Tying up loose ends.

My husband and I went on a run this morning–well, half of a run. On the first mile, we actually did run, and we chatted while we did it, and eventually we got onto the subject of the latest Marvel movies, and the whole Marvel movie saga. This conversation turned into a well-mannered argument, and we were both speaking too heatedly by the end of the first mile that we decided to walk the rest so we could use our breath up on proving our points rather than, you know, the run we were originally trying to do.

Whatever. Debate-walking counts as a form of exercise, right?

Anyway, we were debating one of the Marvel movies specifically: the latest Captain America film. It all started when I said I liked the first one better than the second because I felt like it had a more complete ending (most people seem to have enjoyed the second more because it had more action, but I’m a storyline girl). My husband disagreed, saying he liked them equally and that he didn’t see the difference in the way they ended.

WARNING: Spoilers ahead! Though, if you haven’t seen both Captain America films by now, I don’t feel bad for you.

I’ll spare you the details of everything we discussed and simply put it this way: I feel like the first Captain America movie was complete on its own. By the time the movie ended, all true loose ends were addressed and viewers had a sense of completion. They did not need a second movie to feel like the issues in the first one were all closed up.

The second one, however, ends with the viewer having no conclusion for the Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes plotline. Not really. They fight. Captain America decides not to kill Bucky. Bucky saves Captain America’s life. Then he walks off… and Steve says at the end of the movie he has to find his friend, basically stating that there will be a follow-up movie to close the plot with Bucky and Steve.

After spending so much of the movie making viewers wonder whether or not Steve and Bucky will reconnect, I feel like the filmmakers left a massive loose end not giving us closure there. Additionally, the viewers then know there will be a follow-up movie to address this loose end, therefore making the second Captain America movie not as complete as the first.

Now, to clarify, I still absolutely loved the second movie. I think Marvel does an amazing job at bringing their characters and storylines alive in film. However, when I watch a movie, I like walking out of the theater knowing where things stand. I don’t like being left with loose ends. As a writer, I feel like leaving this kind of conflict unresolved is telling of some lazy storytelling. I also worry that Marvel is letting this kind of thing slip through because they know they can make sequel after sequel (as long as the movies remain consistently good) and people will still storm the theaters, even if these sequels don’t close up all the loose ends at the end.

My husband, on the other hand, feels like all the Marvel movies (to a point) lend to a sequel, and while I think that’s true, I don’t think they need a sequel to tie up loose ends the way the second Captain America does. He also pointed out that books designed to be sequels (the way the Marvel movies are designed to blend together), often leave off with clear indications of a follow-up novel. That’s a good point, though most book series also tie up major loose ends like this before moving onto the next, and each book (should) function on its own with the storyline for that individual book totally complete before the follow up comes.

Finally, his biggest point was that the movies are functioning more like the comics do–where no plotline is ever left truly complete because the comic book world can continue forever, and he really loves seeing that brought onto the big screen.

What do you guys think? Am I totally wrong about the Bucky thing being left off as a bit of an annoyance, or am I the only one in the world with this problem?


Categories: Opinions and Rants, Writing


  1. There’s no right answer on this one. It is usually less about whether or not it’s good or bad storytelling and more about whether your audience has the patience to accept that there will be loose ends that they’ll have to wait on.

    In the case of a franchise movie like Captain America 2, I’m inclined to agree with Greg. I know some threads will remain unresolved and continued in another movie, and I can accept that they will pay it off later. They did the same thing with the Thor movies (Loki stuff, both times), and they’ll continue to do it with Guardians and whatever else. TV shows have been doing this for a long time, but movies have struggled to do it well, mostly because we’re usually asked to wait years for any unresolved threads. Marvel has shifted my expectations pretty well, because I know they’re going to be consistent, and my questions will be answered eventually.

    So, while I say that I’m fine with it, I don’t think you’re wrong either. It doesn’t stand on its own as one self-contained movie. But, is it really supposed to? You go into this movie with knowledge about SHIELD and The Avengers and a host of characters, and you leave with a knowledge that this will impact and affect characters never once mentioned in this movie. Most of the tension in the movie relies heavily on your pre-existing relationship with its characters. It isn’t a self-contained story on either end, and Marvel has made it impossible to be one. It’s impossible to watch this movie in a bubble, but I’m okay with that. For me, this is just episode 3 of season 2 of The Avengers. And if that makes it a soap opera for people who don’t watch soap operas, I’m okay with that too.

    Jared Johnson

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