Most Hollywood films follow a basic structure: exposition, rising action, climax, and a happily ever after. The princess marries her prince, the prisoner gets out of jail, the poor kid from the Bronx finds his way out, all the main characters die. Wait what? Can you repeat that last one please? Yup that is right.
With a four week holiday break from college in the midst of award season, I spent several of days attending the movie theater. I eagerly weaved through red, velvet ropes to purchase my tickets (using my student discount of course). I carefully tip-toed through the aisles in order to get the perfect spot for my movie-viewing experience, but after an hour or so in, I realized that my perfect-ending movie experience was not going to happen.
The first film I saw was Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. I quickly became attached to Jyn and her fear-nothing attitude. I also began to take a liking to the other characters in the film such as her rebel- alliance partner Captain Cassian, her uplifting blind friend Chirrut, and my personal favorite sassy robot,K-2SO. It seemed to be a classic “gang’s all here” type of story where the rebels defeat the bad guys and save the day, then live happily ever after. Spoiler alert, they did save the day, but there was no happy ever after. One-by-one I watched each character I had become attached to killed right before my eyes. What the heck? Sure they succeeded in their mission,but for what?
I saw the same thing happen in Denzel Washington’s film Fences. After struggling in the 1950s as a black worker, athlete, and father, Denzel’s character Troy Maxson eventually strikes out. He leaves behind the family he has caused so much pain, and finds his way to “St Peter’s Gates,” as his war-wounded brother continually refers to
Lastly Passengers, starring Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt tells the tale of a five- thousand passenger and crew ship headed for a new planet and a new life. Chris Pratt’s character wakes up too early (over ninety years too early) after the ship hits a meteor. He is left alone on the ship for over a year before he decides to open up Jennifer Lawrence’s character’s pod to keep him company (it definitely helps that she’s super hot). The two fall in love (trust me, there’s some fighting along the way) and decide to live out the rest of their lives together on the ship until, you guessed it, they die!
Three movies later and I’m still shocked! So what is Hollywood trying to tell us viewers?Are they finally showing us that most real-life stories do not have happy endings? Is dying more noteworthy? I believe Hollywood is telling us that the journey is more important than the destination. There is more meaning, more development, and a stronger message with death. This new norm- breaking streak Hollywood is presenting is refreshing. Writers and directors are showing that there can be a resolution at the expense of the hero. Jyn and her team die to defeat the empire, Troy dies, but in doing so frees his family of pain from his troubled past, and Jennifer Lawrence & Chris Pratt give up their lives in order to save the other passengers. Hollywood’s new trend is keeping audiences at the edge of their seats. Will the next movie you go and see have a happy ending?