Sci-Fi Connoisseur: The Awful Threequels

So far in my survey of landmark comic book movies, I’ve touched on the X-Men franchise, the Spider-Man films, and Nolan’s Batman films.

What’s interesting about these milestone series is that all three suffer from a lousy threequel. Yes, even Nolan’s.

X-Men 3: The Last Stand was a pretty big let down after the excellent X2: X-Men United. Obviously, Bryan Singer’s absence might have had something to do with the problems, but you never can be sure (after all, my other two nominees for crappy threequel were helmed by the same directors who took their series to their previous high points). Unlike the other bad threequels, it’s not so easy to pin down just went wrong here. Most of the cast that made the others noteworthy are still here–although a few of them get unnecessarily disintegrated–but something just feels off. Too much CGI? Too many undifferentiated mutants? Too many floating Golden Gate Bridges? For me, it just seems to lack the thematic depth of the first two. Take the big climax where Beast must use the “cure” against Magneto. The X-Men have railed against the immorality of weaponizing this cure, but then, when push comes to shove, they’re more than willing to just use it themselves. Weak sauce, people, weak sauce.

Spider-Man 3…where to begin? Geez, this was a stinker. Sam Raimi’s penchant for melodrama goes off the rails in this one. Whiny and unsympathetic Mary Jane is mopey because her frickin’ superhero boyfriend isn’t paying enough attention to her, leading domino-style to Harry Osbourne’s evil plot to drive the two apart, which could have been prevented by a single text message, “Hey Peter, Harry is basically holding me hostage, please help me–oh, and don’t believe it when I break up with you on the bridge.” Again and again, simple communication could’ve prevented half the so-called conflicts in this movie, such as, “Harry, I’m really sorry, but your dad had taken some super-nasty green steroids and they kind of drove him crazy. Why don’t you ask Mary Jane about how he almost threw her off a bridge?” The worst, though, is obviously the roster of baddies. Harry as the Hobgoblin is solid enough, even with his stupid motivation, but Sandman is a completely unnecessary and pretty absurd non-villian (oh, he’s only trying to pay for his daughter’s operations–well, start a telethon, you nitwit!). And Venom…no, I’m not going to even discuss Venom. Okay, yes, I will. What the hell? The Venom symbiote just happens to fall out of space and land right by Peter’s stupid moped?!? Give me a break! I mean, you’d even written in an astronaut into the second movie. It’s totally obvious–he would even have some incipient rage to direct at Peter Parker after losing his bride at the altar! But no, instead of a logical character progression, we get the ultimate convenient meteor strike.

As bad as Spider-Man 3 was, I’m more hurt by The Dark Knight Rises. Honest Trailers really nailed it: “The epic final chapter that will mildly entertain you when you’re watching it, but will ultimately anger and disappoint you when you really start to think about it.” Here’s what needed to happen:

1) Don’t take Batman out of action. First of all, that reduces his career as the the Dark Knight to like, a year or so. More importantly, though, having him recover from inaction completely undermines the narrative impact of his “rise” later in the movie. Will Batman be able to surmount his physical challenges to become the hero we love again? Yes, I kinda think he will since we just saw him do it about twenty minutes ago! Leave him in play, dodging cops while bashing criminal’s skulls.

2) Cut the contrived interpersonal conflict. So Bruce Wayne’s heart is broken and he rejects Alfred, the man who has been a father to him for most of his life, because he dares to tell him that his almost-girlfriend was actually going to choose Harvey Dent instead of him? This isn’t exactly a heroic moment and Bruce being crippled by losing the girl he never really had makes hims seem almost as mopey as…well, Tobey McGuire’s Spider-Man.

3) Make it two movies. There is just too much happening in Rises. Give it all room to breathe. That way we could actually see a relationship between Talia Al Gul and Bruce before she betrays him. We could really have some love triangle built up with Selena Kyle (by the way, Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman is just perfect; she almost makes the movie…almost). Have Bane break the bat at the end of the first movie and let Bruce recover in the first two acts of the fourth film. Oh, and for Pete’s Sake, improve Bane’s plan. Conquer city and sit around for three months = lame scheme.

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