Big Fish (2003)
Will is sitting at his father’s side at hospital. He’s spent his life frustrated by his father’s infidelity and penchant for telling fantastical tales rather than the truth about his life. As his father dies he asks Will to tell him a story. Seeing his father has little time left Will spins a yarn about them escaping the hospital and driving out to the lake where his father transforms into a fish and swims off.
What’s really going on:What makes this such an effective scene is that there’s a dual layer to it. There’s the reality of the situation and the fantasy of Will’s story. One is tragic while the other is triumphant. And most importantly, it’s Will, who has spent the whole film rolling his eyes at his father’s stories, is the one who spins the most fantastic tale of them all. It rings so true that as much as you try not to be your father, inevitably, there is a lot that connects you.
Tron: Legacy (2010)What happens:
Kevin Flynn, who has been locked in the computer world of ‘the Grid’ for 30 years, has gotten his son Sam to the portal to the real world. Standing between them is Clu, a computer programme modelled on a younger version of Flynn who has gone rogue who wants to stop Sam. Flynn calls on some mysterious force, pulls Clu back towards him and he and Clu merge before exploding in a burst of light.
What’s really going on:Tron: Legacy – a film a lot of people were fairly cool on (Daft Punk score withstanding) – is actually a really effective film. It’s about an errant father who has missed his son growing up. Yeah, technically Flynn was locked in ‘the Grid’ but really that’s just a metaphor for the way fathers get obsessed with work and other commitments and miss out of their children growing up. The end of Tron: Legacy is Flynn realising he hasn’t been there for his son and that rather than force a reconnection he should step back and let his son grow up.
Man of Steel (2013)
Jonathan Kent has spent years telling his adopted alien son Clark not to show the world his superpowers. When their car breaks down and a hurricane swirls in, Jonathan rushes back to the car to rescue his dog. He twists his leg in the process and is forced to accept that he cannot get out of the way of the hurricane. Though Clark could save him Jonathan holds out his hand to tell him no.
What’s really going on:
There’s two things going on underneath this scene. The first is Jonathan is saving someone – something that Clark will later do lots of when he become Superman. I always thought it was kind of silly that it was saving a dog but on reflection it makes his death all the more tragic and mundane. The second layer is that Jonathan is staying true to his beliefs that Clark shouldn’t show his powers. Again, a lot of critics and fans had a problem with this but as a father of 1 (and 2 more due next year!) I can totally understand his reasoning. Sure you want your son to exceptional but not at the expense of being a freak. I think what Jonathan Kent really wanted for his son was normal life.