Everything was going just fine. The main characters were charming. The script was filled with taut storytelling and good dialogue. The cinematography was getting the job done with aplomb. And then, in the last fifteen minutes, everything goes to pot. For whatever reason, your perfectly fine little film takes a big left turn and you’re left scratching your head and wondering what exactly went wrong. Nothing sucks the fun out of an otherwise good movie like a terrible ending. Here are some of Hollywood’s all-time worst.
Everything is going totally fine during Chris Nolan’s space epic. Matthew McConaughey earns those accolades by heading off into space in search of a better life for his children, and Nolan gets down to the business of asking the film’s real question: does humanity deserve a second chance? And what kind of second chance should that form take? That bold question was wrapped in a rip-roaring space adventure with a knock-out cast. Then, suddenly, McConaughey is inside a space bookcase communicating with his daughter just in time to . . . blah blah blah. The randomness of the metaphysical moment is completely out of character for a film that’s been so dire up to this point. It’s like Nolan suddenly decided that his movie was too bleak and he just needed a celluloid hug. The answer is love people . . . oh, wait, that’s just the total cop out you opt for when you don’t have the stones to suggest that perhaps humanity has just run its course.
M. Night Shyamalan almost smashes it right out of the park with Signs. The human drama unfolding was compelling (especially since Mel Gibson’s tumultuous relationship with God seemed incredibly apt), the encroaching alien menace was believably scary (and rolled out with Hitchcockian skill), and the message about God’s impact on our daily lives was being made nicely. Then, the aliens are allergic to water. Water. What the heck kind of stupid alien race is allergic to water and then tries to take over a planet that’s literally covered in the stuff? This one preposterous element essentially dismantles the entirety of the film, including Shyamalan’s almost-made message.
3. Tim Burton’s ‘Planet of the Apes’
In the original 1968 version of Planet of the Apes, there’s a neat reveal at the end of the film that the film’s human star has been on Earth the whole time. It’s clean, it’s appropriate, and it’s shocking. In his 2001 remake, Burton does a great job building the story and resolving the conflict between Marky Mark and an alien planet filled with apes. Then, he gets into his ship once the day’s been saved and returns to Earth, only to discover that the evil ape General Thade has usurped Lincoln’s place in the Lincoln Memorial. Marky Mark is promptly arrested and the credits roll. There is literally no logic behind this ending beyond wanting to ape (hehehe) the original ending.
4. ‘Man of Steel’
Okay, if you ask some people — like this writer — pretty much the entirety of Man of Steel is a big, boring, loud mess. It plays like a music video made in the late nineties, with Superman as the conflicted hero at its center. He spends almost the entire film moaning and groaning about what he should do with his life (a very non-Superman trait), only to decide at the last minute that he should beat the crap out of the bad guy in the middle of a city, regardless of the loss of life (another non-Superman trait) before snapping his neck in order to end the threat. In the entire history of the character, Superman has only killed one thing, ever (it was Doomsday). And even then he only did it because it was literally the only way to stop him. Offing Zod makes no sense, it’s not Superman, and it kills the momentum of the film, which again, was boring anyway.
5. ‘X-Men: The Last Stand’
After two solid X-Men films, Bryan Singer went off to direct a mediocre Superman film, leaving Rush Hour helmer Brett Ratner to tie up Singer’s thoughtful X-trilogy. In true Ratner fashion, he decided that the only way to complete the trilogy was by completely undercutting 50 prior years of X-Men stories, and totally sucking the levity out of Singer’s universe. So, tons of people lose their powers, Rogue decides that being a mutant is too tough, Wolverine and Jean Grey share the most cliched kiss in superhero history, and then the movie just ends.
6. ‘No Country For Old Men’
Call this a personal problem. In spite of the fact that the Coen Brothers’ rumination on the nature of good vs. evil is freaking beautifully executed, their conclusion is wholly depressing. Essentially, the film sets up a Western-style narrative that should be leading up to a showdown between the dastardly Chigurh and the exhausted Sheriff Bell. Of course, that never happens. Instead, Chigurh murders his quarry, recovers his money, and then heads on out of town to murder a totally innocent loose-end. And Bell, our hero, shrugs his shoulders, retires, and basically says that the march of evil is something no aging hero can do anything about. In fact, it seems the Coen Brothers’ conclusion is that the whole Universe is totally random and inexplicable, as the movie’s conclusion — in which Chigurh is horribly injured in an unforeseen car crash — seems to hint that there’s no such thing as good vs. evil, only happenstance. It’s pretty darn bleak.
7. ‘Cast Away’
It’s hard for any film with only one real character to work, but thanks to Tom Hanks’ amazing performance, Cast Away largely does. In spite of the jokes that have popped up in the years since, even Wilson the volleyball is endearingly used (and his departure is crushing). The real problem with Cast Away is this: after years of sustaining what little sanity he might have on the memory of a woman he’s desperate to get back to, Hanks discovers that she’s married his dentist and gotten knocked up. Plus, their kid is at least two or three. Did she hit on the dentist at Hanks’ fake funeral? I mean, come on, let the body cool a bit before you move on lady, sheesh.
Hey, another entry for everyone’s favorite Kryptonian. So, 1978’s Superman was a big hit for good reason. Ninety percent of the film is awesome. Of course, then the director kills off Lois Lane and Superman freaks the geek out, flies into space and then reverses time by making the Earth spin backwards on its axis. Okay, so there’s obviously a fair amount of suspension of disbelief when you’re rooting for a super strong alien who’s infallibly moral and shoots laser beams out of his eyes, but come on people. I’m pretty sure the only thing that would happen if you spun the Earth backward on its axis is that everyone on the planet would die. And that’s just the beginning of the problems with this very stupid plot device.
For the most part, Danny Boyle’s Sunshine is a solid thinker of science fiction. The story follows a team of people who are on a suicide mission to restart the Sun with a nuclear bomb. After a series of perfectly executed bad decisions and dread-inducing twists of fate, the science fiction film goes totally off the rails when there’s suddenly a homicidal maniac tearing through half the crew. It might make the final moments of the film a little more tense, but it also feels like a cop out that partially betrays Boyle’s existential drama leading up to that point.
At the end of this iconic high school musical, bookish Sandy gets the boy of her dreams and all she has to do is totally change everything about her personality to make him (and his friends) happy. It’s like a fairy tale. A fairy tale that gets even stupider once Danny and Sandy hop in their car and fly off into the sky for some reason.
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