Post-Apocalyptic & Dystopian Themes: Can it Work with a Happy Ending?
(Spoiler Alert if you have not seen, or plan to see The Road, The Matrix, Book of Eli, Waterworld, I Am Legend, or V for Vendetta)
Recently I was flipping through Showtime looking for a great movie to watch while writing a chapter for my novel. A movie I heard about from friends and family (but never watched) was playing so I decided to give it a try, because of course, it was a Saturday and none of my regular favorites were on. Needless to say, I wish I never saw the movie. I was so consumed in the story and trapped by its underdog theme that I could not tear my eyes away from the screen. Big mistake.
I am very particular about the types of movies I watch. I am usually drawn to action/adventures, horror, select dramas, and movies that center around the paranormal (ghosts, vamps, werewolves, demons, angels, etc). When I started watching this movie I thought it was going to be a life changing journey for a father and his son that would end with them both living happily ever after in some new undiscovered safe location. Wrong. There was no happy ending (that I saw) for either of them. Yeah the boy gets to live with a new family, but the father dies and the son is left at a young age with a skewed view of life. How depressing is that?
I realize that Post-Apocalyptic and Dystopian themes are nothing new in the movie world; the same can be said for books as well. However, my problem is I can’t find a story with a true happy ending for the main character. Maybe the main characters are not supposed to live because they have somehow ushered in a new beginning for the secondary characters or an entire society? I get it and that’s cool, but at the same time I would really like to see a movie where the MC can live happily ever after too! Is that even possible to accomplish? Would the Matrix have been shown just as much love by its followers if Neo lived? Would you have liked it if Neo lived? Well now that I’ve given you something to ponder, let me know how you feel. Can a book/movie be just as powerful and dramatic if the MC lives? Will the message be accepted if there is a happy ending?
Here are a few of the movies I like where the MC does not get a happily ever after:
The Road – I love the theme of this movie and how the world is portrayed throughout the film. But after their struggles, a boy and his father could not live happily ever after? Really??
The Book of Eli – One of the most well written and compelling movies I have ever watched. The fact that he was blind, which I figured out mid-way through, made the story. I wish he could have lived to see the good that he brought into the world.
The Matrix – One of my favorite sci-fi movies of all time. I was very disappointed when Neo died; I think he deserved to live. Doesn’t being “The One” give you the right to live throughout the entire series?
I am Legend – The title alone should have let me know there was no happy ending for the MC. Dr. Neville was very depressing to watch and killing his dog was just the icing on the cake. Sad, but a fascinating story.
Waterworld – I know the MC did not die in this movie, but still he chose not to say on dry land and live with everyone else. It makes me wonder, what was the point??
V for Vendetta – A victim turned vigilante with a powerful message who still dies. Gurrrr.