Of Endings

march 22, 2008

I love watching movies and I love to watch all sorts of movies. What is disappointing is that movies made by Hollywood tend to have "happy" endings whether the movie needs it or not -- non-Hollywood films tend to take risks and do things right. Maybe it is one too many test screenings. Maybe it is the need for Hollywood to try to make the masses happy in order to get a bigger box office. Whatever it maybe, sometimes movies don't need happy endings. Sometimes, the happy ending that gets cut into the film just doesn't work.Case in point is I Am Legend. I thoroughly enjoyed the film until the end. Then the film seemed to have an ending that just did not make any sense -- and there was a huge piece of the film that was left dangling. If you haven't seen the film yet, don't read anymore. SPOILERS AHEAD. When Smith's character Neville discovers that he may have found a cure for the virus which has turned the Earth's population into super-human zombies, he needs to find a test subject. He ends up chasing his dog into a dark warehouse (or is it a bank?) and there he discovers a nest of zombies (though, I believe in the book -- which I haven't read yet -- they are supposed to be vampires). Neville sets up a trap and captures a woman zombie. But, from within the dark, a male zombie comes out and shows his face to the sunlight -- even knowing that the sunlight would hurt him. Neville, in a scene after, records a video where he theorizes that the zombies have lost the last vestiges of their humanity and are now just acting on primal instinct. When I saw these two scenes, I felt that the scene was playing against what Neville thought. As if we the audience knew that the zombie showing his face actually had some humanity left in him. The way the scenes played out showed that the reason that he took the risk of being exposed to sunlight was because he wanted his daughter back -- and not because he wanted to eat Neville. It's also worth mentioning that the father zombie was smart enough to setup a snarl to grab Neville. Maybe the studio thought that American audiences were too ignorant to figure this out and that's why they made changes to the ending. The filmmakers continued to show the lead ("father") zombie throughout the film -- like with the three attack dogs, I believe at the pier and then taking control at the end of the film in Neville's house. The writers of the film definitely had something planned for father and daughter zombies. But, at the end of the film, the only relevance of the daughter was that the virus cure was in her blood -- the "father" zombie did not have any significant role in the theatrical ending. That was both disappointing and left a huge hole in the movie. After looking around on the internet about this, I found that the theatrical ending was a reshoot. The original ending, shown above, wrapped things up in a much better and satisfying way. I loved the original ending a lot better than the theatrical one. The original ending brings closure to the "father" and "daughter" zombie. It also has other subtleties, like Neville looking at his wall of test subjects and realizing that they were actually test victims. Neville coming to the realization that the zombies still had a good deal of humanity in them. Lastly, the original ending had a better spin on the "legend" part of the title -- the way the theatrical ending gave meaning to "legend" was hokey and corny. The theatrical ending was one that was reshot to make the masses happy and to garner box office dollars. But, I really think that the original ending would have worked also -- and probably would have worked better. Hollywood needs to realize that its audience is not as stupid or ignorant as they think. It is unfortunate that Hollywood is unwilling and unable (financially) to take risks when making films.

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