Saturday, July 10, 2010

Homage, reference, and free association

After catching references to Mission: Impossible and Return of the Jedi in Toy Story 3, I started thinking of favorite such moments from other films. Here's a collection of shots, scenes, or moments from movies that were — or appear to have been — inspired by others. Suggest any you know of or think about in a comment.

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers The Wizard of Oz
In order to get to Mordor — where they can destroy the One Ring and end their long journey — Frodo, Sam, and Gollum make a difficult climb up a rocky cliff, much in the same way Lion, Tin Man, and Scarecrow do on their way to rescue Dorothy from the Wicked Witch's castle.
At the top of the cliff, the characters look down on well-guarded gates.
Sam, Frodo, and Gollum watch columns of Easterling warriors march toward the Morannon gates bearing long, bladed spears; Tin Man, Lion, and Scarecrow watch the similarly-armed Winkies file through the gate of the witch's castle.
A pair of Easterlings breaks off to investigate noises made by Sam and Frodo, who luckily go unnoticed. A trio of Winkies find Scarecrow, Lion, and Tin Man after Toto barks.
Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace Forbidden Planet
The Phantom Menace Forbidden Planet
This shot of the Neimoidians watching Qui-Gon's lightsaber cut through the bridge door is strikingly similar to one of the Id Monster melting its way through a similar door.
Both doors have multiple panels which slide together.
Jurassic Park Citizen Kane
Jurassic Park Citizen Kane
The backlighting used in this scene from Jurassic Park — where Mr. Arnold reboots the computer system — recalls the screening room scene from Citizen Kane.
Henry V (Branagh) The Godfather
The opening shot of the traitors scene in Branagh's Henry V has always made me think of the opening shot of Luca Brasi's death scene in The Godfather. Both show soon-to-be-deceased characters through a panel (Luca Brasi being shown through a glass window etched with goldfish, foreshadowing his fate of "sleeping with the fishes") who enter with thoughts of deception, only to realize they have been found out — albeit too late to avoid the fatal consequences.
Iron Man 2 Silent Running
Iron Man 2: Bio-Dome Silent Running: Bio-Dome
Silent Running: Inside the dome
The final battle in Iron Man 2 appears to pay homage to Silent Running when Iron Man battles robotic machines called "drones" inside a geodesic "bio-dome." Silent Running is about a man caring for the last of Earth's forests, which have been placed in geodesic domes and sent into space for protection. Assisting the caretaker are three robots called "drones."
Iron Man 2 Predator
Silent Running: Inside the dome
As the villain Whiplash lies dying at Iron Man's feet, he tells Iron Man "You lose." A light on his armor begins flashing and Iron Man quickly realizes that Whiplash has triggered a bomb, so he immediately flies to a safe distance to avoid the explosion. As the Predator lies dying at Dutch's feet, he asks Dutch "What the hell are you?" then activates a control on his wrist. Dutch realizes that the alien has triggered a bomb, so he begins to run to a safe distance to avoid the explosion.
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow The Mechanical Monsters (Fleischer Superman cartoon)
Sky Captain: Robots shoot beams Mechanical Monsters: Robots shoot beams
Sky Captain: Robot 5 Mechanical Monsters: Robot 5
Sky Captain: Headline Mechanical Monsters: Headline
There are many examples from Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (the film is a pastiche of classic sci-fi and adventure elements), but this one is my favorite.
Star Wars The Searchers
Star Wars: The burning homestead The Searchers: The burning homestead
Star Wars: Luke arrives at the homestead The Searchers: Martin arrives at the homestead
After finding the Jawa sandcrawler burning in the dessert, Luke races home only to find that Imperial troops have killed his aunt and uncle and set the farm on fire. Similarly, Martin runs home after learning of the Comanche attack, only to arrive after Scar has killed his aunt and uncle and set the ranch on fire. (But while a sequel would tell us that Darth Vader is Luke's father, we're left to guess at Martin's paternity.)
Aliens Them
Aliens: Newt Them!: The little girl
Newt, the sole survivor of an attack by alien creatures, mirrors the little girl from the beginning of Them!, herself the only survivor of an attack by giant ants.
Ripley burns the alien nest with a flame thrower, just as the soldiers destroy the egg chamber of the giant ants.
Raiders of the Lost Ark Citizen Kane
Raiders of the Lost Ark: The warehouse Citizen Kane: The warehouse
This one was pointed out to me by one of my college professors during a unit on Citizen Kane. The most important objects from each film are in the end relegated to seemingly endless warehouses — each shown in high-angle tracking shots — full of similar items.
Star Wars Episode 2: Attack of the Clones The Searchers
Attack of the Clones: The Tusken camp The Searchers: Scar's camp
Attack of the Clones: Anakin enters The Searchers: Martin enters
Anakin's nighttime rescue of his mother from the Tusken Raider camp appears to have been inspired by Martin's pre-dawn rescue of Debbie in The Searchers.
The Untouchables The Battleship Potemkin
The Untouchables: Train station steps The Battleship Potemkin: The Odessa steps
The Untouchables: The baby carriage The Battleship Potemkin: The baby carriage
The Untouchables: The baby The Battleship Potemkin: The baby
I hadn't yet seen The Battleship Potemkin when I saw The Untouchables in its original release, though the scene on the train station steps — modeled after the Odessa steps sequence from Potemkin — was still a highlight.
Henry V (Olivier) Alexander Nevsky
Henry V: The Frech advance Alexander Nevsky: The Germans advance
Henry V: The armies clash Alexander Nevsky: The armies clash
Eisenstein's battle on the ice was a blueprint for Olivier's staging of the battle of Agincourt. (For more examples, see A Chorus' Lines.)
The Lost World: Jurassic Park Raiders of the Lost Ark
This scene from The Lost World — where Drs. Harding and Malcolm question Ludlow on the whereabouts of the baby t-rex — reminds me of the scene at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark where Indiana Jones and Brody attempt to learn the location of the Ark of the Covenant from the government agents. When Jones is told that the ark is being worked on by "top men," he pushes further, asking "Who?", only to be answered with a more emphatic "Top men." Similarly, when Malcolm is told that the t-rex is in a "secured facility," he asks "Where's the facility?"
The Abyss Gojira (Godzilla)
After Bud disarms the nuclear warhead and realizes that he doesn't have enough oxygen to return to the surface, he messages back to his estranged wife, "Don't cry baby. Knew this was one way ticket but you know I had to come. Love you Wife." Serizawa, after successfully detonating the oxygen destroyer, effectively killing Gojira, radios his fiancée and the man she appears to truly love, saying "Both of you, be happy. Good-bye. Farewell!" He then cuts his oxygen tube and perishes in the deep.
See also:
Homage, reference, and free association: Round 2
Homage, reference, and free association: Harry Potter edition


  1. next in line for comparison: AVATAR VS POCAHONTAS!!!!

  2. I am usually dismissive of these comparisons to Avatar because so many were made with derogatory intent when Avatar first came out. Sure, it's similar to Pocahontas, Dances With Wolves, Little Big Man, Broken Arrow, etc., but those films are also similar to each other.

    However, the Pocahontas suggestion plays out pretty well: A company of outsiders sent to conquer nature and natives in pursuit of mineral wealth, with one hired hand turning to the other side. The endings of each film are also tentative: we know Europeans were not permanently expelled from the Americas, and it seems doubtful the RDA will leave Pandora alone after spending so much time and money there. Avatar being fiction, however, and Pandora being a world governed by a very different natural order, it could be argued that future attacks on Pandora could be repelled by the moon itself and its natural neural network.

  3. In the final act of The Right Stuff, there is a climactic scene in the desert following the unseen crash of Chuck Yeager's test plane. Smoke on the horizon. Character drives into a starkly beautiful landscape to find a triumphant Yeager has survived. A very similar scene plays out at the end of Independence Day. There are at least a couple shots that made it clear to me that Roland Emmerich found inspiration in The Right Stuff. Call it homage. Call it pilfering. Whatever, maybe it doesn't matter since I enjoy both movies for very different reasons.

  4. Right, I remember both scenes. I'll have to re-watch those and maybe include them in my Part 2 post. Thanks

  5. The scrolling text from "Star Wars", and this trailer for "Forbidden Planet"