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Archive for January 6th, 2010

What are the best movie Trilogies and Saga’s? Here are a few ideas: (In no particular order)

Max Max

  • Mad Max (1979): Set in a near dystopian future Australia, Mad Max is an action thriller, a road movie, a revenge thriller and a star maker. This is a movie in the truest sense of the word equally at home in a cinema, drive-in, on late night TV or a university lecture hall. It has no pretensions or delusions, it is a movie, no more no less. It contains seminal scenes and themes that have been imitated for the past thirty years.
  • Mad Max 2  The Road Warrior (1981):The world has fallen further from how we know it; Max is losing his grip on humanity in a film that is that little bit bigger and a little bit flasher than the first film. Replacing revenge with more of a road movie as Max finds some king of redemption.
  • Mad Max 3 Beyond Thunderdome (1985): Now the world is fucked! The roads have gone, the fuel has run out. Settlements are beginning form, max comes across two of these, one too innocent to survive in this harsh new world the other too depraved and self serving. Max takes a few more steps towards finding himself. This is the week ling of the trilogy but still has merit within the series.

Bourne

  • The Bourne Identity (2002): Jason Bourne wakes up on a fishing boat with bullets in his back and a the details of a Swiss bank account concealed beneath the skin of his hip, unfortunately he has no memory. This is the start of what is probably the best trilogy ever. True on an individual basis it can not live up to The Godfather but this is a trilogy with no week link, just three solid enjoyable entertaining films. This first one is hugely underrated.
  • The Bourne Supremacy (2004): Having regained parts of his memory Jason Bourne is living under the radar with Marie, the woman who helped him in the first film. Then an assassin comes looking for him bringing him back into the game. A link between the first and the third films that are in themselves very different.
  • The Bourne Ultimatum (2007): Following directly from the previous film Bourne finds out more about his past as the trilogy comes to a point that could be a conclusion or the springboard for further films. In many ways the strongest film in the series perfectly walking the tightrope between an intelligent thriller and a great action film.

Alien & Predator

I have included these films together as they have converged in recent years.

  • Alien (1979): The Nostromo, a commercial towing ship is on its way back to Earth towing a cargo of mineral ore. The crew are awakened from stasis early to answer a distress call. On the barren surface they find derelict spaceship. Following an attack from a strange creature they unwittingly bring a Alien creature onboard. On the surface this is a simple sci-fi film. Underneath it is far more, it is a haunted house horror and a tense thriller. It would be easy to say the film is perfect within the constraints of the genre but the truth is the film goes way beyond the constraints of the genre, this film transcends its constraints, its budget and results in one of the best films of all time.
  • Aliens (1986): The planet from the first film now designated LV-426 is in the early stages of terraforming. After loosing contact with the colonists a team of Marines are sent in to investigate. As the name suggests there isn’t just one alien this time. Not better or worse but very different. Aliens is an action shoot-‘em-up with a conscience, the film explores many themes of right and wrong and is a damming indictment of big business. If only Avatar were half as good as this movie!
  • Predator (1987): A team of commandos, on a jungle mission begin to get picked off one by one. In true monster movie tradition the creature is revelled slowly to the audience, and even more slowly to the characters in the movie. An all action thriller with a minimal jungle setting and military themes, this is one of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s best films (obviously not as good as Terminator). The film is full of questions and ambiguity and great action.
  • Predator 2 (1990): Set against the backdrop of a city gang war another Predator is on the hunt. The introduction of the federal task force who have prior knowledge of the Predators (making reference to the first film) adds an interesting element to the plot that can be paralleled to Weyland-Yutani Corporation, from the Alien movies. Answering many questions from the first film and asking some of its own this is a very different film. Moving its setting an urban city landscape gives a fresh feeling to the film as does a complete change of cast. It would have been so easy to cash-in and do by-the-numbers virtual remake as the follow-up, this is a really underrated film.
  • Alian3 (1992): Set on Fiorina ‘Fury’ 161, a penal colony and following directly from Aliens but taking the film back to the simplicity of the original film. This dark thriller is very misunderstood and underrated. Not as good as the first two films but well worth a look if you haven’t seen it before or for a long time.
  • Alien: Resurrection (1997): Set 200 years Alien 3 and featuring a clone of Ellen Ripley, the character from the first two films. Most of the action takes place onboard outer space military science vessel USM Auriga returning the series to its ship based setting, however the ship is so large it looses the tense claustrophobia of the first film and shares more elements with the second. I have seen this film many times but still can’t make my mind up about it. It has so much going for it including a great cast and great visuals but it is lacking something. Good but could have been so much more!
  • AVP: Alien vs. Predator (2004): Alien is set in the future, Predator in the present day, this film pit’s the species against each other in the present day making it a sequel for predator but a prequel for Alien. Entertaining in its own right but not worthy of the two franchises that give it its name.
  • AVPR: Aliens vs. Predator – Requiem (2007): Bigger, loader and bolder than AVP and not as good either.

Terminator

  • The Terminator (1984): A brilliantly simple concept of a killer being sent back in time to prevent John Connor, an enemy leader being born by killing his mother before conception, a soldier is also sent to prevent the killing. The twist, the killer is an unstoppable cyborg! A seminal Sci-Fi film that embraces the emerging cyberpunk movement of the time as well as the time travel themes that were popular at the time. A classic film that can not be dismissed as dumb action as it really oozes class.
  • Terminator 2: Judgment Day aka T2 (1991): Having failed to prevent his birth in the first film a second more advanced machine is sent back to kill John Connor. Again a protector is sent. On the surface a better film than the original but when you look deeper what it gains in scale and grandeur it loses in style. A good film but despite popular belief not as good as the first film.
  • Terminator 3: Rise of the machines (2003): Having failed to kill John Connor a second time and unable to find him, a third Terminator is sent to kill other resistance members. Weaker than the first two but still an entertaining film with a surprising ending.
  • Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008 – 2009): A TV series set after T2 and ignoring the events of T3. Entertaining but far from ground breaking.
  • Terminator: Salvation (2009): A much anticipated film that takes place in the future after the war. A story of the resistance that could have been brilliant and meaningful but unfortunately lacks direction.

Die Hard

  • Die Hard (1988): Visiting his almost estrange wife officer John McClane is in the wrong place at the wrong time when terrorists take over the building. In Hans Gruber we also get to see the best movie villain ever. Possibly the best action film ever made. Need I say more!
  • Die Hard2: Die Harder (1990) Set in a snowbound airport (at Christmas again) John McClane has to fight terrorists who plan to take over the airport. A cleaver way to reintroduce many of the themes and ideas of the first film. Not as good as the first film it still works really well.
  • Die Hard: Die Hard: With a Vengeance (1995): Set in New York the movie looses the intensity of the original movie but replaces it with a buddy story that adds extra humour. Realising what worked so well in the first film we get another memorable villain, Simon Gruber, not as good as Hans but head and shoulders about his equivalents in parts 2 and 4. The change of style makes for a very different film but still worth seeing.
  • Die Hard 4: Live Free or Die Hard (2007): The size of the location the films are sett in gets a little bigger each time, by the time we get to this fourth film it has out grown the concept making the film look tired and flabby. A ludicrous late addition to the franchise. Far weaker than first three but entertaining and enjoyable.

The Godfather

  • The Godfather (1972):Don Vito Corleone refuses to enter the drug trade to the chagrin of the leaders of the other “families”. After an attempt on his life his eldest son, Sonny and then his more reluctant younger war hero son, Michael take over the “family business” A family saga based around a very different family! One of the best films ever made.
  • The Godfather part II (1974): Two stories are told simultaneously with the aid of flashback. In the 1950’s Michael attempts to move the family towards legitimate business. At the same time we see how a young Vito establishing the family business in New York fifty years earlier. As good as and possibly better than the first film.
  • The Godfather: Part III (1990): A now aging Michael is still trying to turn the business legitimate before handing it over to his nephew Vinnie. The week link of the trilogy not helped by the fact it was an unnecessary addition.

Star Wars

  • Star Wars (1977): A New Hope: A young farmer his drawn into a war against and evil empire. When adding the merchandising to the box-office this film is clearly the start of the biggest movie franchise ever as well as been a watershed moment in movie history.
  • Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980): The title says it all. After a victory for the rebels in the first film the empire strikes back. The best Star Wars film was also the weakest performing at the box-office.
  • Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983): Han Solo is rescued from Jabba the Hut and a second death star must be destroyed before it becomes operational. Too many ideas are crammed into this film. The weakest of the original trilogy.
  • Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999): A trade disagreement escalates and the seeds are sown for the new Galactic Empire. And we see Darth Vader as a child. Not up to the standards of the original trilogy but an interesting start to the new one.
  • Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002): Ten years after episode one and separatists threaten the stability of the Republic and we move a step closer to the Empire. The most underrated of the Star Wars films with some good ideas a great final battle. Possibly the best of the prequels.
  • Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005): As the Clone Wars come to an end the Empire is born as is Darth Vader. Highly regarded but not full of flaws. Not bad but not great!

Indiana Jones

  • Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981):Archaeologist, expert in the occult and teacher! Dr. Indiana Jones is on the search for the Ark of the Covenant believed to contain the ten commandments, unfortunately Nazi agents are also looking for it. A film that has everything and is huge fun. Intentionally made to be like the classic serials of the 30’s and 40s, it is the first and the best of the Indiana Jones movies.
  • Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984): Technically a prequel not a sequel to Raiders of the Lost Ark. Indy gets caught up in the affairs of an Indian village whose children are disappearing following the theft of a sacred stone. It has all the elements of the original but doesn’t work as well.
  • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989): After his father, Dr Jones senior goes missing, Indy sets out to find the Holy Grail knowing that it has to be related to his fathers disappearance. His old adversary the Nazi’s are also looking for it. having more comedy than the first two films that sits well with the action it is a great film. The first is still the best but this one runs it close.
  • Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008): Indy is back and following a map that may lead to Eldorado. Taking all the best elements of the first three films this late entry into the series has some great moments but on the whole id is a disappointment that fails to live up to its predecessors.

Edited to include two more trilogies. The “Dollars” Trilogy on the suggestion of The Mad Hatter and Three Colours Suggested by Ross McG.

The “Dollars” Trilogy.

  • A Fistful of Dollars (1964) The man with no name (actually he does have a name its Joe) arrives in a small border town. Seeing an opportunity to make money from the two feuding families trying to take control of the town he sets to work playing the two sides against each other. Moving away from a lot of traditional western plots it takes its story from Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo (1961) the film reinvented and rejuvenated the flagging western genre. The style of the film has been much copied over the years as has Ennio Morricone’s seminal score.
  • For a Few Dollars More (1965): The man with no name is back (he has a name again, this time it is Monco). He and a rival bounty hunter team up to take down El Indio one of the west’s most feared and wanted men. In many ways an improvement of the first film.
  • The Good, The Bad and the Ugly (1966): Three rival gunslingers are looking for a fortune in Confederate gold that has been buried in a secret location. But there is so much more going on. With a larger budget and a longer running time the movie could easily have become like the tired and stale westerns that went before “spaghetti” westerns reinvented the genre. It actually turned out to be the best of the trilogy and one of the best westerns ever made.

Three Colours

  • Three Colours: Blue (1993): The first of the Three Colours trilogy taking its name from the colours of the french flag and each film themed on the French Revolutionary ideals. Blue’s theme is liberty. Following the death of her husband and daughter in a car crash that she survived Julie walks away from her old life. Shutting her house up and renting an apartment she tries to cut herself of from society. Often bleak and melancholy the film is ultimately uplifting.
  • Three Colours: White (1994): Exploring the theme of equality. Karl a Polish immigrant is left destitute when his wife divorces him. He looses his income (via a joint business with his wife) and his legal residency in France. Furthermore he is humiliated in court. What follows is an elaborate and revenge plot. The film is a very different than the other two in the trilogy working more as a black comedy with a political subtext.
  • Three Colours: Red: (1994) Based on the idea of fraternity or brotherhood. When student and model, Valentine accidently hits a dog with her car it starts a series of events that result in a friendship between herself and an aging retired judge, two people who have very little in common. Possibly the best of the three films, on first viewing I preferred Blue but over time I have come to appreciate this one more.

What didn’t make the list?

  • James Bond: Already covered in this blog.
  • The lord of the Rings: The way it was made always makes me think of it as one piece of work and not a trilogy or saga. I’m sure many people will disagree.
  • The Matrix: Great first film followed by horrendous sequels.
  • Star Trek: Too hit and miss, four good films (including the 2008 reboot) in the entire series.
  • American Pie: Just not that funny.
  • Austin Powers: Same reason as American Pie above!
  • Rocky: Great first film and some good and some rubbish in the subsequent films.
  • X-Men: The third film lets the series down. The first two where good and probabl worth another look.
  • Superman: Great first film, good second, funny but not that good third, cheep and rubbish fourth and tediously boring “Returns”
  • Batman: Lost its way when Tim Burton left. The Christopher Nolan reboot will definitely make the grade if we get a third film.
  • Lethal Weapon: Lost its way after the second film.

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