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‘The Tree of Life’ Ending Explained: All Life Must End

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‘The Tree of Life’ Ending Explained: All Life Must End

Terrence Malick’s spiritual epic The Tree of Life is one of the most ambitious films of all-time. The film explores the deepest questions about the origins of life and the creation of the universe, but it’s also centered on an intimate coming-of-age story of a young boy’s defining childhood influences. In the decade since its release, The Tree of Life has been adorned as a future classic; it received three Academy Award nominations (including Best Picture), won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, appeared on the Sight & Sound list of all-time great movies, and appeared on famed critic Roger Ebert’s personal list of ten favorite movies. With all this praise, let’s break down the ambiguous ending of this stunning movie.

RELATED: Every Terrence Malick Movie Ranked From Worst to Best

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The film opens by showing the birth of the universe and proceeds to tell the origins of Earth’s natural environments. The formation of early life shows the evolution of sea creatures, plants, and later dinosaurs, but the story then flashes to a small town in Texas in the 1960s. The couple, Mr. and Mrs. O’Brien (Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain), raise three children: Jack (Hunter McCracken), R.L. (Laramie Eppler), and Steve (Tye Sheridan), and the three boys wrestle with the warring influences of their father’s aggression and their mother’s compassion. Later scenes show an older Jack (Sean Penn) reflecting on his adolescence.

The film’s ending may leave some viewers scratching their heads, as Malick often opts for ambiguous endings within his diverse filmography. The older Jack is haunted by a tragic series of incidents in his childhood. He sees a vulnerability within his father for the first time, who admits that he’s disappointed about the direction of his life and his inability to follow his true passions. It scares Jack to see his generally austere father break down in tears, and that inital shock comes back to him when he recognizes that his own life is taking a similar direction.


It’s also during these pivotal youthful flashbacks that Jack experiences death for the first time; two of his close childhood friends perish within accidents, and as a result, Jack feels more matured. He grows spiteful towards his father, who had just opened up to him, and begins to track his brutish behavior and grows more cynical. Jack also lashes out at his mother; instead of feeling empathetic for how she managed to raise her sons amidst a difficult marriage, he criticizes her for supposedly tolerating his abuse.

Jack’s guilt over his cruel words returns to him as he rides the elevator during the final sequence. He also remembers an incident of youthful abandonment when he took advantage of his mother’s passiveness. When his father is gone on a business trip, Jack breaks into the home of his crush and steals her nightgown. His newfound criminality and sexuality frighten him, and his guilt intensifies when his father returns and reveals that he’s lost his job. Not only does Jack never go through the consequences of his crime, but the painful move remains forever tied to the end of his childhood.


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This residual guilt is an important part of Jack’s character, as he seeks to atone to his mother. During the final scene, he has a vision of an adolescent girl leading him across a tundra amidst a cosmic event. Within his vision, he encounters the young version of himself alongside many of the dead who have returned to life, including his family.

Jack gets to embrace his family one last time, but getting to embrace his mother as he enters the afterlife gives Jack closure on his youthful misdeeds. Mrs. O’Brien dispatches Jack to the next stage as she’s accompanied by two angelic like figures that take him away. Mrs. O’Brien says “I give him to you. I give you my son.” Jack smiles before he is returned to his normal office job and his dream concludes. It can be implied that at this moment, Jack has accepted both his past and his eventual fate.


There are many ways to interpret this ending, but it’s hinted that Malick is simply completing his metaphor on the cyclical process of renewal and rebirth by moving further within the timeline. As Jack is guided, the sun can be seen expanding into a red giant and then shrinking into a white dwarf, hinting at the eventual end of Earth itself. It seems that Jack is seeing his own journey into the afterlife, thus explaining why figures from his past are reappearing.

Malick’s films often incorporate voiceovers and Jack’s voice can be heard throughout the film, so it’s entirely possible that the entire story is grounded in Jack’s perception of events and his interpretations of his own memories. In his youth, books on dinosaurs and astronomy can be seen in Jack’s bedroom, so perhaps the “birth of the universe” sequence is based on Jack’s understanding as well. This would explain some of the more covert Biblical imagery, as the O’Briens can be seen going to Church.


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The ending can be interpreted as an optimistic one. It reflects that while all life must end, be it Jack or the Earth itself, it will eventually be replaced by something new. Jack’s death and the implosion of the sun are both seen as a thing of beauty, and he is left content as his vision fades and the enigmatic lights flicker in the distance. It indicates that Jack, like the viewer, isn’t meant to understand everything about existence, and he accepts his own personal journey.

It’s unlikely that cinephiles will get a definitive answer on the film’s meaning. The notoriously reclusive Malick rarely gives interviews or does public speaking events, and he’s never attempted to explain The Tree of Life. It’s clear that Malick enjoys these thought-provoking existential questions; his next film The Way of the Wind will recreate chapters of the Bible starring Géza Röhrig as Jesus and Mark Rylance as Satan.


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Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

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Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

Hitting the three-quarter-century mark usually means a retirement home, a nursing facility, or if you’re lucky to be blessed with relatively good health and savings to match, living in a gated community in Arizona or Florida.

For Sylvester Stallone, however, it means something else entirely: starring in the first superhero-centered film of his decades-long career in the much-delayed Samaritan. Unfortunately for Stallone and the audience on the other side of the screen, the derivative, turgid, forgettable results won’t get mentioned in a career retrospective, let alone among the ever-expanding list of must-see entries in a genre already well past its peak.

For Stallone, however, it’s better late than never when it involves the superhero genre. Maybe in getting a taste of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) with his walk-on role in the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel several years ago, Stallone thought anything Marvel can do, I can do even better (or just as good in the nebulous definition of the word).

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The property Stallone and his team found for him, Samaritan, a little-known graphic novel released by a small, almost negligible, publisher, certainly takes advantage of Stallone’s brute-force physicality and his often underrated talent for near-monosyllabic brooding (e.g., the Rambo series), but too often gives him to little do or say as the lone super-powered survivor, the so-called “Samaritan” of the title, of a lifelong rivalry with his brother, “Nemesis.” Two brothers entered a fire-ravaged building and while both were presumed dead, one brother did survive (Stallone’s Joe Smith, a garbageman by day, an appliance repairman by night).

In the Granite City of screenwriter Bragi F. Schut (Escape Room, Season of the Witch), the United States, and presumably the rest of the world, teeters on economic and political collapse, with a recession spiraling into a depression, steady gigs difficult, if not impossible, to obtain, and the city’s neighborhoods rocked by crime and violence. No one’s safe, not even 13-year-old Sam (Javon Walker), Joe’s neighbor.

When he’s not dodging bullies connected to a gang, he’s falling under the undue influence of Cyrus (Pilou Asbæk), a low-rent gang leader with an outsized ego and the conviction that he and only he can take on Nemesis’s mantle and along with that mantle, a hammer “forged in hate,” to orchestrate a Bane-like plan to plunge the city into chaos and become a wealthy power-broker in the process.

Schut’s woefully underwritten script takes a clumsy, haphazard approach to world-building, relying on a two-minute animated sequence to open Samaritan while a naive, worshipful Sam narrates Samaritan and Nemesis’s supposedly tragic, Cain and Abel-inspired backstory. Schut and director Julius Avery (Overlord) clumsily attempt to contrast Sam’s childish belief in messiah-like, superheroic saviors stepping in to save humanity from itself and its own worst excesses, but following that path leads to authoritarianism and fascism (ideas better, more thoroughly explored in Watchmen and The Boys).

While Sam continues to think otherwise, Stallone’s superhero, 25 years past his last, fatal encounter with his presumably deceased brother, obviously believes superheroes are the problem and not the solution (a somewhat reasonable position), but as Samaritan tracks Joe and Sam’s friendship, Sam giving Joe the son he never had, Joe giving Sam the father he lost to street violence well before the film’s opening scene, it gets closer and closer to embracing, if not outright endorsing Sam’s power fantasies, right through a literally and figuratively explosive ending. Might, as always, wins regardless of how righteous or justified the underlying action.

It’s what superhero audiences want, apparently, and what Samaritan uncritically delivers via a woefully under-rendered finale involving not just unconvincing CGI fire effects, but a videogame cut-scene quality Stallone in a late-film flashback sequence that’s meant to be subversively revelatory, but will instead lead to unintentional laughter for anyone who’s managed to sit the entirety of Samaritan’s one-hour and 40-minute running time.

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Samaritan is now streaming worldwide on Prime Video.

Samaritan

Cast
  • Sylvester Stallone
  • Javon ‘Wanna’ Walton
  • Pilou Asbæk

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Matt Shakman Is In Talks To Direct ‘Fantastic Four’

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According to a new report, Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct the upcoming MCU project, Fantastic Four. Marvel Studios has been very hush-hush regarding Fantastic Four to the point where no official announcements have been made other than the film’s release date. No casting news or literally anything other than rumors has been released regarding the project. We know that Fantastic Four is slated for release on November 8th, 2024, and will be a part of Marvel’s Phase 6. There are also rumors that the cast of the new Fantastic Four will be announced at the D23 Expo on September 9th.

Fantastic Four is still over two years from release, and we assume we will hear more news about the project in the coming months. However, the idea of the Fantastic Four has already been introduced into the MCU. John Krasinski played Reed Richards aka Mr. Fantastic in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The cameo was a huge deal for fans who have been waiting a long time for the Fantastic Four to enter the MCU. When Disney acquired Twenty Century Fox in 2019 we assumed that the Fox Marvel characters would eventually make their way into the MCU. It’s been 3 years and we already have had an X-Men and Fantastic Four cameo – even if they were from another universe.

Deadline is reporting that Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct Fantastic Four. Shakman served as the director for Wandavision and has had an extensive career. He directed two episodes of Game of Thrones and an episode of The Boys, and he had a long stint on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. There is nothing official yet, but Deadline’s sources say that Shakman is currently in talks for the job and things are headed in the right direction.

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To be honest, I was a bit more excited when Jon Watts was set to direct. I’m sure Shakman is a good director, but Watts proved he could handle a tentpole superhero film with Spider-Man: Homecoming. Wandavision was good, but Watts’ style would have been perfect for Fantastic Four. The film is probably one of the most anticipated films in Marvel’s upcoming slate films and they need to find the best person they can to direct. Is that Matt Shakman? It could be, but whoever takes the job must realize that Marvel has a lot riding on this movie. The other Fantastic Four films were awful and fans deserve better. Hopefully, Marvel knocks it out of the park as they usually do. You can see for yourself when Fantastic Four hits theaters on November 8th, 2024.

Film Synopsis: One of Marvel’s most iconic families makes it to the big screen: the Fantastic Four.

Source: Deadline

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Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase Star in ‘Zombie Town’ Mystery Teen Romancer (Exclusive)

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Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase have entered Zombie Town, a mystery teen romancer based on author R.L. Stine’s book of the same name.

The indie, now shooting in Ontario, also stars Henry Czerny and co-teen leads Marlon Kazadi and Madi Monroe. The ensemble cast includes Scott Thompson and Bruce McCulloch of the Canadian comedy show Kids in the Hall.

Canadian animator Peter Lepeniotis will direct Zombie Town. Stine’s kid’s book sees a quiet town upended when 12-year-old Mike and his friend, Karen, see a horror movie called Zombie Town and unexpectedly see the title characters leap off the screen and chase them through the theater.

Zombie Town will premiere in U.S. theaters before streaming on Hulu and then ABC Australia in 2023.

“We are delighted to bring the pages of R.L. Stine’s Zombie Town to the screen and equally thrilled to be working with such an exceptional cast and crew on this production. A three-time Nickelodeon Kids Choice Award winner with book sales of over $500 million, R.L. Stine has a phenomenal track record of crafting stories that engage and entertain audiences,” John Gillespie, Trimuse Entertainment founder and executive producer, said in a statement.

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Executive producers are Trimuse Entertainment, Toonz Media Group, Lookout Entertainment, Viva Pictures and Sons of Anarchy actor Kim Coates.  

Paco Alvarez and Mark Holdom of Trimuse negotiated the deal to acquire the rights to Stine’s Zombie Town book.

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