5 Stupid Mistakes Basically All Movie Trilogies Make
Building a movie series is a risky affair. You might wind up with one of the greatest and most ambitious cinematic experiences ever made, like that Tolkien trilogy, or you could waste tons of resources on a bloated sellout failure, like that other Tolkien trilogy. So it's no surprise that when it comes time for the big finale, some filmmakers are so scared to take chances that they wind up using the same tired old tricks to wrap it all up neatly.
Warning: This article contains spoilers for several trilogies from the past, present, and sadly, probably also the future.
Changing The Story In A Way That Ruins The Previous Movies
Did you enjoy the first two Terminator movies, about time travel shenanigans involving robot assassins? Sucks to be you, because in Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines, it turns out that the apocalypse was always going to happen no matter what our main characters tried. That means everything Sarah and John went through in the first two movies was utterly pointless, and you are an idiot for even watching.
Speaking of retroactive incompetence, Ellen Ripley went through hell trying to save Hicks, Newt, and Bishop, only for Alien 3 to kill off all three before the movie even starts. Meaning Ripley could've just stayed home sipping martinis during all of Aliens and have saved exactly as many people -- that is, zero.
The first two X-Men movies center on the conflict between Professor X and Magneto, who have logical but incompatible views on how to protect mutants. That moral complexity was tossed straight out the window in X-Men: The Last Stand, in which Magneto goes from a fanatically mutant-protecting Holocaust survivor to a straight-up supervillain who unironically paraphrases Hitler speeches and feeds his followers into a meat grinder while calling them "pawns."
In the first two Dark Knight movies, Bruce Wayne struggles with his belief that underneath some superficial layers of apathy and immorality, the people of Gotham are mostly decent folk worth fighting for. But when Bane gets rid of the cops in The Dark Knight Rises, the entire city goes post-apocalyptic like they were all secret Fallout cosplayers waiting for their time to shine. Crazed mobs roam the streets, and folks cheer as Scarecrow sentences people to drown in his kangaroo court.
Having To Find The Main Character Who Disappeared In The Second Movie
Because sequels, by their very nature, are about ramping up the stakes, not even main characters are safe. Well, in the short term, anyway. Beloved characters don't tend to stay dead for long. Plus, by killing them off, filmmakers get to spend half the next movie bringing them back. Take The Matrix Revolutions, in which Trinity has to backflip through a million obstacles to track down Neo, whose digital soul got severed in Reloaded. As a result, Neo spends a good chunk of the movie wandering aimlessly through New York subway stations like a confused tourist.
Because Harrison Ford wanted Han Solo killed off after The Empire Strikes Back, Star Wars producers weren't sure if they could get him to appear in the final part of the trilogy. But instead of just letting Chewbacca cut him open and use him for warmth, they had him encased in carbonite, literally putting him on ice in case Ford was a no-show. When Ford then agreed to return along with the Jedi, the third movie dedicated its first 30 minutes to the gang tearing up a den of thieves to get him back.
And then there are the Pirates Of The Caribbean sequels. In Dead Man's Chest (which was shot back-to-back with #3, At World's End), Captain Jack Sparrow staggers into the toothy maw of the Kraken, something no man could possibly survive. And he doesn't ... so the sequel is about the crew Uber-ing his drunken ass out of the afterlife and back into the story.
It's a move so obvious that they didn't even bother to omit Johnny Depp from the promotional materials.
Quickly Killing The Old Villain To Make Way For A New One
Remember Boba Fett? Bounty hunter, elite fighter, dude who's actually bad at his job? In The Empire Strikes Back, he was created to be "the next major villain." So by the time Return Of The Jedi arrived, fans were champing at the bit to watch Luke or Han square off against this badass. But because that epic fight would've stolen too much of the Emperor's thunder, Fett got himself Looney Tuned to death by a clumsy Han.
And because they didn't learn their lesson the first time (or second time, chronologically speaking), the prequels pulled the exact same stunt. After being the main villain of the previous film, Count Dooku was killed off in the first 15 minutes of Revenge Of The Sith to make way for the same damn Emperor.
Then there's The Hobbit. Because they wanted to end the second movie on a cliffhanger (how else were they going to trick people into seeing the third?), Smaug was cheated out of a dramatic death in The Desolation Of Smaug. Instead, he gets about ten minutes of screen time in the third movie before being unceremoniously bumped off so it can focus on what the people really wanted to see: a boring two-hour CGI battle against some random orc who wasn't even in the book.
Of course, the best way to do this is to have the new villain dispatch their predecessor themselves. In Jurassic Park and The Lost World, there was no greater terror than the Tyrannosaurus Rex, ruthless eater of men and toilet stalls. So when Sam Neill and company encounter one in Jurassic Park III, they think all hope is lost. Then the new big bad steps in and breaks the T-Rex's neck like a twig.
In Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, the unstoppable kraken spends the entire movie shrugging off cannonballs and eating ships in a single bite. But in the third installment, the monster doesn't even appear ... well, alive. Instead, Cutler Beckett has Davy Jones murder it offscreen, robbing the audience of maybe the only worthwhile face-off in the entire series.
Giving Cameos To Characters Everybody Hates
Now we come to the worst part of any franchise: the unwanted cameo. The elephant-faced clown in the room is, of course, Jar Jar Binks from Star Wars. After bumbling through every important event in the first two prequel films, Jar Jar doesn't have a single line of dialogue in the third. But despite being of questionable worth to the story, George Lucas still insisted on having him pop up to annoy the audience during the emotional funeral for Padme.
Pixar gave similar treatment to Larry the Cable Guy's annoying, zero-effort Tow Mater in the Cars trilogy. The truck went from a major supporting character in the first Cars to the protagonist of Cars 2 to literally phoning it in for a single scene in Cars 3.
In a series of nothing but unlikable characters, Sam Witwicky's parents still managed to be the most aggravating part of Transformers. That criticism seemingly reached Michael Bay, and the two were cut almost entirely from the third movie, Dark Of The Moon. But for some reason, they still got to spend several interminable scenes driving their unemployed loser son around while taking cheap shots at Millennials.
Related: 5 Cameos That Were Total Disasters
Bringing Back The Bad Guy From The First Movie
Remember the Death Star? Star Wars sure did, and despite destroying that sucker in the first movie's climax, it came back bigger and blander for the third film. Its absence left plenty of room in Empire Strikes Back for the Rebels to go on cool ice planet and sky city adventures. But then in Return Of The Jedi, a literal Death Star 2.0 arrives, meaning the good guys have to drop everything to blast it out of the sky again.
Batman Begins had the League of Shadows, who made Bruce doubt his moral compass by using his own philosophy against him. Then in The Dark Knight, the Joker plunged Batman into a whole new kind of existential crisis by using his own terrible nihilism to make Bruce question his convictions. So did The Dark Knight Rises then choose another new, morally challenging villain from Batman's extensive rogues gallery? Nope, Christopher Nolan just had him fight the League of Shadows again, only this time with a leader slightly stronger than the last one.
In A Nightmare On Elm Street, Freddy Krueger spends the entire movie murdering a bunch of teens in their dreams while making bad puns. In the second film, Freddy's ambitions are a bit loftier, as he spends the movie inhabiting the body of one of his victims just so he can kill again in the real world. But that was clearly too far out of his comfort zone, because in A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, Freddy's back to doing what he does best: murdering teens in their dreams.
Back in the first (first) Spider-Man, Peter finds the man who killed Uncle Ben -- an event that determines his heroic path as much as that radioactive spider bite. But surprise! In Spider-Man 3, it turns out that Spidey got the wrong guy, and now he has to spend the entire movie hitting the same sad emotional beats again, only this time for much longer and with a worse haircut.
When the very dead Agent Smith came back in Matrix Reloaded, at least the Wachowskis raised the stakes and had Neo fight literally infinite versions of him. So how does the trilogy end in Revolutions? With Neo fighting a single Agent Smith again, as if we hadn't gotten bored of that 72,144 dead Smiths ago.
Tiagosvn is on Twitter looking for funding for his fan remake of The Last Jedi on trilogy form. Everyone's gonna love it.
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