How It Ends is a disaster movie that really doesn’t want to be a disaster movie. It almost feels like the filmmakers created this solid story about the tricky relationship. That between a gruff military man and his daughter’s boyfriend, adding nuance to the characters and tension to the conflict. Only to abruptly decide to make a post-apocalyptic thriller. It goes about as well as you’d expect.
Despite an unusually solid first act that seamlessly blends exposition and character, How It Ends rapidly disintegrates into a repetitive and exhausting road trip into hell. Where narrative logic is virtually non-existent. Director David M. Rosenthal attempts to liven things up with eerie Malickian visuals, but it’s not enough. By the time How It Ends arrives at its massively silly conclusion. It’s blatantly obvious that this dystopian nightmare has nothing to offer.
Will Younger (Theo James) is working hard to advance in the corporate world
But his life is about to undergo a major change. His girlfriend Sam (Kat Graham) is pregnant, which forces the young couple to speed up their relationship for the first time. With a wedding on the horizon, Will is planning to ask Tom (Forest Whitaker), Sam’s strict military father, for his blessing. But that won’t exactly be an easy task. Tom blames his daughter’s boyfriend for a boat accident a few years ago, which leads to some tension.
After a profane dinner that turns into a verbal sparring match between Tom and Will. The young professional packs his bags and heads to the airport, returning to the home he shares with Sam in Seattle. Of course, this is exactly when disaster strikes. All flights are grounded, a FaceTime call with Sam is suddenly dropped. News stations around the world stir up a frenzy.
With nowhere else to go, Will heads back to Tom’s house. Where the former Marine is already packing his bags for a road trip to Seattle. Despite the history between the two men, Will agrees to go, stopping at nothing to find the love of his live. As some kind of man-made or natural plague sweeps the globe. The two men find themselves on a road trip into a dark and terrifying land of lawlessness. Can they reach the west coast before it’s too late?
Fascinating Family Drama In A Post-Apocalyptic Package
If you’re going to build your movie on the foundation of a nasty family conflict. That fight has to be seriously compelling. It’s a testament to the work of screenwriter Brooks McLaren and director Rosenthal. How It Ends starts with such a bang, as Theo James and Forest Whitaker duke it out over wine and cheese. The tension between Will and Tom is palpable, and it puts the whole thing on the right track.
But just like the banged-up car that takes these weary travelers across the United States, this film progressively runs out of gas. The dinner scene is rooted in an uncomfortable sense of cruelty. As these two men do anything to inflict emotional pain on each other. I found myself entranced by this encounter, leaning forward to see what could possibly happen next. Well, what happens is a lot of nothing. The film is never able to top its character-centric opening act, suffering from endless repetitions of the same formula.
Once Will and Tom find themselves on the open road, the film becomes more violent and less interesting, larger in scope with a more diluted impact. Characters like Grace Dove‘s Ricki float in and out of the story with little concern for narrative mechanics, leaving the story to meander aimlessly for large chunks of time. The cinematography by Peter Flinckenberg delivers some beautiful images, but you can only see the same thing so many times before it gets boring.
Baffling, Disastrous Ending
How It Ends sits comfortably in the realm of mediocrity until its final 20 minutes. There’s a nice scene with James and Whitaker every once in a while, dragged down by the generic array of disaster action. The two actors obviously deliver their best material in the first act, but they’re consistently solid throughout. They’re stoic men on a mission, and it’s fun to watch these two contrasting personalities clash.
But in those final few minutes, things collapse completely, leaving viewers with an ending so profoundly misguided that I’m not sure how it ever got past the post-production stage. To avoid spoilers, I won’t divulge any details on what precisely happens. Simply put, it’s both unnecessary and mind-boggling, a needless add-on that contributes to a running time that is well above what it should be.
And beyond adding to the sheer length of the endeavor, the finale confirms that the aimless structure of much of the film was not purposeful. There is no rhyme or reason to How It Ends, nor is there a pay-off to anything that happens. The opening may tease a film that is both well-written and carefully directed, but it eventually becomes just a series of scenes that rarely congeals into anything substantial. The finale honestly feels like it was ripped out of another movie.
Genre: Action & Adventure, Science Fiction & Fantasy
Directed By: David M. Rosenthal
Stars: Theo James, Kat Graham, Nancy Sorel
Written By: Brooks McLaren
In Theaters: Jul 13, 2018 Limited
On Disc/Streaming: Jul 13, 2018
CRITIC REVIEWS FOR HOW IT ENDS:
The desire to fast-forward becomes almost overpowering.
Chauncey K. Robinson
You won’t beg for the two hours of your life back after watching this film. It had it’s moments.
How It Ends is a mildly effective thriller with an ending that will leave some viewers frustrated.
Even with a good hook, How It Ends suffers from a lack of vision, which is exactly what you don’t need in an effects-heavy disaster movie.