Why does every superhero film have to end in a big fight?

Feature Andrew Blair 13 Nov 2013 - 06:10

The climactic fight has become a staple of superhero movies, but, Andrew wonders, do they always have to end this way?

Superheroes can move now. Previously they were static images, conveyed via paper and ink and Dr Whisky. Now they are fleshy bulbosity writ large across IMAX screens, a fixture that shows no sign of being worked loose from cinema listings. Marvel are expanding into television too, and planning movies long past all of our (inevitable) deaths so that even Captain Britain will be getting killed on screen at your local multiplex sometime around 2150 AD.

In the present, Thor 2 bounds across our screens like a slovenly-edited Labrador, overcoming its obvious cuts by being generally enthusiastic and hilarious. It ends with a funny and imaginative fight scene, one that is almost strong enough to stop you from remembering that, in fact, basically every single superhero film now ends this way. And, indeed, every comic.

Fighting, then a brief coda. That's how it goes. Even with teleporting spicing things up, Thor 2 does nothing to deviate from this structure, with Thor triumphing by virtue of being brave and strong. Who knew? 

How do Iron Man 1 and 2 end? With some men in metal suits battering the bejeezus out of each other. Iron Man 3 bucks this trend by having all the men in metal suits being on the same team, and all the folk without metal suits having the strength of men in metal suits. They are, of course, fighting.

After being spinally-disenfranchised by Bane, what is Batman's cunning plan to defeat his impossible nemesis in The Dark Knight Rises? Coming from the vast, yawning mindtank of Christopher 'Cerebral is my Middle Mane' Nolan, surely it'll be something pretty damn braintacular, yes? Turns out, it's “Go back to Gotham and fight him better”.

What do The Avengers and Man Of Steel have in common? Several things, but also the city-levelling finale that takes up a large swathe of the running time.

These films are just taking their cue from the comics. Let's look at some Marvel Event titles: Secret Invasion – everyone fights till the good guys win. X-Men Vs Avengers – guess. Civil War – everyone fights until they realise this isn't helping (ooh, twist).

The Killing Joke ends with a fight. Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow? ends with a fight. Even Alan Moore can't always resist the template. Watchmen's finale is mainly a debate between superheroes about Consequentialist morality opposing Deontology, throwing up endless questions about the ramifications of superheroes' actions (most of them have an absolute morality they dare not compromise, although in the case of recent Superman and Batman movies they do break their own rules because of drama. I could go on about this for a several articles). Watchmen is a rare exception in both fields. Alan Moore and Christopher Nolan are rightly lauded for their work, but even they can't resist the lure of men touching men, really fast and hard. 

Fighting, then, is both the primary resort of superheroes and a moral grey area. The in-universe explanations are varied and debated (Pat Mills' scorn on the subject of superheroes has produced many memorable comics), but let's be honest: they're there because fights look cooler than talking. It's simultaneously understandable and shallow.

This isn't to denigrate fights, by the way. Who doesn't love a good fictional fight? Hell, people have written whole blogs devoted to the subject. The problem is simply that there are so many superhero films doing the same thing that it becomes repetitive, monotonous, and increasingly difficult to innovate.

Fighting as finale is not a new development. It's been part of the make-up of superhero comics since their beginning, although early Superman films and comics were more limited in the amount of action they could show - the first Action Comic sees Superman scare a corrupt senator into submission by simply holding onto him and jumping around until he gives in. Superman And The Mole Men (1951) has more of a mild skirmish than full on fisticuffs (following a lengthy scene of the Mole Men walking into town holding a big laser), but it's notable that Superman does no actual fighting. Instead, he negotiates a truce and stands in the way of the laser. In many ways, it's vastly more satisfying than Man Of Steel. 

1978's Superman film ends with a big set piece. It's more of a test of Superman's strength and morality than a big fight scene, however, and the sequel's finale hinges on outwitting the enemy rather than just biffing them into submission. While the structure of blockbusters generally leads to a large-scale event occurring, it wasn't inevitable that this would be a fight. It's with the recent box-office stranglehold that superhero movies have firmly established this template (although as the Superman films get worse they move towards it too).

It's arguably 2000's X-Men film that started this process, followed by Spider-Man, Daredevil, Hulk and The Fantastic Four. All of them end with a big fight. 2005 begat Batman Begins and - even with the huge pulsating Mekon-brain of Christopher Nolan at the helm – it too went for pugilistic smackitty-whacks as the centre-piece of its denouement. 

Occasionally the fight sequence will be enhanced with some feat of intelligence or outmanoeuvreing of opponents, but for the main part the superhero movie's dominance has caused a problem for its fans: even if they span the genres, become more personal, and are set in different universes with different tones, they all end up with a CGI enhanced boomdown, often following the same pattern of:

Equal > Baddie Winning > Baddie Definitely Going to Win > But Wait > Goodie Summons Up Reserves of Energy/Fights for Love of Good Woman/Just Because > Goodie Wins.

This lack of imagination in the final third is not isolated to superhero films, but because studios are now seeking to link up their franchises into distinct yet cohesive storylines, the similarities have become as apparent as the differences. This begs the question: how else do you end a superhero film?

Really, the two obvious endings are 'fighting' and 'subterfuge', or some combination of the two. However, looking back at the 1978 Superman film, it's clear that there are other options that really test the character beyond how hard he can hit things. However, films have now used this for so long without much fuss or complaint from the audience, it's not necessarily the case that persisting with them will be an issue. 

The problem for superhero films is more likely to be that some of the audience may well find – with some franchises now set to outlast most household pets – the lack of variety is too much. It all depends on how large this group of the potentially bored is, and how much of a dent they will make on box office figures.

Without knowing how many viewers this approach could lose, and what losses the studios would consider to be acceptable, it's impossible to say whether anything is going to change. Personally, I would prefer some more variety, but film studios obviously operate under the maxim of 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it'.

For most people it ain't broke, and the films are made for most people. At the moment, it doesn't look like anyone's going to be fighting over this one.

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Surely it's just inherent to Superhero comics/movies. It's what people want to see, most films build up the premise of Baddie vs Goodie and the final showdown, if it was anything other than a fight (in whichever forms this takes) then it will be a sub-par ending in most peoples eyes. I can see it's boring and repetitive but i feel like the alternatives aren't as 'action packed' or 'exicting'.

Thing is, if you want a satisfying story it has to follow the Rule of Three:
1st fight - Hero and villain meet, but leave as equals
2nd fight - Hero loses
3rd fight - Hero wins
And this isn't just confined to superhero films either. Die Hard follows the same structure, as do many other films where the hero and the villain are clearly defined. Of course, it doesn't have to be a huge scrap as the denouement of the story, but let's face it - its far more satisfying that way.

Superman Returns didn't end with a fight really. Luthor and Superman didn't have a physical fight and the only real 'action' in those climactic scenes were of Kal-El flying the kryptonite landmass out into space. Supergirl didn't either. (Unless you count being squeezed by a giant demon or spinning around a wicked witch until she gets sucked into a mirror / the Phantom Zone.)

And before I get down-voted into oblivion, I am not arguing that those examples above are good superhero movies.

Movies have climaxes. Superheros have fights. Superhero movies have climatic fights.

Its a bit like asking why the couple end up together at the end of romantic comedies

It'd be like Mr. T beating Rocky, and Tocky mourns, and works out with Apollo, no rematch, the end.

Are you for the fights or against them? I'm for them. You don't turn big and green and not mop Harlem with the bad big green guy. Maybe on part 3 rather than predictably facing and defeating Loki, Thor should put his Hammer to good use and make custom back patios on YouTube. Thor 4: Above Ground Pool Deck. The first of Disney and YouTube's partnership, culminating in my going back to a flip phone.

So, essentially, there's a template and we should be happy with films sticking rigidly to it forever?

Okay, I was wrong. There is one dumb question.

Supergirl may not have beat up anyone in that movie, but dear God, she was SMOKING HOT in that movie... or was it just me?

Because these are dumbed down products for the masses that can't even follow a comic story?

Alost all action films, sci-fi, comic based or otherwise end this way. Most films follow a set template only the image changes. I would love more hero fails bad guys win films ( thats why empire kicks arse!) Most comic arcs end like this so why not the films? Only WWE can get away with unresolved finishers

Superhero film=Action film. It makes sense that they'd end them with action.

Ok, you spend $150 million of your own money on a special effects driven comic book movie with an ending with the protagonists having a philosophical debate about the damage that is caused to developing youth by violent role models then.

That's pretty much The world's End though, isn't it?

:D

Even those movies that play fast and loose with superhero narrative like Kick-Ass and Super still have that big 'pay off' at the end. Be quite funny to have an X-Men film where the big fight happens at the start then the next hour is them sat off having a brew and talking about what happened. :)

These are some good points, and part of why I love Watchmen is that it doesn't end with a fight. Sort of. Well, there's a big explosion and lots of people die, then a lot of debating. I'd also like to point out that The Dark Knight does not end with a fight. Yes, there is violence, but it makes sense in the context of the moral and philosophical debates the film puts forward. You could never end a film that had the Joker in it with a fistfight. He outwits everyone and forces them to compromise their own rules and morals. The confrontation between Dent, Gordon and Batman is pure proof of that.

That said though, Superheroes are today's equivalent of Greek myths, fairy tales, and legends. A lot of which stick to the classic Hero's Journey structure. So it does make sense for so many Superhero flicks to end with a battle. I agree that it would be nice to see more that end unconventionally, but I recognise why it's so prevalent. That and action is just plain exciting to watch.

If you are making a stand-alone film it will probably follow this formula, but if it is part of a trilogy or series it can break the rules. Look at The Empire Strikes Back, arguably the best SW film, the biggest battle of the film is at the beginning, and the bad guys win this time around. I guess it's all about how brave the film-makers are, and whether the audience will go along with it.

Touché good sir.
*puffs on large pipe & nods**

This article seems to just state the obvious with no actual interesting point being made.

Would you rather the hero and the villain sat down at the end and talked through their problems? Maybe a game of chess? Suppose it would make the film budget smaller.

If it works, yes.

Would you be happy for a film to have a massive fight scene in the middle, then just trail off because the battle has already been won?

What if in Man of Steel Metropolis had been leveled on the hour mark, then the next hour all we saw was them rebuilding it?

Sounds like an exciting ending.

Or if in TDKR Gotham wins the battle then the last hour we just see Bruce and Selina swanning about drinking in bars?

I agree that pushing boundaries is the only way films progress, but not the structure.

Unless MAYBE someone makes a Pulp Fiction style type superhero film.

Actually, that would be f**king cool. Forget everything I said, i want that!!!

Great comment sir, *puffs on pork sword and tilts his cap*

The film didnt quite hit the right notes, but damn I loved Banes mask

Exactly. And THAT is why Superman Returns sucked balls.

Because the 'exciting ending' was him lifting an island into space.

I was on the edge of my seat! **

** Sarcasm

Part of the reason is that a battle simplifies the narrative down to one side versus another. As complex as the characters are for the most part, for the most satisfying ending you want an unadulterated win for the good guys, which means a clash between good guys and bad guys. In a superhero film both sides are often defined by their fighting abilities, which means that fighting is the most logical output for that final clash.

Plus, it's just fun.

Superman Returns sucked balls for many reason, but that is one of the big ones.

1. Emo Superman
2. Atrocious casting
3. Superman has a superbrat
4. Lex Luthor's real estate fetish
5. Poor writing

Yeah, sloppy writing in general. Especially with the whole Lex likes land. Yes, we already got that he likes Land. Surely you can come up with something else!

Oh, you forgot:

No 6. Stalker pervert Superman

(when he spies on Lois and her family!)

Very odd that.

They don't always end up together in romantic comedies. 'Singles' and 'when Harry met Sally' they don't.

I had repressed that memory... *shudder* I can only imagine the deleted scene where he watches Lois and her beau go at each other while touching himself at super-speed.

er...in when Harry Met Sally they do end up together...

Coming soon to Den of Geek; "Why does every Martial Arts film have to end in a big fight?"

Is it wrong I wish they had left that scene in??

They could have a fight with a different consequence though, ie the good guy/gal loses. How interesting would it be if Batman or Superman got a good hiding and the next movie picked up from there...?

I've often thought modern action films are like videogames with a big "end of level boss" to defeat before the credits can roll. The major problem is that we know - we just KNOW - that the hero is going to win and as the old saying goes, there is no drama in inevitability!

Shame you don't give more credit to The Dark Knight for avoiding it, having slammed both Batman Begins and Dark Knight Rises for relying on that trope.

Good article. I think a lot of people get caught up in tropes and don't even realize it. One goes about making a superhero film or whatever and ends up pitching out a huge fight scene at the end of it because that's just how things have to be or that's just how things are done.

But I like this article and a lot of the comments for begging the question. A superhero doesn't have to be that way. In a lot of cases, sure, not being that way may make a superhero movie less exciting or perhaps even dull but it's upon the writers and creative teams to come up with an exciting ending that falls outside the standard movie mold.

Superhero movies ARE fight movies.

For me the problem isn't that they end with a big action scene - that's a given and will always be the case - it's that those scenes themselves are so samey and unexciting. It's like all the wit and imagination goes into the first three-quarters, and since Marvel or whoever know they have a captive audience by that point, little effort is made to make the climax a little different.

The idea that superheroes now always have to have big fights is a bit saddening in all honesty.

Perhaps it's a reflection on our combative/political nature, and a need for a powerful, superior and ultimately just victor in the modern world. Because somebody always has to be right...clearly.

SHERLOCK HOLMES. A GAME OF SHADOWS actually does that. There is a game of chess, then a brief "what-if" imaginary scuffle (sorta like BREAKING DAWN PART 2, only much shorter and less hilarious) and then Sherlock's final move, which is just throwing Moriarty and himself over a balcony.

BATMAN BEGINS does end up in a fistfight, but THE DARK KNIGHT ends up in a standoff/ hostage situation and RISES in a vehicular chase (then race against the clock... or rather bomb timer).

Absolutely dead on article. Even are two things that bother me about this trend. 1. That they are incredible contrived on elaborate staging grounds where none of the tactics make any sense. Just look at the first transformers flick. WHY exactly did they feel the need to drag the action from the military base in the desert to the heart of a city?

The other thing that bothers me is that no matter the quality of the rest of the film, they still need to end it this way. Just look at the Wolverine sequel. In my mind, it's the model for which the others should follow. And then... The ending wrestling match.

I have to agree with the author. I Find fight scenes often boring & unnecessary. I often l'll rent or borrow films so I can skip them & enjoy the plot & characterisation.

I would quite like to see that. A sort of 'Empire strikes back' of Superhero films.

The last Batman would have worked waaaay better if the film had finished with Batman having a broken back

"Darling. Make a note of 'pugilistic smackity-whacks'. I like it, and wish to use it in future conversation."

For heavens sake...it ends in a fight, because they are super heros and they FIGHT crime! That's what they do!!!

If you went to a boxing match and the two combatants came out of their corners, and then sat down in the middle of the ring and started to discuss the meaning of life, you would feel a bit short changed and annoyed!

I for one actually enjoyed the new Superman film and I expected to hate it.

WHY?

Because of the action, the fighting, the knocking down of buildings and the epic massive fight with Zod. They are Supermen. And with modern effects there is no excuse to not show them doing super stuff like that.

The days of Christopher Reeve as Clark Kent, being hopeless and comedy stupid just don't work for me any more. I want to see Batman being Batman, dark, and flapping about in the cape, kicking the crap out of criminal scum and super villains.

If I wanted to be bored to death I would sit down and watch BBC1 on a Saturday night...

But...why do you watch superhero films if you don't like fight scenes? Surely it'd be easier to just rent Amour or something.

And it's the reason many of us go and see these movies. The eye-candy of special effects and a no-brainer finale.
But it's still a valid question: how are moviemakers going to keep it fresh?

This is a truly pointless article that ignores the last 75 years of movie making

There's nothing wrong with having a fight at the end of the film. Quite frankly a final showdown is what pretty much every story has, the protagonist and antagonist face off to claim the prize (truth, goodness, love etc). I think maybe what needs to change are the stakes. Why does it have to be a city/world-end scenario? Sure, putting more people in peril might seem like a good idea, but if we have no idea who these people are (hello random bystanders and just-happen-to-be-there citizens) why should we care if they get hurt? I say keep it personal.
We're all suffering from CGI fatigue at the minute, mass destruction just doesn't do anything for me any more (yes Man of Steel, I'm looking at you) so keep it small instead. Stick your hero in an unwinable situation, give her a reason to want to win, then give her the smarts to make it happen. Just mindlessly throwing punches is boring (especially in a 12A where you can't actually hurt your opponent) so mix it up. Sure, Thor 2 did that with the marvelous jumping around through worlds, but it was still just punching the other guys.
So that's my answer - keep the fights, but change the stakes.

... first time I'm gonna say this about a Den of Geek article but... what the f? Ending a superhero movie, comic book movie, an action movie has always been with a fight because in the end it's a fight between good and evil and more often than not, conflicts in real life end up in fights too. Even the Bible talks about a "big fight" in the end. Also when they're well done the final fights sequences are hugely entertaining. They are not a replacement for a good story, but they can greatly enhance what came before. So my point is... what is the point in complaining about this?

Did you pay someone to actually write this?

I don't mind climactic fights, its when there are like a gazillion things happening at once type fights that can get a bit boring. When the stakes get out of hand, pace is lost due to cutting away to lesser rights or whatever. Not a superhero film but Heat had the impossible task of topping the bank heist and does so by a ending with a tense dramatic showdown between 2 people.

Interesting point, especially since in the original book that scene is a fight. I agree with a few commenters though, it would work as part of a trilogy to end without some kind of showdown but not really a standalone film as most superhero films seem to be. Perhaps leave the cliffhanger endings to TV? We have enough of those coming up.

Really specious article. The third/fourth act finale is a staple of any film/drama. The final denouement is the entire point of resolving a piece. It does not matter if it is a man/woman getting together in a rom-com or hero/villain battling in a superhero movie. You might as well ask why does every Rocky film have to end in a big fight?

One of the problems is not necessarily that it ends in a fight but more that it is a peril-free environment. For example towards the end of Serenity when Mal is trying to broadcast the video, the rest of the crew are fighting a losing battle against the Reavers. At one point Kaylee, Zoe and Simon are injured, Wash is dead and they are trapped in a tunnel with dozens of Reavers outside. As I sat watching it in the cinema I had no idea if any of them were going to make it.
Whereas in Thor 2, although a very enjoyable film, I knew he wasn't in any real danger. Fights are fine in films/tv/comics but if they have no consequences then they lose their impact.

you know that the superhero film is a subgenre of the action film, right?

i didnt even read the article because the title was so ridiculous i just came straight to the comments!

Well, I have to say it was pretty awesome to have the "big battlefield" in the first half of Empire Strikes Back. Haven't seen that a lot in movies.

Most action movies end in a fight. Similarly, most dramas end in a climax, whether it's emotional or of another sort. It's natural and if done correctly helps the audience feel like the story is building to a point, ending with satisfaction. Or not. Depends on the movie. Don't really get this article.

I always liked the ending of the Bourne Supremacy, yes you had the big car chase and drama but then we get a neat scene with Bourne visiting the daughter of his first ever hit and tells her the truth about how her parents died.
I always felt Spider-man 2 was missing a scene where Peter apologised to his best friend Harry and explained his father had gone nuts and killed himself instead he left it to the creepy butler to tell him in the next movie could have saved a lot of bother if he had just taken time to talk to him.

The Abyss was a great break of the template - true it was a blockbuster rather than a hero flick, but it had heroes and villains. The conflict happens in the middle, and the ending is beautifully realised. The tension as Bud is descends into the Abyss on a one way mission is just gloriously played. Why it hasn't seen a Blu Ray release is beyond me, it's one of my all-time favourite films.

Leaving 1989's Batman out of this comic book movie assessment is a tragedy. That was the template for the entire genre throughout the 1990s. (Not saying it was the best template, but they did do the end fight-out cliche since.)

"Mmm-nnn-eee th-nn-xxx chooooo."
(Bane says "Many thanks to you.")

I'd prefer to leave the film where the Joker and Batman sit down and discuss their differences over a pint to the art house film makers. If a major studio is involved, I want spectacle!

because "HULK SMASH" lol

Would you say X2 ended with a big fight?

Puffs on pork sword!?! ha ha, do I have a different understanding of this phrase?

But TDKR ends with Batman flying off into the distance and a few 'happy ever after' tie ups and off you go.... the bane fight is around 20 minutes before the end of the movie... I'm not sure you could say it ends in a big fight...

Yeah, it gets real boring after a while regardless of genre. I mean look at the Rocky films, they all ended with fights...

Gladiator

Dude! *SPOILER*

The Western had the same problem. Sergio Leone and Sam Peckinpah ended the problem in 1966 and 1968 with the clever showdown in "The good, the bad and the ugly" and the OTT finale in "The Wild Bunch". No Western afterwards matched those two. So they went for reality in "Unforgiven" and "Open Range".

Now what is the equal in Superhero-movies? My guess is, it is still a way to go. Right now it is the more, the better. But no clever ending yet. Man of Steel might had the biggest one ever so far, but there is still some space left.

We will see, I guess.

Nope, I think you have the correct understanding. However, I worry about WorthySquirt......

But surely in Batman Begins, the fight is merely a distraction. The real battle is won by Gary Oldman in the bat mobile. So you could argue that there is a degree of cunning from Batman, he knows a man on man fight won't win the day, but giving Gordon the means and the opportunity to derail the train will. So actually, Batman Begins bucks this trend?

I can't believe I'm actually going to defend one of Nolan's Batman films here (I really don't like them) but well here I go: A suerhero film does not have to end with a fight. One of the best superhero films of all time (as evidenced by the fact that I finished it) The Dark Knight did not end with a fight. In fact the only action in the final scene is one guy shooting another guy and then being pushed off a building. In my opinion that's not a fight. And the fact that no one ever complained about the final scene being anti climactic (even I agree it's defintiely not) pretty much proves that a superhero film does not have to end with a big fight to be a good genrefilm.

Personally I'd like to see a film that ends with the villain killing the hero and executing his masterplan but then I don't much like superhero films so that might be why.

Touche sir,
*puffs on pork sword and doffs his cap*
TDKR did not quite touch on the right note with the borken back

Oh, yes! And the opening sequence of Revenge of the Sith was nice too, not to mention that of Star Trek (2009).

I wouldn't call it a distraction. It's more like combined efforts to take down Ra's and his plan. Bats just needs help to stop a train whose brakes have been tampered with, and the best way to do so is obviously from outside the train while he makes sure his former mentor doesn't get away again. It's not actually rocket science, but it probably does make for the most cinematic climax of the three.

Two words: Superman Returns. No fighting, just constant test of strength and ultimately... Unsatisfying. LOVED IT when he was shot in the eye - but that was in the trailer and doesn't warrant watching an entire film for. The whole surge in Superheor films is because we can now actually realistically portray the abilities that the Supers have. It just wasn't convincing 15 years ago.

You're only likely to see a comic book adaptation that doesn't end with an epic fight when they start venturing into the world of Vertigo. I could see a Hellblazer adaptation ending in quite a toned down calm reveal of a con over Nergal or something. Maybe if there was a Transmetropolitian film you would see more wordplay and debate.

That ending was basically used in Return Of The King; and everybody, including me, then went on to moan about how overstretched and boring the ending of the film was. Templates are adhered to for a reason.

Yeah, but he was on the train when the brakes failed (or rather Ra' broke the controls). He did not know when he told Gordon "Can you drive stick" that would happen.... or did he. Was he clever enough to work out that when pushed Ra' would sabotage the controls? It was either massive luck, or a calculated plan. I go for plan

17 people are dumb-asses for liking your comment... Superheros are warriors, warriors confront each other and duel it out leaving one man standing. That's the nature of these characters.
Would you rather the end of a film you see the protagonist and antagonist just shake hands and have some tea and crumpets?!

Also: Chasing Amy, Prime...

I loved the fact that the car chase in Supremacy happened simply BECAUSE he had to get to the girl to apologise to her. Such a simple goal, and not at all like most action movies.

I'm with you there. Cameron's best film, IMHO.

There are so many superhero movies that we're bound to see one that bucks the trend sooner or later.

SO MANY good Vertigo titles just waiting for an adaptation...

"You didn't think I'd risk losing the battle for Gotham's soul in a fistfight with you. No."

The Metropolis fight in Superman2 was far more entertaining than any of the fight scenes in M.O.S. in my opinion.

Wonder Woman in her first big graphic novel (Gods and Mortals) is able to have a climactic ending without having a big fight. Wonder Woman subdues Area with her golden lasso and shows him the error of his ways. Too bad Hollywood is too sexist and cowardly to take a risk on a Wonder Woman movie.

I'm sorry, how did The Dark Knight end? Oh yeah, with Two Face threatening everyone with a gun and a coin. It was great, but not everyone can be as psychologically involved as Batman. Spiderman 2 ended with the bad guy renouncing his ways and sacrificing himself to save the city. That too was different. I saw an alternate ending sans VFX for Iron Man 2 where Whiplash holds Pepper hostage. It wasn't good. Granted Iron Man 2 wasn't good in general, but this would have been a less satisfying. Superhero movies are primarily action movies, so it's logical that a bunch are going to follow that template. Thor and Hulk aren't exactly known for cunning stand-offs and battles of wits.

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