Best movie in-jokes of 2017

If you love nothing more than a nod or a wink from your favourite filmmakers, you’ll love these movie in-jokes – the kind that reward only the most attentive film fans…

Kong: Skull Island – Squid pro quo

Kong: Skull Island paid tribute to Oldboy.

Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts is like a movie magpie: there’s barely a single scene in his creature feature that isn’t a loving homage to Vietnam war movies, classic monster mash-ups or genre flicks like Cannibal Holocaust (kudos to sneaking that into a 12A movie). There is a very specific reference to note, however, when Kong plucks a giant squid out of a lake and eats it while it’s still alive: it’s an intentional homage to Chan-wook Park’s revenge classic Old Boy, in which actor Choi Min-sik ate a still slithering octopus, tentacles and all. Gross, then. Gross now.

Blade Runner 2049 – What androids dream of

Gaff returned as did the origami in Blade Runner 2049.

Denis Villeneuve’s epic Blade Runner sequel has lots of subtle callbacks to the Ridley Scott original, but the scene with Deckard’s former colleague Gaff (Edward James Olmos) has a nice nod to the author of the Philip K Dick book on which the films are based. As Agent K quizzes him about Deckard, he creates a little origami sheep, which is a reference to the book’s title, Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?. For those of you in the ‘Deckard is a replicant’ camp, Gaff’s off-hand comment about there being “something in his eyes” is also a reference towards the Final Cut edition of Blade Runner, which featured a scene where the pupils of Deckard’s eyes had a soft red glow in the dark.

Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 – Stan the all-powerful

Guardians 2 gave us the Stan Lee cameo to end all cameos.

Of the many post-credit sequences attached to the Guardians Of The Galaxy sequel, the now customary Stan Lee cameo is the most illuminating. In it, he seems to be discussing his various other Marvel movie cameos: the comment “One time I was a postman!” could either be an in-joke reference to Captain America: Civil War or 2005’s Fantastic Four, depending on whether or not you feel the conspiracy can span movie studios as well as the Marvel universe. The characters he’s talking to are Watchers, intergalactic beings who impassively observe all life in the universe, lending credence to the theory that all of Stan Lee’s cameos are indeed cosmically linked canon.

Wonder Woman – Channelling Clark Kent

Wonder Woman tries the old glasses-as-disguise routine.

The best movie in the DCEU is also not coincidentally the movie with the fewest extended universe cameos, but although Superman does not appear in the flesh, he’s very much present in spirit. During Diana’s ‘makeover montage’ in London, she trades in her body armour, leather skirt and sword for a far more conservative button-up jacket, hat and pair of spectacles – just like Christopher Reeve’s Clark Kent did so many years ago. Then, to make the Reeve homage even more explicit, Wonder Woman even has a bit of comic business with a revolving door, as per 1978’s Superman: The Movie.

Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets – Elemental, my dear Besson

This Easter egg even made it onto the poster for Valerian.

Unsurprisingly, Luc Besson’s latest intergalactic epic shares the same space with the director’s 1997 sci-fi The Fifth Element. The bounty hunter that is after Valerian is spotted in a bar named ‘Korben’s’, presumably after Bruce Willis’ reluctant hero Korben Dallas. There’s another Dallas shout-out, when Laureline tells a commanding operative “Nice hat”, just as Willis did to a would-be mugger. The final scene, leaving the two leads making nookie in a capsule, is surely an homage to Korben and Leeloo’s final scene, but if you want an explicit link between the two films, you can spot a big round metal Mondoshawan in the movie’s opening sequence at the station. Hopefully the movie’s titanic failure at the box-office didn’t sink a Luc Besson shared universe.

Baby Driver – The Streisand effect

Jamie Foxx in Baby Driver.

Edgar Wright’s blistering crime caper brings the best out of actors including Ansel Elgort and Jamie Foxx, but one scene put Foxx in an uncomfortable position. The scene where characters talk about tinnitus references the fact that Barbra Streisand suffers from the condition. “Do I look like a know a f***ing thing about Barbra Streisand?” yells Foxx’s character, Bats. In actual fact, Edgar Wright knew full well that Jamie was good – if admittedly unlikely – friends with the singer: he even performed a duet on her 2016 ‘ENCORE‘ album. When asked what she made of the scene, Foxx replied: “Barbra’s gangsta”.

The LEGO Batman Movie & Justice League – Batmen of Future Past

Batman got sassy in 2017.

Batman had two cinematic outings this year, in two forms: the flesh and bone of Ben Affleck in Justice League, and Will Arnett’s little brick crimefighter in The LEGO Batman Movie. Both pictures, however, had a fine line in Caped Crusader in-jokes. Jeremy Irons’ Alfred pined over the days Batman’s biggest concerns were “exploding wind-up penguins”, referencing Batman’s nemesis The Penguin, presumably deemed far too silly for the DCEU. LEGO Batman, however, makes reference to Bat-Shark Repellent (the original Adam West Batman movie), while the line “You wanna get nuts? Let’s get nuts!” is a direct lift from the Tim Burton original. LEGO Alfred even mentions that Batman has been through similar phases in “2016, 2012, 2008, 2005, 1997, 1995, 1992, 1989 and a weird one in 1966”, referencing every single big-screen Batman adventure. Subtle.

Daddy’s Home 2 – An usher not a fighter

Daddy’s Home 2 contained a rather brilliant Easter egg.

It’s easy to forget while watching family-friendly Christmas comedy Daddy’s Home 2 that Mark Wahlberg used to be a big-screen hard man of no small repute. Thankfully, there’s a reminder right there in the movie. When the power goes out during the showing of fictional Christmas movie ‘Missile Tow’, the usher who appears is wearing a name badge, which lists his favourite movie as The Fighter – that’s right, the very same 2010 David O. Russell drama which saw Wahlberg get some of the best reviews of his life.

‘Thor: Ragnarok’ – Because Hemsworth it

The Hemsworth brothers in 2015 (Jim Smeal/BEI/REX/Shutterstock)

Compared to humourless sequel The Dark World, jokes run through the Thor threequel like a stick of (Ragna)rock. Kiwi director rarely lets an opportunity pass without slipping in a gag, but often there are gags on top of gags. For example, in the movie’s opening act, when Loki (masquerading as Odin) puts on a play celebrating his great heroics, you more than likely spotted that ‘Loki’ was played by none other Matt Damon in a jaw-dropping cameo. But did you also spot that the actor playing ‘Thor’ was Luke Hemsworth aka Chris Hemsworth’s older brother? Now that’s canny casting.

It – Turtle power

The Stephen King universe is dense and complicated and spans several dozen books, so when we tell you that one of the ancient guardians of the universe is a wise old turtle named Maturin, you’re just going to have to trust we’re not yanking your chain. The It remake wasn’t the time or the place to introduce Maturin the turtle to cinema audiences, but there are a couple of references to the gnarly old shell-head: first when the boys are swimming and audibly spot a turtle in the water, then later when Bill finds a conspicuous LEGO turtle in his brother’s bedroom. If you think the turtle is weird, wait until we tell you all about the giant cyborg bear at the other end of the universe.

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