20 December 2009
Tops of the Millennium: Good Films with Shit Endings
By popular request (one person requested) today I bring you the inverse of this post. The following are spectacular (if not...ok) films that really were twisted into horrible freakish abominations against God by crappy, crappy endings. I found that most movies I thought of and researched were pretty predictable, everyone already knows and complains about these movies all time, but each one could have been truly great with a salvageable ending. Spoilers obviously abound all over this place. Let's get started, ranked in order of how good the movie COULD have been:
#5: Jurassic Park III (2001)
A lot of this movie isn't bad. The Raptors are smart and nasty, Spino dominates Rexie like a bitch and it's awesome to finally see some Pterosaurs eat some human meat. Does it have the sheer "wow" factor and originality of the first beautiful movie in the franchise? Of course not. But by all standards it's not a terrible movie, Grant is back and pretty grumpy, Hammond is near death, all is well.
Then the ending. Grant in the midst of a Spino drowning muffles into a radio to Ellie Sattler back on the mainland "ELLIE! THE RIVER!" That's all he gets out. Next thing you know, the Army's on Isla Nublar bailing them out. What the hell happened? The Lost World (1997) had a pretty sweet child-wish fulfillment ending with Rex stomping around San Diego. JP3 is the worst deus ex cop-out I've ever seen. Makes me want a fourthquel to just wash that bad taste out of my mouth.
#4: Superman Returns (2006)
Superman Returns really sucked. My problems with this movie originated when someone pointed out to me that all Supes does is lift three big things and that's about it. Which is exactly true. It's also full of cheeky, dumb "ho ho" lines like the "It's a bird, it's a plane, no it's -" and then Clark walks in. It's really dumb, but could have been spectacular if A) Supes fought someone or B) it simply didn't end with Supes being Professor Creep-O outside Lois' house using his hypno X-Ray vision to stare at his sleeping illegitimate son for hours and hours during the night. The ending to Luthor's story is clever and funny and I'll give credit to that, but for Supes it's bland and cliched. Next.
#3: Signs (2002)
M. Night Shamalamadingdong could very easily own every spot on this list for a Millennium's worth of bad endings (while The Sixth Sense  should be high for best of the previous decade). Signs is easily the worst though. Shammy took a pretty unique concept that no one had really touched yet, and loaded the first half with creepy nuanced portrayals of these alien attacks on a small family of children. Even the first alien "footage" at the birthday party has an understated creepiness to it. At the same time, you think about that scene for ten more seconds and you realise how moronic it is and how horrible the CGI looks and the movie is lost. Any kind of subtlty is thrown out the window, the whole aliens are shown (ugh take some cues from Jaws, dammit, the monsters are way scarier when unseen), and not only that, defeated by water. WATER. What's next, a worldwide plant attack?
#2: Identity (2003)
This was a really cool concept through and through. Basically the idea is that all these strangers meet up, but then it turns out they're all inside some crazy dudes head. It seems played but it toys with this notion really well, the inability to escape the rainy motel and the slow death of all the major characters eliminating personalities, classic whodunit with a psychiatric twist. Then it turns out the kid did it. Shit. It's pretty unfulfilling and as it starts with seemingly cool places to go, it gets no where.
#1: War of the Worlds
This movie gets the number one spot for a few reasons. First off, it's the easiest problem to fix. Robbie dies. Boom, great movie. By the same nature it's the ending that fits the least with the rest of the film. Every scene in the first half of the War of the Worlds is incredibly dense. Tom Cruise has a strong desire to both provide for his children and shove them off on his ex-wife. He's always trying to prove himself as a father but he really isn't that good at it. His kids know this, too and resent him for it. The whole movie ends up being interesting because the whole point in Tom traveling to Boston is to get rid of his kids so he doesn't have to be responsible for them anymore. It also benefits the kids, because they don't have to deal with his incompetence anymore.
Anyway, the ending is a kick in the balls on a few accounts: First, Boston wasn't touched by the Martians. At all. Is Tom really a poor father because his house got destroyed and his ex-wife's didn't? How would the children have been more safe with their mom, out of luck? Tom gets hardly any thanks for braving the War and sacrificing his most basic human decencies to deliver his children. Robbie being alive also justifies his desire for independence and proves that Robbie would have been a better leader in their situation than Tom was. That's a straight shot to both of Tom's nuts and only demonstrates that his family is better off without him. This is all incredibly depressing. The second half of the film pushes Tom even further, going to murderous extents to protect his family, which at that point is essentially the only connection to the world he has left. He murders Tim Robbins because he lost Robbie, the fact that Robbie lives makes his murder more meaningless. This sucks.
I have less of a problem with the aliens being killed by bacterium. I personally feel it's reasonable that Martians wouldn't have been able to test our atmosphere for all types of bacteria, although its certainly a lazy narrative device, even if it was the original ending as well. It certainly doesn't help the film's case.
Honourable Mention: Sunshine (2007). Incredible movie about space, loneliness, duty and science until it decided it wanted to be a stereotypical slasher for the last ten minutes. What the hell. We can also probably throw in I Am Legend (2007), of which this ending is far superior. There actually is a good alternate ending, but YouTube is too full of joke Will Smith videos for me to actually find it. Hoorah for humour clouding reason. Luckily, that never happens around here. Eva eva.