Happy Endings, Expectations, and a Hatchet Wielding Hunk

January 30, 2013

Song of the Day: Slow Burn by Atreyu

This week I finally saw the movie Snow White and the Huntsman. It was a fun, dark, entertaining twist of the classic Snow White fairy tale. And I truly appreciated Kristen Stewart not once swiping her hair behind her ear ala brooding Bella-style. Overjoyed really. BUT, and much like my rear-end, it’s a big but, I was 100% unsatisfied with how the movie ended.

chris hemsworth huntsmanOh sure, there was a happy ending—evil was vanquished and good reigned once again. Just it was not a happily-ever-after ending. As the credits rolled, I shook my head feeling I’d been cheated. It’s a fairy tale, with Chris Hemsworth, for Grimm’s sake. Where’s the damned happily-ever-after?

A good story doesn’t have to end in wedding bells and Disney-esque promises of eternal love. A good story can end in ambiguity. It can end with a tragic, yet beautiful goodbye. It can end with lines like “After all, tomorrow is another day.” It can leave you in stoic thought or just end with a certain finality. Heck, it can even end horribly. But the story should end satisfyingly.

As an aside, there was one movie with an ending so appalling, so shocking (even for me) that I was beyond unsatisfied. I was angry and even a little depressed. It was the 2007 adaptation of Stephen King’s The Mist. *shudders*

Back to my point.

I got to thinking about books. In romance, there is an unwritten rule (or maybe it is etched in a golden tablet hidden in the labyrinth sewer system beneath New York City) stating there must to be a happy ending for the heroine. The happy ending may include the happily-ever-after or it may allude to a life of happiness with her hero. Oftentimes, the heroine’s quest for love and/or happiness doesn’t end in one book, continuing on throughout a series of books instead. Yet, at the culmination of each tale, there is a gratifying conclusion to her adventure.

In Snow White and the Huntsman, there was a building trust, personal growth, and discovery of the heart. At times, it was subtle, but it was there most certainly. There was even a true love’s first kiss. Much mightier than any sword or incantation, mind you. It stands to reason there would be a happily-ever-after, or at the very least a pledge of one. For all that, the appropriate ending was glaringly neglected in the final scene. How frustratingly uncool. Boo…hiss…

If this happened in a romance novel, I doubt I would pick up another book from that author and I suspect I wouldn’t be alone. It’s the writer’s obligation to fulfill the reader’s expectations. Whether it is to leave the reader sighing from the perfect HEA, breathless with an explosive finish, or anticipating the next installment, authors must give the reader satisfaction. I believe this is true for all books, regardless of the genre, romance or otherwise.

I’m no movie critic. Nope, I’m just another yahoo with an opinion. For the most part I was entertained by the film. But as a romance writer, I’d say the movie makers missed the mark. Now if you’ll excuse me, I must pick up popcorn kernels thrown at the TV screen.

Have you seen the movie? What are your thoughts? Has any movie or book left you disappointed? Let’s hear from you.