Seven ways not to end a movie

This article is  from IMDb

on Sun, 07/24/2011 - 19:13
The film endings which make audiences clutch their faces in disbelief, turn to each other as the credits roll and say, “Really? That’s how it ends?"
Warning: A shedload of spoilers lies ahead…
In the interests of full disclosure, I should admit that my own filmmaking experience is pretty limited. Technically there’s just the one credit, a four minute docu-short on occupied France I co-wrote, directed and starred in at the age of twelve (we wore berets for realism). Not counting year 9 history homework then, I can state with confidence that I have bugger all clue how to make a movie.
Say, though, a situation arose in which I did have to get behind the camera (maybe, after the zombie apocalypse, my fellow survivors quickly discern I can be of no practical use to a fledgling society and set me to work on the entertainment side of things), these are the seven movie endings I’d try my hardest to avoid.
7. Unconvincingly ageing your characters by a couple of decades
Though popular goodwill towards the last of the Harry Potter films seems to have silenced even the snarkiest of snarks, it’s hard not to giggle at the Deathly Hallows: Part Two “19 years later” coda.
Two decades after all the horcrux adventures, in waft our erstwhile teen heroes looking for all the world like they’re playing grown-ups in their primary school play. As Simon Pegg pointed out on Twitter this weekend, the kids don’t look 19 years older, just 19 times less fashionable.
Rupert Grint and Dan Radcliffe do their best to project fatherly vibes decked out in Blue Harbour sports jackets, middle-age spread and side partings, but it’s a tall order.
Bonnie Wright and Emma Watson in particular look like they’ve been through a morning TV make-over from 1978, all hairspray, handbags, and sensible heels. Aiming for ‘late-thirties mum’, the costume department came up with ‘late for the Rotary Club lunch Margot Leadbetter’. A bouffant and a blouse does not a grown-up lady make.
What choice did Yates and co. have, though? The epilogue’s there in the book, plain as day, and a twenty hour story needs a proper ending. But that make-up? Those costumes? Afraid to say I left the cinema in a fit of giggles rather than a flood of tears.
6. With a load of unnecessary expository flannel
Hitchcock’s Psycho set a fair few cinematic standards, so it’s easy to forgive a shaky conclusion, but über-film critic Roger Ebert’s call on the ending is spot-on. Psycho gives us narrative subversion, suspense, tension, surprise, more suspense, and then… a very lengthy explanation of everything you’ve already worked out for yourself. Ebert called the psychiatrist’s monologue “an anti-climax almost to the point of parody” and it’s hard to see it any other way.
There are a fair few other culprits which choose this kind of ending, some shout-at-the-screen annoying, others which detract more subtly from the film you’ve just seen. Mark Romanek and Alex Garland did a fine job on last year’s Never Let Me Go adaptation, but chose to end on a line which turned Kazuo Ishiguro’s poignant subtext into just text, dismantling the otherwise wonderful work achieved in those final moments.
5. With a very, very silly last line
As anyone who saw Dara O Briain’s last tour will know, Roland Emmerich’s disaster movie 2012 is a ripe candidate for comic dismantling, but that last line really takes the biscuit.
As an ark containing what’s left of the human race sets sail for whatever post-apocalyptic future lies ahead, John Cusack’s on-screen daughter looks up at her father and, referencing her earlier bed-wetting problem, utters the poignant words, “No more pull-ups.” Cusack’s character, no doubt considering the extreme trauma he and his family have been through, nods sagely, tells her, “Nice”, and the ship journeys on.
To be fair, it might not be the silliest thing about 2012, but it is a corker of a line to end on. We can only think it was the result of an elaborate in-joke between the script editors. That, or they had a good long think about the final image they wanted to linger in the audience’s mind after the film and decided a pair of pissy knickers was just the ticket.
4. By saying it was all a dream
MGM’s decision to have Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz wake up on the Gale farm with the words “I had the strangest dream” has a lot to answer for. Unlike the Oz books, which made it clear the magical land was as real as you or I, the film popularised an ending so overused it fell into parody decades ago.
Granted, there have been some interesting takes on the “It was all a dream” doodad. Nolan’s Inception stands out in recent years as reinvigorating the cliché, building its entire narrative around dream layers. The Nightmare on Elm Street franchise started out with an interesting take, but eventually played the dream/reality card to death (if you’ll excuse the pun). These days, especially post-Inception, you’d have to work pretty hard to make one of these endings anything other than pastiche.
3. On a cliff-hanger that sucks all the meaning out of the preceding story
I know it’s fashionable to give the later films of M. Night Shyamalan a bit of a kicking, but sometimes, like knowing black is slimming, fashion just happens to be right. Limiting myself to just one from his post-Unbreakable oeuvre was tricky, but The Happening swung the vote.
Much like 2012, the ending is perhaps not the silliest thing about The Happening, but it does sum up a whole tranche of film endings which think a cliff-hanger equals profundity. It doesn’t, it equals annoying. The Italian Job got away with it because such a literal take on the cliché was pithy and funny. Just about every other movie that’s tried it since (and I include Inception in that group) makes me involuntarily dig my fingernails into the flesh on my thighs. What can I say? I like a proper ending.
After a promising start, The Happening soon becomes a tedious road movie starring Marky Mark and Zooey Deschanel, whose dysfunctional relationship falls apart then magically repairs itself against the backdrop of some killer effin pollen or whatever was going on.
After the murderous tree pheromone that’s been plaguing the States is quelled, we’re treated to a scene of domestic bliss for the couple. All’s well that ends well. Except, no. Because the tree thing starts happening again, in Europe this time, so they’re all probably going to get pollen-ed to death anyway. Which renders every endless minute we’ve just sat through null and void.
One internet commenter said the brick-subtle environmental message at the end of The Happening made him so angry that he stopped recycling. Skewed logic I know, but I understand his pain.
2. By revealing the protagonist has a split personality
An exchange in Spike Jonze and Charlie Kaufman’s 2002 Adaptation just about sums up the point we’ve reached with movies which end on this kind of shock revelation. Donald Kaufman (Nicolas Cage) excitedly explains the third act twist in his schlocky serial killer screenplay, in which it’s revealed the split personality murderer turns out to be both the cop chasing him, and the cop’s love interest. Yes, it might make the final chase scene a little tricky to film, but what a reveal!
Fair enough, some interesting movies have turned successfully on this premise, PsychoFight Club and The Machinist amongst them. We’re much more likely, though, to see much less interesting pictures mangle the twist. Watch Robert De Niro in 2005’s Hide and Seek if you need convincing this is an ending-type that should be dead and buried. After Adaptation, the “So he was really the other guy too” aha is a cinematic exit to avoid.
(Interestingly, a year after Adaptation was released, Dennis Lehane’s novel Shutter Island came out, filmed by Scorsese in 2010. Now I’m not saying there’s a connection between those two things, just that it’s definitely where Lehane got the idea from.)
1. By ending five times before the credits roll
Much has been written about the lengthy tie-up Peter Jackson gave to the last in The Lord of the Rings trilogy so I hope it doesn’t seem uncharitable if I belatedly join in.
Having kept up with Jackson’s video blogs from the set ofThe Hobbit movies, I want to say from the outset that the director seems like a stand-up gent, and those three films are incredible spectacles. If, however, Jackson had cut to just one more drawn-out farewell scene before eventually rolling the credits on Return of the King, I might have been forced to an uncharacteristic display of violence.
I accept that, much like the Potter series, LOTR fans needed an ending and justice had to be done to the books' conclusion. Little though, can stop you from caring about the fate of a film’s characters more than having to watch them eat Lembas bread in slow-motion for forty five minutes.  (I’ve just been reminded that Return of the King doesn’t actually end like that, but why let anything so tedious as fact get in the way). Once the peril’s out of the way, surely an audience just needs a quick hug and a clap on the back so we can all get home in time to pay the babysitter.
Thus concludes our look back at seven cheek-bitingly frustrating movie endings.
The end. (There now, that wasn’t so difficult, was it?)