One of the reasons given for not filming Atlas Shrugged as a trilogy, Lord of the Rings style, is that, by contrast with Lord of the Rings, the middle book of Atlas ends with a cliffhanger (as Dagny’s plane, its engine failing, hurtles downward toward the crags of the Colorado Rockies).
That’s so true; there’s no way you could make a trilogy of movies out of a work whose middle part ends with a cliffhanger. Thank goodness, then, that the middle book of Lord of the Rings doesn’t end like this:
The great doors slammed to. Boom. The bars of iron fell into place inside. Clang. The gate was shut. Sam hurled himself against the bolted brazen plates and fell senseless to the ground. He was out in the darkness. Frodo was alive but taken by the Enemy.
And ditto for the upcoming Barsoom saga, likewise being filmed as a trilogy – which they’d never be able to do if the second book had ended like this:
And as she finished speaking I saw her raise a dagger on high, and then I saw another figure. It was Thuvia’s. As the dagger fell toward the unprotected breast of my love, Thuvia was almost between them. A blinding gust of smoke blotted out the tragedy within that fearsome cell – a shriek rang out, a single shriek, as the dagger fell.
The smoke cleared away, but we stood gazing upon a blank wall. The last crevice had closed, and for a long year that hideous chamber would retain its secret from the eyes of men. …
Ah! If I could but know one thing, what a burden of suspense would be lifted from my shoulders! But whether the assassin’s dagger reached one fair bosom or another, only time will divulge.
The story also mentions the Matrix and Star Wars trilogies. The second acts of those trilogies certainly didn’t end on cliffhangers either, did they?
I wouldn’t really call Empire’s ending a cliffhanger–all the main characters but one are out of immediate danger, and he’s in suspended animation–but it sure was a minfuck of epic proportions designed to keep audience suspense high for the ensuing three years, so it’s definitely pretty similar to a cliffhanger.
Empire‘s ending still ranks among the best movie endings in cinema history. Like was said in Clerks(?), it’s a complete downer. It was wonderful. The decision not to end the second movie of the LotR trilogy as the cliffhanger that it should’ve been still bugs me. I don’t remember Shelob being hinted at by Gollum at all in FotR, but then my memory is spotty with that movie.