Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Five!!: Movies That Defied Their Series
!!Avast Matey, thar be spoilers ahead!!

Chapter 1: Once Upon a Time in America
From romance to sci-fi, The Dollars Trilogy to The Lord of the Rings, episodic storytelling has been an indelible tool of the movie maker since long before my time. And so there are a whole lot of movies that might make it into a topic thus far reaching (indeed once I'd thought of it I was flooded with ideas). But the more I considered it, the more I realized there was a narrow type to the movies I was looking for. For me to succeed, I would have to get specific.

Chapter 2: The Rules of Engagement
So specific I got. First, said property would have to have at least three installments to count as a series- nowhere in the definition of "series" is the word "pair". Second, in order to be defied the series in question must otherwise have a cohesive sense of self and quality. In other words, good or bad, the other movies in the series have to match one another. And third, a movie defying it's series has to in some way oppose the status quot set forth by the afore mentioned sense of self. One changed actor doesn't count.

Chapter 3: GO!
With the foundation laid my job became much harder- but I believed it to be ready now to yield a much better result. I gave it some thought, and put finger to key. Here's what I came up with...

Episode: Spider-Man 3
Defying: Spider-Man 1&2
We'll start it off nice and simple, with something on which most people can agree- even Sam Raimi. The First two Spider-Man movies were trailblazers in a lot of ways. At the time the first hit the big screen it was an easy contender for the title of best comic adaptation. It wasn't perfect, but with so many years worth of material to bring to the screen (and so many plans to please) it never could have been. It was however, a strong representation of it's title character- and a hint at what comic book movies could be. Then Spider-Man 2 came along. Enthralling, emotional, and stronger in character and story, Spider-Man 2 left me sure that I was witnessing the birth of a new favorite trilogy.
So what went wrong? You'll hear critics go back and forth on everything from the odd emo dance sequence to Topher Grace, but one thing they all agree on is that there were just too many villains. One of which no one could figure out why he was even there. As a result, everything in the movie suffered a loss of screen time. The entire movie was too full, and nobody could seem to find a good movie under all that clutter.

Episode: Alien3
Defying: Alien, Aliens (I consider Resurrection a failed reboot attempt)
Ridely Scott gave us brilliant production value, a hero to love, and a monster to fear. James Cameron gave us more: more beautiful production, more characters and development, more emotion, more aliens. Then David Fincher took it all back. He took genius production and gave us grey or orange corridors. He killed our characters and gave us nameless penal fodder. He pulled us back from witnessing the entire, fascinating, life-cycle, and gave us a single drone- again.

Episode: The Matrix
Defying: Matrix: Reloaded, Matrix Revolutions
The Matrix is on this list for a bit of a different reason than the others: because it was the only one in it's series that was good. It took one of the oldest cards in the sci-fi deck and looked at it from a new angle, which is no easy task. It was fully devoted to telling a story (albeit an action friendly one), even filming the scenes that took place inside the matrix through a green filter to make them feel unreal. Then the other episodes came. A few choice words to describe them: self important, pseudo-philosophical stunt shows. They were so busy trying to seem deep that they forgot to actually have depth. As a completest I had to finish them, but I was rather unimpressed.
Even with Keanu Reeves as the lead, The Matrix was an impressive outing, thus proving that even a broken clock is right twice a day.

Episode: Look Who's Talking Now
Defying: Look Who's Talking, Look Who's Talking Too
I think a lot of people have forgotten about these movies, but personally I remember them fondly. They held a lot of very cleverly delivered insight into the ways men and women (and later brothers and sisters) interact. It also spoke volumes on the things we do for our children, no matter how stupid those things may seem or make us look. If your my age (26 as of last week) you were a little to young to have seen what I'm talking about. I suggest you go back like I did, and try them again. You'll catch a lot of things you missed before- especially now that you've lived through some of the things they're talking about.
Then there was the third installment, I'm still not sure what that was about... other than trying to make money... which it didn't...

Episode: Mission: Impossible II
Defying: Mission: Impossible and Mission: Impossible III
The first and the last entries into the cinema trilogy remake of the 1966 television series Mission: Impossible had a two very important things in common: 1.) They had a pronounced sense of intrigue. 2.) They were spectacular! But the second movie made the horrible mistake of trying to make Ethan into a John Woo Style action hero (insert dove joke here). Though it possessed a great cast, it lacked pretty much everything else that made the others so enjoyable, and in being utterly ridiculous it defied it's series.
*Honorable mention goes to the 1990 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which fought off the censors as best i could and dared to have a dark edge, and relevant story.*
So that's another Five!! down. As always, let me know your additions! Thanks to jaimeescalante for his video. I own know rights to anything- ever.
Look at that, two Sergio Leone references in one Five!!

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