Movie Series Like The Avengers

The Avengers had several movies leading up to it. They were The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 1 & 2, Thor, and Captain America. These movies were good, independant movies in and of themselves, but there were at least a few small elements that gave us an indication that more was to come.  [Warning, Spoiler Alert. I am about to talk about how each movie ties into the Avengers movie, this will require me to discuss what happens at the end each one. Consider yourself warned] At the end of the first Iron Man, Mr. Fury was introduced.  At the end of the 2nd Iron Man, they found Thor’s hammer and Mr. Fury approached Iron Man to join the Avengers, but only as a consultant. The entire plot of Thor was that Shield found his hammer and needed to address that issue and figure out how to get Thor to be on their team. At the end of Captain America, he gets frozen and wakes up in the 20th century, and is approached by Shield to join their team.

This entire project was planned and well organized years in advance and required all the actors who played each main hero to sign up for a sequel. (The only one that didn’t make it to the Avengers movie was Edward Norton who played the Hulk, but we can forgive him for that). This was a well planned and well executed, large scope project that required creative people coming together and all agreeing that not only was this a good idea, but they could pull it off...and they did. Not many other projects have done this, but there are a few movie series that have come close, and one that set the standard.

Also, the director for the following movie directed the post-end credit scenes in Iron Man 2 and Thor.  That is, Kenneth Branagh (Thor) directed the post-credit scene of Iron Man 2 and Whedon (Avengers) directed the end of Thor.  


lordoftheringsThe Lord of the Rings Trilogy

This is the granddaddy of all movie trilogies or series. Not only are all of these movies great as standalone movies, but they tell a clear narrative throughout. If you haven’t watched the extras on the DVDs yet, then you wouldn’t have known that all three of these movies were filmed all at the same time. You might ask, “well, why did they wait so long to release each movie then!?”, because the movies weren’t done yet. There was still a TON of CGI work to do (computer generated images) and other post editing. But the fact that they had the script written and done for all three movies all at the same time, and shot all three movies all at the same time, meant that each movie fit perfectly in context with the others. I can think of no other movie series that has attempted this level of quality and planning. As far as quality of planning and end result, Lord of the Rings is the best movie trilogy of all time.


supermanRichard Donner's Superman 1 & 2

Director Richard Donner was setting up a comic book franchise long before it became the norm.  Him and his scriptwriters had talked about doing a long series of Superman movies.  To kick everything off, they started filming two movies simultaneously from one massive script by Mario Puzo (The Godfather), re-written by James Bond writer Tom Mankiewicz to take out the camp (irony?).  80% of this project was complete when they ran out of money and time, so they quickly finished the first film, moved the original climax planned for Superman II over to the first one and, in 1978, waited for box office receipts.  It was a hit, but since the producers hated Richard Donner, they fired him and replaced him with Richard Lester, a man who did not know anything about the comics.  Lester re-shot many scenes so he could have over half the film in his name, and thus get full directors credit.  He also began the slow process (sped up in Superman III) of putting lots of camp back into the script.  By the mid-80s, this franchise was all but dead.  Even when you film movies at the same time, if you have shady producers who don't support you, anything can happen.  If the first film was a failure, would Donner have kept his job?  We will never know.  What I do know is the Richard Donner Cut of Superman II is the only way to fly.

Sometimes movies do so well in the theaters that the studios want the creators of the first one to make sequels. This is because movies are a bit of a gamble. Studios don’t ever really know how much they might make on a given movie, and sometimes they don’t even break even. If they have a sure bet, they’ll go for it. So, if a movie does incredibly well in the box office, they know any sequel already has a strong following. Sometimes this is a good idea, sometimes not so much. In the cases below, the first one did so well, the studio greenlit not one, but two movies. This meant the scripts for both follow up movies could be written at the same time, making both movies tie in to each other better.

backtothefuture2Back to the Future 2 & 3

We all love the first movie, and all love Michael J. Fox and his insestious adventure back to the 50s where his mom totally wanted to make out all over him. If you don’t remember...THAT’s the entire plot of the first movie, that he saved his dad from getting hit by a car outside of his mom’s house and inadvertently becomes the sole recipient of his own mother’s affections. And she calls him Calvin because she saw him in his underwear and assumed that Calvin Klein was his name. Don’t get me wrong, Back to the Future was a great movie, but it should have been a horror movie with that kind of plot.

Anyway, it was a big hit, so the studio greenlit two more movies. You can see the evidence of this with the fact that both the second and third movies have a running theme of Marty really not liking being called chicken for some reason. Personally I thought this was kinda stupid, but ya know, whatever. The second movie had a huge reveal at the end, when he received that letter in the middle of the road saying that Doc was stuck in 1885 (yes, that was from memory). This is very similar to how the Empire Strikes back ended, with a big cliff hanger, planning to go find Han Solo and get him back. So similar in fact, that when Family Guy did one hour Star Wars episodes (I own all three), they made fun of this fact and had both cliffhangers, the Back to the Future 2 and Empire Strikes Back endings, in the same Star Wars episode, as if both had to do with the same plotline. It’s pretty hilarious.

For the first movie, they redid the entire town to make it look like 1950s. Then, for the 2nd movie, they redid the entire town to make it look like the “future”...a really crappy one, but it was a pretty cool idea. (Where is my freekin’ hoverboard!). For the third movie they just did what westerns always did, shot in a backlot, but the third one was better, so, we’ll forgive them for that.

(Side note, click here to find information about the Michael J. Fox foundation)

matrixreloadedThe Matrix 2 & 3

Sometimes a groundbreaking movie is released that blows us all away and we all ask ourselves: A: “How did they do that so well!?”, B: “Will my life be the same after seeing this movie?”, and C: “How will they mess this up with sequels?”

After the success of the first one, for better or for worse (worse),  the second two movies were greenlit and written at the same time.

The first Matrix movie set the bar high for sci-fi action movies. Not only was it an intelligent look at a post apocalyptic future (basically responding to the question “what would happen if the Terminators won?”) and really incredible special effects. So good in fact that they invented a new way of filming. The bullet time effect never existed before until Matrix. Watch the extras and you’ll see how well they pulled it off and how cool it was. The biggest, coolest thing about this was that although the bullet time scenes were enhanced and helped with computers, the real, actual actors are in the shot so we, the fans and audience, don’t need to ask the question “why do they look so weird?” because they don’t, they look like them, because it IS them.
However...the second movie completely forgot about all this and, instead of doing another amazing bullet time effect shot, they decided to completely CG the entire fight scene with Neo and all the Agent Smiths...and it SUCKED! Not only did the plot suck, but the action sucked, and everything just blew. I was SO impressed with the first one...and just hated the sequel. Then the third one came out and kinda made it better, but the damage was done. They should have just stopped with the first one.


piratesofthecaribeanstrangertidesPirates of the Caribbean 2 & 3

Pirates of the Caribbean was made because Disney wanted to make movies based on rides no one was riding anymore. This is also true for Country Bears and Haunted Mansion. Yes, instead of just freekin’ tearing them down and making something new and interesting...they decided to spend millions of dollars to make movies about them and hopefully gain more interest in the classic attractions. (Perhaps it’s less expensive to me movies than it is to create a new Disney ride, I don’t know)

The first Pirates movie was absolutely fantastic. The plot, acting, directing, action, everything, absolutely perfect and fantastic. I was very surprised that a movie based on a Disney ride could be SUCH a good movie...and so was everyone else. Then they decided to make sequels...of course.

Disney greenlit two more movies so...they made them suck. The second one began with native island people trying to eat our hero Jack. At first this was kind of funny...but then I realized “wait...shouldn’t I be offended?” and then I was. I don’t remember much about the second movie beyond that, I was just bored. At the end of the third one they bring back Geoffrey Rush (the guy who played the undead guy in the first one) in order to bring back Jack from the dead after having been eaten by the Kraken. The third movie was pretty good, very funny when he was being followed by rocks. But apart from that, eh. I was hoping for more. Then they made a fourth one I didn’t see because it wasn’t part of the first three and didn’t have some of the characters we liked from the first three, namely Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom.


starwarsStar Wars

Original Trilogy, Episodes 4-6

The reason Star Wars is included here is only because George Lucas claims he wrote nine stories, then picked the middle three to make the first, original movies. Then he went back and made the prequels, which were the first three stories. The nine story claim was made in an interview on a 20th Anniversary , THX VHS Star Wars edition. I remember this vividly as a kid and SO excited that there was a possibility for more Star Wars movies...especial SEQUELS (did you hear that George?) has several articles about how the Star Wars we know today wasn’t exactly what Lucas had in mind, and most likely didn’t include the story arch we have come realize throughout the first three original movies.

Of course, then came the prequels that attempted to show the corruption of Anakin and his transformation into Darth Vader. But really, if you watch it closely, it’s more about the rise of Senator Palpatine into Emperor Palpatine.

Then, later, Lucas says he never wrote the nine stories...just the first six. What a liar face.

It’s hard to make the argument that the Star Wars story was all written at one time and therefore is similar to the Avengers movies, but it IS a large story arch through six movies and hopefully we’ll get three more NOT directed by Lucas that will continue the story after the Rebellion destroyed the second Death Star and, as the books tell us (yes I read the books) form a New Republic.


ongbak2Ong Bak 2 & 3:

After the huge success of Ong-Bak, Tony Jaa decided to take up the director's chair for his biggest most epic film yet.  However, the only thing that was epic was Jaa's meltdown.  This may have started as one movie that became split into two due to studio pressure for more box office.  Whatever happened, three years after they started, they were still only 80% complete when, reportedly, Tona Jaa disappeared for three months.  Overbudget, overdue, and with its lead actor/director overwhelmed, director Prachya Pinkaew (Ong-Bak), came in to finish this massive project. While Ong Bak 2 still gave fans what they wanted, Ong Bak 3 felt very quickly thrown together and messy.  I think the lesson here is when you plan to make two movies simultaneously, make sure you have everything carefully planned out.  If you go in unprepared, as I believe Jaa did, it can turn into a disaster.  



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