- Glenn Sonnenberg
Musings from the Bunker 3/5/21
Greetings, Today is all about entertainment and another of my unscientific lists. I had more fun writing this than most! LIGHTNING STRIKING TWICE We are living in the era of sequels. Sometimes a great movie is followed by another, equally memorable, film. It isn’t often and there are dreadful examples of failures. But there are some spectacular examples of great sequels, some sharing of a common story arc. You may have yours, but here are mine:
The Godfather. Both the first and the second were best pictures. And for all it was maligned, Godfather III would stand as a great sequel, were it not compared with the two epics that preceded it.
Back to the Future. Not only do Christopher Lloyd and Michael J. Fox nail their characters, but the three films of this series are adventurous, entertaining, and humorous. It holds together the science fiction and time travel to the point of near-plausibility (well, to the extent it ever could be plausible!). Pure entertainment and watchable over and over again.
The Batman Dark Knight series. Batman has been made and remade many times. But the Christopher Nolan classic trio of Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises are by far the best. They are part of a single story arc and contain great performances by Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman and Heath Ledger (in the latter’s posthumous Best Supporting Actor performance). The back-story is great, the humanity of the characters (and our investment in their fates) is great, the tension, plot intricacies, and Michael Caine, and the final scene, all great.
Sergio Leone Spaghetti Westerns. Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Leone went on to do Once Upon a Time in the West and Eastwood followed with High Plains Drifter and The Outlaw Josie Wales. Josie Wales, in my opinion, is one of the great Westerns of its era—possessed of many of the tropes of the Western, with the lone hero just trying to get along in a world reshaped by the end of the war. Brilliant.
Indiana Jones. Old time adventure, swashbuckling heroes, really bad “bad guys,” mysterious, unexplainable phenomena and a tip of the hat to history and an era. The best of the sequels was actually the third film, with Sean Connery as Indy’s father. It saved the mediocre second film (The Temple of Doom). The Crystal Skull was the weakest (by a lot), suggesting the question of why make a fifth one (unless odd-numbered releases are the good ones in this series, like even-numbered are to Star Trek).
The Daniel Craig James Bond movies. Bonds come and go; some films are great, some mediocre, some pretty awful but entertaining. Then along came Daniel Craig, the first blond Bond, who brought a certain 21st century sensibility with Casino Royale, the first in the series. His films are a little more believable (but then, only a little…). The four films thus far (a fifth is coming later this year) feel like a coherent whole, with an arc to James’s life. Skyfall, the third in the series, is arguably one of the best Bond films, together with Goldfinger, Dr. No and Craig’s Casino Royale.
Toy Story. Each seems like a sequel can’t possibly be better and yet they each rose to the occasion. I think they are great in no small measure because they hearken back to our childhood and the childhoods of our children, and the inevitability of growing up (but staying young).
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. These three movies are a great trio. Magic, fantasy, but real honest emotion and characters. Epic.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was so good (but the first film was so bad…and loooong….). Star Trek III (the Search for Spock) and Star Trek IV (The Voyage Home) complete a great trilogy. The Undiscovered Country (even numbered again) is excellent. And while the Next Generation films aren’t technically sequels, since the characters are new, First Contact is an interesting story of how humans first meet an alien race. The Chris Pine reboot, not technically sequels, but a reboot, are an excellent retelling of the saga.
The Incredibles. Actually, I’m cheating. Jake reminded me of these. Both are amazing. Brad Bird makes animated films that contain finely detailed characters with back stories. Each movie has lessons learned, characters evolving, and these are characters you genuinely care about. I think The Incredibles movies are worthy successors to The Iron Giant, the first of the great modern animated films and in my opinion a work of art on various levels. And you will cry.
These didn’t make the list, yet close, for reasons discussed below:
Some may suggest the Jason Bourne movies (Bourne Identity, etc.), Mad Max, and the Vacation movies. But the second movies were shadows of the first installments.
Aliens was close to making the list.
Others may love Harry Potter, which would be a decent choice; although it’s just more and more of the same magic. That said, there are some very good ones in the mix.
Some might like The Hobbit, but it was just trying to be the Lord of the Rings, redux. They were multiple movies about a single book, with a simple plot, drawn out too long.
Shrek 2 was okay, but more of the same jokes. Good but not up to the classic original.
The Star Wars sequels, particularly The Empire Strikes Back, are solid, but the Star Wars love affair (good guys versus the bad guys) is over, isn’t it? That dialog between Han and Leia toward the end of TESB is great though. As Han is dipped into whatever preservative that was, Leia: “Han, I love you.” Han: “I know.”
John Wick. Better than people think. Plus it’s Keanu Reaves!
The Matrix. All good movies and perhaps deserving, but I’m still trying to figure out the plot. Good, but not as good as people say. But Keanu Reaves! (see a pattern?)
Happy weekend. Try to watch one of these movies and its sequel! Glenn