Monday, May 7, 2007

Note to Hollywood: Stop the 3s

There's been a lot of talk about Spiderman 3 (weird, isn't it?) and other than the opening weekend grosses, the word is not good. The criticism in general is that it's obvious that the movie had nothing new to offer which is why it piled the villains so high. And even after that, it still had nothing new to offer. The first movie sets the characters. The second movie further develops relationships and characters. And the third? And the third? The third is more of the same. And in most cases even more of more of the same.

So that begs the question. Should there even be a third? Superman 3 anyone? Anyone? And how about X-Men 3? Or Matrix Revolutions? Or Alien 3? Or Terminator 3? Or Batman Forever? Or Godfather Part III? It's all the same shit, just dressed differently. Of course there are exceptions, but based on history (and aren't we supposed to learn from it?) you probably shouldn't be putting a 3 on the end of your movie anytime soon. Even Bond has to have a face-lift every few years or so to keep him interesting. And yet I worry about the future of the Batman franchise because Batman Begins is about as good as it gets in my eyes, so it will be interesting to see what future challenges that franchise faces.

But to me this is a hopeful dilemma because it means that audiences are craving more from their movies. That stories do matter. That characters do matter. That CG action and big explosions are not enough anymore. Audiences want something they can grasp and relate to.

But alas, I say this in the giant wake that is the 148 Million opening weekend of Spiderman 3, so we can probably expect that 4, 5 and 6 are currently being penned and somewhere in the darkness, Joel Schumacher is licking his chops.

16 comments:

Piper said...

Allow me to be the first to comment on my own post. I know, I know.

Anyway, I'm a bit embarrassed now that I've written a post about sequels as if I'm okay with sequels to begin with. And for the most part, I'm not. There are exceptions, but very few.

Joe Valdez said...

Action franchises tend to get more cartoonish as they go and begin to parody themselves. You listed many good examples, Piper.

Lethal Weapon 2 was certainly darker and more violent the original. Then with 3 you started to see more lighthearted comedy with a peroxide hair dyed Joe Pesci, which led to Chris Rock starring in 4 and me wanting my money back.

One notable exception would be Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, which displayed more imagination than the first two films.

Piper said...

Joe,

Completely right about Lethal Weapon. I actually liked 2 very much but got lost with the 3rd and definitely the 4th. While Mad Max is an exception, I still felt they went too overboard with Beyond Thunderdome and delivered a less gritty, more Hollywoodized version of Mad Max.

sir jorge said...

other forgotten 3's....

The Stepfather 3
Silent Night Deadly Night 3 (altough they made 5 total)
Child's Play 3
House Party 3
Friday After Next

and later this year...the highly publicized:

Rush Hour 3 & Oceans 13

Damian said...

As I said in response to your comment on my Spider-man 3 post, I tend to like the trilogy format. I think is a nice round number (the Ancient Greeks even considered it a "perfect" number) and, as we know, storytelling traditionally follows a three-act structure (Act I: introduce the characters, Act II: get the characters into a situation and Act III: resolve the situation). So, I am not opposed at all to making three movies in a series. In fact, oftentimes I find that, with exceptions, the third installments are better than the second (Back to the Future III, Indiana Jones 3, Rocky 3, Die Hard 3, M:I-3, Harry Potter 3, Lord of the Rings, etc).

It's the fourth movies that I feel tend to ruin franchises. Rocky 4, Lethal Weapon 4, Alien 4, Superman 4, Batman 4, etc). All of these movies were, I think, the worst of the bunch (until, in the case of Rocky, the fifth one came along). Again, there are exceptions to this (Star Trek 4, Harry Potter 4, etc) but generally speaking, I think that going past three is not a good idea whereas going to three is not a bad idea. I don't deny the fact that the more installments that get made in any given series the more dissatisfied audiences are, but how much of that dissatisfaction is due to an inferior product and how much is simply due to "fatigue," I don't know.

Ultimately, the question of how many movies to make in a series is a very individual thing. Some franchises can just keep going indefinitely (James Bond) while others shouldn't even go past the first movie. If you think about it, the whole idea of a "sequel" is a very odd thing to begin with. The concept behind "This story was successful so let's continue it/make another one" is very bizarre when you consider that a story is supposed to be a self-contained thing. It ends when it ends. It doesn't really matter "what happens next."

Sometimes I actually think that feeding our need for sequels amounts to little more than exacerbating an infantile desire. Like that baby in the Dinosaurs TV show who always said "AGAIN!" we're like spoiled children or gluttons. We're never satisfied. We're always saying "Gimme more." We can't tell when we've had enough, but we do know when we've had too much. We expect to just keep getting "fed" until we're bored and move onto something else. At this point it seems as if a lot of people are now dissatisfied/bored with Spider-man and are ready for the next big franchise to come along and take its place.

pacheco said...

I think in a lot of trilogies, the 2's seem to be really great.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (I still say it's the best in the series)
The Empire Strikes Back
The Godfather 2 (though technically I haven't seen it yet *whimper*)
Spider-man 2
X-Men 2: X-Men United
Back to the Future 2 (c'mon, the skateboards alone make it worthy!)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (Super Shredder? Vanilla Ice? Tokka and Rahzar? Need I say more?)
D2: The Mighty Ducks (an epic battle between American and the cold bleakness of Iceland. Okay, I'm reaching here, but I thought the movie rocked)
Batman Returns (in my humble opinion. Though this is technically not part of a trilogy)

And as Piper mentioned, the 3's in all of these were the weakest ones.

I'm generally against sequels, especially unplanned ones, but some films are okay as franchises.

Damian said...

That's interesting, Pacheco, because in every single series you mentioned, I found the first movies to be the best (except perhaps Godfather and Star Wars where the sequels were arguably superior to the original) while I thought the third ones were the worst (except for Back to the Future and Indiana Jones). It's just all so subjective.

Piper said...

Here we go. The gears are turning. Love it.

Damian,

Once again, a very thoughtful comment. You make great points about people wanting more. And I would say this desire of wanting more leads to a lot of remakes that tell more of the story. For instance, Rob Zombie is going to explore more of Michael Meyers' childhood in Halloween. Why? Also, why did we have to see scenes between Willy Wonka and his father in the remake? In the remake of The Birds, they are going to explain why the birds go crazy. Why? I don't need to know these things. Remember the Theater Of The Mind.

Wait, I'm going to stop myself. I've stumbled onto something I like and I'm going to write a post about it. Thanks for the inspiration Damian.

Piper said...

Pacheco,

I think my computer isn't working right. Did you say that Temple Of Doom was the best of the trilogy?

And did you say you haven't seen Godfather II yet?

Please stop everything and go and see it right this instant. There is a whole in your heart that needs filling with this marvelous movie.

J.D. Judge said...

So the general rule for your standard trilogy is (1: Pretty good, 2: GREAT, 3: [shudders]) right? Does anyone else figure that LOTR is clearly misbehaving here?

(all in my own opinion)

I: The Fellowship of the Ring
Excellent. Just so incredible. Begins a story that will surely unravel to into a pure and unadultered epic, and this still stands out from it's quiet moments to it's few in number but great in execution action sequences.

II: The Two Towers
We get into the much-anticipated action epicness. It may be less on the plot and dialouge, which explains why your average moviegoer might like this better, rare boring moments. But just because it isn't boring doesn't mean it isn't great like the first one.

III: The Return of the King
Sweet baby Jesus on fire. How much can I say about this that hasn't been said about Casablanca, Gone with the Wind, Citizen Kane, Schindler's List, It's a Wonderful Life, and anything by John Ford, Hayao Miyzaki, Woody Allen, or Akira Kurosawa? Nothing. But... WOW.

Exactly. Also to the theory the first Star Wars trilogy.
First one = one of the greatest films ever made.
Second one = I think it just barely less good than the first, but I can totally get why people think it's better.
Third one = Ewoks. Nuff said.

pacheco said...

Piper,

I stand by my Indiana Jones assessment, and I know I'm not the only one. The first one was very good, but the third one was uninteresting. Temple of Doom, however, really plays up its Saturday Serials roots, and it's just fun, fun, fun. One of my favorite movie openings, too.

I know I need to see The Godfather II (I usually mislead people into believing I've seen it when I've only seen like 10 minutes of it). But it's one of those that you just don't want to throw in on a Tuesday night when your day's been stressful and you're wondering how you're gonna pay for gas tomorrow. It's like watching 2001 for the first time without eating a big meal first (and yes, I have seen that one). I'm anxious to see it, but everything has to be right.

----------------

I think I'm one of the few people who disagrees about the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I felt Fellowship was an incredibly strong, beautifully crafted film. Pretty much a masterpiece. Two Towers, however, felt disjointed, sloppy, and really, really, really boring. Plus you could tell some of the CG was getting rushed. I had initially felt like Return of the King was just about one of the greatest films I had ever seen, but after having a few years away from it, then watching it again, I'm actually embarrassed by how much I liked it (and I didn't like it nearly as much as some people). The special effects are pretty darn terrible at places, it's also pretty boring (but not as bad as the second one), and it's terribly self-righteous and pompous.

So I see it as 1 was fantastic, 2 was a major letdown, and 3 was inbetween. But don't get me wrong, I still enjoy watching all of them (most of the time).

Sheamus the... said...

Brian Singer should have done the third X-Men and not Superman. There should have been a spiderman 3 but a 4th by Raimi as well. Raimi should've had The Sandman and Lizard in this one. Mary Jane should have died in 3 like she died in the comics. Harry should have been working with the Lizard and sandman but not become the Hobgoblin yet. At the end of three the symbiot(sp) should have landed or come back with a space craft or whatever. Number 4 should have been the final installment. Bryce Dallas the lady of interest, the first half be Peter becoming black killing Harry in his rage and loss and then Venom should have been the issue for the whole movie.
Matrix 3 had potiential but...i dont know. I have already said enough.

Piper said...

Pacheco,

You make good points about Temple Of Doom. It was the most like the series it had set out to be, but it is still my least favorite, despite the best opening of all of them (you're absolutely right about that).

I myself love the entire LOTR trilogy and love each movie for different reasons. Love the first. And I still think Towers is my favorite. It definitely has its boring parts, but the fight at the end is simply incredible. And I didn't care for Return Of The King in the theaters, but love it now.

So go figure.

Shea,

That's an interesting thought with Spiderman and might have made for an interesting 3 and 4.

I myself am not a fan of any of the X-Mens nor of Superman Returns which means I am not a fan of Bryan Singer as a comic book director. Loved the Usual Suspects and now he has been pigeonholed as this go-to comic book director and I'm not exactly sure why.

Damian said...

Pacheco:

One of the common misconceptions about people like myself who say that Temple of Doom is the "worst" Indiana Jones movies is that folks think we are by default saying it's a bad movie. This is not the case. I think Temple of Doom is a very good movie (just as I think Back to the Furure II is a very good movie). I just think it's the weakest of the three.

Also, I think all of the Indy films (so far) have great openings. Which is the best? Again, that's pretty subjective, but I'm probably going to have to go with the first one which is IMO one of the greatest openings of any movie.


Sheamus:

Those are some good suggestions. Incidentally, I assume that you meant Gwen Stacy should've died "like she did in the comics" (since Mary Jane is still alive) in which case I agree. If she wasn't supposed to die then there was little purpose to her being there in the first place.

Sheamus the... said...

Damian...thanks for setting me straight. I am a poser Spiderman geek. I have actually never read the comics i just recite what I have heard and form my own opinions and stories. I am batman guy myself. I can tear those comics up with ya anytime.

Piper...I am interested to see what Singer does with this new WW2 thriller with Cruise. I cant say i was a big fan of the X mens either. There are some scenes that made my head explode though.

Damian said...

No problem, Sheamus. :)

And hey, there's nothing wriong with being a Batman geek. I'm one myself. In fact, and I know I've said this before, my top three favorite superheroes are (in no particualr order) Superman, Batman and Spider-man.

Looking forward to The Dark Knight.