When faced with impending doom, people fit into two camps: fight or flight. Most basic instincts tell them to run from disaster, while risk takers and crazies instead rush right into the line of fire. In film, it’s a lot more exciting to watch those lacking common sense battle Armageddon, pirates, or hired thugs. We pick our sides and sit back as other people fight against an unreal force.
However, movies have led us to believe that we must outlive the baddie in less than two and a half hours, or we’ll just become collateral damage. The world coming to an end has such a sense of urgency that it is almost impossible to avoid getting swept away by films like War of the Worlds, Zombieland, and Deep Impact, regardless of quality. Uncontrollable circumstances make it both exciting and unbelievable, but what about the films trying to be more than just an action piece?
Romantic relationships shoved into the subplot of any film can feel contrived more often than not, and it’s most noticeably offensive when the world is coming to an end. Using whatever ingrained war skills or developing a game plan for the impending (and completely likely) zombie apocalypse should be priority number one over hanky panky. Or making it out of the dilemma zone of a volcano should take precedent over locking lips. Sometimes sex furthers the plot, rounds out a genre, or is just straight up gratuitous, but sex has its place in action films. However, it can also take something (almost) worthy of seriousness and make it hokey.
Oh the horror!
Anyone who’s ever watched Scream knows the horror genre rules. Virgins live, sluts die, and the killer always comes back for multiple sequels. Scream took this formula and spun it. By the end of the film the innocent “virgin” was no longer carrying around her V Card, after escaping upstairs with her boyfriend Billy (Skeet Ulrich) during a party so bloody it’s shocking that Sydney (Neve Campbell) didn’t hear screams outside her open window. The sense of urgency for Billy to bed Sydney is more intense after it is revealed that he is one half of the Ghostface Killers wreaking havoc in Woodsboro. His aim is to kill her, but before he does he wants to own her in more than one way. Taking the moment away from his killing duties he sneaks into Sydney’s room and heads directly for her lady pocket.
Meanwhile 2008’s zombie prom flick Dance of the Dead takes sex before killing to another level. During their senior prom, a group of kids discover their town has been plagued by zombies. They lure them onto school grounds with the intention to lock them in with some fresh meat before blowing up the school in a fiery hell storm. Right as they are running out cheerleader Gwen (Carissa Capobianco) pulls inexperienced Steven (Chandler Darby) into the girl’s bathroom to reveal her fatal zombie bite. He promises to stay with her while she dies, and she takes her final moments as a human to pounce the nerd. While they are getting down she zombiefies and takes a giant chunk out of Steven’s lip. Together they become a zombie super couple, and it would never have happened if she hadn’t realized her end was near. Now Gwen will never be without her Romeo.
Written in the Stars
In 1984 people were afraid of two things: taxes and Skynet (not much has changed in 27 years). The Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is sent from the future to kill Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) before she can give birth to the leader of the resistance, John Connor (a twinkle in her eye). Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) also reaches out to Sarah from the future, keeping her safe from the deadly cyborg. During their time on the run, they do stop for a moment (despite their closeness to death) to bump uglies, ensuring the existence of John. Unlike in horror where sex is used to weaken or distract characters, the sex in The Terminator is required to complete the story. They may realize destiny is waiting to kill them, but that doesn’t stop them from acting on their natural sexy urges. Sex needs to happen in The Terminator, otherwise the future would have no savior from robot overlords. And more tragically, we would never have gotten the masterpiece that is The Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
Excuse Me, WHAT?
After two previous adventures on the high seas for Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End amped up the sexy and the ridiculous. Will and Elizabeth finally agree to marry after years of pirate loving. They are a chaste couple who have remained committed to each other despite the many outside temptations. During the pivotal fight on the deck of the Flying Dutchman, Will demands the onboard minister marry them. So, with swords in hand and an insane amount of choreography the couple weds while they stare death in the face. The scene is as much overwhelming as it is sweet. It’s easy to forget in that moment that they are fighting for their life while attempting to start a new one. While there is no sex in this scene, the sheer camp slaps the audience in the face with a reminder of how precious life is and how short of a time the couple will have together. It’s almost as if Gore Verbinski is having a laugh at the expense of these doomed characters and the audience watching on in bemusement.
Almost as confusing as a pirate wedding mid-battle may seem, it’s no match for the awkward sex scene between Marlena (Reese Witherspoon) and Jacob (Robert Pattinson) the night they escape from psychotic circus runner August (Christoph Waltz) in this year’s Water for Elephants. Rather than keep running through the night when they successfully jump from the side of the rickety circus train, the star-crossed couple stops at a close motel for some shut eye. Despite Marlena mentioning they should keep going, Jacob convinces her that he and his manmeat will keep her safe. Logic suggests this is a terrible idea and they would be better off not stopping to fool around, but young love is blind to logic. After a magical moment for them (and uncomfortable one for us), the couple is found by August’s goons and taken back to the circus master. While I appreciate pretty naked people grinding around, had they just kept it in their pants they could have gotten away unharmed. But then again, the same couldn’t have been said for Rosie the Elephant.