Monday, August 16, 2010

Riding off into the sunset – the definition of a good ending

We’ve all been there – the trip to the cinema that ends in head-scratching and “what the hells?”. Some movies arrive at a glorious finish with Disney bluebirds and bunny rabbits. Some go out with a bang and some end with a whimper. So what’s a good ending and what’s a bad one?

Well first of all, I don’t think it makes much difference whether it’s a happy ending or a sad one. A pasted-on happy ending can be very grating and an overly-sad one can be giggle-inducing (thanks, Pearl Harbor and any Nicholas Sparks adaptation ever). What’s important is that the ending fits the film it’s providing the postscript to.

The end of the film should be an organic part of the whole, as fitting as the beginning and middle. It should suit the journey of the characters and their arcs. It should be – and here’s the thing, appropriate to the rest of the story.

Here are my top five really bad movie endings ever (in no particular order – they’re all terrible):

Sunshine
I was really enjoying Danny Boyle’s sci-fi horror up until the last 15 minutes. At that point, the movie jumped a (flaming) shark and descended into ridiculousness.

Vanilla Sky
What? Hurgghh? My head hurt after seeing this one – it was much, much worse than a year of college philosophy and made a ton less sense.

The Game
A happy ending plastered onto what had hitherto been a satisfying amoral thriller. Cue a pissed-off audience.

Looking for Mr. Goodbar
Diane Keaton goes looking for love in what seems to be a heart-warming romcom, then gets horribly murdered by one of her dates. Cut a dropped-open mouth from this viewer.

Identity
A thoroughly entertaining potboiler with a batshit crazy ending. Worse than Bobby waking up in the shower in Dallas – by a mile.

1 comment:

Milanoguy said...

Well of the five movies listed I’ve only seen “Sunshine” and since I love it, I feel compelled to defend it.

By the “jump the shark” ending I assume the psychotic captain of the first ship sneaking aboard the second ship and trying (with some success) to kill everyone?

Well it wasn’t “jump the shark” to me; apparently solar radiation does strange things to people.

Still I am sucker for this kind of movie as I love the whole, your spaceship breaks down in the middle of space and/or your crew becomes psychotic, genre. And I’ve had a lot of it recently, Red Planet, Mission to Mars, Solaris(remake).

My love of celestial mayhem may be because I’m surrounded by rabid manned space enthusiasts who loudly demand that we should have manned missions to the Moon, Mars, and any other planetary body that they can remember from their fifth grade science.