First off, I’d like to say thank you to everyone who wrote in with his or her thoughts and opinions on the last Cynamatic. Apparently, the Michael Moore / Fahrenheit 9-11 debate sparked a great deal of passion from the lot of you, generating about three times as much e-mail as any Cynamatic thusfar. So thanks again for the support and attention. If I wasn’t able to respond to your e-mail at length (or at all), let me offer something of an apology. I can’t justify sending out a cookie-cutter, pre-penned response, so it takes a bit of time to individualize what little I can. If I wasn’t able to respond this time around, please keep writing. I love speaking with all of you and look forward to hearing more from everybody in the near future.
But keep in mind that I’m a person of little consequence or knowledge, so please feel just as free to go ahead and ignore the hell out of me.
And now for some admittedly lighter, less-incendiary, less-meaningful, all-around-less-important fare…
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A Reading from the Book of Armaments, Chapter 4:
"First thou pullest the Holy Pin. Then thou must count to three. Three shall be the number of the counting and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, neither shalt thou count two, excepting that thou then proceedeth to three. Five is right out."
Thank you, Mr. Python.
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Here’s a little fact about the nature of human perception:
We’re drawn to symmetry, doubles, corresponding pairs.
Our minds and hearts and hands seek balance, and to the human eye, an attractive face is one with matching features. With equidistant eyes and an even smile.
That’s the visual self. The human self.
So what about the cinematic self? The portion of us that is more fiction than fact?
Well, more and more, we seem to be attracted to threes.
The basic nature of the three-act structure. The love triangle. The trilogy.
Three – the magic number of narrative.
And now, here, in our post-Star Wars, post-Matrix, post-LOTR world, we, together, just now, are seeming to understand the wonderful value of the trilogy. As if the great virtue of a sizeable story – with drama and action and intrigue and character – is an ancient concept. Cinematic history is full of trilogies, in every culture, searching genre after genre for an in-depth tale worthy of telling.
Trilogies have grown around any number of familiar frames. They’ve grown around stories, like The Godfather, The Omen, Star Wars, or Lord of the Rings. They’ve grown around places, like Kevin’s Smith’s Jersey trilogy. They’ve grown around characters, like Hannibal Lecter or Indiana Jones. Or concepts, like Jurassic Park. They’ve grown around styles, like Lurhman’s Red Curtain trilogy.
All in all, trilogies are, and have always been, magical things, enchanting audiences for centuries, let alone decades, or even years.
But now, suddenly, thrust into the forefront by the recent onslaught of multi-part narratives, is the concept of the trilogy being too revered? Does the danger exist that we could soon find ourselves inundated with too much of a good thing?
Each day, as the announcements roll off the MovieWeb news page, take a closer look at many of the deals being penned. Notice how many of them increasingly mention the possibility of sequels being filmed “back to back.” And begin to notice just how many of them, really, from the sound of things, seem like they would credibly justify a three-film arc? Certainly not all of them do.
Why is this?
Because we all saw Frodo trek his tired ass toward Mordor. Three times.
Because we all saw Neo fly around like Superman, but in a less gay cape. Three times.
Because we all saw The Bride kill a countless bunch of people…Twice, sure, but we wished there was a third.
And we loved it.
And, more importantly, we bought the DVD.
Look at LOTR, for example, or Kill Bill – which, yes, I know isn’t a trilogy. But look at them. Popular films with wide fan bases. Classics, without a doubt. Now take a look at the DVD shelf. At least two versions of each LOTR film – regular and extended – with an almost certain box set on the horizon. And after the theatrical versions, extended cuts, special editions and inevitable double packs finally hit the stores, there will exist a total of six – count ‘em, SIX! – different DVD releases for Tarantino’s hong-kong homage.
And many of us out there are crazy-ass movie buffs who will most likely buy one or more incarnations of each film in the series, if for no other reason than to buy it now and own the super-deluxe-unrated-extended cut later.
There’s simply so much money to be made. Just notice how fast the theatre-to-video turnaround has become. Big-budget, top-grossing films out within twenty weeks of their initial release. Why? Because we’re DVD-crazy. We’re crushin’ on our 5.1 Dolby Digital, DTS, whatever, widescreen home-theatre-in-a-box. And despite the fact that most of us never watch them, we sure do love our commentaries and deleted scenes.
Industry insiders call it “taking multiple bites at the apple,” but it sure sounds like butt-rape to me.
Everybody tells me that there’s a war on. That the economy’s bad. But come December, I’m buying the twelve-disc, sixteen-hour version of Return of the King. Even if I have to sell my girlfriend to do it.
And now that we, as an audience, have welcomed this form or storytelling, it’s time for the market to welcome it, too. Which is dangerous. Because the market – and especially the AMERICAN market – tends to embrace things to an otherwise horrible death.
And this is what scares me. That we’ll begin to force trilogies. That we’ll stretch out a story until it flutters and flies as thinly as air. Or that we’ll cram far too many twists into a largely linear narrative. That the two-hour family film in which a boy and his dog find their happy way home will suddenly become an operatic opus spanning multiple years and using loads of unnecessary CGI.
“What’s that, boy? We’re in space? Dammit! If only that wizard hadn’t led us astray!”
It’s a money thing. And it’s ridiculously cost effective. It’s why we’re getting two more Shrek’s instead of one. Or a fourth X-Men film directly after the third. Despite nobody really knowing – or all that much caring – what they’ll be about, or how they’ll fit together narratively, as long as they fill seats and sell tickets and justify at least two runs on DVD.
Oh yeah. And a box set. With a fancy slipcase. And a worthless, laminated piece of artwork that you and ten thousand other people can frame and adore.
Don’t think it won’t happen.
Because there’s a good chance that pretty much everything you think will never happen is already, somewhere, somehow, happening.