7 Hotly Debated Movie Questions That Totally Have Answers
If the Internet is to be trusted (and we don't see why it shouldn't be), the best way to solve a movie mystery once and for all is to argue about it incessantly in blog posts, message boards and chatrooms. If you don't believe us, do a Google search for "Inception ending" and see what comes up (we dare you). Or, simply wait 10 minutes after this article is posted and scroll down to see what our own comments section is saying.
Some movie and TV mysteries, however, weren't intended to be mysteries at all, and often are just the result of the director getting cute at the last minute. These mysteries are often plainly explained in the script, and while the answers aren't always definite, they are surprising. Like ...
Pulp Fiction -- What's in the Briefcase?
In case you forgot, the beginning of Pulp Fiction isn't just John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson driving around talking about foot massages and foreign fast food. They're out for a briefcase filled with ... orange light, apparently.
Many, many movie fans have seen the long, drawn-out theories about the film in general, and that's not even touching what's inside the briefcase. A popular theory says it's Marsellus Wallace's soul, while others claim that it's simply whatever you want it to be.
According to Tarantino, it's just a MacGuffin, something to drive the plot along. Meaning that it's not important, so really, we shouldn't even be talking about this.
What the Script Says:
But Tarantino's co-writer, Roger Avary, says that when they wrote the script for Pulp Fiction, it was diamonds.
Not soul-capturing diamonds. Not a giant diamond that shoots lasers. Just plain old diamonds. Why didn't they just show that? Because Tarantino had just used a case of diamonds as a major plot device in Reservoir Dogs, and he and Avary agreed that it was "too boring and predictable" to do that again. So they decided not to show them, thus giving the whole thing an air of mystery.
But they had to be hinting at something, right? Because of the orange glow that poured from the interior any time it was opened? Actually, that glow is nowhere in the script. Avary says: "...somebody had the bright idea (which I think was a mistake) of putting an orange lightbulb in there. Suddenly what could have been anything became anything supernatural. Didn't need to push the effect. People would have debated it for years anyway, and it would have been much more subtle."
The Sopranos Finale -- Did Tony Soprano Die?
The ending of The Sopranos is either the best or the worst series finale in television history, depending on whether the person you ask likes staring at a blank screen or not. The show ends with Tony Soprano and his family munching on onion rings in a diner, with a suspicious-looking guy in a Members Only jacket sitting nearby, then getting up to go to the bathroom. The last shot is of Tony's face looking up at the door as his daughter enters, and then ... nothing. Blackness.
Creator David Chase refuses to reveal what happened after that. So ... does the black screen mean Tony took a bullet to the back of the head? Was the Members Only guy a hit man sent after Tony? A federal agent? Or just a guy with diarrhea who felt self-conscious about going into a restaurant only to use the crapper?
What the Script Says:
To our knowledge, the script for this episode has never been leaked or released. We haven't read a word of it.
But actor Matt Servitto has.
Servitto played FBI agent Harris for six seasons of The Sopranos, and after a cast screening of the last episode, he talked to reporters about the script, revealing that the final scene continued after the cut:
"In the script, the scene in the diner went a little further ... The gentleman sitting at the counter was much more mysterious, almost like he's walking to the table to shoot Tony, and then end of script."
So, wait, the guy comes out of the bathroom and walks toward Tony? That would have made the scene like 90 percent less ambiguous, and according to Servitto, that's exactly what was supposed to happen. He told another reporter: "The scene cut as the guy was advancing towards him, as if he was about to shoot Tony. It was, I think, less ambiguous that Tony was going to get shot."
Of course, that doesn't mean it's 100 percent certain that the guy did shoot Tony. Maybe he was approaching him for a different reason. Maybe he wanted an onion ring. Either way, it's clear that this man was up to no good -- something the final version of the scene leaves out.
Cast Away -- What Was in the FedEx Box?
All through the movie Cast Away, Tom Hanks' character (Chuck Noland, a FedEx worker stranded on a deserted island) holds on to a single unopened package: He resists the temptation to open it for four years, carries it with him when he sets off on a dangerous raft trip across the ocean, and finally delivers it at the end of the movie. And since there's nobody home at the time, we never find out what's inside.
But the mystery of the package goes deeper than that -- for starters, there are two evocative angel wings drawn on the surface of the box. At the beginning of the movie, we see a woman in Texas welding giant wings out of metal and sending a similar package to a naked cowboy in Moscow. What the hell was in there?
Robert Zemeckis has remained coy about it, sometimes joking that the package actually contained a waterproof satellite phone -- which for all we know might be a real possibility, since Chuck never opens it anywhere in the movie ...
What the Script Says:
... except in the deleted scene in the script where he totally does.
The third draftf of Cast Away has a few key differences from the finished movie: Wilson the volleyball is actually a soccer ball, Chuck's relationship with the Helen Hunt character is slightly different, and there's a lot more "insane guy on a raft talking to himself" dialogue.
The package, however, is exactly the same as in the finished movie: the same angel wings, the same woman at the beginning, and the same insane resolution to deliver it no matter what. And then, on his 1,000th day on the island, Chuck goes "eh, what the hell" and opens the box. So what's inside? This:
Two bottles of salsa verde. Also, a note from a woman named Bettina begging her husband to come back, apparently hoping some spicy condiments will do the trick. Chuck looks at the bottles, reads the note, then puts everything back into the package and continues carrying it with him. It makes absolutely no difference. This could've perfectly been a deleted scene in the movie itself.
The draft clears up another mystery not everyone might have noticed: Why does Chuck drop off the package in a house in Texas if it was going on a plane headed outside the U.S.? Chuck's friends at FedEx actually tried to find the recipient but couldn't locate him, so Chuck decided to return the box to the person who sent it in the first place. At the end of this draft, Chuck talks to Bettina, who tells him that her husband (the naked cowboy from the beginning) was a jerk, and she doesn't mind that he never got the salsa.
Lost in Translation -- What Did Bill Murray's Character Whisper at the End?
In Lost in Translation Bill Murray plays, essentially, himself as a washed-up actor named Bob Harris on a business trip in Tokyo. (We'd like to point out that this is obviously not true to life, as Bill Murray remains the greatest actor in history.)
Forced to star in wacky Japanese commercials and sit through blisteringly weird interviews, Bill, er, Bob encounters Charlotte, a young, free spirited girl fresh out of college played by Scarlett Johansson. Over the next few days, they form a bond that has to end when Bob heads back to the good old USA. The film throws a lot of hints that Bob is in love with Charlotte, and she him, but, sadly, Charlotte is already married to John, played by the evil businessman from Avatar.
In the end, Bob and Charlotte embrace one last time, he whispers something in her ear, and they part, leaving the audience to debate what, if any, future their relationship has.
What the Script Says:
Truth be told, Bob's whisper isn't even in the script. The plan all along was to have Bill Murray ad-lib it. But what is in the script is what's really going through Bob's head in their last few moments together.
Specifically, it says that Bob wants to tell Charlotte he loves her ... but he never does. Bob totally chickens out, they hug, and that's it.
But what about the whisper? Now we know it wasn't anything romantic, but what did he say? Was it some truth about the universe? Some in-joke? "Want to go mess with random college students later?" Turns out, several people with way more time than us have attempted to decode the whisper using audio-processing software -- and some have gotten pretty close.
The first part could be anything, really, but after watching the video it's hard not to hear "... go to that man and tell him the truth, OK?" at the end. And that doesn't sound like something a guy would say to move a relationship forward, unless he's actually proposing a threesome. A threesome with the bad guy from Avatar.
The Matrix -- What Was on Neo's Secret Disc in His Apartment?
Before hour long car chases that would make Bullitt blush and enough pseudo-philosophy to choke a college freshman, there was the original Matrix, and before he became Neo, Keanu Reeves was just a dude named Thomas Anderson. In fact, if you'll recall the film's opening, Anderson is sleeping at his desk when a bunch of dudes dressed in leather knock on his door.
He goes to a hollowed-out book and hands them a disc that is handled as if it's both hugely important and secret (the guy pays two grand for it). The guy even says, in a not-so-subtle hint to Neo's destiny, "You're my savior, man. My own personal Jesus Christ."
But what was on the disc? What piece of software could be worth $2000 and would have to be picked up in person? The movie never tells you, and shortly thereafter, Neo meets Morpheus and gets caught up in, you know, the actual movie. For years, fan speculation about the content of the disc has ran amok, with some even surmising that it somehow proves that Neo invented A.I. or that they're other ship pilots, or that the disc has something to do with the code of the Matrix.
What the Script Says:
Apparently, it's just software to clear the dude's parking tickets, so he must have a ton of the bastards to be willing to pay $2,000 for it.
An earlier draft of the script explains that the guy (Choi in the film, Anthony in the script) just wants Neo's help so he can get the boot off his car. The scene was probably originally meant to establish Neo's hacking skills (and to include a throwaway line about cops being "automatons" who are just told what to do by a computer).
Presumably, the Wachowskis figured out that they could just skip all that nonsense and tell the audience how awesome Neo is by ... having other characters tell Neo how awesome he is.
Groundhog Day -- Why Did Bill Murray Get Stuck in a Time Loop?
The great thing about Groundhog Day is that it's endlessly rewatchable -- it only gets better every time you see it. Part of the reason is that it's completely open to interpretation; numerous essays have been written about the meaning of the film, and in fact, some Buddhists have adopted it as a modern symbol of their religion.
Part of what makes it great is that the film doesn't bother with why he's trapped in this endless loop of the same 24 hours. It doesn't matter; what matters is that this one man gets what many of us wish we had -- endless chances to fix his mistakes. And when he finally figures out what he's doing wrong, the loop stops.
What the Script Says:
Actually, it was Phil's ex girlfriend.
The second draft of Groundhog Day is pretty close to what we saw on the screen, except for some additional scenes with Phil in the studio at the beginning one at the end where he and Rita go out to the street ... oh, and the part where his ex puts a curse on him. As in, she opens a book of magic spells and does a little ritual that causes him to get stuck in time.
Near the beginning of the script we meet Stephanie Decastro, Phil's recently dumped girlfriend. Later, as Phil is going to bed in Punxsutawney, we see intercut scenes of Stephanie in her room, using Phil's business card and broken watch (conveniently frozen at 5:59) to perform a magic spell from a book titled 101 Curses, Spells and Enchantments You Can Do at Home. There's no deeper meaning or higher purpose here: It's just some pissed-off chick with a stupid book.
That's not the only mystery that's solved here -- the screenplay also specifies that Phil spends 10,000 years trapped in the loop, and it hints at a more definite answer as to why he comes out: It was apparently the kiss with Rita at the end that broke the spell, like in a fairy tale. Even in the filmed version, you can still hear a tingly "magic" sound when they kiss in that scene, even though it's not even close to the hottest kiss in the movie.
2001: A Space Odyssey -- The Whole Ending
Where do we even start? What were those big, black monoliths? Why do the last 15 minutes make us feel like someone made us drink a mescaline smoothie? Why is there a huge fetus in outer space?
Kubrick was known to be a perfectionist, delicately crafting each shot, every bit of dialogue, everything. So immediately after the film's release, critics, scholars and the forerunners of Internet movie nerds set out to discover just what was going on in a film that was clearly dense with symbolism.
But if they really wanted to know, they could have just read the script.
What the Script Says:
The script, co-written with Arthur C. Clarke (who also wrote the novelization), explains pretty much everything that goes on in a scene that takes up the last ten pages or so. It was meant to have a voice-over narration that laid out exactly what you had just watched, but then Kubrick threw it all out for a trippy light show. That takes balls.
It turns out that the mysterious monoliths were actually machines built by super-advanced aliens to help speed up evolution. That's why the apes who encounter the one on Earth suddenly become aware of what tools and weapons are. So when Dave gets sucked into a monolith at the end of the movie and then turns into a gigantic baby? He's just become a super-evolved life form, just like the aliens who made life on Earth.
The novel's sequels explain even more, like the exact nature of the Star Child. He's a savior who destroys all of humanity's nuclear weapons and helps foster life on Europa, the ocean moon of Jupiter. Oh, and he merges with HAL at some point and becomes HAL-man and shit.
See? It all makes perfect sense now!
Maxwell Yezpitelok lives in Chile and does stupid comics, some of which have recently been published in Informe Meteoro, a new independent comics anthology. To read more of Ashe's work, check out weirdshitblog.com.
Want to know where Christopher Nolan got the idea for Inception? Then check out 5 Amazing Things Invented by Donald Duck (Seriously). Or find out about 5 Badass Movie Characters You Won't Believe Were Based on Real People.