Ever had that moment where an enjoyable film suddenly trips over its own feet? Yep, it’s frustrating, isn’t it? Some films have so much going for them but just don’t know how to wrap things up competently. A bad ending really can taint the whole experience, no matter how good the film is as a whole. So, let’s take a look at some efforts which stumbled at the finishing line:
5) Lady Vengeance (2005)
Lady Vengeance, the third film in the Vengeance trilogy, is let down by an uncharacteristically tame ending to a Park Chan-wook film. A man who kidnapped children for ransom money but then murdered them is now at the mercy of the parents of these children. Up to this point, the film has had a fast-paced, playful, Tarantino-esque tone so you would expect a cathartic and brutal ending. Instead, we get a slow and contemplative finale. Whilst it is definitely still brutal, as an audience member you want to see a more action packed and fitting climax. It doesn’t seem like the punishment our antagonist deserves and is a disappointing way to end an otherwise strong and consistent film.
4) The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
The Lord of the Rings trilogy is the definition of lacking narrative integrity. For a series with such a dark and brooding tone, nothing really happens. The only main character who dies is one we don’t really care about, and every time a significant character is on the brink of death some nonsense piece of plot convenience swoops in to save the day. The ending to the final film in the trilogy is just a continuation of this. Frodo and Sam manage, surprisingly easily, to put the ring into the fire. Then they are somehow spared being burnt alive by lava by sitting a few feet above it. If you’ve ever been at a bonfire and have had the fire burn your face from a long distance, you know that this is nonsense. They would’ve and should’ve been cooked alive, as this would’ve been a far more emotional end to their unmerciful journey. NOPE. The plot saving, lazy screenwriting eagle swoooooops in yet again to save the day, and we get a lot of cheesy reunions shot with blinding exposure which is as overly sweet as your embarrassingly doting grandma. And who could forget that disgustingly saccharine scene in which the fellowship come into Frodo’s bedroom? It’s a painful ending. I love The Lord of the Rings but it never follows through on its promises.
3) 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)
I didn’t know what to expect from 10 Cloverfield Lane. Its predecessor, Cloverfield Lane, was your standard shaky found footage fare, not the worst film but nothing particularly memorable. However, this movie exceeded my wildest expectations. It was a smart, tense, mysterious thriller. It was well acted, written, and kept you guessing throughout. I expected this to be a contrived, over the top, action-packed Hollywood flick, and it wasn’t. That is until the end at least. What had been a claustrophobic and downplayed movie became generic CGI action. What made this movie so good was the ambiguity, but any subtlety is removed and we instead get our protagonist destroying an alien spaceship with a grenade. Maybe they thought that the average cinema goer would demand more action, especially from a movie in a series about a destructive monster. But this was ill-judged and ruined any kind of suspense that was built up. Luckily the rest of the film did enough to make this movie more than praiseworthy, but this ending threatened to ruin it all.
2) Signs (2002)
If you haven’t heard of this notorious ending then you probably live under a rock. M. Night Shyamalan just has to chuck a plot-twist in somewhere for the sake of it, and this was by far his most ridiculous. Whilst Signs, regardless of this ending, isn’t exactly the holy grail of cinema, it was a decent alien invasion thriller. It had some okay acting, writing, directing, and was pretty suspenseful. However, any credit it earns itself was destroyed by the finale. So, we like to consider ourselves a fairly intelligent species. We’ve managed to visit other planets, have sent out several probes, and could pretty accurately determine the levels of hostility to life on an alien planet. Now, if we are smart, imagine how intelligent an alien race who could travel several light years to get to our planet would have to be. You would assume they’d have a pretty good understanding of how sustainable life was on the planet they wanted to capture. Nope. Their weakness is water. W A T E R. You know water, it’s the stuff that covers the majority of our planet’s surface and falls from the sky. Whyyyyyyy have this plot twist?! If you thought aliens being killed by bacteria was a weak ending to The War of the Worlds, then Signs makes that look like Wuthering Heights. And what even was there plan?! To stand on top of roofs for a while, and cause a few jump scares? Shyamalan might be adamant on intelligent lifeforms existing elsewhere in the universe, but this plot twist makes me question the intellect of the human race.
1) A.I. (2001)
CONGRATULATIONS A.I., YOU HAVE WON THE COMPETITION FOR CHEESIEST ENDING EVER!
A.I., A.I., A.I., you had so much going for you! This was originally a Kubrick project, but later in his life, he handed the reigns to Spielberg, who eventually pressed on with it after Kubrick’s death. And, to be fair to him, Spielberg did an admirable job, making the film his own, but retaining somewhat of the dark Kubrick feel. It was a complex, interesting and original film, with an intriguing blend of Spielberg’s and Kubrick’s auteurist styles. That is, until the ending. Nothing about the climax of the film had a hint of Kubrick to it. Instead, it was more E.T., which in a film with a bleak tone was completely jarring and out of place. Kubrick would’ve left the ending ambiguous, but instead, Spielberg had to go and please people by adding an overly sentimental and contrived ending, in which David’s mother comes back to life for a day. It’s sooooo needless and prolongs the film when it was seemingly at an end, and is far too saccharine for what was essentially an homage to Kubrick. It was an insult to the greatest ever director and dragged down an otherwise fascinating film.