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Warning: Spoilers for Arrival, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, 10 Cloverfield Lane, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, and La La Land are in play.
One of the greatest truths to life is that everything has to end. Just ask any writer, pop act or politician. Movies are a medium that deal with endings in perhaps one of the best ways. An ending, if done right or wrong, can make people talk about just exactly what happened for long after the film has ended. In fact, five films managed to get us talking about their endings quite a bit this year, and we're still talking about them to this day. With that in mind, we'd like to present to you the five endings that we've been replaying in our minds throughout 2016.
After learning that Amy Adams' Louise is not flashing back to the past, but seeing into her future throughout Arrival, a new dimension of emotional storytelling opens up for the already bittersweet film. Knowing that her daughter will die and that Jeremy Renner's Ian will leave her when she reveals she knows what the future brings, Louise has all of the tools at hand to change her future for the better. And yet, she accepts it willingly, as she wouldn't trade knowing her soon-to-be daughter for anything.
Most films would have their protagonist go into the future with at least an acknowledgement that the future might be changed, but Arrival's fatalistic finale fits the rest of the film's tone and sticks the landing. To give the film any other ending would have ruined the film's message of stoicism and sacrifice, and much like its protagonist, we're willing to live with that in favor of the film as a whole.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Never did we think that a Star Wars movie would end with all of its main characters dead and Darth Vader slaughtering a room full of people. And yet, in the closing moments of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, we saw both of those occurrences plain as day, as Jyn and Cassian faced down a wave of vaporization on the beaches of Scarif. As the Death Star plans make their way to Princess Leia Organa, one word sums up the purpose of this now suicidal mission: "hope."
It's the most brutal ending we've seen in a Star Wars film, and yet the closing shot of a hopeful Princess Leia reminded us that the actions of our heroes would lead to the eventual defeat of the Empire. Sadly, this ending has also been talked about for a different reason, as it's one of the last appearances of Carrie Fisher in the Star Wars saga, which now serves as a more poignant moment than it did when we first saw it. Leave it to one of the best regarded characters of the Star Wars galaxy to tell us that everything's going to be ok, so long as we keep fighting and never lose that spark of hope.
10 Cloverfield Lane
Throughout the events of 10 Cloverfield Lane, we're lead to believe that Howard, John Goodman's doomsday-prepping nutter is just as crazy as he looks. So seeing Michelle escape the supposed safety of the bunker, now in flames, is supposed to be the end of her journey. Only it isn't, as the film drops an anvil on our heads and reveals that there are in fact aliens trying to invade the Earth.
As Michelle speeds into the fray by the end of the film, the audience is left to wonder if it's with the ending or against it, as the film that precedes it really doesn't allow us to think that there really are monsters out in the world. The truth is one of the more shocking and exciting endings we've seen this year, and debating it is just as fun as watching it.
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice
Why? Why in the world would the DC Extended Universe play one of the biggest trump cards in all of its history at the end of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice? Zack Snyder, why would you kill Superman in your second DC Comics film (well, third counting Watchmen)? From the moment Superman says his goodbyes to Lois Lane right up to the dirt levitating off of his coffin, we were scratching our heads as to why this big moment in the universe of the Justice League would take place right before its formation.
The emotional weight isn't there for this moment to truly hit us, so instead it just feels like an opportunistic moment that is used to obviously sequel bait in a universe that needs to catch up as it can. Honestly, out of all the endings we're still talking about, this is the one that really rubbed us the wrong way, as it shows the sort of shortcuts the DC Extended Universe wants to take in order to catch up to Marvel Studios' level of brand power. But hey, at least it isn't Suicide Squad!
La La Land
While the ending to Batman v. Superman feels like a cheap sucker punch, the ending to La La Land is a well-earned bucket of cold water to our faces. Despite what the advertisements may sell you, or what the film itself may have you believe throughout its course of events, the ending does not see our young lovers together forever. Not only does it show us that Mia has married someone else and had a kid, but it gives us a moment of sublime beauty in Sebastian's "universe-in-a-moment" dream sequence.
In an ideal world, the two of them hit it off in the beginning and never stop loving each other. He's there for her one-woman show, he applauds her for her movie career and he isn't such the jerk that he comes off as earlier in the film. And yet, reality sinks in as he gets to the end of their hauntingly gorgeous theme. It's not a movie. It's real life. They both got their dreams, but at a price, and thankfully neither would change it for the world. With their last smiles exchanged between each other, La La Land ends as only it could. And it just makes us love the movie for what it is all the more.