Thursday, June 11, 2009

Bad Endings

Sometimes, no matter how much I like a book, or a movie, it's undone in the last few moments when the author or director flubs the ending. It's never the intention to do so, mind you, and I'm sure the director or author would quibble with my interpretation of their actions, but I have discovered more often than not that when this happens it was done to give the movie or book that added little twist, that extra punch.

It's like spiking the last sip of punch at a party and expecting it to improve the already consumed bowl of bad punch. Or even good punch, because it generally annoys me most when, up to that point, I had actually been enjoying the book or the movie. It might be a twist that makes no sense given the plot to that point. Or it might require the characters to act, well, out of character. Or it just might be a shock ending that's simply there to shock, and so even if it makes some semblance of sense, it just doesn't fit.

Like the frozen head of Adolf Hitler. (Which, in a side note, was what I was originally going to title this post. Then I thought better about it, given the weirdos out there on the web. I expect the various people that might hone in on that title are as computer savvy as the rest of us.)

But I'm not kidding about the frozen head. It was a suspense book, one of those conspiracy-driven plot things that, by and large, I have stopped reading in my later years even though at one point my bookshelves were lined with Ludlums and Ludlum wannabes. There's another blog entry in that change of tastes, but I read the book in question here shortly after I got to China. So it was a case of beggers not being choosers.

It was an entertaining enough yarn up until then, and although the eventual premise behind it - namely being able to graft someone else's head onto someone else's body - was, in retrospect, rather ludicrous, it had been presented with enough gravitas that it wasn't causing me to not enjoy the book. Then, in the climactic scene in the Alps, the author pushed the envelope just a hair to far with, you guessed it, the frozen head of Adolf Hitler. Under glass, no less. It made "The Boys from Brazil" seem almost like a documentary by comparison.

Other works have lost me at the end, too. Like "Hannibal." No, not the book, where the ending, though ludicrous, was still somewhat satisfactory. No, I mean the movie, where Lector, who has, through both movies (there were only two at that point) demonstrated that he is nothing, if not in control of his situation, somehow finds himself handcuffed with no other recourse than a meat cleaver. This is *not* the Lector we've been watching unto this point, because that Lector would not have left the handcuffs lying around unless he had the key for them in his pocket. Made no sense at all, and was there strictly for shock value.

Likewise some B-list movie I saw once with Adrian Paul, of "Highlander: The Series" fame... Well, ok, he's done other things, and I first saw him in "War of the Worlds" which should, I think, firmly cement my geek credentials here. I don't remember much of the movie in question, other than it was some sort of puzzle flick... and that the ending, clearly done just to be a "twist" didn't fit at all. Moreover, I didn't like it, and it ruined what had been an otherwise enjoyable little film up unto that point.

What's an author to do about it? Well, for starters, it's made me vow never to do anything like that with my own works. Secondly, from time to time it gives me ideas about where to go and what to do and those lead to little gems that, eventually, find their way into stories. Most of the time with no resemblance to their starting point.

(As a final aside, I don't quibble with "The Natural" or "Jaws." One deviates from the source - okay, both do, but one more famously so - and the other was just, on the face of it, kind of silly. But even knowing that, both endings fit the films they are in, and make them work, and we as the audience don't question them.)

1 comment:

bettielee said...

Excellent post - and I can't believe I never clicked to find out about your fleas, sicboston. I am still calling you that, because you don't have an "all about me" where we learn all your darknest, deepest secrets. You might wanna think about that...