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The Unapologetic Geek


7 Good Sci-Fi Movies Ruined by Terrible Endings - Page 2

There is nothing more disappointing than a good story ruined by a terrible ending. This seems to happen more often in science-fiction movies than anywhere else, whether it is caused by a pointless twist, a lousy half-assed plot explanation, bad science, lazy writers, bad acting, or the intervention of test screenings. With that in mind, here are the seven sci-fi movies that frustrate me the most, because if their endings were better, they would be excellent films. Needless to say, if you haven't seen these, you will be spoiled. However, where these movies are concerned, I consider it my solemn duty to spoil you so that you won't accidentally watch them.


Before I begin, let me just say that Signs is probably M. Night Shyamalan's best film. However, much of what makes it such a great film falls apart by the nonsensical ending. Yes, I know that Shyamalan was trying to make a point about faith and everything happening for a reason, but that point could probably have been made without the silliness of aliens that can't stand water. Why, if water is so toxic to your species, would you invade a planet with a surface made up of more than 70% water in order to abduct people who are made of mostly water?

It's a giant deus ex machina that abruptly ends the alien threat and the plot of the movie. It's a pretty unforgivable twist. Stories are at their most satisfying when the resolution comes about from the characters themselves, and in a movie such as this one, that resolution usually comes in the form of our heroes finding the strength to overcome seemingly impossible odds. When those odds are suddenly and dramatically reduced by the introduction of a new factor (like the villains being unable to stand water), it is hard to feel good about the hero just mopping up.


Not to be confused with the historical drama of the same name starring Ralph Fiennes that chronicles three generations of Hungarian Jews in the Twentieth Century (a movie I actually recommend, as long as you like that sort of thing), Sunshine is a 2007 sci-fi flick directed by Danny Boyle. The movie is a standard--though well-made--space adventure involving a small crew on board a spaceship on a critical mission.

The Icarus II is being sent to the sun to "reignite" it in order to save the Earth. Along the way, they find the derelict Icarus I and deal with several complications. The characters are unique and interesting, the plot is sufficiently mysterious and moody, and the special effects are quite good. Everything is going well for the movie until it is revealed that the former captain of the Icarus I, Pinbacker, is still alive, terribly burned by the sun, and attempting to sabotage the mission because he believes it is God's will that mankind be destroyed.

Aside from the silliness of this plot twist, there is the additional decision by the filmmakers to only show the burned and insane Pinbacker as blurry, distorted, or too bright to see, because you know, you can't look directly at the sun either. (It only makes sense if you don't think about it.) This decision makes the climactic battle between Pinbacker and the survivors extremely distracting and borderline incomprehensible. It also doesn't help that the whole thing devolves into an extended schlocky action sequence.

The movie could have been an interesting psychological study, as in more successful and similar films like Alien, Event Horizon, and Solaris, and had enough to separate it from its predecessors, especially with a setting (the sun) that is rarely explored in space-based sci-fi. Unfortunately, the movie loses steam the closer it gets to the climax, and like many other movies on this list, it feels the need to throw in a twist that changes the tone and direction from good to bad. Add the strange filmmaking decision to never let the audience see the antagonist and you have an ending that just doesn't fit with the rest of the film.

Terminator Salvation
Terminator Salvation

Let me air some dirty laundry here: I think Terminator 2, while visually awesome, is vastly overrated because its theme--"there is no fate but what we make"--is a direct contradiction of the perfect narrative circle drawn in the first movie. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines attempts to resolve this contradiction, but the movie isn't as well made as James Cameron's first two films. Having said all of that, it is best to look at Terminator Salvation as a different type of movie, because even though it is set in the same universe and calls back to plot points from all three of its predecessors, it ultimately is different.

Looked at that way, Terminator Salvation could have been a pitch-perfect post-apocalyptic action movie. The set pieces are gigantic and impressive, the central problem of the story (that the machines have created something even John Connor doesn't know about) is intriguing and makes sense, and the effects are spectacular. However, the entire third act ruins it, and is probably the main reason why McG will never get to finish his planned trilogy (well, that and all the legal crap).

The original concept for the film's ending includes John Connor's death. Marcus, the half-human failed terminator experiment, then has John Connor's skin grafted over his cybernetic body and essentially takes over the job of being John Connor so that the resistance can have a figure to lead it. This ending, though most definitely provocative, would have made sense and resolved some dangling questions from the previous movies (like why John Connor would trust a terminator to protect his younger self). Though this ending probably would have made for a better movie, it still wouldn't save some of the most ridiculous aspects of Terminator Salvation's climax.

There are two cringe-worthy things about the ending that are hard to forgive. The first is the conversation Marcus has with the Skynet computer. Why would a machine need to have an actual person-to-person conversation with another machine? Why does the Skynet computer need to present a human face? Why would the Skynet computer even need to explain its plans to Marcus; why not just shut him down and get on with killing John Connor? The other thing that is hard to forgive is the nuclear detonation. We are meant to believe that John Connor can detonate several nuclear reactors from a helicopter not three hundred feet away and survive. That's just stupid. Add to that the sappy, lame denouement and you have an ending that ruins what is otherwise an excellent film.

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-e. magill 9/21/2010


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