Last week, I did a brief analysis of trilogy-enders that in some cases didn't live up to their series, and in some cases diminished the movies that preceded them*. I stand by the movies I included, even if George Lucas has been sending me the most vulgar text messages, and I'm pretty sure the dead horse head in a UPS package was a special delivery from the Coppola winery.
I don't want to trash on things in this blog, though. It's much more fun to like things than to dump on things. Unfortunately, the good trilogy capper is a hard thing to find. It took me an extra week just to find the three that I list here.
Toy Story 3 (2010)
The final moments of Toy Story 2 (1999) allude to a grim fate that--despite Buzz (Tim Allen) and Woody's (Tom Hanks) adventures in the film--still awaits them. Andy will still grow up. That day is coming, and no manner of madcap antics in an airport baggage area can save them from their ultimate fate.
Early discussions regarding the third trip to Andy's (John Morris) toy box revolved around a massive Buzz Lightyear recall. In this version, Pixar would not be involved. It's not a bad idea for an inciting incident to propel Woody and company into another adventure, but I can't imagine that version of the movie wouldn't have been a let down from the first two entries.
Eventually, Pixar and Disney merged in a way never thought before possible, and the real house of ideas was once again back in the helm of the franchise. Pixar's answer to the story problems was simple, but also bold for a children's film. Make that sad hypothetical fate a pointedly present reality.
Andy leaves for college, and the toys are fresh out of future. It seems the only thing left for them is the furnace at the end of a landfill (Max von Sydow**). Just as we are thinking Pixar is actually going to kill off everyone, the film manages to find its way past the doom that hung over the previous movie and give the characters a new lease on life. If your story can make you face your own mortality and make you fine with that eventuality, you've done something miraculous, regardless of whether or not it is a part one or part three.
The lesson: Don't be afraid to bring your characters not only to their doom, but to the very brink of their worst nightmares, and then retrieve them from that brink. Also, Michael Keaton (Michael Keaton) always helps. I'm looking right at you, Batman Forever.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966)
The film that defines the western for so money is actually the capper of a trilogy that started with A Fistful of Dollars (1964) and continuing through For a Few Dollars More (1965). Beyond Clint Eastwood's Man-With-No-Name, there is little to connect the three films. This may be part of the virtue of The Good... Few watch Eastwood's gunslinger and not have to say, "Yeah, that was all right... but Fistful is way better." Pure standalone films may be the secret to getting over the trilogy curse.
The lesson: You can be a lot freer to take liberties with your trilogy if the three parts are only loosely connected and your protagonist has no name. Not trying for a trilogy at all can't hurt the third and final part of your story. Ennio Morricone will make up any lost ground, too.
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)
Yes, I know it's a part four, but when you really consider the storytelling at play in TOS-based Star Trek movies, the death and resurrection of Spock (Leonard Nimoy) forms a loose trilogy opening with The Wrath of Khan*** and concluding with this movie.
The virtues of the 80s Trek movies are on full display here. Genre hopping within a series is a virtue. While Wrath of Khan is a submarine movie in the stars, and The Search for Spock is a competent, if more by-the-numbers adventure story, The Voyage Home complete upends the status quo and offers us an environmental fable masquerading as a fish-out-of-water comedy. From the debate about Italian food that should be more at home within an Abbott and Costello**** film, to the madcap chase through a San Francisco hospital, the film actually works. It shouldn't, but by the end of the movie, the franchise has new life in the shape of a brand-new Starship Enterprise, and the "even-numbered movies are better" theory is solidified, until Nemesis shit the shuttle sixteen years later.
The lesson: It doesn't hurt that the conclusion of your trilogy isn't actually your third story. Actually, it is far more useful to genre hop in your series if you want to keep things lively. Also, when in doubt, just have Nicholas Meyer write it*****.
What "part three” worked for you? Which ones did I leave off of this or last week's list? Did the Evil Dead series perfect itself with Army of Darkness? Do you prefer your Bourne movies to be Jeremy Renner-less? Did you watch Ocean's Eleven and think the movie could use 100% less Julia Roberts and 100% more Al Pacino? Leave me some feedback in the comments so I can know what not to avoid, or in the alternative, approach my doom with eyes wide open.
*I didn't even get to The Matrix Revolutions, a movie that is getting off light in this series. It can thank Reloaded for its clemency.
**Look it up. No. Don't do that; come back. Come back.
***If you're not okay with people referring to Wrath of Khan, then we're going to have a difficult time being friends. Seriously, it’s entirely possible that I really loathe Star Trek as a whole, but that I love TWOK so much that I forgive anything that even resembles it. Seriously seriously, 97 out of 100 times when my wife wistfully asks me "What are you thinking about right now?" I'm thinking about the Genesis Device and Ceti Eels.
****I was about to say I would watch the shiiiiiiiiiiiit out of Abbott and Costello join Starfleet, but then I remembered Abbott and Costello go to Mars. Withdrawn. Wow. Those guys did do everything, didn't they?
*****I'd be so on board with a movie starring Michael Keaton (Michael Keaton), scored by Ennio Morricone and written by Nicholas Meyer. I'd see it five times opening weekend.