It's all been leading up to this. Hundreds of pages, or hours, of buildup, leading up to the final confrontation between the forces of excellent and the forces of not-excellent. And then... it's kind of a bust. The bad guys kind of fold. Or the fight lasts 30 seconds. Or it's just thumb-wrestling. Here are the most disappointing, and saddest, final confrontations of all time.
Top image: Genzoman on Deviant Art
Warning: Spoilers for old stories ahead...
Harry Potter (Harry vs. Voldemort)
For what was essentially the most popular series of a generation by a wide margin, the ultimate face-off between Harry and Lord Voldemort was pretty weak. In fact, the only difference between their fight in the seventh book and their fight in the fourth book is three books, the end of puberty, and some horcruxes. In the end it's just another case of Voldemort's killing curse pushing against Harry's expelliarmus. As this guy says over at Askville, " when it came to the big moment it was one zap from Harry's wand and one zap from Voldemort's wand and it was all over."
Blake's 7 (Humans Vs. Aliens)
This is only sort of a "final battle," since it takes place kind of quickly at the start of a season — the whole of season two of Blake's 7 is leading up to Blake finding the fabled Star One, and then discovering that aliens from the Andromeda Galaxy are preparing to invade the Milky Way. And then season two ends on a huge cliffhanger, with the battle between the humans and the aliens beginning. When season three begins... we sort of glimpse a fight with some alien spaceships that look like wind-up toys. And then it's over in about 30 seconds. Aliens, sorted.
Neon Genesis Evangelion (Shinji vs. final angel, non movie)
In the final episodes of Neon Genesis Evangelion, Shinji is fighting the 17th angel, Kaworu, to protect the world from complete destruction. Shinji is in Eva-01 — but Kaworu is just in the form of a teenage boy, unlike all the other angels and their crazy, destructive forms. And Kaworu sure makes it easy for Shinji to kill him by letting himself get caught in Eva-01's grasp. Then Shinji has an internal struggle about whether to kill who he thought was his friend (even though they just met a day ago) and eventually he realizes he has to do it. He crushes Kaworu in Eva-01's grasp, killing him. And then the end of the world happens anyway, even though all we see is a trip through the psyche of a damaged boy. End of Evangelion fixes this, but the TV show episodes fall horribly flat without the context of EoE to spruce it up.
Naruto (Naruto vs. Pain's real body)
Pain has basically obliterated most of Konoha with his seven paths (seven bodies each with a unique ability). Many shinobi have been killed and the entire place has been leveled. Naruto has resorted to all his tricks, old and new. Sage mode wasn't getting the job done. Even nearly breaking the seal on the Kyuubi wasn't enough to stop him, and it takes a mass distraction to stop the last of Pain's body-puppets. But when Naruto tracks down Pain's real body, everyone assumes it's about to go down. Both will be run ragged from the battle and they'll have to slug it out with the last of their strength. That's not what happens, though. Instead, Nagato (Pain) tells Naruto the sad story of his life, Naruto refuses to kill him while declaring he'll bring peace to the world as Hokage. That's enough for the formerly hell-bent destroyer, and Nagato sacrifices himself to restore everyone he killed.
Lord of the Rings (Frodo vs. Gollum)
The battle at Pelennor Fields was an epic clash between evil and good, but it was not the final battle — it was a survival effort. The true final clash ended up being over the One Ring in the heart of Mount Doom. Did Frodo overcome a terrible inner struggle and cast the ring into the fire? Did Gollum and Frodo get into a devastating, drawn-out slug fest over the ring while Sam watched in horror? Nope — Frodo hesitates until Gollum leaps for the ring, bites Frodo's finger off, and falls into the lava. Plus why doesn't Sauron show up in person when he realizes the ring is near Mount Doom?
Fable 2 (Killing Lucien)
Fable 2 had its problems as a game, but nothing encapsulates that fact better than the final boss. Unlike the first Fable (which was awesome), you don't fight a multi-stage boss that's decently challenging. Instead you walk into a room, listen to some dialogue, and then kill Lucien in one hit. And if you happen to take too long, someone else deals the final blow for you. Poof—the end. After Lucien killed your family and ruins your life, all you get is one shot at him. It remains one of the most disappointing moments of any video game.
Halo 3 (Final battle vs. 343 Guilty Spark)
The Master Chief is a badass, and you'd expect that (what used to be) his last confrontation would be something of epic proportions. He'd killed every Covenant leader who challenged him, destroyed massive war-machines, and stopped the onslaught of the Flood multiple times. So, then, who was his ultimate foe at the end of Halo 3? It was fucking 343 Guilty Spark, the monitor of the original Halo—otherwise known as a tiny floating sphere that was mildly annoying. And sure, it's nice to kill him finally because Guilty Spark sucks big time, but he barely puts up a challenge at all. It doesn't take more than a few pot-shots with the giant gun the chief has and you win. See also: the final confrontation with Didact in Halo 4.
Mass Effect 3 (Shepard vs. the Illusive Man)?
Mass Effect is a series of escalating confrontations. In the first game you fight off an agent of the reapers, the indoctrinated Saren. In the second game you fight the proto-reaper, a massive creature that would make most people shit their pants. And throughout the third game you fight a couple actual reapers, blowing them to hell with giant lasers after fighting off hordes of their minions. So with such excellent escalation before, you'd think the final battle would be epic, right? Wrong! You're faced against endless waves of minions before confronting the Illusive Man in a cut scene that robs the player of the satisfaction. Then you make a choice, red, blue, or green. Plus the actual battle on Earth doesn't include your friends watching your back, which was supposed to be the whole point of the series.
Bleach (Ichigo vs. Aizen)
Aizen was the ultimate chess-master of anime/manga. He planned for literally everything, including things that author Tite Kubo probably hadn't even thought of (the bastard was that good). But after obtaining and fusing with the hougyoku (a wish granting sphere of "game over" for the good guys), Aizen gets to take the gloves off. He wipes the floor with basically everyone who fights him and it seems like he's going to win out. And as many anime-villains like to do, he transforms half a dozen times into some monstrous beast with an ego the size of the solar system. Unfortunately for the fans, Ichigo's dad has one last trick up his sleeve and teaches Ichigo some ultimate technique that involves fusing with your zanpakuto. A few time shenanigans later and Ichigo becomes so strong that Aizen literally cannot comprehend it and his internal scouter doesn't sense anything. Then Ichigio just kind of stands around looking all brooding while nuking Aizen into oblivion. Yawn.
Wheel of Time (Mat vs. Padan Fain)
Considering the entire last book of the series is the final battle, there's a lot of epic going on the whole time, but Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson kind of dropped the ball on one crucial plot point. Padan Fain, the poor creature who started off as an evil peddler before turning into some dark abomination, was one of the series' main villains despite the fact that no one liked him very much. He kind of popped up wherever was most annoying and made hell for the three heroes. So you'd think, then, that Jordan and Sanderson would want to give Fain a proper send-off as epic as all the other villains. Nope — he only shows up at the last minute, just in time for Mat Cauthon to play dead before stabbing him in the ribs.
Kill Bill (The Bride vs. Bill)
Considering the Kill Bill movies were a series of awesome fights, you'd think that the moment when the Wife finally kills Bill would be more satisfying. Instead, the fight barely lasts ten seconds, and there's hardly any blood or anything. Many people think it's a metaphor for how empty revenge is, but those people forget that this is a Quentin Tarantino movie and we watch it for the violence.
Heroes (Peter vs. Sylar)
Sylar started off as one of the most badass villains of the modern age, but the underwhelming final battle between him and Peter is the beginning of his slow and painful decline. Instead of a clash between two people with all the powers at their disposal, we get a copout where Hiro basically teleports a sword into Sylar's stomach. Then Peter starts to blow up because he was the problem all along. After that, I'm pretty sure everyone stopped watching.
Smallville (Clark vs. Doomsday)
After a long and arduous process of convincing Davis that he couldn't control Doomsday, Clark eventually gets his final confrontation with the monster. But instead of an epic clash the likes of which is fitting for one of Superman's greatest enemies, they trade a few punches for literally less than a minute before Clark super-tackles Doomsday back to LuthorCorp's geothermal facility, which had been rigged with explosives to trap the monster underground. Considering he got a lot of play in much of season eight, the final battle could have lasted more than a minute.
Supernatural (Michael vs. Lucifer)
We love the fifth season finale of Supernatural more than anybody — it's at the top of our list of the best finales of all time, and still seems like a fitting end to Supernatural 1.0. But it has to be said: the battle of Armageddon, the fight between Michael and Lucifer, is kind of weaksauce. It's basically just two guys staring each other down in a field, preparing to have a slugfest, until Castiel teleports Michael away and then Dean shows up to get punched instead.
Doctor Who (Day of the Daleks)
The Daleks are generally one of the most powerful and terrifying enemies anyone could face. They're mean, super durable, and will kill you in one shot — except for when they're just mean and a handful of humans can hold them off fine. It doesn't happen all the time, but it does happen at the end of "Day of the Daleks," when UNIT forces hold off some Daleks long enough for Shura the rebel from the future to set a Dalekanium bomb. The final battle between UNIT and the Daleks remains one of the all-time greatest disappointments, with just three Daleks and a handful of soldiers in a field. So much so, that the makers of the recent DVD special edition went to a lot of trouble to film brand new sequences to de-crapify it.
Matrix Revolution (Neo vs. Mr. Smith)
To be fair, Neo and Mr. Smith do get a nice big brawl all over an empty city with all the slow-mo a person could ask for. The only problem is that Neo, the damn chosen one, gets his ass handed to him by a single Mr. Smith. It actually falls to the leader of the machines to stop Mr. Smith by sending some kind of delete command through an assimilated Neo. This causes all the Smiths to explode, and then I guess the machines load a backed-up copy of the Matrix and everyone is fine (except for Neo). Happy endings are great, but I think it's safe to say we'd have rather Neo won through the virtue of knowing kung-fu.
War of the Worlds (Bacteria vs. Mars)
Another case of metaphors stealing the thunder from a potentially epic battle, the War of the Worlds aliens get a bit of a lame send off. After stomping on any form of human resistance, the Martians get themselves killed by the common cold for, apparently, not listening to their mother's advice about going outside without a jacket. It was a slick twist on the part of H.G. Wells, but it would have been way more badass if the scrappy Earthlings found a way to defeat the seemingly unstoppable tripods. Image via Shane Gallagher
The Dark Knight Rises (Bane vs. Catwoman)
Bane was no Joker, but he was a pretty solid villain for at least some of The Dark Knight Rises. He breaks Batman's back just as he should and spends most of the movie being a badass. Considering that, you'd think this juggernaut would get a better send off. Instead, as NME puts it, we get " a perfunctory punching of faces, followed by the crushing anti-climax of Bane's demise." In the end, Bats is busy getting worked over by a girl he slept with, leaving the task to an off-screen Catwoman. She just rolls up at the last minute and blows Bane away with the Bat-cycle. Even the Joker would say that death was a bad joke.
Iron Man 2 (Anton Vanko)
The Iron Man series kind of has a problem with satisfying final fights, but the second movie is the worst offender with Anton Vanko. The whole electric whip thing was cool, but why did he need a suit for a fight that lasted less than five minutes? And with that in mind, why doesn't he just attack Tony and Rhodes alongside the drones he hijacked? That way he could hold the two still while they're blown to hell by all those bullets and missiles. But no, instead Vanko shows up at the last minute before Iron Man and War Machine defeat him with what's basically a repulsor fist-bump. Bro power is cool and all, but audiences deserved better.
Shaman King Manga (Hao vs. Yoh)
For a series that is barely more than a bunch of fights strung together, you'd think Shaman King could have ended with a bit more of a bang. I mean, after everything the elemental warriors (Yoh, Ren, Lyserg, Horohoro, and Chocolove) went through to stop Hao from obtaining the Great Spirit, their failure is a little disheartening. It does seem, for a bit, that fans were going to get the giant battle they were after, but Hao vs. the good guys never really happens. Sure, the gang throws their strongest attacks at the god-like shaman, but it unsurprisingly amounts to nothing. In fact, the thing that defeats Hao is the power of friendship plus an appearance from his long-dead mother—because all he needed was a hug. It's a nice message, but I would have rather seen Yoh skewer Hao with a badass new Over Soul.
Captain America (Red Skull vs. Cap)
As it turns out, Marvel kind of has an issue with underwhelming fights. Take the final confrontation between Captain America and the Red Skull in the recent movie, for example. Instead of a slug-fest reminiscent of Rocky, they trade a few blows, wrestle, and then the Red Skull starts monologuing. Then, once Cap has enough, he throws his shield at the Hydra leader, knocking the tesseract loose. The Red Skull then thinks it'd be a good idea to pick it up and try to use it himself, conveniently forgetting that most people exposed to its energy end up disintegrated. Spoilers: he gets disintegrated and Captain America is robbed the pleasure of winning the fight himself.