I walked in on Outlander last night, just in time for the beginning of the third act. I watched while Jim Caviezel battled a glow-in-the-dark, flesh-eating amphibian from outer space, and then, my curiosity satisfied, I went to bed.
What struck me as odd is that the moment the final battle had ended, I felt no desire to continue watching the movie. The question I was waiting to answer was how was all this going to be resolved? (How was the beast going to be defeated?) Once I knew the resolution, I didn’t need to watch the denoument.
Aristotle said that endings must be inevitable yet unexpected. The ending ought to be one that we could never have foreseen, but makes perfect sense afterwards. Up until the climax and resolution, the story can still explode in any number of directions. Only certain directions will satisfy us, true, but the potential is still there. We still don’t really know what’s going to happen. The climax is the great question, the final question of the film. Once we’ve answered that, the rest just falls into place. We don’t cling to the edge of out seats wondering what will happen to the protagonist after he’s defeated the villain; all our *questions *have been answered. So what’s keeping us watching?
The denouement is for saying goodbye. If the filmmakers have done their job, the audience should care about what happens to the characters. We want to make sure they will be alright. I didn’t know enough about the characters in Outlander to care what they did with the rest of their existence, so once the main event was over, I didn’t stick around for hugs and farewells.