Saturday, April 11, 2009

Roundtable Goes to the Movies

Ah, the flickering lights of the cinema. Here people, couples, families, bitter rivals, and yes, even gentlemen can enjoy stories woven from fanciful flights of fantasy and then performed by the great thespians of our age. With a good movie, a dull afternoon is filled, a quiet evening made worthwhile, and perhaps, upon occasion, a fresh spark fanned into new romance. Movies can be moving. Movies can be touching. Movies can be magical.

We are not here to discuss those movies.

There exists a number of films with endings which are wholly unsatisfactory to their audience. A number some might speculate grossly dwarfs those which in fact are pleasing from start to finish. This week I posed the question to our roundtable attendees; if you were given the power to alter one of these works so that the ending did not fall quite so flat, which movie would you choose, and how would you change it? Let's see what our panel came up with.

John Ozkirbas

There's a myriad of movies that I've walked out of where I've thought, "I would totally do that differently." But, I concede, I'm not a director and nor will I probably ever be. However, with film, I gripe over wasted potential. And Hancock is a movie that immediately comes to mind in that department.

There's a lot about this movie that was great. The premise: a degenerate, careless superhero is commissioned to reform his image for both his own betterment and for the benefit of those he begrudgingly rescues from peril. The plot progresses and the performances are good, the special effects were impressive, and the story was actually interesting and kind of original for a superhero movie. No major nemesis was necessary - Hancock was his own bad guy - and I thought that idea had a lot of potential. And then a series of twists happen that progressively have the mythology make less and less sense and then the movie was ruined.

The twists themselves weren't bad. I kind of saw coming, and liked, that Mary (Charlize Theron) turned out to be a superbeing tied to Hancock's mysterious origins. And Hancock getting shot and wounded was a genuine "what-the-fuck?" moment, but the explanations for why were just complete crap. The general gist is that Hancock and Mary represent one of the ancient parings of Gods seen in nearly every culture's mythologies since the beginning of time. They're natural safety buffers implemented to protect the general populous from danger and threats by a nameless force/nature - which is acceptable. It's Apollo and Demeter (which explains the weather change during the big fight scene) - this fact just isn't very apparent to the audience. The problem - whenever these ancient parings spend too much time with one another they start to turn mortal and become prone to things like death, disease, and assassination attempts. They don't really explain how or why this happens - just that it does - and the characters spend the last half of the movie dealing with the unfortunate and nonsensical mythology they're trapped in. Mary's motivations for her behavior are compromised, the origin story now presents hazy continuity holes, and Hancock's character growth is ultimately dwarfed by the omnipresent wonder of "why is this happening?" They also decide to just kinda toss in a recurring bad guy from earlier in the movie (a big mistake - just unnecessary, an obvious afterthought, and the character is forgettable).

So, what would I change about the ending (or last half of the film, I guess)? For starters, I would have played up Hancock's rehab. That's where all the story is, a lot of humor comes out of what we get and there's definitely more, and it's a much better engine to move the story forward than "Why!?!?!?" Second, play up the "we were gods" idea - just do it without the weird "if we're together, then we'll die" concept. It's true, Hancock needed a weakness and he needed a reason to not be with Mary - I would have gone with nighttime (to play off the Apollo-Sun dynamic), would have made Hancock and Mary estranged brother and sister (to play off Greek God family rivalries). Simplifies the equation a bit, straightens out that mythos a lot, verifies some more of Mary's motivations aside from "but, we'll die," and keeps with the greater mythology reference. In hand, I would have made Mary's abilities more "earthy," keeping with the weather manipulation concept as opposed to, say, super-strength, thereby dialing up the whole Apollo/Demeter vibe they had going, and getting more creative about the superbeings in this universe. Third, I would have explained the freaking hawk emblem, mostly because they never really do and that's frustrating and the emblem should mean something. Fourth, as opposed to non-recurring-yet-recurring bad guy? Have Hancock and Mary work together to advert either a national/natural disaster or just a normal, run-of-the-mill problem during a state of weakness. Probably more the latter one, but they'll both work better than what was actualized on screen.

... and that's what I would change about the end of Hancock. I hope you enjoyed it - I know I would have.

Adam Winer

I would change the ending to WALL-E.

In my version... WALL-E would fail to save the pathetic human race. Obesity and garbage would plague the world forever. If the movie ended that way, maybe we wouldn't get hung up on the chance that our failure now is somehow okay because some obsessive and ugly little robot will come to save the day.

As you can see, I'm in a good mood today.

Alison Daniels

This answer is a damned dirty lie. I'm sure there are many movies I would choose to change before this one, but I happen to be unable to think of a single one of them, so I had to settle: Across the Universe. The very last moment was so cliched that it eats at my soul to think about it. Julie Taymor did such a beautiful job of marrying (what I thought were) great covers of Beatles songs to stunning visual imagery. The movie was a two-hour kaleidoscope, and then how does Taymor decide to end it? A zoom in and freeze on Evan Rachel Wood's face and a fade to black. I was so disappointed. Where was the art in that ending? It seemed like such a lame cop out. Granted, I don't know exactly what I would have done to make the ending better, but I would have at least tried to do something interesting and colorful with it. Sheesh.

David Pratt

Without question, I would change the ending to High Fidelity.

Now, I have had it explained to me many times by multiple fans of the movie, to the point where I understand and appreciate the concept. Cusack's character, Rob, goes through his top 5 relationships to illustrate why Laura, played by Iben Hjejle, is good for him. Out of all his biggest commitments in life, only she has actually challenged him to change and make something better of himself. Being with Laura means that Rob has to grow up. He has to be better. That makes sense, and is a worthwhile plot to follow.

Before I get into what screws it up for me, I just want to make this brief sidenote - the average CD holds anywhere from 17 to 20 tracks. If you're making a mix tape and you're ready to blow your load after track 2, you are not going to last, and neither is your mix. Absolute worst advice for creating a CD ever.

Anyway, back to why the ending of this movie kills it for me. Rob goes through his 5 most important relationships, realizing one by one that none of these girls was what he thought they were. He HAS matured, and he can see the world with much clearer eyes now. This is somewhat palled by the fact that he is practically stalking Laura, who has met a new guy and moved in with him. There's a scene in the movie where Laura tells her psychotically-in-love-with-her ex-boyfriend that she has had sex with the new guy. After a few more examples of Rob torturing himself and Laura letting him, her father dies. So she has sex with him in his car because "being with him is just easier."

Rob gets his girl back, and vows that this time, come what may, he will put his whole self into this relationship.


Rob, you just spent the last few agonizing weeks of your life figuring out that the girls you knew were not what you thought they were, all the while being completely mentally screwed around by Laura. I wholeheartedly agree that the goal of this film should have been putting them back together, but it should have been accomplished because of Rob's own growth as a person, not because she's sad her father died so she screws him to help herself get over it. And if Rob had truly accomplished any kind of journey, he never would have accepted that as a resolution to their conflict. No. In my ideal ending, Rob stops Laura in the car and they do not have sex. He explains the oddysey he's been putting himself through, and he tells her that as much as he loves her and wants her back, this just isn't the way to do it. She wanted him to mature, and they both know deep down that this is not going to solve anything. They've just put each other through a lot, and it's going to take time to make things right again.

The ending scene would remain the same (because Jack Black is awesome in this film), but they would not be together in the same sense. The two would be dating, back at square one, with Rob determining that he's done the most mature thing of his life, and so far, the results have been good. That would've been a good movie. Maybe they'd even throw in better advice for making mix tapes.

Steve Bragale

I would change the end of Moonraker. There would be not a single Space Marine in my version. I feel like an effort was made to recreate the ninja scene from You Only Live Twice, but the build up isn't subtle, making the laser battle in space a bit overbearing. Also, Jaws does not have a girlfriend in my Moonraker. The way I see it, Jaws is not misunderstood. I understand exactly what he is. Jaws is a human weapon of murder, with leathal teeth made of a cold metal. I would keep Bond bedding his obligatory Bond-girl in zero gravity though, that just seems obvious to me.

Max Nova

I would take the Jesus out of the last matrix. Or even better, just stop the last two matrix films from happening.

Alternately, remove happy endings from all speilburgh (sp?) films, (obvious exception for Schindler's list).

Daniel Strauss

I'd change Garden State. In my version, the plane would FUCKING CRASH LIKE THEY SET UP FOR IT TO DO IN THE FIRST FIVE MINUTES OF THE FILM. oh, and natalie portman's character would drive off a cliff. AND SOMEBODY WOULD HOLD PETER SARSGAARD ACCOUNTABLE FOR THE FACT THAT HE ROBS THE DEAD! How was everyone just "okay" with that! God, I hate that fucking movie!

And with that, the end credits roll on another edition of the Roundtable. Join us again next week as we share more stories and opinions, and please, as always, feel free to comment and discuss on what you have read here. We look forward to your readership, and hope you enjoyed the show.

Special additional scene after credits roll:

Jason Schlafstein

Brittany Graham

Damien Nichols

Scotty Maxwell

John Barkmeyer


Jason Heat said...

Inspired choices for celebrity look-alikes. Well played.

Ozkirbas said...


I like the whole "look a-like" thing we have going. I would like to see the Gentlemen who didn't have a chance to get their answers in on time.

Jason Heat said...

i dunno. i fear what mine may be.

Miasma said...

Actually Adam, that was the original conclusion. The suicide rate at the premier of Wall-E was the highest recorded in history following any blockbuster (including 'Requiem for a dream') so they changed the ending before it was viewed by the rest of the country.

I honestly approved of the ending of 'across the universe'. it's in my category of 'movies i would not change'. but i can see your point.

That's not Orlando Bloom.
And while I agree with your wise assessment of the existing ending (wow, good wrap-up) the new one would not be as 'easy' of an ending. nor as romantic. which may be where that line comes from ("being with you is just easier").

god, i hate That fucking movie.

Blogden Nash said...

Garden State is one of the worst movies I have ever seen. I cannot understand how anyone (let alone so many people) actually like it.

David Pratt said...

Jason told me today after reading my pick that he thinks I expect too much from people.

Stephen said...

I didn't realize that I dislike High Fidelity until I read David's thoughts on the matter. The ending seemed very forced. I didn't enjoy the narration style either.

B.Graham said...


But I really wanna know who my celeb look-alike is.

Damo said...

I'm with B. Except that with Pratt behind the wheel I'm sure I'd be Jason Mewes or something. Green Knight indeed, sir. Stop pigeon-holing me!


David Pratt said...

Since you were all patient enough to wait out the credits, a special bonus scene is your reward.

ali d said...

I'm a little late on this, but whatever. I love Gillian Anderson. Well played indeed, Mr. Pratt.

Hancock - Oz and I have already discussed at length that we both agree with the WTF-turn that this movie took. I'd like to add, though, that Jason Bateman met Charlize Theron DAYS after his wife died in childbirth, and she was his "angel." NOT COOL, DUDE. That mourning period was so not over. NOT. COOL.

I actually thought about choosing High Fidelity as my movie. I thought the car-sex scene was going to lead to more awkward Laura/Rob scenes where she tells him to please get over it. I didn't want them to get back together. I still don't understand how that relationship is supposed to magically work out now.

Steve - you were speaking Chinese to me in your post, but you are definitely Paul Giamatti

And finally, THANK YOU, Damo (and Chanan). Garden State was stupid. I'm pretty sure she was just tired of burying hamsters. Waste of my life. I hate that it's considered this paragon of movie amazing-ness. I didn't write about it myself because I wouldn't change the ending, I'd change the whole damn thing.

Jason Heat said...

1. I'm totally stoked to be Jason Schwartzman. Because if you've ever seen I Heart Huckabees I am Jason Schwartzman.

2. I can't believe you don't know how to spell my last name.

3. Scotty's picture is PERFECT.

4. I saw Garden State after I had my wisdom teeth out on a pain and Ice Cream bender after watching every Kevin Smith movie (except Jersey Girl) in chronological order. After beginning withdrawal I put in Garden State because it too had to do with New Jersey and I thought it may give me a fix. A bunch of people had said 'i would love it.'

I did not. At all.

It was my ex's favorite movie though so I always thought at some point we'd come back to it and I'd give it another try.

Now I don't feel quite as bad for having never done so, and likely never doing.

B.Graham said...

re: post-credits special

LOVES IT. Also: now I know what good opinion you have of me.

Miasma said...

:-D wiley coyote


Stephen said...

ali- Moonraker was a James Bond film staring Rodger Moore as James Bond, 007 license to kill. Now I'm all for Moore turning the charm on, and he's as charming a fellow as there ever was, but the ending of the film is so convoluted and random. Allow me to elaborate.

The end of Moonraker takes place in space. I will throw this movie the proverbial bone; one truly must turn a blind eye to factual unlikelihoods in order to allow yourself to be entertained by Bond films. But when Bond is in orbit and needs backup, and a team of Space Marines, equipped with laser rifles, who ar apparently already standing by for an epic space battle, reach their space destination in 3 minutes, the house of cards just collapses on me.

The automatic response is either "what???" or "No. Nope. No way. Uh uh. Sorry. Nope."

ali d said...

That clears up so much! Thanks!