The plot twist is one of the riskiest storytelling devices a creator can insert into a work of fiction. Doing it well can create the most memorable endings and sweep an audience off their feet, but brass it up can ruin the whole experience and retroactively remove the logic from the narrative.
Action movies aren’t always lauded for their plots, and many fans are willing to completely ignore the dialogue as long as the fight scenes work. When a creator takes a big narrative swing, they’re often rewarded with praise and success, but bigger swings can lead to much more obvious misfires. Discussing the big twists necessitates giving the game away, so spoilers ahead for every film mentioned.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
The fourth entry in one of the most iconic franchises of the 1980s was reviled and disappointing enough to put the adventurer to sleep for around 15 years. Among a number of somewhat interesting ideas, such as Shia LaBeouf in the role of Indy’s illegitimate son, the film struggled to stick the landing. Previous films dealt with examples of real mystical forces and supernatural happenings, but crystal skull went in a slightly different direction. The new relic that Dr. Jones seeks turns out to be the long-abandoned corpse of an old-fashioned gray alien. The film sums it up as badly as possible with “Their knowledge is treasure and their treasure is knowledge”. This big reveal subverts any version of the legend of the actual crystal skulls but also plays into the unpleasant ancient aliens trope. Narratively unfulfilling, logically inconsistent, and generally disappointing, fans will have to wait and hope that the upcoming fifth film improves things.
Almost forgotten less than a year after its entirely unceremonious release, this action film takes a solid premise and fails to bring anything interesting to it. Kate Beckinsale made a gradual transition from dramatic actress to full-blown action star over many years. Her leading role in the long running Underworld franchise made her one of the most iconic leading ladies in action cinema throughout the 2000s. Jolt sought to give the actress a new franchise to dominate and packaged her alongside a stellar cast. Unfortunately, it lacks any narrative innovation and could be predicted by anyone who glanced at the trailer. The film centers on Beckinsale as a woman using electroshock therapy to tone down her violent temper. She dates an accountant who turns up dead early in the story. Unfortunately, he’s portrayed by Jai Courtney, who is far too big a name to appear so briefly, so it’s obvious he’ll be back. When he is back as the main villain, most audiences were too busy seeing it coming to care about how little sense it made.
The Dark Knight Rises
Nolan and Bale’s third take on Batman is generally seen as the weakest entry in the franchise. Over the film’s bracing 2-hour and 45-minute runtime, the plot certainly drones on a bit. Marion Cotillard’s Miranda Tate would be a fairly forgettable character if it weren’t for the fact that the third act reveals her to be the villain. This choice makes no sense, as it leaves Bane as a boring henchman and gives the main final boss only a couple of minutes to explore the space. There are a few tiny hints towards the big reveal, but Talia al Ghul’s first on-screen appearance lacks most of what fans like about the character and doesn’t make much sense as a reveal.
Now You See Me
This 2013 oddity asks the crucial question, what if the crew from Ocean’s Eleven were a bunch of unlikable stage magicians? By the end of the film, The Four Horseman successfully evades the FBI and pulls off their masterful multi-million dollar heist. The big reveal at the end of the film places Mark Ruffalo’s hard-bitten FBI agent on their team. Surprise, Dylan Rhodes has been orchestrating the entire narrative behind the scenes. The way the story is told feels as if the writers came up with the story chronologically and Rhodes’ betrayal was actually written down after every other aspect of the character’s actions. Most of Now You See Me doesn’t make much sense, but the big reveal at the end is the apex of lazy subversion of expectations.
Planet of the Apes
The 1968 original film featured one of the strongest twist endings in cinematic history, but the 2001 remake didn’t live up to its expectations. The story of the decades-long journey that became this remake is one of the most notorious disasters in Hollywood history. It’s kind of a wonder that the movie came out at all. When it did finally come out it was a financial success, but less than beloved but critics. The big reveal at the end of the movie was part of the problem. Mark Wahlberg’s Captain Davidson accidentally travels back in time on his way to Earth and winds up in Washington DC He lands in front of the Lincoln Memorial, which is identical, except he’s an ape. How did the apes take over humanity in the past? No one knows, and since the sequel never came out and the film was rebooted a decade later, no one ever will.
MORE: 5 Nonsensical Plot Twists In Horror Movies