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Earn Your Ending

Posted by Ta-metru_defender , in Essays, Not Rants! Mar 23 2013 · 100 views

Essays, Not Rants! 053: Earn Your Ending
 
Did you see Warm Bodies? Because you really should. It’s a great movie (and has zombies). And I mean a really great movie. We’re talking that sucker gets added to my BluRay collection the day it comes out.
 
Of course, the comparisons to Zombieland are inevitable and rightly so: both have the same ‘genre’ and tone: zombie films with a level of comedy and romance. It’s their themes, however, that set them apart. Warm Bodies is overflowing with heart. See, Warm Bodies decides to set aside the dark and somber mood oft considered a prerequisite for a zombie film and instead gives it a blast of life and hope.
 
Warm Bodies has a legitimately happy ending. Not like I Am Legend or Zombieland but a real happy ending. Even though things got dark, even though sometimes it looked almost hopeless and the world was coming down, they still got their happy ending. A real happy ending, not the “the world’s gone to pot but they have each other” ending, a proper happy ending.
 
It’s the same sort of ending you find in Paperman or The Princess Bride or Star Wars. That sense that there’s good in the world, that it can be found no matter what. But more than that it’s the sense that what’s wrong can be set right, that happy endings exist.
 
Sometimes the idealistic happy ending doesn’t work. I love Serenity, but that movie’s ending is more bittersweet than happy. It’s not bad: good stories don’t need happy endings. Sam said it best in the film adaption of The Two Towers when he tells Frodo about the stories that really mattered. They’ve got darkness and fear, but they’ve got heroes too, the ones who keep going even when things look bleak. But good wins and there’s hope. The Lord of the Rings embodies this so well. Aragorn and the rest are fighting a hopeless battle against the forces of Mordor, Frodo and Sam are struggling to get to Mount Doom. But the Ring gets destroyed and good wins.
 
What’s important is that the characters earn their ending. They can’t have it just given to them like in fairytales, they have to fight for it! The guy in Paperman could have given up and gone back to his life, Westley could have not rescued Buttercup. Mal could have aimed to behave. But they didn’t and we get the story, we get the ending that leaves us hopeful. We see them prevail, we seem them fight for it.
 
In order for an ending to provide the appropriate catharsis there needs to be a a something at stake. It doesn’t have to be life threatening: look at Paperman. If we hadn’t seen the guy’s dull job and his boredom with normalcy we wouldn’t have cared about him trying to win the girl. Knowing that he’s tired of life as is, knowing that he wants this break. Furthermore, if we hadn’t seen him fail and fail again we wouldn’t have wanted him to succeed as much. All this makes the happy ending worth it.
 
I first read Life of Pi seven years ago and now I’m reading it again for school. At the end of Part One, right as the family gets set to sail to America, author Yann Martel takes a break from Pi’s story to return to the metanarrative of Martel listening to Pi tell his story. Martel recounts him running into Pi’s son and shortly after seeing Pi holding his daughter with all the love a father can muster. At this point in the story we don’t know what happened to Pi, just that it was something terrible that haunts him to the present. But we get this glimpse of him with his young daughter and it’s here that Martel writes one of the most important lines in book:
“This story has a happy ending.”

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Booker DeWitt
Mar 23 2013 05:49 PM

I've not seen it, but isn't Warm Bodies basically a bad rip-off of the all-time classic movie Shaun of the Dead?

 

It at least reused the 'zom-rom-com' tagline and tried to pass it off as new.

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The Dandy Automaton
Mar 23 2013 09:08 PM

I wouldn't have said it was a bad rip-off of Shaun of the Dead, but the similarities are clearly present as they would be in any zombie film. Most on topic is the fact that the endings are pretty much the same, though whereas you'd think that would make SotD eligible for the title of perfect ending, it's far less satirical in Warm Bodies. As to whether I'd call it a perfect ending...Egh, I guess it worked. It definitely filled the viewer with the sense of resolution and there were some scenes I enjoyed seeing. I did think one of the key parts was a little silly, but I can't really mention it without spoilers. That said, just to back up the fact it's not a total rip-off, some differences: For one thing, the romantic sub-plot was pushed to the foreground.

 

My biggest complaint for the film was that John Malkovich felt really forced in. Like, really. He didn't do anything of any real purpose, despite the fact that he was not only the leader of the survivors, but he was also Julia's father. Surely that would have meant bonding were a priority. Nope, he just pulls out a gun a couple of times and apparently that indicates relationships. 

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Ta-metru_defender
Mar 24 2013 07:52 PM
That's the thing: I loved that silly spoilery key part. It's seriously what made the movie for me. I thought it worked.
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josh

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