In my mind, there is one thing that can really ruin a movie. Sequels. A lot of films are excellent by themselves and can stand on their own merit, but since they happened to make a lot of money, they almost automatically get a sequel tacked on so the studio can make more money. Of course, the sequel isn’t as strong as the original (or rarely is, in any case). What is more unfortunate is that the first sequel is done in such a way that it begs for a second sequel. Therefore, a film that could have just stood by itself has now been made into a trilogy. This is what I like to call “The Trilogy Conundrum.” With very few original ideas coming out of Hollywood, why must we beat those ideas to death with endless sequels? Don’t even get me started about the emergence of 2-part films, despite their insistence that they include more of the source material. This week’s two movies can stand just fine by themselves but were made into trilogies (or more).
Length: 136 minutes / 2.26 hours
While The Matrix (1999) hasn’t been the first film to fall under the Trilogy Conundrum, it is certainly one of the most prevalent. Any sequel that ends with “To Be Continued” falls squarely in this category. In fact, one of the other trilogies that have done this was Back to the Future, which I can forgive because the third film in that series is my favorite. Cliffhangers are frustrating for audiences, mainly because they just sat through two hours of film with no conclusion and no resolution. Now, some trilogies can work well together to create a complete narrative that connects across all three films to intertwine the whole storyline. Trilogies like The Lord of the Rings, The Dark Knight saga, and The Fluxion Trilogy are how trilogies should be done, but that may just be my opinion (especially on that last one).
I think what gave The Matrix its initial charm was that it was a story of discovery. Sure, the special effects were neat, but what really gave the story some kick was Neo (Keanu Reeves) realizing his control over the system and eventually using it for his gain. However, the sequels don’t have that journey of self-discovery but instead, rely heavily on some impressive and flashy special effects. The story seems to come second in The Matrix Reloaded (2003), which means that by the time The Matrix Revolutions (2004) came out, they should have fixed what was wrong with the first sequel. Wrong. Still thinking that bigger is better, the end of the Matrix trilogy was just kind of sad, and really didn’t come to a worthwhile or meaningful conclusion, despite the amazing fight sequences that filled its running time.
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
Length: 144 minutes / 2.4 hours
Now, if there is anything I hate more than the Trilogy Conundrum, it’s a franchise that breaks out of the 3-movie formula. After all, if you are going through with a trilogy, it at least follows a logical “beginning-middle-end” formula that is the basis of any good story (or at least it should follow this formula). What gets me is when a trilogy ends and all the sudden a few years go by and here comes another film in the franchise. DreamWorks has done this with most of its animated fare, with the most notable example being the Shrek franchise. See, the unfortunate thing about a 4th movie is that when the sequels weren’t necessarily called for, something that lies outside of a trilogy framework really struggles to be anything more than a desperate attempt to make money.
Even though the idea of a movie based on a Disneyland ride is somewhat ridiculous, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) did manage to have great characters, a reasonable plot, excellent action, and a fulfilling conclusion. And yet, when the pirates came back in Dead Man’s Chest (2006), the antagonist was so strong that it required At World’s End (2007) to arrive at any sort of resolution. Now, that being said, what some people fail to realize is that the first three films in the Pirates franchise don’t focus on Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), but instead on Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and his relationship with Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley). This is why, when On Stranger Tides (2011) was released, and Will and Elizabeth were not there (for obvious reasons), the film really didn’t live up to the name that Pirates of the Caribbean had garnered for itself.
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 many sequels