C'mon Hollywood: Enough with trilogies!
With the recent announcement of Peter Jackson extending his recently wrapped two-part THE HOBBIT into a trilogy, I was left scratching my head as to why it was necessary. They tackled the production from the start with two films in mind and executed it as such. Jackson knew he’d want to pack as many details in it as he could, so he gave himself an extra film to do his thing, even stretching the story out to include characters, battles, etc., not in the original book. Totally respectable, given Jackson’s handling of the LOTR trilogy. But with production wrapped and the sudden desire to film another chapter, I have to wonder if this trilogy business hasn’t gotten out of control.
Before I launch into this, let’s look at the obvious; trilogies are made, predominantly, as a means to make lots and lots of money. In being able to reuse sets, retain actors over a longer period of time, and continue shooting without any breaks, a production is able to extend itself without having to restart, thereby milking out another flick or two and saving mad money in an effort to MAKE mad money.
A trilogy, by definition, is “a group of three dramatic or literary works related in subject or theme,” which can be loosely interpreted, meaning that three films can be considered a trilogy as long as they feature a minimum of similarities, but don’t necessarily have to relate in story from one to the next.
Well, I call bullshit on that.
Whatever happened to just making a good movie? The first DIE HARD wasn’t made to be a trilogy. Nor was JURASSIC PARK or THE TERMINATOR or THE MATRIX or fill-in-the-blank-movie-that-has-at-least-two-sequels. It’s not that the writer/director didn’t have it in their head that MAYBE the story could or should continue in a specific direction, but the notion was simply to make the best movie they could, rather than make one third of a good film with more to follow.
What ends up happening with trilogies is that movies start being turned into serialized entertainment, much like a TV show, rather than a single body of work within a standard time frame. Why can’t we just sit down and enjoy a good movie from start of finish with a beginning, middle, and end? Yeah, business is booming and Hollywood wants to squeeze every last drop of money from our pockets. I’m fine with that, as long as the entertainment is worth it. But, throwing out the word “trilogy” for every new film that has potential for one is getting ridiculous.
It’s pretty arrogant to think that every film is good enough to earn that mantra. Instead of proving their mettle at the box office, filmmakers are now announcing their new projects AS a trilogy, as if they’re guaranteed to be a box office smash. STAR WARS: EPISODE IV may have had a lengthier series of stories in Lucas’ head, but it wasn’t a guarantee they’d see the light of day until Episode IV lit the box office on fire, thereby EARNING the right to tell the whole tale.
I’m not against trilogies. Far from it. However, I think that a trilogy should be defined by certain criteria and it should start with making a great initial entry first. Obviously, the box office will determine if there will be more. If the initial film is successful, then great, by all means, continue with the plans to make a trilogy, but approach it on a one-by-one basis with a story that flows from one to the next, rather than just a series of films with the same character in a familiar setting, but nothing tying them together. That’s not a trilogy, that’s a franchise or series, which can mix and match any number of themes, settings, storylines, etc.
The argument could be made that it’s just semantics. What a trilogy means to me isn’t the same to you, etc., etc. And I can relent that to an extent. But DIE HARD 2 had nothing to do with the first, third, or fourth film other than theme alone, which does not make it part of a trilogy. The same can be said for INDIANA JONES, ALIEN, SPIDER-MAN, BLADE, MISSION:IMPOSSIBLE, etc. They all have sequels, which exist outside of a continuous story that flows from one film to the next, ending in a final THIRD chapter.
I loved THE LORD OF THE RINGS films and am thankful the series was told in trilogy form (and I prefer the director’s cuts to all of those films), but I think its “trilogy effect” has had a negative impact on Hollywood. LOTR worked because it was based on specific literary works, each of which had a three-act structure rooted in each book/film.
The BACK TO THE FUTURE series is another great trilogy, as is STAR WARS and a few select more. I look forward to seeing more as long as they’re actually tied together and not a cash grab, dragging out a story that could be told in one movie.
Let’s get back to the business of making one good film to start. Earn your trilogy first, Hollywood. It’s not a given.
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|Extra Tidbit:||What's your favorite "trilogy?" I'm sticking with LOTR, as I feel it's the most consistent and representative of a true trilogy. Star Wars is a close second, with Back to the Future sliding into third|