Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Kick-Ass Trilogies: Parts 6 to 10

It's great when an awesome movie comes along. It's even better when three of them come along, telling when sprawling, awesome, interconnected story. Our celebration of the most kick-ass cinema trilogies continues below.

Kick-Ass Trilogies Parts 1 - 5 here.

6. The Three Colours Trilogy 

Krzysztof Kieslowski's thematically intertwined meditations on the colours of the french flag and how the political ideals they represent - liberty, equality and fraternity - apply to modern french society. If that all sounds incredibly high minded, the trilogy is essential viewing simply as a series of cinematic tone poems built around three beguiling french leading ladies- kicking off with Blue, which follows a widow's intense and impressionistic journey to creative and emotional liberty following the death of her famous composer husband; shifting tone drastically for White's dark screwball comedy of a humiliated man-turned-beggar trying to restore equilibrium to his life through revenge; and landing somewhere in between for Red's poignant examination of human connection and social contracts in general, and of the slowly growing relationship between a taciturn old man and a gentle student / part-time model, in specific. While White is at somewhat tonal odds to Blue and Red, each film earns its place in this ambitious, carefully executed trilogy. Each film ends in tears (both good and bad) and features an exceptional Zbignieuw Preisner score. If that all still sounds too serious, there are cartoons below.

7. The Toy Story Trilogy 

Toy Story broke exciting new ground for animation and not only invigorated an industry, but irrevocably changed it - mostly for the better. It endures as a film because, beyond the landmark technological advances,  is a story full of real laughs and genuine heart. Toy Story 2 copied the formula, but somehow managed to improve on all the best elements of the original (although the Sarah McLachlan musical moment is too much for me) doing, in other words, exactly what a sequel should. The third instalment had every reason to be stale, but showed up startlingly fresh, funny, sprawling and more heart-wrenching than ever. Let's just hope the anomaly of continuing returns shows up for the dubious fourth instalment.

8. The Terminator Trilogy 

He said he'd be back, and he was. The Terminator established Ah-nold and his lifeless one-liners as an eternal part of the pop-zeitgeist, well weaving an astonishingly satisfying time-travel tale. But as legendarily thrilling as The Terminator is, Judgment Day is even better, but in completely different ways. Where else does the villain from the first return as the hero of the second, without falling flat on his credibility? Linda Hamilton and Robert Patrick must take much of the credit for the success of Judgment Day (whose relentless chase all but traumatised me as a kid), while the groundbreaking visual effects are still reason enough to revisit the either of the first two films (if any of the many other reasons don't do it for you). The third instalment is negligible, but succeeds in not failing. It's perfectly okay.

9. The Alien Trilogy 
Although not envisioned as a trilogy, the Alien trilogy benefits from a trio of legendary, divergent, directors. Ridley Scott's Alien is a classic, claustrophobic haunted house thriller with gorgeous production design, a sensational monster in the shadows, and a dashing new star in her tighty wighties. James Cameron's Aliens replicates the premise - complete with something-is-still-in-your-escape-pod ending - but expands it into a heart-pounding actioner with, as the title suggests, an army of aliens to the original's solitary stalker. Ripley trades her tiny panties for fierce maternal instincts and an iconic action heroine is born. The oft-derided third instalment was disowned by director David Fincher, but is in retrospect an entertaining, gloomy horror that annihilates everything that came before, including Ripley while it shifts the focus to the evil government bureacrats behind the Alien missions as the real villains. If nothing else, it's a final, intense face-off between Ripley and the Alien, and provides the necessary thrills admirably. Alien Resurrection? An ill-judged reboot / spinoff. Don't talk about it.

10. The Back to the Future Trilogy

Really this is the same movie made three times - in 1960s suburbia, a technologically-advanced 2015, and the Wild Wild West. But what a movie. How can you dislike something made with so much joy, intention to please and iconic 80s styling? The original has by far the tightest plot - as 80s teenager Marty McFly travels back in time to make sure his parents fall in love and, well, make him - while the originals are just good fun as Marty meets different versions of his family and friends in the near-ish future and distant past, and eventually learns that reacting to taunting bullies just gets you in trouble. Best viewed back-to-back with family / friends and plenty of junk food.

Ground rules after the cut:

  • I have not seen Satyajit Ray's World of Apu trilogy. I know, I know. But I haven't. So I can't include it. 
  • I have also not seen the Night / Dawn / Day of the Dead trilogy. Yes, I know. I will.
  • The Alien Trilogy counts (just barely) because Ripley has an on-going arc in the first three films & SPOILER ALERT dies at the end! Alien Resurrection is clearly a botched reboot of some sort.
  • Toy Story still counts as a trilogy, for now, because the fourth instalment is still just a vague entry on IMDB.  
  • Terminator Salvation is clearly a Arnie-free spinoff, and leaves the original trilogy untarnished.
  • Indiana Jones no longer counts, thanks to Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
  • There is no Baz Luhrmann "Red Curtain" trilogy. That's just his style, consistent in five films now.
  • There certainly isn't a Sofia Coppola "phases of womanhood" trilogy. Her first three films just happen to have female protagonist - a literary adaptation, an original screenplay written around Bill Murray and an historical biography do not a trilogy make.
  • The Matrix sequels seriously sucked - hurt, even - and time has not changed that.