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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Why "The Dark Knight Rises" is Going to be in Rare Company. (Part I)

By Moshe Kolb
Yes, this post is the 1st of I’m sure many, many more to follow about “The Dark Knight Rises”. Though my brother has been bragging about having tickets to the midnight premiere for a few months --- I at least am going to get to see “TDKR” as it was meant to be; as a complete trilogy, Back to Back to Back on opening night.  Everything to follow is a list of some of the best trilogies ever made. Yet, no matter how exciting, innovative, and addictive some originals and their sequels seem to be most trilogies can’t seem to remain great throughout all 3 movies.  This is the task facing Christopher “the great” Nolan ---- to make an all time unquestioned complete fantastic III Part Trilogy.  The key of course is to have them be a continuous thought out intelligent story where each movie plays a role and continues to build on its predecessor.  The failed ones are described by the Sports Guy, "A series of three dramas in which the first movie did so well, they couldn't help themselves, so they brought everyone back to make more money in an uninspired sequel, only that one did pretty well, too, so they brought everyone back again for a third movie, just to beat the dead horse completely into the ground." (Though admittedly that isn’t necessarily applicable to some of the greats on this list.)
The following movies however great have some flaw among the trilogy:
The Incomplete Trilogies

1)     The Mighty Ducks Trilogy [The Mighty Ducks, D2, D3]--- Ok, I admit this may be on the list purely for sentimental reasons. But as the inspiration of loving hockey for an entire generation with a perfect mix of childishness and competitiveness the mighty ducks had it going. The films take you through the growth of a team and childhood that mirrored our own experiences. In truth, this trilogy is different than all others in that it’s not easy to pick the weakest link. Most end up choosing D3, generally regarding it as repeat of snob team vs. ragtag team plot. But anything that can lead to the growth of a professional sports team needs to be recognized despite what ever flaws it may have. Quack!!!

2)     The X-Men Trilogy [X-men, X2, X3] ---- Marvel's flagship superhero team set the tone for all future superhero movies. Led by Bryan Singer and a perfectly cast team , the direction more than provided a moving semi-realistic view of life with mutants despite the lack of great action. Enter X2, which delivered both human drama and mutant mayhem showing what superhero movies could be. But then Singer went AWOL, and the studio fell into the trap deciding to introduce a couple of dozen new characters and it all went a bit wrong in the third film.  This trilogy is what Bill Simonds based his comments on.

3)     The Back to the Future Trilogy [Part I, II, III] --- Who doesn’t have fond memories of the Back to the Future trilogy. The minute it said "To Be Continued" at the end of the first film I was chomping at the bit to see what happened in the second. From driving down the freeway at 88 miles per hour, to wishing you had a hover board, coupled with a twisty, turny paradox-spinning puzzler in Part II. Consistently fun, funny and about as good an adventure as you could wish for, there's a reason that this is still wildly popular. However, the 3rd left something else to be desired. Clearly an add-on without any real purpose continuing the first two.

4)     The Matrix Trilogy [Matrix, Matrix Reloaded, Matrix Revolutions] --- The first Matrix film was one of those films, like Star Wars, that seems to change cinema overnight. As Keanu Reeves set out to save humanity from the machines, it spawned a million imitators, a thousand parodies and almost no equals. The sequels continue the story line and add to the depth of storytelling however it seems as if the writers/ producers themselves couldn’t understand the deep philosophical themes they were trying to portray. Though the ambition is admirable and fight scenes made everyone go “Whoa!!!!” sometimes a little less unintelligible philosophical banter is actually more.

5)     The Pirates of the Caribbean Trilogy [Curse of the Black Pearl, Dead Man’s Chest, At World’s End] --- Some say trilogies can only be great if based on deep story plots that continue and flow from one movie to another. Heck Matrix is taught in philosophy classes across the world because of that.  Yet, Pirates owes it all to two men. The person who thought up the side character of Captain Jack Sparrow and of course the one and only Johnny Depp. No other character has carried an entire franchise quite like Captain Jack.  It seems as if this trilogy has all the makings: a 1st rate lead character with deep personality keeping the audience wanting to learn more about him and his past, side love characters, enemies that we still like and root for. The failure in this trilogy simply came down to execution and poor story at the end. The twists and turns causes the movie to meander far too often on its way to the conclusion, every character simply betrays every other without any seemingly intelligible purpose.

6)     The Austin Powers Trilogy [International Man of Mystery, The Spy Who Shagged Me, Goldmember] --- Few performances make you glee with laughter when looked at with fresh eyes as Mike Myer’s genius dual performance as Austin Danger Powers and Dr. Evil. As the series wore on, however, it became crystal clear that it was Dr. Evil who was the real star of the show, stealing most of the films. For many, this was an introduction into raunchiness and wishing we lived in the swinging ‘60s. The combination of the admittedly ace and star-studded opening number (with Spielberg, Cruise, Paltrow and Spacey) and Michael Caine almost saved the day for Goldmember, but the trashiness of the film finally outmatched the cleverness keeping it out of the best.
7)     The Terminator Trilogy [Terminator, Judgment Day, Rise of the Machines] --- The first Terminator film changed cinema bringing us Arnold and James Cameron. Few trilogies would even dare to do something as bold as switching its star evil mankind killer into its savior. Yet T2 is inarguably one of the slickest, most effective action thrillers the world has ever seen.  Though the belated 3rd installment may not quite stand on the same level, it's perfectly respectable staying true to its origins and still bringing us the inevitable Doom’s Day. It falls short however by further messing with the timeline, and it really misses Linda Hamilton's steely Ripleyesque presence.

8)     The Scream Trilogy [I, II, III] --- The slasher film was pretty much dead and buried in 1996. But Wes Craven managed to single-handedly bring it back to life with this witty rebirth of the whole genre. Killing the one known star in the opening scene wasn’t even the most original element about the movie. Here, our unstoppable killer (who always comes back for one last scare just when you think he is dead) faces victims who know how to survive a horror movie, who don't always run upstairs and who frequently fight back. The first sequel riffed on the clichés of Part I, while the less successful but still original third installment got really weird, depicting a sequel movie within the movie. This didn’t prove nearly as effective ruining the entire series slightly, but enough to keep it out of the elites.

9)      The Godfather Trilogy [Part I, II, III] --- Very tough not counting this in the “Greats List” but the best trilogies are those with no miss-steps. Of course when it comes to quotes, acting, directing and story the first two films are far superior and the reason this trilogy is rated this high. The themes about family, immigration and the American dream are depicted on a profound level, which is something most people could relate to. Part II expertly layered past and present in a brilliant expansion and clarification of the world, while Part III, whatever its faults, completes the arc for Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) as he faces the consequences of the choices he's made and watches the next generation grow up. All three films distinguish themselves from the other and continue a story thoughtfully and purposefully. Heck even the weak link delivered: "Just when I thought I was out they pull me back in.” However, had all three films been like Part Three I really don't think we ever would have heard of Don Corleone and for that it just doesn’t quite make it to the next level.

10) The Spiderman Trilogy [I, II, III] --- Blade and X-Men had shown where superhero movies were heading, but it was Spider-Man that actually went there. Its huge box-office success was thoroughly earned by director Sam Raimi placing Peter Parker's character front and center. I loved it because it didn’t have a big muscle man --- but rather nerdy Tobey McGuire. The sequel, pitting Spidey against Alfred Molina's brilliant Doc Ock, was a further step up. The weak leak, again number 3, fell into the same pitfalls where a tussle over bad guys between director and studio led to a film overloaded with evildoers and short on focus.  I will also say, in comparison to the likes of TDK or Star Wars, this trilogy seems to lack a growth in Spiderman between the three films and is more just different battles. Having said that, I am not a believer that this series needs a reboot, but if somehow they can make Spiderman the new Dark Knight --- delivering a thought out consistent planned story by delving deep into the psyche of a superhero then I’m all for it. [Forget it ---- that last sentence was pure blasphemy as nothing will ever come close to Nolan’s Dark Knight!!!]

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