Scott Pilgrim Had A Horrifying Alternate Ending
We asked readers to name a plot twist that movies and shows overuse. We were surprised by the answer we got from Kristen S., who said, "Every twist. Every twist is idiotic. Like, if your story isn't good enough to exist without the twist, then it's not good enough and you should just stop writing." Charles S. agreed, saying, "Twists in general. All of them. They're lazy. Either show me the side story that leads up to it, or don't put it in."
Many readers had more specific pet peeves. Richärd K. picked this one: "There's a person about to shoot someone, you hear the shot, but it came from someone else and the original person with the gun is shot." Ko T.B. pointed to the groanworthy plot where a character sees their love interest hugging and kissing someone and abandons hope without looking further. Surprise: In the end, the mystery person wasn't a rival, it "turned out to be a cousin/sibling."
One answer came up more often than any other. "It was all a dream," said Mary Ann C.—and also Kathy S., Tom M., Pamela E.C., Yuri B., and too many other readers to name. With this twist, a movie reveals that nothing we saw really happened. What really happened is the character was sleeping, or hallucinating, or imagining. Except, uh, that also didn't "really" happen, because that too is still part of a work of fiction, so what was the point of the second fiction layer?
We're not going to spoil any recent all-a-dream stories for you (even if you'd rather be spared having to experience them yourselves), but let's mention one that could have gone this route.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a movie where things don't make literal sense. The movie runs on video game logic—fights break the laws of reality, a character goes back in time after dying at one point—and also includes plenty of other impossible stuff that's funny to watch. During filming, director Edgar Wright planned to shoot an alternate ending that would reveal all this weird stuff is just Scott's fantasy. In reality, he simply murdered all of Ramona's exes in cold blood. He is a serial killer.
This was never going to be the actual ending of the film. The plan was to just shoot it on video, as an alternate joke ending, and in the end, they ran short of time and didn't do it. You can understand, however, how a different director might have wanted to do this for real. Making it a fantasy would have explained all the weirdness in the story. MGM took that route for the most famous all-a-dream ending of all, The Wizard of Oz. In the Oz books, Dorothy went to Oz for real—the studio tacked on the dream twist.
Make it a dream, and all the fanciful elements can symbolize more serious stuff from reality. But, see, the fanciful elements can symbolize serious real stuff even without the story making it all a dream. The story is already fictional. It can be weird, it can be representational, it can be proud nonsense. It's a story. There are no rules.
For more movie what-ifs, check out:
Top image: Universal Pictures