Whether or not a story is better with an Open Ending or proper closure is an endless debate that is really a case by case basis. However, one thing I always wonder whenever I come across an ending left open is whether or not the writer actually has hidden meaning, or if it was done as a cop-out in order to not need to write a proper finale. No matter what you think of open endings, they are definitely easier to write because they do not require tying up loose ends or resolving all the mystery. So, is that just a writing shortcut? Or do they take more planning than we realize? Click "read more" and I will give my take.
I will come out and say it from the start, I am not a fan of open endings, at least not when they are unnecessary. To be more specific, there are plotlines that simply cannot have an "ending". Some of those that come to mind are stories about characters simply going through an unusual event in their life that ends with them returning to their normal life and who knows what else. Or, a story about personal growth; overcoming a problem in ones life and opening the door to possibilities. Those are endings that are technically open but still offer good conclusion.
On the other hand, a fantasy story that simply choses not to answer all the mysteries and questions that it itself has created and claims that they are "whatever the viewer/reader wants them to be" are correct, can be viewed as a cop out. However, there are stories that are simply meant to make the viewer/reader think. Something having ambiguity is not a bad thing because it keeps an audience interested in a storyline. But, it can also feel manipulative. The popular 2003 film Lost In Translation is a famous example of an open ending because we never truly know what Bob whispers. We can spend all day arguing about that movie, but I really believe that if it did not have an ending like that than it would not have been talked about nearly as much. Not to say it was a bad film or anything, but leaving things a mystery like that to get the audience debating very much felt like a plan to increase the films numbers.
Now, a common argument I hear in favor of open endings is that "life does not have an ending and you never know what comes next." First of all, life does have an ending, you die. Secondly, that is almost like saying any ending that does not show the death of a character is open. My biggest problem with that argument is that it really does not understand the frustration that open endings can cause. Not everyone looks to media as a reflection of their own life and just simply want to know what happens in a story they like.
I do not believe that most authors who use open endings simply could not think of an ending, but are trying to be artistic. However, I am going to get controversial now, but I have always hated it whenever a creator says "everyone theory is right" or "it is whatever you want it to be". That is what I call a cop out. Theories and interpretations contradict each other, it is not possibly for them to be all correct. Saying everything is correct is the same as saying nothing is and it would be better to say that there is no correct answer and everything is only what you take it.
Now to the question at hand, are open endings simply the writer being to lazy to write an ending? As a whole, no, but it can be. There is no doubt that it is an easy way out as endings are extremely important to a story, but it is really a case by case basis. If a writer wanted to create a story that does not have an ending and makes the audience think, that does take skill to pull off. In these scenarios an open ending can be useful if executed in a way that causes reflection. But, a writer simply refusing to answer mysteries that they themselves had created and saying it is "whatever you want", is not only a bad use of open endings but just bad writing in my opinion.
If you disagree or simply want to talk about this further, leave a comment here or join our Discord server. Till next time, this is Cendoo the Ghost Ranger, signing off.