We all know Hollywood loves sequels. What I like more are trilogies. Of course, what I mean by that is I like trilogies that are planned to be trilogies from the beginning (instead of two movies added on to a successful one). A trilogy is merely a larger scale version of an individual film. The first film provides the introductions; the second gives a good conflict; while the third wraps everything up. Or at least that’s how it should work. One sure sign that a franchise is being exploited for more money is for a studio to make a trilogy, only to follow it with another, separate movie. This additional film rarely has any of the same characters from the trilogy and often isn’t connected to the first three films at all, other than in name only. I refer to these films as “Trilogy Plus,” and this week we will examine the effects of two such films.
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Length: 136 minutes / 2.26 hours
About 2.5 years ago, I wrote a post on this blog where I discussed a cinematic phenomenon I have dubbed “The Trilogy Conundrum.” This phenomenon is often seen when one film is so good, it begets a sequel, but the first sequel is left with a cliffhanger that begets another sequel to wrap up the story. The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise is a prime example of this. Usually, these two sequels are released relatively close together (much like two-part films are nowadays), only having a year between them. With the trilogy complete, the story would be over, right? Unfortunately, this was not the case. Three years after At World’s End (2007), a new film was released with only three characters and the production company carrying over from the trilogy. As such, the feel of the “Trilogy Plus” was very different.
With the events of the Davy Jones saga far behind him, Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is now in search of the legendary and mythical “Fountain of Youth.” Of course, he is not the only one after the hidden source of immortality. Captain Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) retired from his career as a pirate from the first three films and is now serving King George II in his search for the Fountain. Meanwhile, Blackbeard (Ian McShane) is the closest to finding the watery elixir, having captured a mermaid necessary for the immortality spell to work. When his daughter, Angelica (Penélope Cruz) brings Jack and Barbossa to her father, the three men manage to team up and actually find the Fountain. Now the question remains, who will be smart enough to activate the immortality spell before anyone else can?
The Bourne Legacy
Length: 135 minutes / 2.25 hours
The Bourne franchise is an interesting case for a few reasons. First, only the first three films share the names of the novels written by Robert Ludlum. This reason is because Ludlum died after writing the trilogy, and another author picked up the character a decade later to continue the series. Secondly, these films didn’t even follow the plot of the source material, other than having an amnesiac secret agent. This reason is because the novels were written during the Cold War, and were completed before the fall of the Berlin Wall, thus giving the whole novel trilogy a heavily Soviet-inspired setting. As such, the fourth film in the Bourne franchise would have been considered canon, if it had taken anything from the Eric Van Lustbader novel which shares its name. Unfortunately, the film again only took the name for its “Trilogy Plus.”
What is perhaps most unfortunate in this film is that the eponymous Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) doesn’t even appear in it. Instead, the focus is on Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner), a chemically-enhanced operative who finds himself the target of his superiors when the entire Operation Outcome program is shut down following the mayhem Jason Bourne is causing the U.S. government. Because the people in charge don’t want to be caught with any evidence left, they send a drone to Alaska to eliminate Cross, one of the remaining pieces of the super-soldier program. He is fortunate enough to escape the attack and trick the drone into thinking he died in the Alaskan cabin, but now he is a long way away from his needed medication. Now Cross is left with only one course of action: avoid detection long enough to satiate his government-mandated addiction.
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 trilogy tack-ons