In a recent article over at Slashfilm, McG, director of the upcoming spy romcom This Means War talked about the prospect of having multiple endings in a blockbuster film. The movie’s premise seems to lend itself to the idea: two spy best friends (Tom Hardy and Chris Pine) discover they are both dating the same woman. In one version of the ending, Reese Witherspoon, the woman they’re both pining after would choose Pine, in the other Hardy. In the article, McG describes why he thought it wouldn’t work:
We wanted to have flexibility and even talked about two endings and releasing it on 3,000 screens—1,500 have this [ending] and 1,500 have that one, and just not saying anything… But it felt a little gimmicky in the end.
The article also mentions that the idea was “too important to be trifled with by releasing multiple endings” which is strange considering the subject matter. Videogames are extremely open to having multiple endings and encourage the player to experience their story rather than the story. Movies have existed for some time now and though the idea of multiple versions has manifested through disc extras and Director’s cuts, the medium has been resistant to narrative innovation.
Though the technology is constantly changing and visual storytelling has noticeably deepened, there are other narrative strategies that go untouched. Francis Ford Coppola’s upcoming film Twixt asks the question on the indie scale, but This Means War seems like it might have been a missed opportunity to introduce the idea to the mainstream.