Still Pissed Off About the Hawley-Smoot Tariff

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Where the Downer Ending Rules

Dave has an interesting discussion about movies that need a bad ending. The Unabrewer says in the comments that Minority Report "totally wimped out" at the end, and I agree. But in order to sound more intellectual, I'll discuss why that is in the context of two plays by Bertolt Brecht, "Der Jasager" and "Der Neinsager."

Brecht wrote a play that centers on a moral dilemma. A small town needs medicine or many will die. A small group of people travels through the mountains to get to a city where medicine can be found. A boy in the group has a bad heart, and the group realizes they can't carry him through the narrow mountain passes. They must either turn around - in which case the boy will live, but many in the town will die - or leave the boy to die of exposure. The boy chooses death, the group throws him off a cliff, and continues on its journey.

People read Brecht's play and complained about the ending. So Brecht "re-wrote" it with the boy living, and everyone is happy. But in the second play, Brecht cheats. The whole "town needs medicine" part is left out - it's just a group of people going for a walk in the mountains. The ending is happy, but at the expense of the moral dilemma that made the first play worth reading in the first place.

That said, I recommend the following movies be re-made to reflect the subtleties of my analysis:
- Luke Skywalker defeats the Emperor, then gets on the phone to the rebels and calls off the attack. Luke then orders the completion of the Death Star, and goes on a drunken spree throughout the galaxy blowing up planets that "look at him funny."
- In Tron, the Mom trips over the power cable and all the computer memory is irrevocably lost.
- In Aliens, Carter Burke should successfully persuade the marines that the "substantial dollar value" attached to the facility is, indeed, a persuasive factor. Weyland Yutani successfully concludes a peace treaty with the Aliens, who promise not to invade earth, in exchange for weapons-grade plutonium that they promise to use for their power plants.
- At the ending of the original The Blob, instead of freezing the Blob, it should be forced to make a heart-wrenching decision about which of its asexually-produced spores lives, and which one dies.

(Updated to avoid being compared to the New York Times).