In honor of the outstanding action sequences in Joon-ho Bong’s upcoming film Snowpiercer, I thought it would be fun to compose a two or three part column of some of the most iconic action moments in science fiction cinema. Right now I’m sharing the ones that come to mind upon immediate reflection, but during the next few weeks I will be revisiting more from my past (I hear the original Robocop is worth a re-watch), as well as combing YouTube for clips of sci-fi movies I haven’t seen but whose action bits are worth recognizing. In any event, here is part one of what I consider to be sci-fi’s best action moments onscreen.
WARNING: Please avoid some of the clips below if you have a difficult time stomaching graphic imagery!
Return of the Jedi – “Sail Barge Assault”
There’s a reason why the sixth film in the Star Wars saga is arguably the most rewatchable of the franchise. After everything comes to a head – with tensions at an all time high — and Luke is about to jump off the sail barge plank and into the Sarlaac’s grotesque mouth, R2-D2 comes to the rescue and causes all hell to break loose. Lightsaber wielding from Luke, a clumsy yet effective Blind Han Solo, Lando’s epic bloodcurdling scream, Leia strangling Jabba while in a golden bikini, and C-3PO’s robotic eyes being poked out by a psychotic monkey lizard?! Oh me, oh my! Yeah…it doesn’t get more fun or action-packed than this.
The Matrix –” The Lobby Scene”
While Morpheus and Neo’s dojo spar is the more artful sequence, the lobby shootout represents the culmination of all of Neo’s training and begrudging belief in his messiah abilities. Alongside the equally deadly and resourceful Trinity, you can feel the sexual chemistry between the pair burst to life as the bullets spray everywhere. Oh, and the film’s use of slow-motion action spawned film and video game copycats for years afterwards. How’s that for iconic?
Prometheus — “Xenomorph Birth Scene”
Say what you will about the quality or lack thereof of Prometheus, but there’s one sequence that’s so unbelievably jarring, squeamish and heart-pounding that it manages to top the “WTF” response of the legendary chest burst from the original Alien film. Being in labor is no walk in the park, and thus it takes the physical stamina of a strong woman like Elizabeth Shaw to endure what’s easily the most horrifying and painful birth in movie history.
The Matrix Reloaded – “Highway Chase”
Yes, I had to include another Matrix film because this sequence is the king of all movie car chase scenes. Relentless and adrenaline fueled thanks largely to Juno Reactor’s brilliant techno song, “Mona Lisa Overdrive,” this phenomenally executed scene pretty much validates the entire existence of The Matrix Reloaded.
Resident Evil — “Laser Scene”
Paul W. S. Anderson’s finest moment as a filmmaker was shooting this action sequence, in which nearly half of the film’s characters are killed instantaneously by this laser security system. Forget zombies and things that go bump in the night – Anderson proved that the scariest experience one can have is to be locked in a narrow hallway and end up with your body separated into mere fractions by a giant laser grid. The majority of his films may be as disgusting as the dirt under your finger nails, but in this rare instance Paul W. S. Anderson created an action moment of true originality and unnerving horror.
Please feel free to share some of your own favorite sci-fi action moments, and who knows…maybe they’ll make an appearance in a future Sci-Fi Fridays column if I happen to feel their inclusion is warranted. Mainly I am hoping for some rich contributions that honor both the biggest and obscurest of sci-fi cinema. Post your thoughts and comments below!