It is well known that the second act of any story is one of the most important parts and one of the hardest to get down right. So to keep everyone enthralled during this period you come up with the Centerpiece Spectacular.
The Centerpiece Spectacular is a point in a story that is certainly not the climax, but it is situated during the middle of the story or sometimes even the beginning to really get their attention. You can usually identify it as being the sequence everyone is talking about, and that is usually because this sequence is the work's Crowning Moment of Awesome.
Now, there can often be a downside to this. It isn't a bad thing to make the centerpiece the high point of the story, but if the climax doesn't even come close to approaching it then it can end up being a let down. And if the running time of the story has too great a distance between the centerpiece and the climax, you can run into Ending Fatigue.
The placing of the Centerpiece Spectacular can vary wildly, though it is never the climax. If this sequence happens towards the beginning of the story, it can overlap with an Establishing Character Moment. In early Act 2 it is intended to get the plot flowing fast. In late Act 2 it is a set-up for the climax.
- Monsters vs. Aliens has the fight with the giant robot at the Golden Gate bridge.
- The Tournament sequence in Robin Hood.
- The escape from Sunnyside Day Care in Toy Story 3.
- The Incredibles has the "Hundred Mile Dash" scene.
- "Be our Guest" in Disney's Beauty and the Beast.
- Similarly, "Under the Sea" in The Little Mermaid.
- The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! has the bathtub chase through Charles Darwin's house.
- Saving Private Ryan has the opening amphibious landing battle. A solid half-hour of relentless combat and no other combat sequence in the film, up to and including the climactic fight, can match it for intensity.
- All of the Indiana Jones movies follow this closely:
- Raiders of the Lost Ark has the truck chase, and like most of the movie has gone on to be legend. And in a rare instance of a movie having two, the opening sequence with the giant stone ball serves a similar purpose.
- Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom has the mine cart sequence.
- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade has the fight against, around and on top of the tank.
- Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull has the chase in the forest with the car boats.
- The Dark Knight has the police escort being attacked by the Joker and Batman rushing into the fight. In fact the sequence was so good many people expected it to be the climax.
- Marvel Cinematic Universe:
- Iron Man has the hero going to the middle east and destroying the Stark weaponry that is being used there. The Unflinching Walk after destroying the tank cements it, and the chase sequence with the American jets brings it home.
- The Incredible Hulk has the fight at the college grounds.
- Captain America: The First Avenger has Captain America's first mission — his attack on the HYDRA base, rescuing Bucky and the Howling Commandos and meeting the Red Skull for the first time.
- The Avengers has the attack on the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier, featuring Loki and his forces laying waste to it, the Hulk transforming to wreak havoc, and the Avengers working with S.H.I.E.L.D. personnel to weather the attack.
- Avengers: Age of Ultron has the Hulk go on another rampage, and Iron Man activates his Hulkbuster armor to stop him.
- The scene at Leipzig airport in Captain America: Civil War is a battle between two sides featuring many of the superheroes in the franchise. The dynamic choreography and clever interactions between the cast make it the action scene of the film. In contrast, the climactic fight is much smaller with dirtier combat, being a personal feud between Captain America and Iron Man.
- Star Wars tends to do this a lot:
- The pod race in The Phantom Menace served this purpose.
- The Geonosian Arena fight in Attack of the Clones
- The Death Star escape sequence in A New Hope
- The Battle on Takodana during The Force Awakens
- In The Last Jedi, there's the entire sequence on Snoke's ship, with Rey and Kylo confronting Snoke, Finn fighting Captain Phasma, and Holdo's big sacrifice.
- Solo A Star Wars Story has the Kessel Run that the entire movie was based around.
- Transformers Film Series:
- The original Planet of the Apes (1968) had the Reveal of the apes. They felt they had to do it again (and top themselves) for Beneath the Planet of the Apes so they wrote the part with the reveal of the mutated humans.
- The Chase Fight on the freeway in The Matrix Reloaded.
- Zero hour hits in 2012, and we follow John Cusack and family drive and fly out of Los Angeles as the ground crumbles and opens up, buildings collapse and debris — cars, trains, freeways, people — fly all about them.
- The Lord of the Rings:
- The Fellowship of the Ring has the fight against the goblins and the cave troll (especially the cave troll) in the ruins of Balin's Tomb.
- The Return of the King had the Battle of Pelennor Fields, which comes about three-quarters of the way through the film and is easily the biggest and longest fight of the whole trilogy.
- The Magnificent Seven has the first confrontation with Calvera and the bandits, which leads to a round of back-to-back Badass Boasts.
- In the 2016 remake the initial gunfight between the Seven and the Blackstone detectives.
- Pacific Rim has a fight in Hong Kong between the four remaining Jaegers and two of the deadliest kaiju in the film's universe during the middle of the movie. Although the climax is also a huge spectacle, the Hong Kong fight is the defining action scene of the film and delivers most of the monster vs. robot carnage the film was designed around.
- The Red Circle shootout in John Wick. Coming almost exactly in the middle of the movie, John tracks down Iosef to a nightclub, and when Iosef tries to escape, John kills off a small army of mooks while chasing after him. John uses a stylized combination of hand-to-hand combat and Gun Fu to dispatch his opponents incredibly quickly with headshots and double-taps, all while never hitting a single bystander in the crowded club, fully cementing his reputation as The Dreaded. It also marks the point where John begins hunting Iosef in earnest, rather than simply preparing to do so.
- The church brawl in Kingsman: The Secret Service: It closes the second act and it's the longest fight in the movie, featuring the most complex choreography, the most careful editing work (to make it look like a oner) and it has kickass background music. It's also the most violent scene, being the hardest aversion to Bloodless Carnage in the movie. That Galahad dies right afterwards only cements it.
- The Slave Cage sequence in KA is an excellent example of a centerpiece spectacular that sets up the climax as the slaves revolt against their captors.
- Halfway through Wonderland Adventures, the Ice Trolls come out of nowhere, steal the Star Key, freeze everyone present except you, and cause you to be trapped inside the Volcano.
- Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction begins with the attack on Metropolis, featuring an invading army, meteor-like mortars, an invading army, ominous dropships and collapsing buildings. The trope is invoked as this is the game's high-point and the focus of most of the marketing.