Feature: And now, the end is ne-

Planet of the Apes

So, Charlton Heston has just left the cave of human trinkets and has set off on horseback with Nova and the warnings of Dr Zaius ringing in his ears.  They follow the shoreline of the beach towards the Forbidden Zone until Heston stops his horse, dismounts and falls to his knees in despair before the vision that towers over him.  The camera zooms out from his broken demeanour to  reveal…

End credits.

Imagine if that was actually how the original Planet of the Apes ended.  How frustrated and disappointed would you be?  Thankfully, the big twist was revealed and we saw exactly what Heston saw, and not only did it give us the most iconic ending of any film of the 1960s but it could arguably be the most jaw-dropping and memorable ending of a film ever.  Film lovers across the world spanning generations would have been robbed of this sublime ending if the director decided to be a pretentious clever-dick and left the audience guessing what had enraged Heston so much by just fading to black at the end instead.

“Why is he writing this?” I hear you ask.  As you can probably tell, I have a bee in my bonnet and I need to vent!

I was watching a fantastic film the other night called What Richard Did.  It was directed by Lenny Abrahamson, who brought us my film of the year so far, Room, so I took a trip through his back catalogue and thought I’d give it a go.  It’s about a young man and all round top bloke called Richard who is a promising rugby player and college graduate who makes a rash decision on a drunken night out that ends in tragedy, and the film depicts the fallout forWhat Richard Did Richard and certain friends and family.  It has some particularly stunning performances from possible-Han-Solo Jack Reynor as the lead and Lars Mikkelsen as his father, and Abrahamson’s unfussy direction lets the story breath.  He really has a talent for filming the quiet moments of a story and still be able to keep an audience’s attention despite little happening on screen.  Anyway, the film plays out and towards the end Richard decides to do something that will not only change his life forever but would no doubt impact those closest to him.  From there we see him in a lecture hall, then sitting at home, then…

End credits!

Really?! End credits?!  So we’re not going to see Richard making his life-changing decision then?  You’re just going to stop it there and leave the audience hanging after they invested so much time and emotion in a story you can’t be bothered to finish properly?!?!

Sorry… I’m fine now, honest… I must have needed to vent more than I thought…

As you can tell, I wasn’t happy with the film stopping so abruptly when, in my opinion, it was far from finished.  It was such an impressive film that hooked me from the start and ripped my emotions to shreds, which then dumped me in a cold black void of nothingness. I’m not going to rule out that this may have been the point of the film, where he makes his decision but then goes against it, but if that was how the story was supposed to end then it was very rushed and not at all clear that this was his final action as there were no reactions from those that would have been affected if he would have stayed his course.

Another film to do this is No Country For Old Men, which has Tommy Lee Jones sitting at a table giving a little speech about his dreams and then it just stops.  Mind you, it is a Coen Brothers film so perhaps it ended with an analogy I didn’t understand…

It’s infuriating!  I love films as they have the power to make me laugh and cry (and I never do the latter) and for a film to end prematurely like this is just not acceptable.

The film doesn’t even have to finish at the end of the story, so long as there is a satisfactory resolution to reward the time you have invested.  One of my favourite endings to a film is Once Upon a Time in America, and that ends in the middle of the story which is where the film started.  From the start, which is the middle, it jumps to the end, goes back to the beginning and continues to go backwards and forwards until the credits role. Imagine if the film just fades to black with no identifiable ending after spending the best part of four hours watching it!

So film-makers, if you are making a Hollywood blockbuster, an indie independent or an advert for Creme Eggs (I wrote this during Easter weekend), please put a decent ending on your film.  I’d rather watch Prometheus again and again with its clear ending than watch a fantastic film let down by an abrupt halt…

…actually… maybe not Prometheus


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