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Does everything need an epic ending?

I saw Guardians of the Galaxy last weekend.  I liked it overall - I think it's one of the two best Marvel movies so far, along with the first Iron Man.  It was fun, it was snappy, it had likable characters and good banter....  Unfortunately, it also had an epic ending.

The rest of the movie - or at least, the parts that worked - is narrowly-focused on a small group of ne'er-do-wells and their misadventures together.  GotG is basically just a movie about five people(?) who are able to overcome inner conflict by working as a team.  It makes sense for them to band together for some final fight with the villain because the climactic showdown would prove that they're able to work as a unit.

What doesn't make sense, though, is to throw in a thousand other pilots and soldiers for a massive dogfight.  That's not what the movie is about.  Once you pull the focus back to a planetary scale, the characters get washed out in the scope.  Doomsday Device or no, the movie falls apart once it decides to get the entire world involved.

GotG is not alone.  Virtually every comic book movie over the last three years has ended with the destruction of a major city and/or a spectacular battle scene.  Hell, even movies that have no reason to bring up a war at the end will build up to them.

Like this turd.

The goal is for the audience to be enthralled by the epic conclusion - we're supposed to be seeing a massive, intense battle on a scale we've never seen before.  But "epic" never really works.

These stories are small tales.  Superman might be a super man, but he's still just one Superman.  Big, epic wars are fought by hundreds of thousands of people, maybe even millions.  There's only so much interest you can take in a person at a time, and when you have to divide your interest between 300,000 people, you'll end up bored out of your skull.  The best way to keep things interesting is to use war as a backdrop - not the actual narrative.

Besides, if you both introduce and end a war in the last 30 minutes, how the hell are we supposed to give a shit?

I learned my lesson about epic endings back in college.  When I was 21, I wrote "Norton Is Thinking," a novel about a high school student who uses a loophole in his school's charter to take it over as the new principal.  After making a bunch of unpopular changes, some students decide they need to take drastic action to set things right and undo his damage.  The result is a huge riot scene - basically the high school equivalent of a city being stormed by foot soldiers while the hero and villain exchange one-liners and punch each other.

There's a few problems with this ending.  First of all, it just doesn't make sense - how do you have a bunch of teenagers rioting without the police getting involved?  But leaving aside the actual logistics and reality of the scene, I keep coming back to one complaint above all else: it's so boring.

The way the students take over the school in the first part of the book is (dare I say?) interesting and clever.  The antagonist researches some obscure regulations and kicks off a domino-like chain of events that leads him to power.  It's a gradual build-up based on ingenuity and devious scheming.  The suspense comes from a guy who is so intelligent that it seems he has thought of every possible conclusion.  The conflict comes from his ability to out-think his opponents.

And then it gets resolved by people punching each other.

I guess the real problem with an epic ending isn't necessarily that there's too much stuff going on or that you can't identify with enough people.  I think maybe it just comes down to the fact that "epic" is so often used to cover up "not knowing how to end the story."

Any idiot can declare a war and get a bunch of people killed.  It takes somebody far more special to be clever.