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Summer Movie (Auto) Body Count: Getting mileage out of a surprising amount of car-nage in 'Cars 2'

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Week 8 of of EW’s 2011 Summer Movie Body Count continues with Cars 2 as Lightning McQueen and his pal Mater race back to the big screen for more merchandise-friendly action, while some of their co-stars get sent to the big chop shop in the sky. But, much like the world of auto racing there are certain rules that you must abide by, so be sure to read up on our guidelines. Warning: Dangerous curves and spoilers ahead!

During the second installment of this year’s Summer Movie Body Count (ah, what a simpler time when there were only 155 fictional on-screen deaths to keep track of), my colleague Darren Franich pondered if the disgusting, faceless vampires who met their end in Priest actually counted, as it was questionable whether or not they had a soul. He ultimately came to the conclusion that while the MPAA may not consider their deaths tragic, EW does. Hey, we have a soft spot for vampires of all kinds.

Willsmith_lWhile some may also argue that non-human objects — such as, say cars — don’t have a soul, we’re vetoing that ridiculous notion, as anyone who has shared a special bond their automobile can tell you that’s total BS. And, as Pixar has so often reminds us, not only does everything we own have souls, but they really, really love us. If this generation becomes entirely composed of hoarders, I think we’ll know why.

In addition to making us feel bad about giving away our old toys and calling the exterminator to kill rats (sorry, but unless the ones in your apartment are making French cuisine, they’ve gotta go), traumatizing deaths are equally synonymous with Disney and Pixar movies (Bambi’s Mom, Nemo’s Mom, your childhood). So, I feared for the worst when I was given the task of tallying the imminent demises found in Cars 2. While the movie does has its fair share of cars going to that great junkyard in the sky, it still isn’t nearly as unsettling as the idea that this is a world in which human beings have been wiped out entirely, which would bring our death tally to roughly 7 billion. But, remember, since we don’t see it (probably for the best, as I can only fathom some horrific Maximum Overdrive scenario), it doesn’t count.

Before we get around to the expiration of cars engaged in a game of international espionage, let’s discuss, arguably the saddest, albeit, off-screen death in Cars 2. Cars fans pondered what would become of the late, great Paul Newman’s Doc Hudson in the sequel, and as it turns out, John Lassater and co. had the beloved Hudson Hornet’s engine go for good. We find out the iconic Doc Hudson has passed on when champ racer Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) returns to Radiator Springs when he and his faithful pal, tow truck Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) visit a memorial that has been made in his honor.

But Doc’s death isn’t the only one to be implied in the flick. Cars 2, which travels the world for an international Grand Prix, starts off on an oil rig ship (in addition to being a spy movie, there’s also a big oil vs. renewable resources storyline so, Fox News pundits, start your engines!) where we meet international spy Finn McMissile (Michael Caine), who stumbles across some criminal lemons who are up to no good. In fact, the mafia-like band of cars show what happens to Sunfires who snitch, as the remains of a since-cubed car is shown. Relax, parents and PopWatchers, I assure it’s not even half as upsetting as the “Worthless” number from The Brave Little Toaster. Though, to be fair, nothing is.

Soon enough, Finn — who ultimately causes the most vehicular carslaughter in Cars 2 — is engaged in a high-speed chase aboard the ship, which, despite some explosions and unsafe driving, only results in one death, when a baddie car careens off the boat and bursts into pieces upon hitting the water. In fact, a showdown in a Tokyo alley and race on an airport runway caused the death of six cars who went against Finn, including a roadster that fell in a vat of car waste, only never to resurface. The most shocking — and arguably best death — however, was not by Finn, but rather the hired goons, including a Gremlin, who strap down a car and slowly torture him by overheating his engine and making the oil combust. The poor car eventually bursts into flames. But cars weren’t the only pieces of engineering to meet their end, as a massive ship gets the Michael Bay treatment and is promptly blown to bits during the final sequence in London.

Still, the car-nage (forgive me) could have been way worse as the near-death tally was far higher (one character boasts, “You never feel more alive then when you’re almost dead”) than actual annihilation, including maniacal mechanical plots to kill McQueen, Mater (who, at one point, has a bomb strapped to him), Finn and his right-tire woman Holly Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer), which go foiled, as well shootouts, Mario Kart-like reckless driving (there’s even a Rainbow Road!) and the evil plot by the lemons to make the “nice” cars crash on the race track by electromagnetic pulses from a camera pointed at their ready-to-blow gas tanks. It all made sense in context. Sort of.

So, near-deaths and global human wipeout non-withstanding, the grand total of on-screen deaths comes to nine and off-screen are a merciful two. But with no funerals in the far less kid-friendly Bad Teacher, Cars 2 still drove away with the most deaths in theaters this weekend and brings out summer movie body count to 308. But how do the Cars 2 death scenes stack up against the rest of this summer’s? Vote below!

Read more:

Summer Movie Body Count: The soul-sucking Parallax lays waste to ‘Green Lantern’

Summer Movie Body Count: You can get hit by a train and live in ‘Super 8’

Summer Movie Body Count: ‘X-Men: First Class’ schools the competition on best deaths