieland: Double Tap was a mostly forgettable affair, but one scene rises above all the rest. It’s when Tallahassee and Columbus (Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg) encounter two new characters named Albuquerque and Flagstaff, played by Luke Wilson and Thomas Middleditch. Very quickly, everyone is confused because they’re so damned similar, which is explored for humor, in the nerdy conversations between Eisenberg and Middleditch’s characters, or tension, as per the interactions of Harrelson and Wilson’s characters. Eventually, it all erupts into an epic one-shot take of the four men fighting each other, resulting in the deaths of the two doppelgangers. The scene is everything that’s great about Zombieland: self-awareness, hilarious banter, and violent action.
Speaking of doppelgangers—there are hints throughout Us that something is off with Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o), and a huge tease near the beginning as to what that is. But writer-director Jordan Peele waits until the very end to show his cards; it’s not until Addie and her family have defeated their sinister doppelgangers and are fleeing the epicenter of “tethered” rebellion in beachy Santa Cruz that we learn what’s really been going on the entire time.
In a flashback, Addie recalls the fateful night she first encountered her double, Red, in a boardwalk funhouse mirror—and we suddenly realize that was the moment Red grabbed Addie and forced her to change places. The Addie we’ve been following the entire time is really Red, a “tethered” clone who was able to fake her way through life in the above-ground world, becoming a seemingly normal woman with a career and a family of her own. Even if you sort of suspected the reveal was coming, the tense way it all unfolded had a way of making you want to re-watch the film instantly to catch all the hidden clues—and it also added even more layers to Nyong’o’s masterful dual performance.
This year had quite a few sharply written films about how gross rich people are. Ready or Not explored their grossness in the most graphic way possible, killing off maids and butlers as a rich family hunts their newest member so they can preserve their pact with the devil and maintain their wealth and status.
At the end of the film, with a couple of good guys (and a whole lot of bad guys) dead on the floor, the heroine is at an impasse with the surviving family members. It’s sunrise and somehow everyone is alive, leading you to think that maybe the whole movie has been founded on a fake prophecy and no one had to die. Then evil rich people start popping like gore-filled balloons. Knowing the prophecy was real, and having all the bad guys go in a quick round of bloody booms is cathartic after all the tension and torture. Sometimes the rich and evil really do get what the deserve.
Ad Astra is full of unexpected moments but none are as shocking as the space baboon. You read that right. At one point in the film, Brad Pitt and his crew find a seemingly abandoned ship. He boards it and all the people are dead. As he explores how that could have happened an evil, bloodthirsty baboon appears and engages the hero in a shocking, visceral fight. If you’ve never seen Brad Pitt fight a baboon in zero gravity space suits, you haven’t lived.
It’s bad enough that Glass was such a bore. To add insult to injury, David Dunn dies in a puddle. Look, we get it. His weakness is water. And he’d been beat up and doused in the stuff. So, in theory, him drowning in a puddle of water makes sense. But it’s just so goddamn deflating to see your hero die so unceremoniously. Was that the point? A kind of reality check? Probably. But who cares? It was still stupid as hell.
The Dark Phoenix saga has always been a story about the X-Men being pushed to their physical and emotional limits in their most pressing time of need as one of their own turns to the darkest of dark sides. More than that, though, the Dark Phoenix’s arrival into the X-Men’s lives was meant to signify that they were ready to deal with bigger, badder, more cosmic adversaries in Fox’s cinematic universe. But when the famed entity actually showed up on the big screen this time around, it seemingly came willing and ready to reflect and emphasize all of the studio’s narrative failings, like the unceremonious death that it gave Mystique.
We all know that Fox put its money on Jennifer Lawrence being the next big thing—so much so that audiences would flock to the theaters to see her in literally anything, but Fox’s bet never really paid off and JLaw was trapped in a franchise she neither liked not had any appreciation for. Dark Phoenix set the actress free of her obligations to the studio, but not before giving her one of the most unceremonious deaths in Hollywood history that was somehow very much on brand for the films, but also deeply offensive to audiences.
We love Ryan Reynolds. He’s likable, funny, talented—how could anyone not like him? The answer, it turns out, is to shove him into movies where he’s not needed. That happened twice in 2019. In Hobbs & Shaw, he basically plays Deadpool without the suit and is in the film solely to set up a sequel. His presence totally changes the tone of the movie. In Detective Pikachu he voices the main character...that’s not the problem. The problem is the end of the film when he shows up as the other character’s father. Having his voice in the movie is one thing. Having his physical presence just kind of steals the spotlight away from Justice Smith, who otherwise did a very good job in the film. Basically, if you’re going to cast Ryan Reynolds for a cameo, try not to make him stand out, okay?
There are a vast number of things to dislike about Joker as a film, but nothing about it is quite as horrible as the moment that it takes to retell Batman’s origin story—a story we’ve all seen more times than any person should ever have to. It’s not that Batman’s origins can’t be explored on the big screen, it’s just that the murder of the Wayne family (like the death of Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben) is something we’ve all seen so many times that if you’re going to do it, you have to do it well and it really needs to serve some sort of important function to the story. Here, it didn’t.
While overall a smash success, Avengers: Endgame did have some weak points. One of the more controversial moments came when Hawkeye and Black Widow battled to the death….for the right to die. Though the battle for the Soul Stone put the depth of Natasha and Clint’s friendship on full display, some fans found the race off the cliff on Vormir to be silly, rather than gut-wrenching.
Update: We, uh, forgot to paste in the last worst moment, now making five altogether. We’re...really tired.
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