The Inconclusive Climax
When relationships end … you expect a bad ending.
When jobs end … that can be pretty ugly, too.
Saturday Night Live skits … well, they just never end.
But movies? The ending of a movie is supposed to leave moviegoers fulfilled!
Cliffhangers are fine – just as long as there is still a sense of completion – an understanding that this is the only way the movie could have possibly ended.
Take Silence of the Lambs – that movie could only have ended the way it did. Detective Clarice Starling catches the serial killer Buffalo Bill, and the infamous Hannibal Lechter escapes. The final scene is Hannibal the Cannibal following closely behind a prospective victim. While the ending leaves open the inevitable sequel, the moviegoer is fulfilled, thinking, Ah, this is how it was supposed to end.
A good cliffhanger should leave the viewer with a feeling of possibility rather than no idea at all.
I am going to spoil a few endings, so if you haven’t seen the movie, don’t read any further!
There is this movie called Limbo that has recently been experiencing a run on cable television. It’s a watchable movie, that slowly builds tension, carefully luring the viewer into the lives of the three main characters. There is a point in the movie where the three main characters are stranded on an island and a plane approaches. Limbo effectively builds with a slow burn and we realize the person in this plane is someone who has either come to save the trio from the despair of the island or come to kill them for witnessing a murder. The movie ends.
One definition of limbo is something that is midway between two extremes. In the case of the movie Limbo, the filmmakers apparently wanted to leave us somewhere between life and death. Instead, they simply leave. There is no in between. In fact, there is nothing. This is possibly one of the worst endings ever.
Another horrible ending is the money making monster Jurassic Park. This was a film that was entertaining in a Discovery Channel—Saturday Matinee kind-of-way. It builds to an action packed ending with fantastic special effects, but an awful, just horrible conclusion.
The land of the lost is simply left behind. There is no ending and no resolution other than the main characters surviving. It’s the most blatant and insulting way for a filmmaker to say, Okay, we’re going to make a sequel.
I don’t mind a filmmaker occasionally insulting my intelligence and asking me to suspend my belief in very unbelievable situations, but at least assume I do have some level of intelligence.
And, now, in the spirit of bad endings. I have said all I have to say. Everybody dies. The end.
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