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Tag Theory: How Much Is Too Much To Say After The Credits?

Filed by KOSU News in Art & Life.
August 22, 2011

Okay, this tag business is getting out of hand.

It was cute when Ferris Bueller did it — when he came out at the end of the credits of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off to tell everyone that the movie was over and they needed to go home. It was funny when Bring It On and Liar Liar did it with outtakes.

And it was intriguing when Marvel did it with teaser scenes at the end of movies like Iron Man that set up other movies to come.

But Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes caused me to conclude that the whole thing has gotten out of hand. (Spoilers ahead, obviously.)

The purpose of ROTPOTA is to tell the story of how (1) apes got really smart, and (2) humans got wiped out. Those are its two table-setting stories. The first story makes up, oh, 98 percent of the movie. It’s essentially a cross between Project X and Project Nim, following James Franco’s sensitive but driven scientist as he adopts and cares for Caesar, a chimp who looks and acts nothing like a chimp and is destined to be tormented, taunted, and forced to wear pants that really aren’t natural for chimps.

Through various mechanisms, Caesar helps make apes really smart, and that smartness is genetic, and thus do the beginnings of a race of supersmart apes appear. Or “rise,” if you will. Because it turns out smart apes don’t like it when you poke them with electric prods.

And then at the end of the movie you get, in effect: “P.S. Also humanity is wiped out by a superbug.”

There are certainly hints of trouble for humanity before this point, but maybe two minutes of screen time is spent on them, and as of the first appearance of the credits, I turned to my friend and said, “So the sick guy was in the movie for no reason whatsoever.” And then after a few names had rolled by, the film returned with a sequence — a short scene, and then an animation — in which humanity was wiped out.

Let me repeat that. Humanity was wiped out after the credits. Humanity was wiped out in the tag. The end of humankind was considered the equivalent of a blooper reel. And while the end of humankind would certainly be a blooper, this seems like rather a lot to pack into a post-credits sequence that might be missed by people who, for instance, stop a DVD when the credits roll. I don’t have problems with people who leave immediately missing a bonus sequence. I do have problems with them missing the apocalypse.

I can just imagine the post-film discussions: “Hey, how about that part where we were all wiped off the face of the earth?” “Wait, what happened?”

As table-setting, for fans of the franchise who wouldn’t feel complete without an explanation of how humans stopped taking care of the Statue Of Liberty, I guess it’s fine. But for a person watching this movie without regard for its function as a prequel, it’s absolutely bizarre. It’s a tag that dwarfs the rest of the movie in significance. It’s like ending Die Hard with, “P.S., then Hans’s brother got some nuclear weapons and destroyed four continents.”

I like a cute tag as much as anyone, and I know everybody likes it if people stay around to see all the names roll by. But there’s a limit to what tags can really be used for, and when you’re using them to render my species extinct, I take offense. [Copyright 2011 National Public Radio]

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