The Ending of “Dr. Strange”

The ending of any movie must be appropriate. If the ending of “Thelma and Louise” ending with Thelma and Louise engaging in a massive shootout with the police with exploding cars, the ending wouldn’t have been as emotionally satisfying because it wouldn’t have fit the theme of the story, which was that women are oppressed living in a man’s world.

Endings must be appropriate to the theme. One of the more interesting endings of any superhero movie is “Dr. Strange.” In most superhero movies, the hero battles the villain in a massive, physical fight with plenty of explosions, gunfire, and broken furniture and buildings. Yet in ” Dr. Strange,” the ending is far different, but it works.

(In case you haven’t seen “Dr. Strange” yet, you may want to stop reading to avoid a spoiler alert.)

The main theme of “Dr. Strange” is the unknown. The opening shows people fighting in a weird world where they can stand on the sides of buildings and the world appears upside down and sideways. This sets up “Dr. Strange” as an unusual superhero story.

The ending of “Dr. Strange” doesn’t fall into the typical action-packed finale of most superhero movies. Instead, “Dr. Strange” ends on an odd battle where the hero (Dr. Strange) keeps approaching the villain to make a bargain with him. This is relatively boring physically, but gets comical when Dr. Strange keeps reappearing and the villain keeps finding different and more creative ways to kill him.

The finale occurs when we realize exactly how Dr. Strange is planning to defeat the villain — by trapping him forever in a time loop that he can never escape unless he agrees to Dr. Strange’s demands. That’s such an odd ending but fits perfectly well with the upside down, twisted, backwards world of “Dr. Strange.”

Now compare “Dr. Strange” to any of the “Avengers” movies where the Avengers engage in massive physical battle with the villain. That type of ending fits perfectly well with an Avengers movie because you expect physical action, but a physical battle wouldn’t fit with “Dr. Strange” because you expect a more bizarre ending and “Dr. Strange” delivers it.

So the lesson is to define the type of story audiences can expect in the beginning. Then deliver that type of ending in the final battle. As long as your ending matches the beginning of your story, you’ll at least create a coherent story. Now you just have to worry about what happens in between.

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