Movies struggle to find ‘The End’

It seems like there are so many movies that have a great exciting hook in the beginning, but end up floundering in the third act. Why is that?  Tom Hooper, Ang Lee and Steven Spielberg offer some insight.

The filmgoer was noticeably upset. He didn’t like a moment in ”Lincoln.” More specifically, he didn’t like the final moments of “Lincoln.”

“I don’t understand why it didn’t just end when Lincoln is walking down the hall and the butler gives him his hat,” he said. “Why did I need to see him dying on the bed? I have no idea what Spielberg was trying to do.”

The man on the mini-rant wasn’t some multiplex loudmouth. He was actor Samuel L. Jackson, and he was just getting started. “I didn’t need the assassination at all. Unless he’s going to show Lincoln getting his brains blown out. And even then, why am I watching it? The movie had a better ending 10 minutes before.”

Jackson was offering a sentiment common among people who’ve seen “Lincoln” and moviegoers in general: Hollywood films are struggling to find the exit. Stories that seem to end, end again, and then end once more. Climactic scenes wind down, then wind up. Movies that appear headed for a satisfying resolution turn away, then try to stumble back.

The definition of a good ending is as hard to pin down as Keyser Söze. But there has been no shortage of filmic finales for people to shake their fists at this season. (Caution: Spoilers ahead.)

After nearly 150 minutes of Tom Hooper’s “Les Misérables,” Jean Valjean has said a tearful goodbye to Marius and made him promise to protect his beloved Cosette. It is heartbreaking; it is satisfying. There are tears, and melancholic smiles.

But like a late-night infomercial, there’s more. A wedding follows. Marius and Cosette rejoice. Ah, a nice wedding finish. Wait, why is Sacha Baron Cohen back to make trouble? The movie can’t end with Sacha Baron Cohen making trouble, can it? Of course, it can’t. There is another scene. Candles. A convent. Valjean is still alive! No, no, now he is dead. But wait, he is given a new chance in the afterlife. The end seems to take, well, an eternity, as Hooper seems to grope around for an ending to match Hugo’s novel.

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Personally, I loved the ending of Life of Pi and if it wasn’t for that metaphorical twist, I probably wouldn’t have liked it so much. Hat tip to Go Into The Story.