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Anyone notice the formula of film trilogies

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Anyone notice the formula of film trilogies

Old 08-22-06, 05:23 AM
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Anyone notice the formula of film trilogies

I see this frequently more and more on how each movie in a trilogy has it own niche:
-the 1st movie is more subtle
-the 2nd film is always the darkest (either by story or cinematography), most serious, and strangely has a 'fast' element to it, whether pacing or literally something physical (why is that?)
-the 3rd film is the most family/kid friendly, and is the brightest visually, most effect driven, and with the most broad of scope/epic.

This formula isn't obviously always applicable but i've seen a pattern that's too recurring to not bring something up about it.

Here are some sure-fire examples:
The original Star Wars trilogy is Trilogy Lesson 101 on this.
Wars having that subtetly to it, Empire being dark/serious/character-driven, and the whole movie is like one big chase, there is no anchor. Jedi is the brightest, most family-friendly, and also has the widest scope, the breathtaking tri-battle at the end the forest and space battle.

The Mad Max trilogy is up next. First film again more subtle (yet it's the darkest plot-wise so that's stretching the formula unfortunately). Second film being more character driven again, and the giant tanker chase at the end is exhilirating. The third film is more colorful, family friendly, yet has a more visionary world.

The original James Bond trilogy, first 3 films: Dr. No is a lot more subtle. Second film From Russia with Love is unquestionably dark, serious, brutal, with a large part of the action taking place on the Orient Express with the high tempo music to go along with it. Goldfinger can be said to be the most family friendly (Bond is not his brutal self he was in the previous 2 films) most colorful, more eye-candy, most 'epic scale' to the whole thing. Knocking off Fort Knox!

Xmen trilogy: 1st film more subtle, 2nd film more melodrama between characters, 3rd film goes out guns-a-blazin with a ton of characters.

Putting LOTR as sure-fire is stretching it but...FOTR is actually the darkest plot-wise (just them before all the armies came to help) most character-driven yet most subtle, the 2nd felt like it was trying TOO hard to be the darkest with the insistence placed on the end night battle and also placed on constant movement. The third one is most epic in scope, more effects and colorful, and goes out guns-a-blazin.

Ones that almost fit that formula but not quite:
Die Hard: First film is actually most down-to-earth of the three even though it's a rollercoaster anyway but most character driven (so that isn't the formula) and actually most darkest. 2nd film has only two things to fit into the formula: The cinematography is the darkest of the trilogy (at night like DH1 but even the interiors are dimly lit unlike Nakatomi but it's a murky mess) and revolving around the planes moving around. Third film is most epic in scope, again robbing gold like in Goldfinger, most colorful and light-hearted of the bunch (it's during the day!)

Godfather trilogy. The first one is the most character-driven(and best in the trilogy). However the 2nd film is darkest in tone (what's with all the brooding) and cinematography and also it revolves around movement again: Michael does quite a bit of travelling. Third film is a plot with the Vatican so that's pretty darn epic.

Back To The Future has the third film more epic in scale and more colorful, but first is more character-driven, 2nd is actually more fast paced because the car goes to more places.

Famous trilogies that don't even fit the bill:
The Alien trilogy however doesn't have that, the first is darkest and it is tied with 2nd film as both being equally character driven, the 3rd film is just crap.

Terminator: 1st one is most character-driven, darkest, serious, and also is one big chase. The other two films are just effects-vehicles, dumbing down the story and just showcasing all the gee-wow action.

Indiana Jones. First one is, actually, the best, most character driven, and most rapid pace, and most epic in scale, so it don't fit the formula. Second is actually, darkest one (in cinematography and plot), it's actually rated PG-13 (some scenes are grotesque), the other two just PG. Third film is again more family friendly, Indy's dad! and effect driven.

Some thoughts on why this is. The first film has the least amount of budget and must rely on the most down-to-earth location and not as much action. However the second film formula puzzles me more, with more money why just go for bigger and more epic? My guess is the Empire Strikes Back Factor. Since that film's unconventional structure (i hear Lucas would never been allowed that ending had he been under a studio) and mind-boggling success, every 2nd film has tried to emulate it as hard as it can. The most obvious culprits are Two Towers and X-Men 2. As for James Bond, it were just books that turned and JFK had just noted From Russia as one of his favorites prompting the next film choice. As for the third film, my guess is people just selling out the story for the sake of raking in more money, more eye-candy and more light hearted draws in more crowds or it could be more money and a chance to move away from the previous 2 flim's subtelty and/or end the trilogy by going out with a bang i don't know what do you think.
Old 08-22-06, 07:06 AM
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well thought out
Old 08-22-06, 08:06 AM
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I think it fits the original Star Wars trilogy but that's about it. The 2nd in a trilogy is usually the darkest but that's by the design of the story arc. Stories don't have their happiest and brightest spots smack dab in the middle.
Old 08-22-06, 08:06 AM
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Scream fits the bill to a t.

I also think Indy is closer than you think.
Old 08-22-06, 08:51 AM
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The first film can stand alone. Without souce material to build from (like LOTR), original stories need to have the first part be a complete story until box office and poplarity can justify seques/continuations.
Old 08-22-06, 09:59 AM
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How about Star Trek II-IV, aka the Genesis Trilogy?

Granted, Star Trek II ends with Spock's death. But Star Trek III is arguably the darker film with his shipmates sacrificing their careers as well as the Enterprise in order to save McCoy and Spock. Not to mention Kirk's son is killed in the process.

Star Trek IV is by far the lightest and most family friendly of the trilogy(and entire series for that matter). It's a borderline comedy in fact.
Old 08-22-06, 01:36 PM
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I don't see any of those since most were not planned as trilogies. Only select few can say they are a true trilogy (which to me has the same creative team working on all 3 films) and even then, the Matrix is pushing that fact.

Indy, Star Wars, BttF, Matrix, Star Trek 2-4, Karate Kid 1-3, Rocky... those that are based off of books, well, there can be a debate off that... LotR and Harry Potter.
Old 08-22-06, 01:37 PM
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Well, Lucas said it best:

In the first movie, you introduce the characters. In the 2nd, you put them in the worst possible situation. And in the 3rd movie, they get out!
Old 08-22-06, 01:52 PM
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I wonder if Pirates of the Carribean will follow this formula. I didn't see the 2nd one as being very dark but it will probably outdo itself again effects-wise and in scope.
Old 08-22-06, 02:16 PM
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How does the Major League trilogy fit in?
Old 08-22-06, 03:47 PM
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The Matrix trilogy fits this... and also fits the mold that it wasn't really a planned trilogy.
Old 08-22-06, 04:34 PM
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Well, the Star Wars Prequel trilogy doesn't mold to that very well. The third was definitely the darkest and without a doubt not the most family friendly. Guess The PT doesn't mold to the "Empire Strikes Back Factor".
Old 08-22-06, 04:53 PM
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I wonder if Pirates of the Carribean will follow this formula. I didn't see the 2nd one as being very dark
Not dark?

Spoiler:
captain jack "died" at the end!!!
Old 08-22-06, 05:04 PM
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Spoiler:
and his dad is now serving an eternal sentence to davy jones

and will thinks he lost his chick


yeah, for a family movie, kinda dark
Old 08-22-06, 10:18 PM
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Trilogies often operate in 3 acts, much like individual films typically do.

First Act: Setup
Second Act: Confrontation
Third Act: Resolution

Setup establises characters, setting, and possible conflict. Confrontation is when the conflict or problem really kicks into gear, usually with the situation getting as worse as possible. Resolution is when the tide reverses and the protagonists finally overcome the conflict.

The reason the Star Wars Prequel trilogies don't fit this pattern is because they're only the first and second acts of a larger story.
Old 08-22-06, 10:43 PM
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How can the other acts even compare to the 2nd act if that's where most of the important conflict happens? I mean it's like the meat of the whole thing! Although i like the subtelty of the first act as well.
I remember someone said the second Act is always the best because of it. The other acts are usually busy starting and ending ther thing without actually having the time to concentrate moving the meat so to say, it has time to delve into the deepest part of the story.

Although there can be unconventional stories where the first act is the darkest and does an immeasurable amount of damage that it takes two acts to get everything in better shape.
Old 08-23-06, 07:22 AM
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Sith was easily the darkest of the 2nd "Trilogy" of SW, IMO.
Old 08-23-06, 11:05 AM
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Was reading through MSN's "Back to School" movie guide, and found an odd trilogy that made me kind of laugh:

‘Mean Girls’ (2004): A bitchy clique of popular girls terrorizes a high school until beautiful misfit Lindsay Lohan shows up.

‘Heathers’ (1989): A bitchy clique of popular girls terrorizes a high school until beautiful misfit Winona Ryder and her homicidally angry boyfriend show up.

‘Carrie’ (1976): A bitchy clique of popular girls terrorizes a high school until homicidally angry, telekinetic misfit Sissy Spacek shows up.

That one actually does almost fit into the formula .

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