Once again, the issue being debated has been broken down into two sides; those for post-credit scenes and those against post-credit scenes. I’m actually going to take the middle-ground even if that makes me look flip-floppy or weak or who cares. So what exactly is my middling position? Some post-credit scenes are great, some are meh and some are terrible. Just like movies.
Since there is no such thing as a ‘one-shot’ for big-screen superhero films anymore (even the ‘risky’ GOTG will be tied to the others), these superfluous sequences aren’t going anywhere. But that doesn’t mean we have to accept them in their current, more often than not, crappy form. Just the opposite. If the ‘stingers’ are here to stay, they need to get better.
So what makes a good post-credit scene? There is nothing inherently wrong with the idea of adding a tag on the end of the film, especially those ‘products’ that are designed to mimic comic-book’s serialized storytelling. However, at the very least, the stingers, like every other scene in a film, must be compelling. They shouldn’t be a joke (TA). There shouldn’t be more than one (TA, T:TDW, CA:TWS). And they shouldn’t contain a beat that should exist in the actual film (T:TDW) or one that doesn’t fit the events that just unfolded (TW).
Okay, so what should they do? One of two (potentially overlapping) very simple things: be an ‘oh shit!’ moment and/or a ‘what the fuck?’ moment. Not very technical terms, I know, but they are very clear. I credit a professor I had in undergrad. Of course, the ‘oh shit/what the fuck’ moments still have to abide by the rules set out above.
For example, fans might have felt an emotional ‘oh shit’ at the reunion of Thor and Jane in the mid-credits scene of T:TDW but that was a beat that best belonged at the end of the actual film. However, the film’s other stinger (which would be the only one if the former was in its rightful place as the final frames) works perfectly. Fans of the comics have their ‘oh shit’ reveal of a character and macguffin that will be important to the MCU moving forward while those only along for the ride will be wondering, ‘what the fuck?’
Some might argue that this is not the reaction you want your audience to have while leaving the theatre but I think its exactly what the better stingers are designed to do, get people asking questions about the future of the franchise. And like the introduction of the Collector, my other favourite post-credit scenes fall into this category; Nick Fury (IM), Thanos (TA), Baron von Strucker, Quicksilver and Scarlett Witch (CA:TWS) and, yes, Apocalypse (X-M:DOFP).
I know. Those are all the deep cuts. Not all good stingers have to cater to those really into the source material though. I’m not sure how ‘nerdy’ Nick Fury is but the fact that he was played by Samuel L. Jackson sure helped the ‘oh shit’ factor. The reveal of Mjölnir (IM2) is a great example of one that could be shared by casual and super fans alike. Same with Tony talking to General Ross (TIH) or the time-shift and Avengers trailer (CA:TFA).
The worst of the bunch? Shawarma (TA). If I’m not mistaken, it started the trend of having a mid and post-credit scene and it’s a pointless joke. Sure, the callback was amusing but not a compelling scene by any means. No ‘oh shit!’ No ‘what the fuck?’ Just ‘heh.’ Others I could do without? Bucky visiting the museum was a snooze and sets up a film that’s not even close to next in the MCU (CA:TWS), Tony telling Bruce the story, while ‘explaining’ the voice-over, was a glorified joke (IM3) and Logan’s visitors at the airport screwed with the excellent film that came before not to mention the perfectly set-up sequel (TW).
Oh, and almost any in a non-comic-book film made after Iron Man. Except the Fast & Furious franchise. And obviously blooper reels don’t count. The rest of you (Battleship, Pacific Rim, Evil Dead), don’t be presumptuous. Unless you know that another film is coming and can properly tee-it up, don’t even bother with the fan-service cause you’re actually serving no one. There should be a compelling reason for every scene to be in a film, not just for those that come before the credits.