#NewsBytesExplainer: Decoding evolution, usage of cliffhangers in films
While the mere idea of hanging from a cliff is enough to send shivers down one's spine, the term "cliffhanger" is actually what movies now hinge on! Remember all those times when you wanted to reach the climax and find out what happens next but couldn't because the movie ended? That's an example of a cliffhanger ending. Let's dive into this plot device today.
Cliffhangers birth sequels, sometimes, full-fledged franchises, too
A cliffhanger plays with the audience's curiosity and increases their intrigue, ensuring they are swooped into the fictional world. You may bite your nails or hold your breath for THE final reveal, but it never comes, purposely so. Cliffhangers pave the way for a sequel and sometimes, a full-fledged franchise, too, ensuring that loyal fans keep returning to dissect the who, what, and why.
Term reportedly originated in 19th century
Terms and phrases in cinema and literature often crisscross with each other. Supposedly, the term "cliffhanger" emanates from a Thomas Hardy novel penned in the 1870s, where one of the chapters ended with the hero hanging off of a cliff, literally! Readers had to wait and buy the next chapter to discover what became of him and whether he survived or fell to death.
What purpose do cliffhangers really serve?
Cliffhangers are used to create space for the story to continue in subsequent installments. At times, it may be done as an experiment, where the team wants to gauge the audience's response before officially announcing the next part. They also bring in the much-needed "hook and shock" value, guaranteeing the audience comes back to unravel the mystery they had to part ways with abruptly.
Cliffhangers can be used in both movies, web series
Some Hollywood examples that used cliffhangers are Captain America: The First Avenger, The Dark Knight, Before Sunset, Kill Bill: Volume 1, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, The Empire Strikes Back, and The Italian Job, among others. Stranger Things, Dead to Me, Lost, You, 24, The Walking Dead, Sons of Anarchy, Breaking Bad, and Dexter are some shows that thrived on cliffhangers.
Remember when India was obsessed with 'Baahubali's cliffhanger?
While cliffhangers are predominantly used in suspense and thriller films, this may not always be the case. Some Indian films that left a "buffer" at the end and left their ending open for interpretation are Andhadhun, Baahubali: The Beginning, Karthik Calling Karthik, A Wednesday!, Phir Hera Pheri, The Lunchbox, and Vikram Vedha. Some web series examples include Mirzapur, The Family Man, Aarya, and Asur.