Saturday, March 10, 2007

Finish Big

Dorothy pours the water on the witch by accident, who screeches. "Oh, no!!! Stupid child!! What have you done. I'm melting!!! I'm melting!!!"

Darth Vader, trying to redeem himself, turns on the Emperor to save his son. Lightning crackles, tearing through him, piercing his defenses. He lifts his master and pitches him into the void. Having dones this, he sinks to face death, knowing that while his past deeds may be unforgivable, he has at least done one thing worthy

Dr. No, having almost successfully initiated a nuclear war between the United States and Soviet Union, screams in rage as he faces James Bond. They clash. No, who isn't used to defeat, finds himself overpowered and shoved into a pool of boiling water. Ouch.

And these are just the D's

A matinee where the good guy and the bad guy clash in epic battle is never so satisfying as the moment when the villain buys it. But it's not enough to just cash in the chips. That villain needs to exit in a grand style, with a departure that befits his or her various crimes. Think about the endings of Dr. Octopus, the crazy Gary Busey character from the original "Lethal Weapons", the death of the giant in "The Amazing Colossal Man". Now that makes for some good popcorn eating.

Of course, the above death of Darth Vader, now that we have seen the first three films, in no way makes up for his earlier crimes (slaughtering the children at the Jedi Academy), but we didn't know any of that when watching "Return of the Jedi".

But Darth Vader aside, when I opt for mindless escapist fare on a Saturday afternoon, I want to see life and death writ large. I'll forgive all manner of plot holes and character flaws if only you'll wow and dazzle me.

Stun an audience...and they'll love ya.

Bore them, and they'll only look for flaws.


Alex said...

I prefer a little more gray area in my films.

"Only a Sith speaks in absolutes!"

(Absolute dealt by Obi-Wan Kenobi.)

Avery said...

You've hit on my biggest issue in my novel. I'm currently on the third revision of the climax. The last two just didn't have that bang you're talking about. It's the one thing I worry about the most -- the flat ending.

I think I've somewhat shot myself in the foot about it. I've spent so much time building my villain that putting an end to him has become an almost insurmountable task in my head. I'm fixated on getting it just right and worrying that I never will.

Avery said...

After posting my comment, I was thinking about that Wizard of Oz photo you put up. It's been a long time since I've seen the movie. Were there any hints that the witch couldn't tolerate water earlier in the film? If not, that's kind of a crappy ending.

Gregory MacGuire did a great job of working that particular weakness into his tale. It made for a much more satisfying ending -- especially since he gave the reader the chance to feel for the "Witch."

SQT said...

I remember reading a book by L.E. Modesitt, the first of the Recluse series I think, and it had the worst ending. I just remember thinking that after all the build up it had the most anti-climactic confrontation between the protagonist and the so-called bad-guy. It was like, why bother?

Out of sheer perversity I read the next book in the series, thinking it would get better, but it never really did. I think that had to be one of the most disappointing series I've ever read. A book just isn't satisfying if the climax is flat.

DonkeyBlog said...

OK, I agree it's good to know who your villains and heroes are, but sometimes you want something a bit deeper.

It's a bit hard to get it goin' on in movies, but I like the way some Tv shows, and long-running comics do it particularly well, where characters morph in and out of being good guys for a while, and then bad guys. I'm ashamed to say that the only examples I can think of off the top of my scone are Buffy and Angel ... and perhaps Firefly (but I never did like that schlop!).

I'm sure there are heaps of others ...

Jon the Intergalactic Gladiator said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jon the Intergalactic Gladiator said...

So many of these movies have the set up for the big finish where the villains demise is supposed to be memorable and even applaud-inducing. It's gotten past the bad guy falling off a roof or blowing up in a building and some of them even made me scratch my head and wonder "why?"

In fact, maybe I could write a post about some of them.

Old Knudsen said...

I'm into characters myself, the villains should be the most interesting ones but Vader is just so dull not much to him. Its all black penis envy c'mon you can't dress like a knob and expect to be scary. Lucas has issues.

Jean-Luc Picard said...

I love 50's sci-fi movies myself!