Last Friday, I was watching AMC and, for some reason, possibly just because they could, because of the premiere of "The Prisoner" on Sunday they were running the "Mad Max" and "The Matrix" trilogies. The connection to "The Matrix" was pretty easy to see-man discovers that the world he lives in is really a manufactured reality and thus fights against the, uh, manufacturer of said reality to free all the humans in the world from their grip. I get that, and, I didn't watch "The Prisoner", but it seems similar on a much smaller scale-man wakes up in a prison, of sorts, discovers his life isn't what it seems. The connection to "Mad Max" trilogy is tenuous at best-as the series moves on, Max increasingly helps out the the helpless-the first one is more of a revenge tale-but I guess "helping others" is a good enough excuse to show the whole trilogy. Honestly, its neither here nor there, since I still watched most of it Friday-into early Saturday morning. It made me think of my favorite trilogies. And there's not too many to choose from-when I started thinking of them I hadd to lop off a couple because they had been, mostly, unwisely, made into quadrilogies (if that's even an actual word-I am looking at you "Indiana Jones" and "Die Hard"-I had even repressed the memory of "Crystal Skull" so much that I almost included Indiana Jones on the list.) Then there were a bunch that should have stopped after two but they just kept going-"Aliens", "Terminator", Lethal Weapon-could have stopped after one, really, but the second was pretty awesome, The Godfather, obviously-I could go on. At least the Alien Quadrilogy, like the Mad Max, trilogy had a different sensibility in each outing-but that was all it had going for it really. On its own, I don't mind "Alien 3", I think Fincher did a good job with what he was given, and he churned out an interesting monster movie with a heavy dose of meditation on death-which I think audiences were blindsided at the time. But beginning the movie with the death of Lt. Hicks and Newt, after "Aliens" was just a terrible idea, completely undoing what they had gone through in the previous film...but, I digress.
Anyhow, this brings me back to my original point. Favorite trilogies. Most really start to fall a part at some point, and even the ones I have chosen might only be trilogies in the loosest sense of the term. And I hear there is a "Mad Max 4" on the horizon-without Mel Gibson-so I should get this down as soon as I can:
The Original Star Wars Trilogy
Even the relative crappiness of the prequel trilogy, try as they might, can't take the luster off the original trilogy. They tried,but, and this might be an age thing, you go back and watch the originals and you can force (ha!) yourself to forget about the prequels because the originals, to my mind, hold up so well. Yeah sure, people might hem and haw about "Jedi", and perhaps that is the "weakest" of the bunch, but it still wraps things up in an exciting way-like a third film should. We have 26 years of hindsight at the time-but think back to when we first saw Jabba The Hutt, to the triple battles taking place in the end, Yoda dying, Darth Vader turning good AND taking off his mask. Awesome. And what else was neat was Lucas and his team advancing the special effects they had created in the first movie. Even George Lucas' famous hubris can't spoil the originals. (And frankly, while not a staunch defender, can find things I enjoy in the prequels.)
Favorite Movie: "The Empire Strikes Back", of course (also in my personal top ten movies)
The Mad Max Trilogy
Like I mentioned above, it hit me (again, I guess) how good the Mad Max Trilogy really is when I was watching them back to back on AMC. Every movie, while similar obviously, is actually pretty different. The first being an origin story that doesn't know it was going to be an origin story-a tale about revenge more than anything else. And is it just me-or is it the fact that it was made in the seventies-but there is some seriously eerie/off-putting stuff in there. The part when Jessie is running from the beach, through the woods, and their are bikers all around her-its filmed like a horror movie and it works really well. Then in "The Road Warrior" (They've actually started calling it "Mad Max 2" again) they take, what I think is great leap forward in concept and design, borrow a bit from westerns and Kurosawa, and you have Max, reluctantly, at first, helping a group of people get out of the Wasteland. It also has an amazing framing device-and a nice, sort-of, twist or surprise ending. (I also like the fact that until the third one, the first two Mad Max movies were set a time not after a nuclear war, but society had just finally collapsed in on itself) Lastly, there is "Mad Max" Beyond Thunderdome"-I am sure it is the most derided, but I think it is pretty great. Again, its different than the first two, especially in tone- a lighter tone, maybe? There is definitely more actual talk-in "The Road Warrior" Max maybe says 200 words or so. Thunderdome they find a nice balance and end up with a fitting end to the modern day "Man With No Name" they have created-by making Max's sacrifice into a sort of religion based around him. I dunno, it works for me.
Best Movie: "The Road Warrior"
The Man With No Name/Dollars Trilogy
I have heard it referred to as both. Now this is the weird, sort-of loose trilogy I mentioned. Sergio Leone didn't mean for them to be a trilogy really. The one thread through them all is Clint Eastwood playing a mysterious stranger (Finally, given the moniker "Blondie" by Tuco in "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly". The first, "A Fistful Of Dollars" is actually an unofficial remake of Kurosawa's "Yojimbo". It is an odd one, I have heard that "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly" is actually considered a prequel as Eastwood's character gains all the clothes he wears in the other two movies. And Lee Van Cleef shows up in a different role in"For A Few Dollars More" and actually plays a confederate veteran. In fact he wasn't the only actor to show up in different roles, which makes things slightly confusing. (Much like Bruce Spence in "Road Warrior" and "Thunderdome") Leone, to me, is still the king of the Spaghetti Western and his work with Eastwood is definitely top of the heap. (Yes, I love "Once Upon A Time in the West" too) Amazing Stuff.
Favorite Movie: "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly"
Three Colors Trilogy
Now for something a little quieter, shall we say. This trilogy, or collection perhaps, of three movies by Krzysztof Kieślowski, representing different issues arising in contemporary French life, or three political ideals might be a more accurate way of saying it-loosely based on the ideals of the French Republic: liberty, equality, and fraternity.. The names of the movies were taken from the colors of the French flag: Blue, White, and Red. All three are beautifully done and understated, and, frankly can be pretty raw. Partiucularly the first one, "Blue", starring Juliette Binoche, about a woman dealing with with the loss of her husband and child is pretty amazing-and amazingly sad. Its really an interesting idea, and probably Kieslowski's most well known set of films outside of France. Pretty amazing stuff.
Favorite Movie: Its actually probably "Red"-with the old Judge who enjoys spying on people, and the young model, Valentine, who discovers this, and ends up in a secretive relationship, of sorts with him. Its an interesting look at human relationships in general.
The Evil Dead Trilogy
Ah, here we go, more blood.
This is an odd one too, sort of. But I think it still qualifies. At least the same main character exists through all three movies. Even though, I guess, "Evil Dead 2" is a quasi-remake of the original "Evil Dead", just upping the ante of blood and Three Stooges-esque slapstick humor, and hand losing, and chainsaw replacing...you get the picture. I think I like "Army of Darkness" because it retains that same sort of sensibility from the second film, but sends Ash in a whole new adventure. Bruce Campbell is still awesome, and the movie is great in fits and starts. It definitely showed that Sam Raimi could work well in the framework of a PG-13 movie and make something worthwhile-or at least entertaining. I also like the fact that, like "Star Wars" i represented that more quaint time when special effects would have to be accomplished "for real", in a sense, and not done with CGI. In that sense, they were a real labor of love.
Favorite Movie: has to be "Evil Dead 2".
The Bourne Trilogy
Best trilogy of the 00's (thus far). Thats right I said it. These were amazing not only for how it turned Matt Damon into a viable action star-but taking the idea of a trilogy with similar threads running through it, and having a definite ending. (I hope they don't go through with a fourth. I mean I would see it-but c'mon, can't we just let good things alone?) Bourne comes off as a grittier (well at least until "Casino Royale") thinking, man's Bond, with amazing setpieces (check out that motorcycle chase/fight in "Ultimatum") that are dressing for compelling stories/drama. Also they had amazing supporting help: Chris Cooper, Clive Owen, Franka Potente, Joan Allen, Brian Cox, Paddy Considine, etc. All around amazing, Liman set the groundwork, and Greengrass hit the ground running.
Favorite movie: This is a hard one, they are all pretty great, really, but I guess I would have to go with "The Bourne Supremacy".
One last thing,
To some, "The Lord of the Rings" might be a glaring omission. I get it. I understand the love for it. And, technically, I can't deny that it is a pretty amazing achievement. But I just can't get into them-to me they are mostly a slog, punctuated by some, admittedly good setpieces. But then again, I was never a big fan of Tolkien to begin with. It was quite obviously a labor of love for Peter Jackson, but I still think his best movie is "Heavenly Creatures". I mean, they weren't "bad" I guess, just not my cup of tea. Just a lot of walking around. And then monsters. And also, Jackson needs to hire a new editor. Or an editor period: that hour of hobbits smiling at eachother in "Return" was just...just end it.