Narrative lacking in Netflix’s “How It Ends”
Views 29 | Time to read: 3 minutes | Uploaded: 2 - 27 - 2019 | By: Craig Odenwald
A group of bikers stand in the middle of a bridge, backlit by the blinding lights of a semi-truck. A car lies on the side of the road, burning and covered with black ash. The entrance to a town is blocked by armed men in Jeeps. These unique settings bring “How It Ends” a level of suspense and nail-biting tension that is unfortunately undercut by a poorly-developed story.
“How it Ends”, directed by David M. Rosenthal, tells the story of a man named Will, played by Theo James, who wants to get married to his girlfriend, Samantha, played by Kat Graham. Will flies from Seattle to her parent’s house in Chicago to ask for permission. After his conversation with her father Tom (Forest Whitaker) backfires, he finds out from Samantha that something has happened in Seattle, and an apocalypse begins. Since Samantha is living in Seattle, Tom and Will decide to go on a road trip to find and rescue her from whatever calamity has struck the city and the rest of the nation.
The opening scenes are promising. Theo James commands a range of emotions as he argues with Tom, pushes past his fears, and comes to realize the level of devastation that has overtaken the nation. His rapport with Whitaker’s Tom presents the perspectives of two different men, both emotionally wounded from their pasts. Their ideological differences come further into play with the arrival of a mechanic named Ricki, played by Grace Dove. Their interactions help ground the film’s first half, as they find themselves in a host of tricky situations.
Yet it is in these situations where the film starts to lose its footing. While the settings are each unique in design and location, they become predictable because of the characters involved. Tom is an Army veteran with 27 years under his belt, yet he is utterly incapable of stopping Will from getting out of the car every time there is so much as an abandoned car on the side of the road. Anytime they pull over, hijinks ensue, to the point where it happens about every twenty minutes until the final act. Aside from the director’s goal to show the horrors of the nastiest parts of humanity let loose in a nation without power, there is very little to develop the main trio on their journey. Something else that could have been developed more is the cause of the apocalypse. Frustratingly, the audience never finds out.
The disappointing lack of answers and a lack of character development culminate in a final twenty minutes that should be in an entirely different movie. Gone are the apocalyptic ruminations and roadside gunfights. Instead Will finds himself in the middle of a creepy romance thriller, with Theo James looking as confused as the audience is at this point. Yet it summarizes “How It Ends” quite well. As with the rest of the film, it is very well-shot and acted, but there’s no narrative payoff. Despite the best efforts of Theo James and company, the worst part of the sequences of “How It Ends” is how they end.