Today: February 23, 2024

Movie Trilogies

As Men In Black returns for its third instalment this week, Dan Clay tackles the tricky topic of trilogies. Which other movie trilogies struggled to improve on their first outing? Which faltered at the last hurdle? Which went a step too far … and which (if any) got it just about right …?

As Men In Black returns for its third instalment this
week, Dan Clay tackles the tricky topic of trilogies. Which other movie
trilogies struggled to improve on their first outing? Which faltered at the
last hurdle? Which went a step too far … and which (if any) got it just about
right …?

When Three Isn’t A Magic Number …

Okay so the first one was
hardly a classic but at least Transformers
was an all-action blast of fun that had a cheeky sense of nostalgia and some
thunderous CGI sequences. But what on earth happened to the sequels, in which
plot took a back seat to noisy, incoherent action and where no-one had the
balls to perhaps suggest to Michael Bay
that 90 minutes makes for a better action movie?

Sadly the same can be said
for Johnny Depp’s hugely lucrative Pirates franchise. While the first was
great fun, showcasing Depp’s knack for humour and director Gore Verbinski’s handle on the action, the original two sequels
seemed to be challenging Cure For
Insomnia’s
‘Longest Movie Ever’ tag (it’s 87 hours!) with repetitive action
and the sort of sinking-ship story lines that left audiences checking their
watches with more interest.

However the trilogy that
truly takes the biscuit has to be the Wachowski’s Matrix trilogy. While the first was a mind-bending,
genre-reinventing nugget that made Keanu
Reeves
the star of two of the best action films of the ’90s (Speed was the other), the sequels’
over-reliance on its confusing theology and dull Zion story line, at the
expense of the much cooler Matrix world, left fans bored and showed just how a
bad sequel can ruin a perfectly good idea.

Two Out Of Three A’int Bad …

Sometimes a sequel captures
the spirit of the original film perfectly, only for Part Three to truly stuff
it up. A perfect example in the eyes of many would be The Godfather and its two opposing sequels. While the second is
often regarded as that rare beast – an improvement on the original – the third
is an overlong, dull mess that benefits only from Sofia Copolla‘s demise late on.

For Departed fans, Infernal
Affairs
is an absolute must, if only to see the superior original on which Scorsese’s lauded remake was based.
While the first part took a novel idea and made it compelling, its sequel
(actually a prequel) delved into the relationship between gang boss Sam and his
police counterpart Shing. However the third part, though fine, couldn’t quite
capture the spirit of the these first two instalments, although as a trilogy it’s
certainly worth a buy.

However, nowhere is fan
opinion more divided than in the third part of the Alien franchise, in which director David Fincher tried to remould Scott‘s
original idea (one beastie) on a distant prison planet. Suffering production hell
and the unenviable task of following James
Cameron’s
superb second instalment. Not bad, but not the masterpiece Part
One and Two were.

If Three’s A Crowd, Four’s A Bore …

Which leads us nicely onto Alien Resurrection as the perfect
example of when trilogies went one film too far (don’t get us started on the AVP films!) While Part Three at least
had a decent ending, the decision to resurrect the genre gave us one of the
daftest birth scenes in history and scandalously made Ripley’s iconic character
into something oddly unlikeable and bizarrely inhuman.

It’s not the only franchise
to suffer from a similar step too far. The original Die Hard trilogy, while not perfect, was a fine example of taking a
simple formula and extending it slightly, Die
Hard 4.0
was not only lacking in humour, but seemed to forgo the genuine
threats of the original with a rather tepid baddie and a lack of action or
peril to make us care much either.

However it’s Indiana Jones that really gets fans’
backs up. The original sequence of films could easily be considered as one of
the greatest movie trilogies ever, but then the fourth instalment showed up and
spoiled the party with too much Shia
LaBeouf
, too many aliens and no Sean
Connery
. The news that Part Five is on the horizon can only harm the
original’s image if Kingdom Of The
Crystal Skull
is anything to go by.

Just Perfect …

Sometimes, a trilogy gets it
just right; introducing an idea in a solid first film, and then extending and
developing it in the sequels to perfection. While many would argue that the
original Star Wars, Back to the Future and Lord of the Rings trilogies are the
only films that can truly stake a claim for this label, arguably, only two
trilogies, so far, have boasted two sequels which were superior to the
originals.

The first saw Matt Damon create a signature role as Jason Bourne in 2002’s The Bourne Identity. However 2004’s Supremacy and 2007’s Ultimatum developed his back-story,
upped the action and left us with the perfect ending. Similarly, Pixar’s Toy Story trilogy managed to add heaps of humour and in-jokes in
its two fantastic sequels, the third of which gained a reputation for making
grown men cry at the cinema, making it worthy of its ‘Perfect Trilogy’ tag.

Of course, with The Dark Knight Rises heading for
cinemas this July, Christopher Nolan’s Batman may well join Bourne and Buzz
into this illustrious list. Like you, we very much hope so.

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