Last week, the guys discussed the worst third movie in a series ever, and this week continue the discussion for your reading enjoyment.

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Chris: Why is it that the third movie in most trilogies is pitiful? Okay, that’s not necessarily fair as Return of the Jedi was great, The Last Crusade is my favorite of Dr. Jones’ adventures, and Back to the Future Part III is still what we consider one of the best westerns of all time. But in more recent years, there’s been a huge push for big trilogies that want to push the epic scope up to eleven, and yet can’t figure out how to stick the landing.

We took a look at Matrix Revolutions and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, but there are plenty of other thirds that bother people, such as Spider-Man 3 or even just the conclusion to the new Star Wars trilogy in Revenge of the Sith. I think I’ve been able to peg exactly why those movies failed as a third entry to an otherwise good movie series. I’ll take a look here at the two movies we specifically focused on, and it all comes down to one simple fact: If you tell an audience to come back later for resolution, they will spend that time coming up with a better climax than you can deliver.

Our generation is raised as skeptics and forensic experts. We are incapable for the most part of watching, reading, or playing any form of media without at least taking a passing guess as to what will come next and especially how it will all end. There’s a glorious charm to something like a Mario game insomuch as you already know the story isn’t surprising you, so you can just enjoy the new levels as they appear, or the fun of Dragon Ball Z, safe in the knowledge that eventually someone will power up even higherer and punch harderiester.

With movies, too often you’ll see a first movie come out and surprise the masses with either something new or something fun, The Matrix and Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl being perfect examples of this. But then the sequels appear and decide to make the biggest mistake that modern movies can make: Assuming that audiences have the patience or interest to wait a year for a plot to resolve itself. I’m watching Lost right now, and while I’m really enjoying it having just ended the 4th season, I know for a fact I’d despise the show if I were watching it in any form other than Netflix Instant Play.

Let’s look at both Matrix 2 and Pirates 2. Both movies decide to expand on the established universes, add a few fun new characters, reintroduce a few old characters, and generally build with the promise that a HUGE conclusion is just around the corner. Then they bow out with massive cliffhangers where the plot has hit its apex, and then…credits roll. The audience is jazzed at that very moment, but you can’t keep that feeling up once they leave the theater and go to bed.

As a result, fans of the movies spend the next year or however many months in between the release of the second and third movie formulating brilliant theories, hopeful surprises, and generally awesome conclusions once they finally get back in the theater. And inevitably, the movie they made up as fans fueled off of the good fan vibes is infinitely better than the dull, played-out final act. The heart is gone, the twists are strained, and the action is…meh. It’s all just unremarkable compared to what we’ve hyped it to be as fans. Not our fault since, duh, you need our enthusiasm; otherwise no one is watching your movie in droves.

I honestly loved Pirates 2 and Matrix 2, due entirely to the promises that were made. That whole, “Hey, if you thought this was great, just think what we’ll do next!” Anyone remember Monty Oum’s fan-made video series Dead Fantasy that ran on GameTrailers a few years ago? The first movie was brilliant, the [href=”http://www.gametrailers.com/videos/pg6338/monty-oum-dead-fantasy-ii”]second part[/a] was possibly the greatest team-based choreographed fight I’ve ever seen, and then he left it off saying, “You haven’t seen anything yet…” Finally, after over a year, a few dull follow-ups came out and as of now I’m not sure there are any plans to resolve any sort of “story” that’s been established. It’s such a shame since I was twitching in my computer chair after that “You haven’t seen anything yet…” glowed onto the screen before fading to black.

It’s that same notion that’s happened in trilogies. Most of the time it’s not even conceived as a trilogy until the first movie does so well, then the second movie comes along and decides it doesn’t need a resolution. Boo to that and boo to making audiences wait- and pay- just to have a story properly resolve itself.

But hey, take solace in the fact that at least movies don’t cost as much as a game series cutting the plot of a game in half between a console cycle. I’m looking at you Halo 3 and God of War III.

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Kyle: To answer a few: Spider-Man 3 is a ludicrous piece of crap with a billion things wrong with it, but it’s still a competent attempt at taking a goofy comic book from the 60s and making it a palatable movie for literally as many different demographics as possible.

Alien 3 takes a lot of shit because it isn’t Aliens. There’s nothing unforgivably wrong with it. It’s just a slow-moving, darkly lit, mediocre melodrama. Like fifty other movies that came out that year.

X-Men: The Last Stand is a bloated mess. But it has redeeming qualities. Sorry to tell you, this is what happens when you, the audience, expect a larger sequence than the Liberty Island sequence. You get a big bloated mess. So, sorry you didn’t like it. It’s not the abortion-on-film that people make it out to be.

Moving on to the subject at hand. Matrix: Revolutions blows. It’s an overblown spectacle with no substance at all. At least POTC: At World’s End wraps up the Orlando Bloom/Keira Knightly romance plot, it wraps up the Davey Jones thing, and it ends the big conflict between pirates and the law. Is it a good movie? Absolutely not. Is it worse than that CGI-infested pile of unnecessary metaphor? Not by a long shot.

Matrix 3 comes off as so infantile. It’s as if a twelve-year-old was present during the Warner Bros. board meeting that resulted in a green lit production.

Executive: Blaine, what do you think should be in this Matrix movie?

12-year-old: I think Agent Smith and Neo should have a big Dragonball Z battle that destroys a city! Then Neo fights like an entire army of Smiths! Then Morpheus gets in a big mech warrior suit and fires machine guns at flying robots for like FORTY MINUTES! Then Neo starts to see everything as fire, and Morpheus ROARS up at the sky, and then the robots show fear, cuz they’re cowards! Then Trinity dies because
she flies the ship real fast, and Neo gets all pissed and starts fighting in SUPER SLOW MOTION! And the whole time you should have a big drum orchestra going boom-BOOM-boom-boom-BOOM…sfosikjdkgjsndgjsndfsn!!!!!!

At very least, Pirates 3 made a big spectacle in their own style. The sword fighting was over the top and cheesy in a gleeful way, the boat combat was loud and frenetic, but they never lost track of the basic plot just to spend fifteen minutes showing me something that they pulled from a video game from 1996.

Also, Matrix 3 completely abandons the plot and motif of the original. The Matrix was about man vs. machine, sure. But it was more about man vs. himself. Neo had to free his mind in order to survive his new life as a resistance fighter. Morpheus risks everyone’s lives and the location of Zion because of his beliefs. Cypher betrays his entire species and sacrifices his own freedom for the illusion of comfort. It says so much about us as people that you forget it’s just a silly movie about fighting computers in a VR world.

Revolutions, meanwhile, is about LOOK-AT-THE-FREAKING-ROBOTS! MECH-SUITS! BIG FIGHT SCENE! ER MAH GERD! Any semblance of subtlety is abandoned. Neo is Jesus, Blind Justice, Goku, Buddha, whatever. Morpheus is Moses, Sgt. York, Achilles, whatever. It’s all sloppy and patronizing.

Meanwhile At World’s End fails to make a compelling flick, but at least you still have the proverbial Chaotic Neutral of Jack Sparrow, the young pretty people in love, and the whole freedom-versus-faceless-authority motif that all survive from the first movie.

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Dan: I had the pleasure of watching the entire Indy series yesterday with my son as I cleaned the house. He was not so much watching with me as trying in vain to learn how to walk, but the point remains that they were on the TV. Yes, they played the forth movie as well, but like a good father I changed the channel, thus shielding my progeny from any mental scarring. Why is this trilogy the only one recallable that has a third film that transcends the first two? Was it the magic that is Sean Connery? Hard to say. Perhaps that will be a debate for another day, but for now we focus on terrible trilogy endings.

The interesting thing about third installments is that they have to be measured two different ways in terms of quality. The first being how they stack up against their two older brothers, and the second being how well they stand on their own as a film. Take Spider-Man 3, for example, a fan write-in winner on what option we should have chosen. Sure it has stupid dancing, villains that get too much and not enough screen time respectively, and plot holes larger than the gaping void that used to house Kirsten Dunst’s acting talent. What really drives the steak through the heart is that Spider-Man 2 was arguably better than the first, making the inequality of quality that much more apparent. Basically what I am saying is maybe Spider-Man 3 would seem better had Spider-Man 2 not rocked so hard.

Anyways, on to the points. Chris got no love for his “I hate boats” argument, but Kyle snagged the first digit for the overuse of CG tirade. True, the first two Matrix movies had CG in them, but it was mixed with wire work, camera tricks and general choreography oozing out the bum of every actor. The third one has this stupid computer game where Neo fights Smith while Smith watches and everyone is Smith and…it’s just dumb. Have Keanu Reeves actually punch Hugo Weaving in the face, and you will put my butt back in the theater seat.

Kyle, being on a roll that he was on, got the second point for the religion symbolism anvil that the movie dropped on all our heads argument. I still don’t know what happened at the end, when Smith absorbed Neo and then Neo was dead. Think about this for a moment: If you die when Smith overwrites you, and Smith overwrote everyone in the Matrix, does that mean every human was killed? If not, why did Neo die? If you just say that Neo was future robot Jesus and had to die for us to live, then you are dumb, and the movie was dumb.

Chris entered the fight with the nosedive out of realism and into fantasy that the Pirates movies made. Yes, the first one has skeleton pirates due to an Aztec curse, but it seemed like the rest of the world was on Earth and our Earth in particular. You know, the one that’s round and everything? In the third film, we find that we’ve been in another world, a flat one that dumps you into a weird rockcrab white sand neitherworld if you fall off the side. That was such a bad decision; it ruined all movies that came before it. Kinda ranks up there with midichlorians.

Boy howdy, Kyle had his big boy pants on, getting his third point with the distance from science that the Matrix films went with each successive installment. Everyone was writing papers after the first film came out, diving into the notion that if you were hooked to a computer that told your brain that you were at a Denny’s, how would you know that was a lie? Then the second film came out, and people were falling over each other in awe at the idea that getting out of the matrix and being the One was just another level of control. Third movie, we get nothing. A fistfight in a rainstorm and it’s over. No explanation as to why anything was anything, science took a back seat to two bros having a punching contest. We all lost on that one.

Chris got his second point with the magical phrase, “Where’s my paycheck?” That was basically the mentality of all the actors in the third Pirates film, whereas at least the peeps in the Matrix were working hard. The work was terrible and pointless, but the effort was noticeable. Pirates showed everyone mugging to the camera as if to say, “Hey, remember when these characters were cool and hip?” No one really brought anything new to the table, and barely brought anything old.

Though ultimately useless with the crowd decidedly siding with Kyle, Chris tied up the final score with how each film ended their respective series. Matrix 3 might have ended with most of the main cast dead, but at least you felt that the war was over, those who wanted to be dirty cave people would get the chance, and the films had a purpose. The Pirates third voyage got us nothing but the two most boring characters getting married, and the girl having to raise their child alone, only seeing her love every ten years for a single day. That’s not only profoundly depressing, but it makes everything that happened in the last three films pointless. Who cares if they ended up together, they don’t get to see each other, save for the six days they get over the lifespan of the girl. Six days doesn’t really seem worth it over the course of 60 years.

Hope you all got the urge to go watch the third Indy film, cause it is like a fine port wine; It gets better with age, and goes with any occasion.

Daniel Epstein
Father, filmmaker, and writer. Once he won an Emmy, but it wasn't for being a father or writing.

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