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Why the ending matters (maybe more than the rest)? (contains movie spoiler)

Recently I had a movie experience, that left me feeling betrayed. The kind of betrayal that only an intimate relationship could create.

Have you ever walked into a movie theatre with the utmost excitement and hope for a moving and exciting experience, to leave the theatre totally distraunt, and all you and your buddy can talk about is how disappointing that experience was? Well, if you don’t mind a nasty spoiler to a summer blockbuster, read on.

“War of the Worlds” a movie by Steven Speilberg staring Tom Cruise, came out this week for the 4th of July weekend. I loved “Minority Report”, another collaboration between Steve and Tom, so much. This added to my anticipation, for sure. Can this duo pull off another amazing adaptation of a great of sci-fi literature?

The movie for the first 1hr. 45min. I have to say while flawed, was definitely worth the price of admission. But it slowly sank away. The rush to completing the story happened too fast, and there was no real resolution to the turmoil we were facing. Then the menace antagonists of the movie just die. No reason is given, or even postulated, and there were no real clues, before the beginning of their demise that this course may indeed happen. But suddenly out of the blue, they just were dying, and their ships were malfunctioning.

After a silly melo-dramatic Hollywood happy ending, of family reunions, and obvious victory against humanity’s agressors, the movie ends. Still with no real story about how we did defeat our foe. Then, as the credits are just seconds away we hear the voice that start this movie, give yet another monologue. This time explaining (big spoiler coming) that the aliens died from micro-organism–bacteria, viruses, and other germ-like creatures. Ya see, we have been here for a million years and have the proper immune system, but like the small pox killing millions of Native Americans, so it also killed thousands of invading extra-terestrials.

So there you have the ending. I have never been so disappointed in a movie I really could have liked as I am about this movie. I left this movie, feeling betrayed on so many levels. I can’t believe they let this ending out of the studio. It was like one of those Star Trek, Next Generation episodes where they solve everything in the last 5 minutes by putting a tachion pulse through some emmitter and re-route the transporter, through an external buffer array to re-materialize the DNA structure from its historical analog, yet all the memories are still restored. But this time, it is done w/ one word, instead of all of that mumbo-jumbo–microbes.

BTW, the beginning credits, showed us these microbes as they exist in a drop of water. So we are supposed to have this feeling of “full circle” when in fact the feeling was most definitely angst, betrayal and just general upset.

The other symptom of all this is that my friend and I started hunting for flaws in the rest of the movie. A plot-hole here, bad acting there, unbelievable turn of events. We just went to town the whole way through. So the ending then became an excuse to start deconstructing an entire bad review for the movie, even though it was totally undeserved.

That to me is FINALLY my point. People talk often of first impressions, but I have to say that for somethings the last impression of an experience also sets up the experience of everything that preceded it. Of course it also sets up all the experiences after it, bu then it isn’t the “last” any more. Often this is applied to shopping cart and other fulfillment design, but I think it just speaks to the import of the big ending, matching the major opening.

I will want to add a few compliments of this movie:
1. Pacing was great. It never lagged too long.
2. Performances were generally fantastic, including Dakota’s and Tom’s. Tim Robbin’s character was also good, though overdone a bit.
3. The special effects just rocked, though the aliens did seem like a rip off from Babylon 5 and one other movie that is slipping my grasp at the moment. Not ID4 or Startgate SG-1, but something just as good.

The last critique:
I do have to say that destroying Bayonne, NJ is not really my idea of a great desctruction scene. People want to destroy NYC, and if a summer blockbuster doesn’t destroy at least some part of Manhattan, it is a bit of a sorry tale.

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  • Fred Sampson

    Oh, Dave. . . that’s not a spoiler, that’s the same ending that H.G. Wells wrote 100 years ago, the same ending as in the ’50s film version, the ending that we know is coming and expect–the same ending that I’d be disappointed if they mucked with and *didn’t* use. Now maybe it could have been presented differently, but it’s already different from your typical sci-fi/thriller resolution, where you can see the action happening: there’s no way to watch the little microbe buggers doing their dirty work, no way it would be obvious to those on the scene to know what was happening.
    I haven’t seen the flick yet, and probably won’t. Too much bad vibe associated with Tom Cruise these days.

  • Dave

    I guess, it doesn’t work in the movies … someone explained that it was done that way, because, if it was happening in real life, we really wouldn’t know why till much later, and intellectually that makes sense.

    I think my issue though is not then w/ practicality but rather with experience expectations when it comes to the cinema. Can such a resolution, satisfy? The intensity of the film was huge up until the last moments, and movie goers are used to tensions being resolved IN the film itself, so I feel that while it honors its origins it does so at the expense of its own medium.


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