Trilogies Don’t Work

After The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan wasn’t sure he’d return for a third. He said that trilogy’s are difficult, and often don’t work. How many good trilogy closers have their been? Not many. At best the third part of a trilogy divides it’s fan base. Continuing with Batman, The Dark Knight Rises was loved by as many that hated it. Personally, I loved it, but I can see why some people had problems with it. Each installment of The Matrix got progressively worse until the finale, which was unwatchable. Many people have their own favorite trilogy; mine is Back to the Future. People are mixed on the third, saying that the idea has grown stale by the end. This doesn’t bother me. But this is one of three potential inherent problems with trilogies; stagnation, distention, or expectations.


Many times a movie burst onto the scene and catches lightening in a bottle. It may be a new concept, or unproven package and doesn’t get the resources that is should creating artificial barricades. Look at Austin Powers or The Hangover. The first entry of each series did well with their limited budget. When they movies turned into huge successes, the sequel received a much larger budget. Afraid to deviate to much from the original, they 2nd aped the first in a much grander fashion. Then, the third one fails completely because it does something completely different as the original formula as run it’s course. This happens when a one note concept is stretched too thin. (Note: At the time of publication the third Hangover movie is two months from release. Looking at the trailer, there is no way it will even be halfway decent).


Another problem comes from a story or idea being artificially inflated beyond it’s means. The Hunger Games books suffer from this, where the final two have many lulls, trying to make it to part three. While this isn’t as common in movies, it’s easily felt in a few novels like the Millenium trilogy, or the Lord of the Rings. The latter of which grew progressively shorter and blander with each book.

I think the biggest problem is expectations. Over the first two parts, and often years, more and more people through word of mouth join in on the story. The first part usually sets up the world and characters, while the second makes the situation more dire for the characters. The third part however, will always fall flat for someone. Whether it’s an action take or not, a reveal, or some deus ex machina solution, something will probably go wrong. Look at Star Wars; Ewoks. The Mass Effect games are the latest example. Since 2007 across 3 games, people have grown and cared for these characters, preparing for some ultimate conflict, only to have none of it pan out. The ending was the same no matter what choice was made with only a color palette swap to differentiate. Seriously, people were pissed. While I don’t agree that people had the right to demand a better ending, I sympathize with being let down (I was).


A counter argument however, is to have standalone installments. Many of the stories mentioned had a continuing plot, conflict, or concept throughout. This is what I think caused them to fail. Look at the other side of the coin; Toy Story, Indiana Jones, or Die Hard. Each of these is more like a single episode, telling another adventure with the character(s). Nothing save for themes is carried over, with each installment being a singular piece of work with no prior knowledge needed to enjoy them, in any order. But are these trilogies? I would say no, they’re just a collection of three movies in a series that can (or have) gone on. For me, a trilogy is a 3 part story, not a collection of three stories.

What’s your favorite? Least favorite (Pirates, parts 2-3 are utter garbage)? Comment or tweet! If you liked this post, please share!

Calling it now, Avengers: Greatest Trilogy Ever!


6 responses to “Trilogies Don’t Work

    • I have some problems with Lord of the Rings overall, but I agree it’s one of the better trilogies. As for Austin Powers, I couldn’t agree more. Goldfinger made me retroactively hate the first two. Thanks for the comment!

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