I didn’t know I could hold my breath for two hours.
Then I watched “The Town.”
I was emotionally invested in every character that movie had. My heart was pounding. I was equally terrified that the FBI agent wouldn’t bring in Affleck’s character, Doug, and that Doug wouldn’t escape.
It was like a football game where you’re rooting for both teams. And there’s another two teams playing the long way across the 50-yard line that you’re also worried about. And everyone has guns. And you’re crying.
I had a similarly crushing feeling when it came to “Inception.” I was simultaneously thanking God it wasn’t real and yet, at the end, all I wanted was for the protagonist to get what he wants.
When did I start loving these torturous stories? And does their success mean the paradigm is shifting? Where once Hollywood wouldn’t greenlight a project because the finale was too dark, is that all that’s going to get made, movie-wise, from here on out?
It’s bittersweet. On one hand, I’m glad to know that movie goers are craving something more than a football-to-th-groin. It gives me hope for the projects I want to write–my stories never end up tied with a bow. It gives me faith that humanity isn’t sliding into mental numbness. On the other hand, is this all that will be interesting? Will these movies just keep getting darker until they are just a parody of themselves? How dark can we make it? And what happens when ‘dark’ gets replaced with twisted gore–like the fate of horror films?
It is a slippery slope. The classic protagonist’s days are numbered; but if we lose too much of what makes a protagonist a protagonist are they a protagonist anymore? If you’re not overcoming obstacles, growing as a character, succeeding in the end–what are you doing?
The line between hero and villain is already being blurred. Are we coming to a point where we won’t be able to separate the two?
Personally, I love it. Moral ambiguity. The hero with faults. The villain with redeeming qualities. Everything has a gray area. You can’t cut this wire without blowing up the guy across town.
I just worry it’ll be the next Hollywood gimmick. That just like “Scary Movie 4” we’ll have “Ethical Nightmare 5.”
I also worry that it’ll get darker before the dawn, and I’ll just keep watching these movies, loving them and hating myself for it. It’s the best kind of torture and no better compliment to a morally ambiguous writer/director: I could barely sit through your movie I was so uncomfortable. I’m glad I never had to make that choice.