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A glorious ending can paper over the cracks of even the most mediocre movie, adding a spring to your step as you leave the cinema that previously hadn't looked likely.
But it can also be the polar opposite. Because a sublime film can be instantly waylaid if it doesn't provide the rousing conclusion that it had seemingly promised, leaving you so sour that you are suddenly blinded to the positive traits that it had previously showcased. It happens more often than it should do, too. So much so in fact that we've compiled a list of 10 good movies that were stopped from being great because of their endings.
Man Of Steel
Now that the DC Extended Universe is apparently in a crisis, it's easy to forget just how entertaining the opening hour to Man Of Steel actually was. The scenes on Krypton were concise, rich, and provided a solid ground for the film to build off of, while Zack Snyder and David S. Goyer even managed to make the age-old story of the Kent family seem fresh, and its action beats are undeniably enjoyable. But it succumbs in its overly long final act, which just drags and drags, turns Superman into a murderer, and is so needlessly aggressive and utterly joyless that, by the end, you feel as battered as Metropolis.
After the critical and financial success of both The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable it seemed as though M. Night Shyamalan could do no wrong. And going into the final act of Signs that still felt the case, too. But then a single splash of water, which caused one of the film's aliens to scream in agony, immediately ruined all off that. Before then, Signs had been a taut and intriguing sci-fi thriller. But after the alien is doused in water and then dies, all you're left wondering is why they thought it would be a good idea to visit a planet that is 70% water.
Now You See Me
Thanks to its lightning quick pace, beguiling tricks and set-pieces, and all-star cast, Now You See Me proved to be a rather surprising success back in 2013, as director Louis Leterrier wove together a variety of plot points to create a hugely entertaining effort. But come the end of the film, and once you had started to try and piece all of them together, you realized that there were some glaring plot holes, especially when it was revealed that Mark Ruffalo's Dylan Rhodes wasn't actually an FBI agent but was actually the fifth Horseman. It's all just a little bit too far-fetched.
When a true story is adapted for the big-screen, you're usually able to forgive it some artistic license. Of course, there's only a certain amount of leeway you can give, especially when you're immediately able to recognize that a film has gone off book. Only individuals well versed in the story at the heart of Argo would have known that the film minimized the role of the Canadian embassy in the rescue, but everyone watching was able to guess that the group's plane wasn't followed by the cars of the Revolutionary guard as it tried to take off. This attempt to create a superficial intensity immediately rids the film of its integrity, and is proof that Hollywoodizing isn't always the best policy.
The teaming up of Danny Boyle and Aaron Sorkin should have resulted in a bona-fide modern masterpiece akin to The Social Network, especially considering the man at the heart of the biopic. Over the first two acts, Steve Jobs does a sterling job of providing an entertaining insight into what made the man tick and so flawed. But by the third act the structure of Steve Jobs bumping into everyone he has ever crossed and gone up against half an hour before he is due on stage becomes too much. Suddenly you feel like you're watching an episode of Cheers as the same characters just keep on walking through doors and back into his life. Steve Jobs is still fun, but its hampered by a plodding framework that renders it simply OK.
Since The Prestige is a film about magic it was always going to use misdirection to try and trick its audience at the end. It's just a shame that The Prestige's misdirection ultimately feels like a cheat. Not the fact that Hugh Jackman's Robert Angier has been killing clones on a nightly basis as part of his trick, which adds a wicked twist to the entire film. But the fact that Christian Bale's Alfred Borden is actually an identity assumed by two twins. It's a lazy, obvious, and gimmicky way to bring The Prestige to an end, which is especially frustrating because up until that point it appeared to be building to a rousing finale that it ultimately fell way short of providing.
Even though Superman was released close to 40 years ago, and was the first of what's since become an endless array of superhero movies, it's still regarded as one of the greatest the genre has ever produced, and the definitive depiction of the character. Which is all the more impressive considering just how outrageously stupid its ending is, as Superman is able to fly into space and around the Earth at such a speed that time is reversed and Lois Lane actually survives. It's not just an easy fix that ruins everything that has come before it, but the threatened consequences of this alteration never arrive, too, meaning that Superman has its cake, eats its, and then flies off to the sunset expecting us to be pleased.
A.I. Artificial Intelligence
For most of A.I. Artificial Intelligence's running time it seems as though the film has managed the impossible, as the lightness of Steven Spielberg perfectly juxtaposes with the morbid ambition of Stanley Kubrick to create an intoxicating cinematic concoction. But then it arrives at its conclusion, which at first looks like it is just going to see David trapped in the freezing ocean asking the Blue Fairy, who he thinks is real, to be turned into a real boy. However, there's a prolonged epilogue that sees David revived 2000 years later, given the chance to reunite with a cloned version of Monica for the happiest day of his life, and then dying alongside her. It's classic Spielberg, but also too sugary sweet for such a grueling film, and only makes you wonder how Stanley Kubrick would have brought it to an end.
I Am Legend
Will Smith is utterly titanic in I Am Legend, as he commands every inch of the screen and imbues it with a genuine dread that means you're on the edge of your seat for a solid portion of the film. But then, at around the hour mark, I Am Legend takes a number of turns that completely ruin it. First of all the Infected aren't scary in the slightest, and look as though they've come straight out of a Playstation game. Then the final act dovetails away from its source material, incorporating divine intervention as a plot device and finding a cure to the Darkseekers that belies Richard Matheson's novel.
Don't get me wrong, I was overjoyed when Moonlight finally picked up the Best Picture Academy Award over La La Land back in February, as it was a poetic, beautiful, and important film that revolved around lives and was set in a world that we seldom see. But was I the only one who felt a little underwhelmed by its final scene? Sure the interchange between Trevante Rhodes' Black and Andre Holland's Kevin in the diner was captivating, but when they arrived back at his home I couldn't help but feel as though it required more gravitas and a more powerful exchange between the pair. I was still undeniably impressed by Moonlight. But its damp squib of a finale left me thinking it could have had even more of an impact.