How much value does just one life hold? That question is explored in the new DreamWorks movie Puss in Boots: The Last Wish.
While reveling in his bigshot fame, our favorite fearless hero Puss in Boots incidentally dies in combat. He’s not too concerned at first, since cats have nine lives. Once informed that he’s on his last life, Puss develops a sharp awareness of his mortality. This awareness is only heightened when a bounty hunter, Wolf, tries to kill him and actually lands a hit—a feat Puss once boasted was impossible.
Thoroughly shaken, Puss abandons his adventurous lifestyle. However, when he learns of the Wishing Star, a mystical artifact rumored to grant the wish of anyone who dares journey to its treacherous location, Puss decides he will stop at nothing to get his lost lives back. Clinging to a single life, Puss fixates on the imminent threat of death, and he suffocates on fear. He wants lives to spare, so that he can be a fearless hero again.
Interestingly, the many antagonists in this movie are all direct foils to Puss’s mission.
Like Puss, Goldilocks wants the Wishing Star to alter her circumstances. Dissatisfied with the life she’s been granted, Goldi wants a place in a family that’s “just right,” rather than with the Three Bears who adopted her.
Big Jack Horner wants the Wishing Star for personal gain. Jack desires all the world’s magic for himself—and he doesn’t care how many of his henchmen perish along the way to achieving his goal. Some of them even die by his own hand—a fact Jack carelessly brushes aside.
Finally, though indifferent to the Wishing Star, Wolf pursues Puss relentlessly, that he might rid Puss of his last life once and for all.
What transpires with each antagonist reinforces the lesson that Puss in Boots is learning.
When the Three Bears discover Goldi’s intentions, Papa, Mama and Baby are heartbroken, though supportive. Mama kindly tells Goldi that if a new family is what she really wants, then they’ll help her acquire the Wishing Star. Not until the climax does Goldi think better of her wish. Forgoing selfishness, Goldi chooses to stick with the loving family she’s already found. Embracing contentment, she accepts that her current circumstances are already “just right.”
Jack Horner pays a hefty price for his apathy toward life. In the final skirmish, he dies—so greedy for the Wishing Star that he is unable to escape destruction in time.
Late in the movie, Wolf reveals he is literally Death personified, come to collect Puss’s last life. Death is disgusted with Puss’s pride and flagrant disregard for the value of life. Puss always took his extra lives for granted, and the frivolous (if comical) reasons why Puss lost those previous lives have invoked Death’s ire. Deeming him unworthy of his final life, Death condemns Puss in Boots.Are we determined to return to old habits and mindsets, even though they aren’t healthy to us—or are we brave enough to step into growth and become a whole new self?
But along the perilous way to the Wishing Star, Puss in Boots has changed. His supportive friends Kitty Softpaws and Perrito have helped him see a new perspective on life. Through his fears and struggles, he has realized that even a single life is an incredible gift that should be appreciated in every moment.
Puss has also recognized the flaws of his past selves, including their obsession with attention and their general foolishness, the very traits which snuffed out his eight other lives. He finds that he does not want to wish for his old lives back. Instead, he longs to be a new, better person—no magic required. Knowing that this life is all he has left, he wants to live it to the fullest.
With Kitty and Perrito behind him, Puss takes a deep breath and stares Death in the eyes.
“I will never stop fighting you,” Puss declares to Death. The contrast between their encounters at the beginning and at the end is striking. Puss in Boots may no longer laugh in the face of Death, but he is also no longer held captive by terror. Puss in Boots is a fearless hero once again; not because he never feels fear, but because he has sworn to stave off Death until the very end of his last life.
We might not stumble upon mystical Wishing Stars, and we may never have to test our catlike reflexes while dodging unicorn horns shot from a crossbow. But, although life is not a fantastical fairytale, Death can still seem as frightening as a Big Bad Wolf—complete with gleaming sickles and glowing red eyes. Like Puss in Boots, we may have moments where we run in fear, or break down and have a panic attack. In such moments, we face a choice: are we striving to value the life we hold right now?
Who are we really living for? Do we pridefully fixate on ourselves, captivated by our own accomplishments, to the detriment of our closest relationships? Or are we willing to focus outward, using our lives to bless others and become someone they can trust? Are we determined to return to old habits and mindsets, even though they aren’t healthy to us—or are we brave enough to step into growth and become a whole new self? Will we squander our lives, unconcerned with what truly matters? Or will we slow down and take time to appreciate the blessings we’ve already been given?
After all, as Puss in Boots learned, the one life that you hold is tremendously valuable, so don’t take what you have for granted.
Luke 9:23-25 (NIV84)
Then He said to them all: “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?”