This Wednesday I’m having the windows in my flat replaced with unixes. Er, double glazing. Since my flat customarily looks like some kind of laundry-bomb-wielding country has decided my carpet is harbouring terrorism, and has started a campaign of rescue having first sent in inspectors looking for teaspoons of mass destruction; this weekend was going to be dedicated to tidying it up.
So, on Saturday I went to London to an AFP meet that spanned three pubs, a curry house and a large stretch of London before almost missing my last train home (Which leaves from – of all places – West Hampstead at twenty to midnight. Futureme take note). Then on Sunday watched ?Pirates of the Caribbean 2?:http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0383574/, ?Superman Returns?:http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0348150/ and then retired to an evening of playing City of Heroes.
Because of this, I’m going to talk about Resolution.
Quick capsule review of the films, btw: Pirates 2 is a series of interesting set pieces randomly scattered around a vast and intertwining plot where each of the strands occasionally swaps characters. It’s worth seeing but doesn’t end properly. Superman Returns is an interesting series of set pieces linearly scattered along a short plot where the Goodies and Baddies go for two hours without paying any attention to each other. Conflict happens when one character gets stuck in the wrong plot line. Kevin Spacey is good but not really there, Superman good, Lois good, Jimmy less good, Perry not good, Small precocious child bad. It finishes the story. City of Heroes is a series of occasionally interesting missions randomly intertwined along a series of linear plot lines which you can ignore and just hit things if you like. Because other people have to do the plot lines after you do (It’s a massively multiplayer game) nothing ever really ends properly.
The remainder of this article contains mild – but not plot detail – spoilers for Pirates 2, Superman Returns, Batman movies and X-Men III. Caveat Lecter: Reader beware of being served with fava beans and a nice chianti.
So, I’m frustrated and unresolved, because having a franchise and story that theoretically doesn’t have to end until people get bored of watching it is not compatible with actually finishing things off.
This is, incidentally, bullshit. Novels though the ages have proven you can end a story properly without closing off the world. Buffy – on occasion – managed to finish a plot arc without killing off its main characters or sending them off to (un)live (un)happily ever after. Comics have been doing this stuff for decades, finish the story but let the heroes come back next week for another adventure and, every so often, shake up their worlds when maybe they won’t.
Pirates 2 just doesn’t end, the final scene is no more conclusive than any one of twelve things in the story that are just scene changes, and it falls into the LOTR trap of “And then it ended. But wait! This is what happened to these people: And then it ended. But wait! These people ended their story like this. But wait! These people are unhappy. 🙁 But then they realised they could be happy 🙂 and then it ended! But wait! we have a final ending for this person!” with the exception that none of them actually ended anything and they all started a new plot thread.
The opposite, though, has its own problems. Batman did the resolution thing. He killed the Joker, then the Penguin, Two-Face, The Riddler. By the fourth movie he was running out of Batman villains people had actually heard of. The latest Batman movie has him fighting the Scarecrow (one of my favourite Batman villains, as it happens, but I am not a typical movie goer) though I can’t actually remember if he kills him or just turns the tables and puts him in Arkham in the movie, I suspect the latter.
So there is an advantage to merely defeating your enemies (Quite apart from their ability to come back with a more interesting plan, it sidesteps the whole “So, if you kill people to stop them killing people, is that Right” moral angle.) in continuing the franchise, at the expense of a more satisfying ending.
Upon this scale you have X-Men III, a film which revelled in killing off – or destroying – large parts of the cast of the first two movies, but then spoilt it all with the single scene of hope that negated all the emotional feedback of the initial killing (Add up the final body count, counting the pre- and post-credits sequences).
The film that did it best, I think, was Spiderman and its sequel. (And, comic fans, have you noticed the similarities between bits of the X-Men movie overplot, the Spiderman movies and the new Civil War series?). Stuff happens, the bad guy is defeated (but not gone) and we return to a non-resolved but more advanced form of life for the main characters, set up for the next adventure to push it along a bit. What I would like to see – although I doubt this will ever happen and has been specifically denied from some sides – is continuity between the movies in the same universe. I want Christian Bale’s Batman to provide technical support for Brandon Routh’s Superman, for there to be a Green Lantern film, or the JLA (A movie of JLA:Classified, for example, would be fun) and for some acknowledgement that these people work in the same worlds. Whilst they don’t fight the same people (Superman would just melt Doc Ock’s extra arms, for example) it would be nice for the world to be a bit better defined.
The big hole for this is money, really. Getting a large star from another movie to cameo in your film is probably one of those things that is really complicated in practice, but it would be nice if the movies took on some of the better traits of their less respected originals, and wove a better world around their stories.