The many disguises of the film trilogy

After recently seeing, and thoroughly enjoying, the third Transformers film, Dark of the Moon, it came to our mind that not all film trilogies are created equal. Some are imagined with great creativity and care, are built to endure. Others cut corners wherever possible, chasing a quick box-office buck at the cost of quality. Here follows a discussion of the many disguises of the film trilogy.

1 > 3 > 2: There are the walk-up flats, those trilogies with essentially strong bones that somehow fall victim to the fickleness of fashion. The first film is high quality and extremely popular, but then the second looses it a little – its yellow bricks and shared parking are now thought to be ugly, so it is left to the students / artists / elderly whose youth allowance / dole / pension can’t afford better. But as time goes by and fashions revisit past eras, the third film benefits from a lick of paint and some minor upgrades, and suddenly gains a whole new lease on life. Robert Zemeckis’ Back to the Future and Michael Bay’s Transformers trilogies are both examples.

1 > 2 > 3: There are the commission houses, those trilogies that start with zeal and grand dreams, but ultimately fail to deliver. The first film is good, magnificent even, but the second already exhibits early signs of decay – the tenants move out and the drug dealers move in, leaving only broken lifts and empty hallways. By the time the third film is released, the whole precinct has been condemned, the wrecking crews already booked to remove the sad reminder of what could have been. The Wachowski brothers’ The Matrix and Sam Raimi’s Spiderman trilogies are both examples.

1, 2, 3 + 4: There are the heritage conversions, those trilogies that belonged to another era but have since been renovated and modernised. Indeed, they cannot truthfully even be called trilogies anymore, now that a fourth film has been tacked onto the end of the original three. Sometimes, the fourth is good, respecting the original building’s character at the same time as appealing to modern needs and tastes. Other times, the fourth is terrible, delivering an uninhabitable conversion while also wrecking our memories of the original. The Die Hard trilogy is an example of the former – the fourth instalment is so good, it almost matches the original. Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones trilogy is an example of the latter – the fourth is confusing and loosely scripted, leagues behind the excellent Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

1 = 2 = 3: Most rare are the architectural masterpieces, those trilogies that are great every step of the way. The first film is exceptional, already ahead of its time. The second builds on the sturdy foundations of the first as well as avoiding the many potential stumbling blocks of the avant-garde – its roof doesn’t leak, its planning makes sense and it receives only critical acclaim. Then the third ascends to previously unimaginable heights, entering the hallowed realm of the timeless classic, all the while delivering new surprises and delight. Pixar’s Toy Story trilogy is one such example – see our previous post on the subject here.

What are your thoughts on the matter? Into which category do the original Star Wars films fall, or the follow up trilogy? What of Lord of the Rings, Ace Ventura or Mad Max? The Millenium series, Blade, RoboCop or the Ocean’s trilogy?

Author: Warwick Mihaly

I am an architect, writer, teacher and father.

5 thoughts on “The many disguises of the film trilogy”

  1. Hmmm in my oppion the Back to the Futures goes 1,2,3. I did not really enjoy the third but that’s becuase Doc’s girlfriend in that movie is freakin annoying and i rarely watch any show or movie with her in it.

    Toy story is another sore point for me as i see that trilogy being 2,1,3. As the third in my view being exactly the same storyline as the second but in reverse. Meaning in number 2 Woody wanted to stay with the new crew while the other toys tried to convince him to come back to them and be Andy’s toys. Then in number 3 it was the other toys wanting to stay in the new place and Woody is doing all the convincing, trying to bring all the toys back with him and be Andy’s toys again. Plus the bad guy in both was an old crunky toy.

    As far as the suggested movies to ponder on, i think lord of the rings goes 1,3,2. However number 2 and 3 were equally boring and tediously long. And the Ocean’s series goes 1,3,2. However I think it was you that when we were descussing the Ocean’s series ages ago, you like ocean’s 12 (or was it K). But honestly most of the movie was a waste of time as the plot of the movie was a competition to see who can steal the egg but then we found out at the end that the egg was originally stolen (or swapped) near the begining of the wager and thus deeming the rest of the movie and a wate of time for the audience to sit through.

    Well that’s my views anyway lol.

    1. Great input, Justin. Thanks for the different point of view. Lord of the Rings is a hard one to assess, being 3 parts of the one story. I did like Ocean’s 12, however I agree with your order – the first was the best, followed by the third then the second… Walk up flats.

  2. I couldn’t agree more about the oceans order. first was by far the best and the last was second but only beat the second was only last by from an awkward plot

    1. The plot in Ocean’s 12, the second in the series, is a bit awkward – as Justin pointed out, the focus of the entire movie (the Faberge egg) turned out to have been fake all along. That said, I think there were a number of entertaining moments in the film, including Julia Roberts’ cameo as herself.

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