Tuesday, November 13, 2007

"Oh no, young Jedi. You will find that it is you who are mistaken about a great many things."

Today after lunch, an email thread started about film trilogies. I had been lamenting some pretty negative things a blogger said about Spiderman 3, one of the many trilogy films of this past summer. (I have been and am trying to remain faithful to Spiderman 3, even though it disappointingly lived up to my fears.) You know the thing about how film trilogies never work out well? Even trilogies that start out on a solid foundation--Godfather III--just fall apart in the end. Heck, consider the sordid history of movie trilogies--Major League: Back to the Minors? Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome? The Matrix Revolutions? God help us . . . Naked Gun 331/3: The Final Insult?!!

One of the participants in the email thread asked me what there was to look forward to since Spiderman III had come and gone, what was there to look forward to? The only thing I could think of was the upcoming birth of Hannah, my third child. So, inspired by that initial thought I am going to draw very inappropriate parallels between movie trilogies and trios of children.*

So, what movie trilogy should all of this be based upon? Well, for people of my generation, there really can be only one choice . . . the trilogy that defined the model.

Is everybody with me? Okay.

If having three kids is like watching the Star Wars films, then you may say that:

Kid #1 is Star Wars. You start out not knowing what’s going on and in those first moments, as odd people in strange costumes are walking around, you begin to think you've made a bad decision by purchasing this ticket. But as you get used to the plot and become more familiar with the characters, you start to settle in and decide to go along for the ride. Part one of a trilogy brings you into the story. It provides the basis for everything else to come. Part one is created with (what later seems to be) antiquated technology. In the beginning it takes hours to film an action sequence. By the time Film 3 roles around even bigger action sequences can be filmed in twenty minutes. Looking back from a distance, you can't believe Film 1 ever got made in the first place. Why didn't people see the wires hanging from all the models? All the actors seemed so young and inexperienced! In the beginning there's lots of disagreement with the director about the motivation of characters. Star Wars establishes the history upon which all the rest are to be compared (either fairly or unfairly). In a film trilogy, as in a family, individuals cannot stand alone, but must be judged in relation to its counterparts.

Kid #2 is The Empire Strikes Back. All your favorite characters are back again for Part two, but there are new characters and new things to absorb, like Lando Calrissian and Yoda. The Empire Strikes Back is more of what you loved about the original, but everything is bigger and more dramatic. The fight scenes are more elaborate, the special effects are more polished. Sure, some things are the same and you have a lot of familiar faces, but there are new plot twists, new wrinkles that could not have been predicted the first time. The Empire Strikes Back pushed the plot forward and drove it down paths unforeseen when you were young and naive, watching Star Wars, ignoring the wires, trying to remember all the characters. By now, you think you know everyone. So, full of confidence you plunge right in, paying attention to the smaller details now. But that means you're likely to be more critical of the second film. You have a basis of expectations. It's not fair and even the actors will tell you that each new film is a new experience. But you're a jaded moviegoer. You've seen it all. You're not a rookie and you're in charge!

Kid #3 is Return of the Jedi. All the loose ends are wrapped up (a cinematic tubal ligation, maybe?). Return of the Jedi puts a period on that cinematic/parental phase of your life. You might have bought lots of Star Wars action figures back in the 1970s, but there isn't a big market for Return of the Jedi action figures. You can just get your old stuff out of the basement when you need it. For one camp of Star Wars enthusiasts, Jedi is the culmination of a long project. But another, more cynical group feels that this film is unnecessary, too focused on marketing and less pure than the original. Jedi doesn’t get the same level of hype the first two received. Some bitter commentators may wonder about the motives behind the third film. Was there a real story that needed to be told or was the studio only in it for the money? Is Part three overlooked in the long run? And yet, can the group be considered complete without it? Film 3 generates the most debate from both sides of the argument.

Of course, the biggest, most damaging argument against my parental/cinematic fusion is that no amount of children will ever generate the profits that the Star Wars trilogy brought home to George Lucas. And lord help you if you choose to start another trilogy later in life. Think VERY carefully before you journey down that road!

*(I know that people are going to inevitably think I am completely using my three children as the basis for my thoughts here . . . and, sure, I can't completely deny it. But, I am also trying to get at social satire here. Do you think Jonathan Swift really wanted the Irish to sell their children to hungry Englishmen? And yes, I did just attempt to compare my writing to Jonathan Swift's writing.)


Anonymous said...

I loved this post, Burb. Our respective first and second children are so alike, I saw my own family in there.

With yours coming, and another good friend with a third due Feb. 9, I am beginning to feel that two films just isn't enough. Sure, we decided to complete the trilogy by adapting someone else's screenplay once our films had a chance to firlmy establish themselves as classics, but...

now I'm just feeling gipped. The Two Towers watcher whose cinema shuts down before ROTK comes to town.


Sven Golly said...

Nicely done, including graphic elements; I give it 3 thumbs up. As part of a production team with only two works to its credit, I still appreciate the analogous narratives within narratives.
Make art, not war!