Imagining A Much Better Ending to a Bad Movie – Vertical Limit

There’s a game I play when watching movies. I’m sure others play it too. I rewrite bad scenes to make them better. I wonder how they could have been made more exciting. Some scenes are better than I ever could have imagined. I like it when that happens.

Cinerama is an upmarket Seattle movie theater. It has a huge screen, comfortable seats and a top shelf sound system. If there’s a movie of dubious quality in release but playing at Cinerama then I might go and see it because, hey, at least I went to Cinerama and sat in the nice seats.

Once I found myself in Cinerama watching an awful movie about a mountain rescue in the Himalayas. It had lots of snow, heart throb actors and expensive helicopter shots to indicate high production values. It also had Izabella Scorupco to indicate high babe values.




[Looking up that Google link for Izabella led me to her IMDB page which had the name of the awful movie – Vertical Limit. I added it into the title for the one person who is looking for information on that movie.]

I sat in my comfy chair and watched it to the end. [I have never mastered the ability to walk out on a movie partway through, although hindsight tells me I should have done this to Vertical Limit. The only movie I remember walking out of was Alexander, where Jean and I left after three hours, having spent the previous two going, “It got to end soon. Please.” We skipped the last half hour. Take that, credits.]

I’m going to talk about the ending of Vertical Limit, but it isn’t really a spoiler because there’s nothing fresh to go off. But in the interests of supporting a good system, here is my warning:


============ SPOILER ALERT! ============


The ending goes something like this.

1) The Young Hero, is hanging on a rope down a crevasse. If he lets go he drops down to the bottom and dies a cold and flat death. Complicating things, he has the life of two others in his hands.

2) Hanging off a rope that is hanging off the Young Hero are the Old Hero (played by crusty Scott Glenn) and below him on the same rope is the Bad Guy (smarmy Bill Paxton).

3) The audience remembers the opening scene of the movie, where the Dad of the Young Hero was in a similar situation, dangling off a rope hanging on his son on some cliff face in Yosemite. Back then the Dad cut his own rope, dropping to the valley floor but saving his son. It flashes through the Young Hero’s mind. You know he can’t support the weight of these two people for for long. Someone’s rope is going to get cut.

4) The Old Hero gets out his knife and cuts his rope, saving the Young Hero and condemning himself to death, but he takes the Bad Guy with him. Isn’t that uplifting! I think somewhere the Sister of the Young Hero was saved but she didn’t leave much of an impression in my memory. I conclude that Izabella didn’t play the Sister.

At this, I was bouncing with frustration and only saved from injury by the extensive padding of my chair. With only one tiny pause the ending would have been so much better! All you need to do is change step four.

4) The Old Hero gets out his knife and cuts the rope below him, watching the Bad Guy fall to the crevasse floor. He hangs there and smiles, and in that beat he feels the illegal and immoral joy of killing the Bad Guy. He could say some cool one-liner but I’d keep it simple with a half smile and a last sweet breath fogging the air. Then he cuts his own rope and falls to nothingness.

For me, that would have saved the movie from its own fall to nothingness. He would only have lived an extra three seconds of life, but what a three seconds! The joy of retribution; murder unpunished; the death of your enemy before your eyes. Surely the Young Hero could have hung on long enough to grant the Old Hero some murderous bliss?


1 Response to “Imagining A Much Better Ending to a Bad Movie – Vertical Limit”

  1. 1 Jean Curtis
    October 18, 2009 at 08:10

    Ah yes, I remember this movie. That would have been a WAY better ending. I doubt the movie would have been saved, but at least you could leave the theatre with the feeling that after a long and painful plot, it finally got going at the end. You should probably continue and rewrite it from back to front. I’d kill the sister early on, she was painful. And perhaps a dangling rope sex seen with Izabella.

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