I recently watched Live, Die, Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow. I am a movie procrastinator if you didn’t realize already. It got the topic in my head. I mentioned the book equivalent, All You Need is Kill, on the blog before and let me start by saying I enjoyed both of them.
I rolled my eyes when I heard about the movie, considering the Japanese protagonist’ replacement by Tom Cruise, but after seeing the movie I forgave Hollywood. The change worked and it was refreshing to see Tom Cruise getting his ass kicked for a change—over and over no less.
No spoilers in this post though. Not technically. Live, Die, Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow has a happy ending, surprising no one. The thing is? All You Need is Kill did not.
I’m not trying to say American Literature / Movies don’t ever have bittersweet endings, but I am saying the default is at minimum, the day is saved. The fate of the hero isn’t what decides a happy ending after all.
I argue that a happy conclusion can be as unsatisfying as any bad end. The difference comes from the accomplishments in the a story. In fact, I wonder why American Audiences get so hung up on the main character dying, when the fatality rate in movies is higher than ever.
The problem is simple, we value lives close to us over lives that are far away.
I’ve had several posts lately about changing perspective, hopping over to the bad guy side of the fence to ensure they’re interesting too. Imagine watching a James Bond movie re-written to be an American-Horror slasher flick.
It sounds crazy, but is it? Think of the people manning the control center of a Bond villain, are they horrible people? No. They’re people that made a poor life decisions… like the teenagers in a American-Horror slasher flick. They get picked off one by one by a near unstoppable force (Bond) and their only hope is to stick together to make a stand.
By the end of the movie hundreds are dead at Bond’s hands, including the head honcho of the operation. Insult to injury Bond usually hooks up with the criminal’s right hand woman (only to dump her in time for the next movie… if she survives.) Also consider any ‘friendly’ casualties or civilians killed in the cross fire.
Jeez, what is our definition of a happy ending anyway?
‘Happy’ is a warped term when it comes to storytelling. Happy for the Protagonist, sure. But at what cost?
An effective story leads the reader / watcher through a rollercoaster of emotions and gives them a fitting conclusion. Whether it is happy or not doesn’t really matter, the journey is the key component.
This is why I forgave Live, Die, Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow. (Have I mentioned how much I hate that title?) The identity of the movie comes from Cage’s victories and failures. I may have hated the conclusion, but not every movie keeps me in the chair for the entire journey—just like the book I read from cover to cover without a break.