Ambiguous Endings

Ambiguous Endings - How do you feel about them? In general I like a definite ending to a story, but I can understand why not every story has to be told the same way. I don’t think an ambiguous or uncertain ending necessarily makes a book or movie more realistic, or more artistic for that matter. Mostly I find vague, uncertain endings very annoying.
Here’s an example - The end of “A History of Violence”. I thought that ending was too open-ended, so to speak.
Any of you folks have thoughts on this?

As I’ve said elseshere, I prefer some kind of closure. The main characters are on a journey from LA to DC? Don’t just abandon them in the middle of nowhere.

When done properly, they’re awesome. Memento had one of my favorite “endings” of all time.

Lesser men than I have gone mad trying to figure out if it was the lady or the tiger.

I think it depends on how it’s done. “The Sopranos” ending? Hated it. There’s ambiguity and then there’s just being a jerk.

And I feel like a lot of people see The Prestige that way (though it seemed unambiguous to me). There are even people who see “One Hour Photo” as ambiguous.

The Clique novels by Lisi Harrison are my crack and they almost always end with a big question mark looming over your head. I hate it, but the woman is smart cuz I always buy the next installment.
If the LAST book in a series ends ambiguously, well, that’s when I get mad. I have an imagination, but I like closure. I want to know what the Noodle Incident was, and I want to know

what happened to Luna Lovegood when she grew up. She mentioned the future of everyone else but here, and I love her.

I’m okay with ambiguous endings, if they’re the kind of ending that lets the reader decide what happens next. I don’t have to follow characters to the end of their lives, but if I’ve learned enough about them so that I can make an educated guess, that’s fine with me.

I like them. I actually like being left to wonder what the truth actually was, without ever knowing if I got it right or not - it enables me to enjoy the memory of the story for much longer.

American Psycho has a pretty ambiguous ending, though I still find it one of my favorite films.

A good ambiguous ending is very difficult to pull off, but it can be wonderful.

One of my favorites is Lola by the Kinks. The line:

“And I’m glad I’m a man
And so is Lola.”

Can be read two ways: Lola is a man (the more common) and Lola is glad I’m a man.

I think the secret to an ambiguous ending is to not make a big thing of it. Making an ending ambiguous and then flaunting that uncertainty is just jerkish, not clever.

Occasionally I like it. When really, really well done. Usually it ends with me throwing things at the screen.

As a rule, I dislike ambiguous endings intensely, though there have been a few exceptions.

I prefer a more clear ending. I can appreciate the ambiguous ending as an artistic choice, but generally speaking, if I’m invested in a story and its characters, I’d rather have a definite end.

Of course, wanting closure doesn’t mean I want everything to end in a neat package with all the loose ends tied up and everyone living happily ever after, either. I really like Ranma 1/2’s ending

We get the closure of knowing that Ranma and Akane have accepted the engagement, they’re in love. And Ranma’s issues from his/her curse are resolved. Rather than trying to fix everything, it just ends with that little bit of closure. A touch of realism, I think.

And I can certainly appreciate a negative ending, when it’s appropriate, like Gundam 0080.

Bernie, the uncertain rookie who’d been bragging to Al the entire time, overcomes his cowardice and fights the Gundam to the death in order to save Al and Christina (his love interest). He would’ve died a hero, but it’s all in vain, and Al arrives a second too late to tell him it isn’t necessary. Al discovers Christina was the Gundam pilot, and chooses not to tell her that Bernie was the Zeon pilot she killed. The war ends, Al’s school reopens, and he tries to cope with being the only person who knows the truth of Bernie’s fate.

But series that end like Evangelion

The organization meant to save the world planned on facilitating it’s end all along; Rei sacrifices herself to save weak-willed Shinji, leaving him to decide mankind’s fate, including the now out-of-action hero, Asuka. Everybody dies.

or Trigun

Does Vash hold to Rem’s “no killing” philosophy and abandon Meryl to go live in the desert with Knives? Or did he learn from his experiences on the road, and his time with Wolfwood, and adapt Rem’s philosophy to choose his own path, killing Knives and honoring his promise to Meryl?

seem almost gratuitous and ill-concieved to me. When you base the entire series around a particular conflict, dilemma, or question, the ending really should give closure for that central concept, or at least closure to it’s immediate impact on the main characters (but leaving the bigger implication of it for the audience to think about).

PS. for another one that’s kind of ambiguous, but works, I like Vision of Escaflowne The war is over. Gaea knows peace. Hitomi gets to go home to Earth, and her and Vahn are able to stay in touch somehow. Milerna leaves Dreiden, and is free to make up her own mind about her life. Alan gets his sister back & Delandau gets his/her sanity back.
But many uncertainties remain; will Vahn and Hitomi end up together, or are they forever apart? Will Milerna pursue Alan, will Dreiden win her heart, or will she end up in some other relationship? Does Gaea truly have everlasting peace, or was it just the end of that particular war?

I don’t care for ambiguity. I loved the John Carpenter remake of The Thing until they tacked on that ambiguous ending.

I actually liked the trash that was Total Recall, but thought the ending was ripped off from The Wizard of Oz, except even more ambiguous.

H3Knuckles, thank you for posting the end of Ranma 1/2. No, really, no sarcasm. I own like the first four seasons and then just got tired of it, so I never bought any more and never thought to look it up.

Anaamika, I guess I should clarify; that’s how the manga Ranma 1/2 ends. The anime series based on it actually never gets around to an ending. It’s got at least 6 seasons, too. :rolleyes:

As a general rule of thumb, any time you have an anime based on a manga by Rumiko Takahashi, such as Ranma, Inuyasha, Urusei Yatsura, etc. It’s been my experience that the manga are significantly better, due to things like a lack of filler, better timing and pacing on jokes (some stuff just doesn’t work right in real-time, even if it’s awesome in a comic), and the fact that they actually come to an end. She tends to run long with her series, but she does a good job bringing them to a close.
Ranma goes to 38 volumes, and there’s some pretty crazy stuff along the way (especially some of the more intense fighting story-lines with Ryu Kumon, Herb, and finally Saphron) that never gets into the anime. One of my favorite manga-only stories is the Konatsu Kanzen storyline: It’s basically Cinderella, but it’s about a crossdressing teenaged Ninja, Ukyo’s his prince charming, and Ranma takes the place of the fairy god mother in helping Konatsu get away from the wicked step-family. :stuck_out_tongue:
Anyway, I just wanted to reccomend tracking down the manga for a fun read, even if you just pick up #'s 36-38 to see how it all ends. If you don’t feel like buying them, there were some fan-made scanlations (scanned images with translated text edited in) of the latter part of the manga during the long gap when Viz stopped releasing them in the US and hadn’t yet started releasing the reformatted versions (which they finally finished out the series with). It’s probably not all that hard to track these down.

Maybe I might. I have all of the manga for Maison Ikkoku, which I liked even better since it was kind of “normal” and had a definite ending (though I did want to smack Godai sometimes) and that was her, too, right? Wasn’t the Mermaid’s Scar her? Any recommendations about that, or any other Takahashi work?

I hate ambiguous endings.

Or do I?

Stephen King’s books leave me scratching my head most of the time. Are they supposed to be open ended? Am I just missing something?

The Long Walk was one of the worst. We don’t know what happens to the main character. Everything is a fucking metaphor, representing something else. I was seriously annoyed.