It’s the Third One

The Trilogy is the weakest shape in nature


It’s become a commonplace idea.

“It’s the third one,” has become the slogan of approbation. It’s the thorn in the moviegoers side, the sequel of the sequel. Some of the greatest movies ever, movies like Star Wars and The Godfather, had sequels so strong and well done that they challenged the ideas of what a sequel could accomplish, but they had some third entries that bordered between disappointing to downright awful.

It’s a slippery slope, serialization.

Some companies like Pixar can take one franchise and successfully drag it on for three entries, some can flub on only the second entry…like Pixar. There are a litany of factors that go into what makes a good sequel. Typically, a sequel is great when It builds on the original, provding a fresh adventure, and giving the characters more time to shine unfettered by exposition in a new and interesting world. To explain it shortly, the third one will have to drag the characters (kicking and screaming) back into the plot, usually provides the same adventure as the first one, gives the characters room to stagnate fettered by ret-coning everything.

But they make money.

Let’s talk about why movies don’t go into thirds too well.

Plot’s can normally only go so long. Sometimes the plot is so bulletproof and awesome that they have no problem stretching it into a third entry. Let’s take The Lord of the Rings, it’s a great trilogy. It is based on masterfully written book trilogy of the same name–I’m thinking you probably knew that. J. R. R Tolkien took the time and care to formulate a great plot that could stretch that thin easily.

Meanwhile, The Hobbit trilogy. Based on one short children’s book set in the same universe, this trilogy dragged on and on and on during its 10+ hour run time. The plot has to be interesting enough to generate conflict and purpose for the characters through every movie they are in. Third entries will always have trouble in this regard unless the story was planned to be a trilogy to begin with.

Characters can actually overdevelop. It’s true. It’s like microwaving a burrito. If you cook it too long it get’s hard and weird tasting.

Another Trilogy on the way, Spiderman. The Toby McGuire Spiderman was a likable character until he wasn’t because they…brushed his hair different.

Same with the Xmen trilogy. Superhero trilogies seem especially susceptible to this. If the character stops having interesting and new ways to grow and develop, then the trilogy won’t end well.

Sometimes (a lot of the time) characters end up going through the great plan of “lets repeat the plot of the first one, but with a different perspective.” See Finding Dory, Car’s 3, Shrek 2, Kung Fu Panda 3, and Toy Story 3.  This is a faux Pas that works sometimes. I’m sure you liked at least one of the movies on that list, and it’s fine to be wrong.

Finally, there is one big and simple problem with most trilogies. The target audience ages too much.

Think about good old Star Wars. The first film dropped like a ton of bricks on awaiting masses in 1977. If you were 14 when that movie came out it would blow you away. You would be dying to see the sequel in 1980 when you were 17. But by the time you were 20, no longer a teen, the third and final film in the original trilogy would release in 1983.

People change a lot in six years. If you were a sci fi loving nerd when you were 14, you would hopefully have gotten a social life by age 20. You would’ve gone through all of high school.

Now look at the modern Star Wars trilogy. I just so happened to be 14 when the first movie came out. I will be 20 when the last one releases. I’m not too psyched about it anymore. History repeats. My father was 13 for Star Wars and 19 for Return of the Jedi, so that’s some poetic justice.

Good films are rare. They can be gems and can change a generation or define a culture of creative potential. From Silent Era to Sci-Fi, there aren’t many movies that are truly great. Even less prominent, great sequels. As hard as it is to capture lightening in a bottle, its even harder to recreate it. But does lightening strike thrice? In some cases, yes. Sometimes, the characters need their third arc to develop properly. Sometimes the movies were planned properly and the trilogy was inevitable–the Harry Potter Octilogy achieved as consistent of success as the Lord of the Rings. Old scripts can always be found in the trash, too, and they can just reread them in a different voice and call it a new movie. I didn’t like Finding Dory. Sorry, moving on.

Entertainment will always be a xenophobic culture. New ideas are scary, especially now when nostalgia is another word for “personal mint.” Reboots and trilogies and movie adaptations will always be easy. They can be done well, but the fact that they are easy makes them especially susceptible to being awful. T.V. shows will always be rebooted, video games will always be adapted, Sony will keep trying to make a decent movie based on something that has already been made *cough* Ghostbusters *cough*, and good sequels will always spawn a third glorious, lazy, superfluous, half-baked entry…the third one.