I will be taking a look at 3 different films that ended in the hero ‘Knocking on Heavens Door’ but pulled through at the last second. And looking towards the future of these worlds were the character had died and how it would have turned out for the rest of the cast and or that universe they existed in.
Film: Lethal Weapon 2 – Character: Martin Riggs
At the end of Lethal Weapon 2, both Riggs and Murtaugh head down to the docks to face off agents the evil Whites of South Africa. Riggs kills a few henchmen and survives the pre-boss fight with the man that killed his wife, while Murtaugh runs around and kills a few henchmen as well. But with all his running around Murtaugh comes up on his partner Riggs, standing victorious over their fallen foe. But the victory is short lived when the head of the crime organization fires every bullet in his gun from high above, the two into Riggs causing him to fall to the ground and, what looks like his death. Murtaugh points his own gun at the man and yells “Drop it Asshole!” to which the villain replies “Diplomatic Immunity!” to which Murtaugh fires one shot into the villains brain and kills him. “It’s just been revoked”. Murtaugh then rushes down to his partner’s side and the scene plays out like Riggs is dying. Even playing a song which most Cops see as a song about fallen officers “Knocking on Heavens Door”, a slower version recorded by Eric Clapton. But it’s all okay because somehow all the bullets passed through him and did not hit anything vital.
But what if he died? What if Riggs had died on that cargo ship? Murtaugh would have still gotten away with killing the Diplomat because of self-defense, but he probably would have retired as he had planned to do, but always stayed because of Riggs. With Murtaugh gone and Riggs dead the events of Lethal Weapon 3 and 4 still would have happened. So in 3, Jack Travis, a former cop gone bad comes back and steels from the police department's evidence locker. An act only investigated because Riggs and Murtaugh uncover it and found proof which Internal Affairs could not find. Murtaugh kills a kid who has a gun, which was stolen from the evidence locker. So the crime would have gone unknown and if it had been discovered then it would have played out the same way it did in the film with the chief being kidnapped and killed because another set of officers would not have taught to contact Leo. Leo Gets is a character, then tells the two heroes were this bad cop does his business. So the crime would still happen, and the chief would be dead, and the bad guy would get away rich. In 4 the Triad or Chinese mob, is bringing slaves in from China to work in the United State to make fake money for them. The Tirade was only discovered because of Riggs and Murtaugh were out fishing in the ocean and heard the Triad execute one of the slaves on a close by ship so they decided to investigate. So how would this event have played out? Well with Riggs and Murtaugh gone and the coastguard no where around the slaves would have kept on being brought in and the Triads plan to free their bosses from prison would have went on and no one would have known about it.
End Result - More crime in the streets of both LA and China because no one would have been there to stop Jack Travis and the Triads because the other Officers of the LAPD did not investigate into these cases even when Riggs and Murtaugh were alive and employed.
Film: Spider-Man 3 – Character: Peter Parker
In Spider-Man 3, Peter Parker is faced with two foes holding the women he loves hostage. But right when he's on his last leg Harry Osborn comes in and saves him from being crushed by the Sandman. Later on in the film Harry jumps in front of a tied up Peter and takes the blades Venom had meant for Peter. But what would have happened to the world they inhabited if Peter had died?
Well with Spider-Man being the only superhero in this world these two villains would have gone on being unstoppable. Unless you look at the supposed script of Spider-Man 4. Black Cat, a character from the comics would have joined the fight so she might have filled the hole Peter left. Or if we look at the comics when Peter died, he was always replaced by someone, either a clone, or by someone else who took up the mantle of Spider-Man.
End result - Unstoppable villains who can only be stopped if and when a new hero arrives and the death of Mary Jane Watson. Why would the villains keep her alive after they had already seen their faces?
Film: Star Wars Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith – Character: Anakin Skywalker
The now newly crowned Darth Vader after leading his clone army, the 501st into the Jedi Temple goes to Mustfar and kills all the separatist, under orders from the Emperor. After that Anakin battles his former Master Obi-Won and the two dual and in the end Anakin is mortally wounded. So what would have happened if Anakin had died?
Anakin still would have fulfilled his destiny. He started the destruction of the Jedi order bringing balance to the Force by lowering the Jedi's numbers, bringing them closer to the Sith's. Palpatine probably would have got a new apprentice, probably Starkiller, who was Vader's Assassin in Force Unleashed to help him hunt down and kill the rebels and the few Jedi that Obi-Won and Yoda saved by changing the signal and telling them to stay away from the Jedi Temple. Or he could have used the cloning process to clone Anakin, like Vader did Starkiller in Force Unleashed 2. Or with him being able to manipulate life Palpatine could have brought Anakin back from the dead.
End Result - Jedi's still hunted to extinction, Palpatine has a new apprentice but Padmé would have been around to raise Luke and Leia because Palpatine killed her using the Force to either save Anakin or draw him further towards the dark side. But with Anakin gone, maybe Yoda and Obi-Won might have joined Padmé in hiding and raised the children to be full grown Jedi.
Plus an extra, but this time what if the character had survived?
Film: Star Wars Episode 6 : Return of the Jedi – Character Anakin Skywalker / Darth Vader
Darth Vader kills the Emperor to save his son. Bringing true balance to the force with their only being one of each force wielder left. One Jedi, and one Sith. (Luke and Anakin) But what if Vader had survived the electrocution by his former master? What if Luke had saved his father?
I think Anakin would have been hated by all, including his own daughter who probably would not have forgiven him for the role he played in Alderaan's destruction. Just like in Force Unleashed 2. This story happened between Episodes 3 and 4, but it showed that Anakin would have most likely been put on trial and sentence to death anyways. Causing him to either die at the hands of the law or have to go on the run the way Obi-Won and Yoda had to.
In a comic set in an alternate universe where this even actually did happen, everyone seemed to have forgiven him and Anakin turned his suit from black to white. But to me, that seems as WTF as if the Empire really had just given up at the End of Episode 6.
End Result - Anakin is put to death or himself and Luke go on the run from the law. After saving his life I doubt Luke would have made his father run from the law on his own.