“Onward” is one of the best Pixar films ever made, but it won’t reach the popularity of Finding Nemo or The Incredibles. But why? Why does a movie, so well made, not get as much love? Because sometimes the right ending of the story is not the best ending for the audience.
Pixar is well known for its amazing storytelling. They work hard to make sure their characters are so strong they don’t even need villains. They do have some, Syndrom, Lotso, and the like, but if you look closely many of their stories don’t. The original Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Inside Out, many of their best stories leave out a villain, or if they have one it’s an afterthought. The story isn’t villain vs. hero. It’s hero vs. life.
It’s not even her vs. hero with character flaws some of the time. Look at Inside Out. Sometimes the best story isn’t a conflict between right and wrong, but just about life, and how life isn’t always fair. And how we have to learn truths that might not be fun. Not that we were ‘wrong’ before or broken, but sometimes, life is hard.
An “Onward” is one of the best examples of this style of storytelling. Sometimes, people just get sick and die. Sometimes, kids are missing a parent not because anyone did something wrong, but because life is hard sometimes. These two brothers have to live their lives the way they do simply because life is hard sometimes. It’s hard growing up without a dad. It’s hard to be a dad to your younger brother when you’re not that much older than him.
Life is just hard sometimes, and that is Onward’s theme. There is no villain. There is not evil to defeat. There is only the goal to reach. The dream of finally getting to meet his dad. And we want him to reach that dream.
Then we fight with him only to watch him give it up for his elder brother to be able to see his dad again, just once. Yeah, that’s hard. It’s a sweet ending, but maybe not the perfect ending we’re used to. I actually saw that ending coming a little sooner than most, I’d think. I realized it was the perfect ending because it means two things.
Ian learns that your dad isn’t always your father.
He understands the struggles his brother goes through and is willing to sacrifice for his brother as his brother had sacrificed for him.
And it makes an ending that really does show the main point. Life is just hard sometimes. You can do everything right and still lose and hurt and grow and dream. Bad things won’t ruin the world. And it’s okay to give up your dream for something better.
But do you think I’m reading too much into this? Was the ending that bad it spoiled the whole movie. Tell me your thoughts and subscribe for more content you can debate with.
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