There’s no formula to create a great movie, but there is a formula for creating a bad movie. If you want to create a bad movie, the fastest way to create a failure is to create an incomplete story.
An incomplete story is one that leaves the outcome of one or more characters dangling. In movies with a strong following such as “Avengers”, it’s easy to make fans wait until the sequel until they find the answers to how the story turned out, but in stories without a loyal following, incomplete stories are the kiss of death to killing any story.
Even “Solo: A Star Wars Story” couldn’t pull off an incomplete story despite the loyal following of Star Wars fanatics. In “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” the story ends with lots of loose ends, creating an incomplete story. As a result, this makes the movie less appealing and less satisfying.
The YA (Young Adult) movie genre is most famous for creating incomplete stories since the novels that the movies are based on rely on incomplete stories to convince readers to buy and read the next book in the series.
Yet such incomplete stories ultimately prove frustrating and unsatisfying to audiences who may not have read the book ahead of time. That’s why YA movies like “Mortal Engines,” “The 5th Wave,” and “The Darkest Minds” failed. Audiences want a complete story, and yet movies based on YA novels consistently violate this simple principle. The end result is a constant string of failed YA movies as Hollywood keeps doing the same thing over and over again, hoping for a different result, which is the definition of insanity.
To avoid writing a box office flop, start by writing a complete story where there’s no doubt about each character’s final outcome. “Star Wars”, “Die Hard,” and “The Terminator” all have complete stories, yet still spawned sequels. It’s far better to have a complete story than an incomplete story. That may seem obvious, but it’s something Hollywood is still trying to figure out.