Barbie—the box-office sensation about plastic, amongst different issues—doesn’t overstay its welcome. At a (tight, by trendy requirements) 1 hour and 54 minute runtime, Greta Gerwig’s newest directorial effort ends on a winking, poignant in-joke, its titular protagonist (Margot Robbie) embracing a brand new frontier as she sheds her misconceptions about perfection. When the display cuts to the glittering magenta-pink brand acknowledged the world over, that’s the movie’s ultimate reveal. Barbie doesn’t have a post-credits scene, nor does it want one. So, why does it really feel as if one’s lacking?
As evidenced by the sheer variety of tales (very a lot together with the one you’re studying now) addressing Barbie’s post-credits potential, and the tweets satirizing the same, the Marvel Cinematic Universe—amongst different franchises-that-shall-not-be-named—has skilled audiences to anticipate an immediate addendum that hyperlinks a endless story. The connective tissue between movie installments can’t be left for followers to ponder. Not is it sufficient to marvel what’s subsequent; we’re conditioned to organize for its imminent arrival. Ever since Nick Fury popped up on the finish of 2008’s Iron Man to announce “the Avengers Initiative,” Marvel’s post-credits phenomenon has develop into an habit, turning what was a Hollywood rarity into an expectation. The foreign money of as we speak’s Tinseltown is IP, and for IP to be value its funding, it should produce—ideally, within the type of dozens of sequels, spin-offs, and fan-service scenes that go viral on TikTok. In flip, IP expects as a lot of audiences because it does of its creations. It expects us to sit down, wait, and watch.
The issue is that a lot ready and watching (and watching, and watching, and watching) will get exhausting, particularly when the roll-out is so dreadfully formulaic. Franchise fatigue is actual. As author Mark Harris outlined in a wonderful Tweet thread about this weekend’s Barbie–Oppenheimer success, “An sudden hit is rather more disruptive to the Hollywood system than a giant flop is. That’s the place we’re: TWO shock smashes that counsel you get individuals again to the films by giving them what they haven’t seen, not what they’ve.” And even within the context of an IP behemoth like Barbie, an ending that ends appears like one thing we haven’t seen. It’s easier, although not essentially extra satisfying, to journey the status-quo contentment of a promised continuation. To be introduced with one thing unique, sudden, and clearly contained doesn’t match the mould we’re skilled to crave.
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It’s true, Barbie may nonetheless get a sequel. (Given what we find out about Mattel’s eagerness to develop its territory in Hollywood, it nearly actually will.) However Barbie the movie ends, definitively, with none guarantees of what may comply with. That makes its future unknown—and its singular impression felt all of the stronger.
Lauren Puckett-Pope is a workers tradition author at ELLE, the place she primarily covers movie, tv and books. She was beforehand an affiliate editor at ELLE.