Although M. Night Shyamalan is frequently credited with popularizing the “twist” ending in mainstream movies, audiences have always treated these types of movies in a special way. Many viewers use movies with complicated or surprising endings as a barometer, a tool to gauge if someone is a casual film viewer or not. If they understood what actually happened in the movie, they are allowed to feel that they belong to a cinematic elite. What is most unfortunate about these types of fans, are that they are missing a major part of the movie-going experience.
These twist endings are much like good road trips, getting there is half of the fun. The art in these films is not how unexpected an ending is, but the methods used to bring it to life. People need to remember that good storytelling doesn’t lie in confusing an audience, but rather keeping their attention. A mystery can be an easy tactic for this since the film-goer is always looking for clues, but there are many tales that revolve around an entirely different type of tension that are just as captivating.
You Don’t Have To Do The Twist
Hamlet is considered by many to be one of the greatest stories ever told, but where is the twist? To say that it is not worth seeing Citizen Kane if one knows the true meaning of the word “Rosebud” is foolhardy. Many professional film critics find that it is difficult to write about a film if it has been seen less than twice. If the entire experience is in the twist ending, why would that be?
People toss around words like “predictable” and “cliched” as criticisms of films, but these are at the center of the greatest stories ever told. The audience is told the ending of Macbeth near the beginning, but the appeal in this tale lies in watching the ways the characters fulfill their own prophecy, not some superficial twist.
It’s Not A Gameshow, You Aren’t A Participant
Now, there are many films where the audience is purposely given clues and encouraged to puzzle out a film’s mystery as it progresses, but this game is not one that should be scored. Guessing correctly before anyone else shouldn’t be the contest that many audiences make it out to be. This overzealous drive to “figure out” a film before anyone else does also leads to wild conspiracy theories, even in movies where everything is wrapped up in a perfectly logical manner. Contrary to the belief of these types of film viewers, most mainstream films do not go out of there way to “pull a fast one” on their audiences, If a movie makes it abundantly clear that a certain character is dead, even though his body is not seen during the closed-casket funeral, there is no reason to suspect that he’s really alive and when the sequel comes out you’ll show everyone.
Movies are not a contest. Some are made to be interpreted and analyzed, but the majority of them do not require complex analysis to figure out the plot. Although interesting allusions and parallels can be discovered through study, it is very possible to enjoy a movie that you are not holding under a microscope. It should not be a prerequisite for a film to be good, it must have a surprise ending. The only criteria that matters for judging a film is whether or not you enjoyed it.