We are currently living in the “golden age” of comic book based film properties, and it’s a truly impressive journey that got us here. There have been a few missteps along the way, but if 2017’s newest batch of trailers are anything to go by, it seems that studios have finally deciphered the formula to make these films not only commercially successful, but exceptional in their own right as well.
Sometimes we can attribute a truly stupendous action scene as a by-product of the advancements being made daily within the realm of computer generated imagery. However, many directors still prefer to film practically when possiblee, and this list just so happens to honor teir efforts.
Some action scenes will take an entire day, and some will take months upon months of preparation to achieve the director’s desired effect. Without further ado, here are 15 Comic Book Movie Scenes That Took Forever To Film.
15. Batman Returns – Monkey attacks Penguin
Tim Burton’s Batman Returns came out in 1992 and starred Michael Keaton, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken, and of course, Danny DeVito. The film was a sequel to Burton’s 1989 Batman film, and the movie revolved around DeVito’s Penguin running for mayor, and Batman doing everything he could to keep him from controlling Gotham. I
n one of the most hilarious on-set stories of all time, DeVito recently talked about a scene involving a crazy monkey, that took forever to film because of the chimp’s antics. DeVito states that during the first take of the scene where the monkey brings DeVito a note, the take went great and Burton was happy with what they had gotten. However, DeVito wanted to try something a little bit different on his second take, and put some black and green mouthwash in his mouth that would ooze out when he spoke. The monkey reacted rather poorly to this choice however, and attacked DeVito’s groin out of nowhere. Apparently, they had to reshoot the scene a few more times to get it right, but they never tried the mouthwash for a second time (for good reason).
14. Kingsman: The Secret Service – Flooded Set
This particular entry is actually a pretty terrifying one, as one scene in Matthew Vaughn’s Kingsman: The Secret Circle went horribly wrong, and it just so happened to take place during the very first day on set. Vaughn said of the situation: “I shouted ‘Action!’, the computer got it wrong and, vrrrrrssshhh… [everyone was] 20 feet down. Cameras, sound guys… guys were in waders full of water, panic, everyone diving in, pulling people out.”
The set-up for this scene was fairly painstaking, and took quite a long time to get completely right. The scene was continually rehearsed using height markers, and even computer generated water tanks, but unfortunately none of that mattered when the whole set went up in waves. Of course, after everyone was rescued from the accident, the set was rebuilt, the filmmaking team made sure they had everything in place, and they were able to successfully film one of the most intense movie scenes of 2014.
13. Batman Begins – Microwave emitter & monorail
Batman Begins revolutionized the Dark Knight for modern audiences, made the entire world forget about Joel Schumacher’s awful films, and was the beginning to one of the greatest movie trilogies of all time. The finale of the film is rather bombastic in its approach, breaking from Nolan’s more grounded, less comic-driven tone, and delivering a truly menacing, if somewhat silly villainous plot.
In an attempt to vaporize the already tainted water supply, Ra’s al Ghul places a microwave emitter on board the cities monorail system, which vaporizes the drug as it moves through Gotham. The monorail they used was part of a train that produced a lot of smoke while maneuvering through the city.
On a multitude of occasions, Christopher Nolan and co. had to clean off the streets and the cars parked along them, as they began to get covered in black soot from the train. The train sequence is also a rather long one in the climax of the film, so the crew had to continually stop and restart shooting due to the debris.
12. Scott Pilgrim vs the World – Amazon Package Toss
Scott Pilgrim vs the World was a convention breaking masterclass of video game-filled nostalgia that garnered not only the attention of various critics, but the love and support of massive amounts of film buffs who are obsessed with Edgar Wright’s work. There are numerous video essays on the internet just analyzing the unique editing of the picture, and there are many more that attempt to delve into what made the film so universally beloved.
The scene that took the longest to film in the movie occurs when Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) delivers a package to Scott (Michael Cera) who exploits the delivery system for an opportunity to talk to her. When she arrives and gives him his package, Scott immediately throws it behind him into a wastebasket without looking. You could be excused for believing this was a CG shot, but it was actually done practically (and there is a hilarious video showcasing this). It took Michael Cera 33 attempts to make it into the trash can.
11. Spider-Man – Lunch tray catch
Sam Raimi’s original Spider-Man film was many young children’s first introduction into the world of the magnificent character, and it was an entry truly deserving of that title. Spider-Man was as much a coming of age high school drama as it was a comic book film, and that’s what gave it the heart and soul it needed to still be loved today. One unbelievable scene in the film took place in the high school cafeteria, and it was all done with some classic movie magic. On the DVD commentary for the film, the VFX head and special effects artist for the film, John Dykstra, states “This next gag here, where he catches all this stuff, he actually did that. Pretty good. Take 156.”
And that’s actually not an exaggeration, as Mary Jane actress Kirsten Dunst corroborates Toby’s lunch-catching abilities. She stated within the same commentary: “Not CGI by the way, that’s all Tobey.” She goes on to say: “They used sticky glue stuff to stick his hand to the tray.”
10. V for Vendetta – 22,000 dominoes
V for Vendetta was the 2005 film directed by James McTeigue, based on the graphic novel written by Alan Moore, and starring Natalie Portman and Hugo Weaving. One of the more visually stunning scenes in the movie involved Hugo Weaving’s character, V, setting up numerous dominoes that form a giant ‘V’, and then knocking them over.
The scene involved 22,000 dominoes, and took 4 professional domino assemblers 200 hours to set up completely. This is an obscene amount of prep time for a single scene, and the assemblers had to make sure that not a single domino was out of place, or the entire final picture could be ruined.
It’s just heartwarming to know that instead of using CGI to create this scene almost effortlessly, that real time was put in to make it as authentic as possible. This scene is very crucial to the finale of the film, and it stands out as possibly the most important shot in the entire film. It symbolizes V’s mastery of the British citizens, using them to thwart the tyrannical government in place.
9. Spider-Man 2 – Final Doc Ock/Spidey fight scene
Spider-Man 2 is without a doubt one of the best comic book films to date, and it actually managed to improve upon a lot of what made the first one revolutionary. It was bigger in scale, Peter was even more troubled by his gift than in the previous film, and it had an incredible villain in Alfred Molina’s Dr. Octavius. The ending of the film is genuinely spectacular, as Peter is forced to confront Doctor Octopus at the doctor’s waterfront laboratory, while a nuclear reactor swells in the background.
The entire scene was filmed practically for the most part, and it took the filmmaking team eight days to complete the entire shoot. Sam Raimi proved himself to be a master of action with his entire trilogy of films, but the second entry really stands out from the other two. Not only is the action truly awe-inspiring, but it’s also grounded with real emotional weight. It’s impressive that such a grandiose ending was filmed at all, and even though spending eight days on a single scene is relatively impressive, the fact that the scene remained both impactful and necessary was the single biggest surprise.
8. X2: X-Men United – Wolverine/Lady Deathstrike fight
X2: X-Men United was a thrilling addition to the world that Brian Singer created with his original X-Men film, and it brought with it some breathtaking action set pieces. One of the more extreme scenes occurs toward the end of the film as Wolverine has a claws vs claws duel with Yuriko, aka Lady Deathstrike. It took the film crew three weeks to shoot the entire fight, which is a substantial amount of time to spend on one properly choreographed sequence.
The scene is genuinely brutal, though, as both skilled mutants fight tooth and giant nail to get the upper hand. Brian Singer proved with his X-Men films that he is a master of action and character, and though he’s had his fair share of mistakes along the way , he has continued to champion the comic book genre in mainstream film, and he will always be remembered as one of the great architects of the modern golden age of comic book based film.
7. X-Men: Apocalypse – Quicksilver’s “Sweet Dreams”
X-Men: Apocalypse marked the second occasion in which the Fox-owned X-Men film property butchered the final entry in a trilogy. X-Men: Apocalypse attempted to one-up the fun X-Men: Days of Future Past, but ended up falling far short of the mark, and delivering a bloated film with little tangible emotion and a confusing amount of poorly rendered CGI.
The film also tried to capitalize on the popularity of Quicksilver from Days of Future Past, and basically recreated the unbelievable slow-motion scene that he was praised for. The scene actually did turn out great, and it owes a lot of that to the abilities of the Second Unit director, and the equipment used to shoot it. The scene was captured with a Phantom Camera that was travelling 90mph to accurately depict Peters running at such high velocities.
6. The Dark Knight – Bank Heist
Arguably the single greatest comic book film adaptation of all time, The Dark Knight managed to not only elevate the clout of the incredible Christopher Nolan to new heights, but set a momentous standard for all comic book films to come. The Dark Knight also has the great honor of being a film that begins as strongly as it ends, and that’s saying a lot because the beginning is spellbinding.
Modeled after Michael Mann’s Heat, the opening bank heist is one of the greatest bank robberies ever depicted on film. The entire sequence operates on constant betrayal, as the Joker eliminates every single member of his crew until he is left with all of the spoils. At one point, the Joker even has a school bus break through the exterior wall of the bank, before jumping into the back of it and escaping. The filmmaking crew had to film the bus from the outside, deconstruct it, and then put it back together again inside the bank, which took a multitude of man hours. It may have taken forever to shoot, but the scene truly speaks for itself.
5. Guardians Of The Galaxy – Scrapped Drax and Star-Lord fight scene
James Gunn’s 2014 sci-fi adventure epic, Guardians of the Galaxy was a monumental hit with both critics and fans alike, and it turned a whole subsection of the movie going population into fans of the most unlikely group of heroes in the galaxy. Guardians of the Galaxy was the perfect mix of exciting, charming, and hilarious, and Gunn’s visual style and eye for captivating action was a gigantic part of the movie’s enormous success.
There was originally supposed to be a much different fight scene within Ronan’s ship, and Star-Lord and Drax were supposed to have their own rambunctious battle before we got the final scene involving both characters as well as Groot. Dave Bautista and Chris Pratt rehearsed their original fight scene for two and a half months. Unfortunately for the pair of actors, the scene was tossed out when James Gunn decided he wanted the entire fight filmed in one long shot. Luckily the fight still turned out great, so it wasn’t a total loss for Pratt and Bautista.
4. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – Warehouse scene
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was possibly the most talked about film of 2016, and certainly one of the year’s most divisive. One aspect of the film that was nearly universally praised was Ben Affleck’s portrayal of the caped crusader, as it drew heavily from Frank Miller’s incarnation of the character.
For the first time in the history of Batman on film, we saw the vigilante take down criminals with precision and speed befitting a martial arts master. The scene that depicted this perfectly was the (now famous) warehouse scene, in which Batman saves Superman’s mother, Martha (in case you didn’t know), from the clutches of Lex Luthor’s henchmen.
In a recent interview, the Second Unit Director and the Visual Effects Supervisor of the film stated that it took about three months from initial conception to the end of R&D to complete the warehouse scene in its entirety. It’s was definitely worth the amount of time it took, considering how stunning the scene turned out.
3. Superman Returns – Miniature Train Wreck
Superman Returns attempted something no other film would dream of– to recreate the magic and feel of Richard Donner’s original 1978 masterpiece, while at the same time modernizing and continuing the character’s progression from the first film. Brian Singer should have known that this would be an impossible task, but he embraced the challenge and unfortunately created a pretty subpar Superman film.
There is a scene in the film in which Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey) builds a model train set that begins to get destroyed as he’s testing the effects of his kryptonite crystals. The model train set was actually built from scratch and took 14 weeks to put together, which makes this scene yet another on this list that seems a bit excessive given the final outcome.
The scene itself is a metaphor for the destruction Luthor will bring upon the world, but it’s so blatantly obvious, and feels so out of place that there really was no need for it to be there in the first place.
2. Spider-Man 3 – Sandman’s introduction
Spider-Man 3 is the final film in Sam Raimi’s trilogy centered around New York’s friendly neighborhood webslinger, and it’s not exactly a masterpiece of the genre. Spider-Man 3 has been criticized for its inclusion of three villains, two of which were introduced and developed within the single film. The real problem with the film rested within its script, though, as the pacing was entirely jumbled, and the characterization of Peter Parker went from isolated and layered to just plain strange. Not to mention the villains in the film were ill-featured, and the general audience didn’t really attach to Sandman, Green Goblin 2, or Eric Forman’s Venom.
The Sandman’s introduction was a rather emotional one, but the character itself felt forced into a film that could never decide what its overall message was. The introductory scene of Sandman in the film took six months to create, and even though the end result was revolutionary for the time, the scene itself sure didn’t help the films reception.
1. The Incredible Hulk – Blood drop scene
The Incredible Hulk is often referred to as the “odd man out” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It features a leading actor who was later replaced in Joss Whedon’s Avengers, and it wasn’t particularly groundbreaking or noteworthy. The film was directed by Louis Leterrier, and starred Edward Norton and Liv Tyler, and it had an exceptionally odd scene that took ages to film correctly.
The scene in question is actually just a shot of a single drop of Dr. Banner’s irradiated blood falling three stories into a bottle. The scene was, of course, entirely computer generated, and it took over a year for the VFX team to get the shot that they intended. This seems like a shocking amount of time to spend on a single shot that really doesn’t add much to the overall narrative of the film. Perhaps the filmmakers should have used that time to rework the script a bit, instead of creating a single forgettable shot.
Apparently, the studio also wanted to cut the scene, even though it took 16 hours to get right. Luckily for us they didn’t, as it’s one of the most memorable parts of the entire film.
So what do you think of our list? Let us know your thoughts on these memorable scenes in the comments below.