To the surprise of exactly no one, Christopher Nolan has confirmed that he'll be directing the third (and presumably final?) chapter in his series of Batman films. The British filmmaker responsible for 'Batman Begins' and 'The Dark Knight' let this massive piece of non-news slip in a recent interview with Empire, during which he confessed: "I feel myself falling into it, I guess. And getting it all figured out and I'm pretty excited about what we're doing so... If I haven't announced it, I think that people probably all know at this point that I'm doing it." So anyone experiencing sleepless nights due to fears of Tim Story hijacking the franchise can now rest easy (remember Tim Story?) I may be among the minority who consider Nolan's Batman films to be the most disposable of his illustrious career, but I'm still convinced that the dude is incapable of making a bad movie.
The odds of Nolan dropping the ball and churning out a 'Spider-man 3' or a 'Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End' are slim, and even if he made the ultimate trilogy-crippling mistake and cast Sofia Coppola as Batman's new love interest, it would sure be a heck of a lot more interesting now than it was when she showed up to flat-line 'The Godfather: Part III.'
With 'Batman 3,' Nolan will probably become one of the rare directors to have been responsible for all three of an esteemed trilogy's films, and the company he'll join seems especially elite now that we live in a time wherein trilogies are so inevitable that 'Little Fockers' seems less like a blatant cash-in than it does the necessary, pre-destined, and epic final chapter to the Gaylord Focker saga (all they have to do is re-title it 'Little Fockers: Beyond Thunderdome' and I'll be convinced). There aren't too many other filmmakers out there who've steered a complete trilogy to greatness, but there are still too many to list here. Follow the jump for a sampling of five of our relatively recent favorites.
Peter Jackson's 'Lord of the Rings' Trilogy
Writing a list like this and not including 'Lord of the Rings' would be like making a list of the greatest trilogies of novels and not including, um, Lord of the Rings. Not to be reductive about it, but I guess Peter Jackson did a pretty good job of adapting those books into films. Jackson not only restored honor and scope to the trilogy format, but in shooting all three films simultaneously he introduced Hollywood to a more palatable, efficient way of making them. The movies were rich, intimate, instantly iconic, and a bunch of other really positive things that in no way apply to 'The Lovely Bones.' In a related story, under no circumstances is it too inappropriate or contrived to mock 'The Lovely Bones.'
Park Chan-Wook's 'Vengeance Trilogy'
It just so happens that many of the most rewarding film trilogies are those of the informal variety, connected not by plot or characters but by theme or approach. Upon 'Lady Vengeance's release people were quick to understand that Park Chan-Wook had made three pieces of a whole, but - as with all things in life - it wasn't official until Best Buy started selling them as such. 'Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance' isn't only one of the most awkwardly titled films of the millennium, it's also one of the darkest, as it follows a web of tragic characters stuck in a cycle of revenge following a kidnapping gone wrong (but when does a kidnapping go right, really?).
Park's breakthrough hit 'Oldboy' was bit sexier and more calculated, while 'Lady Vengeance' was a time-hopping mess that eventually resolved itself into the most focused and devastating film of the set. Even if actors like Choi Min-Sik didn't pop up across the trilogy, there would still be no mistaking that these individually stirring tales are very much parts of a cohesively awesome whole.
Steven Soderbergh's 'Ocean's' Trilogy
So these aren't exactly high art, but I challenge anyone to find a better trilogy of movies about a large posse of criminals that featured Al Pacino and Andy Garcia. Er... okay, I challenge anyone to find two better trilogies of movies about a large posse of criminals that featured Al Pacino and Andy Garcia. These flicks are like crack for me, except that I probably wouldn't be mocked as much for an undying love of crack. Whatever, 'Ocean's 11' is as smooth, lean, and confident as popcorn cinema gets these days, with an unbelievable cast, a meticulously unraveled heist, and a lot of heart.
And George Clooney has a charming way of matching the arrogance that defines every Julia Roberts (she has two modes: smiling, and Erin Brockovich). 'Ocean's Twelve' disappointed a lot of folks for trading in a big reveal for a genius bit of chronology-destroying montage, and the contagious fun only dissipates a little in the less sophisticated 'Ocean's Thirteen.' Sure, it hurts that Danny Ocean's gang is stealing less money than the actors are being paid to portray them, but... wait, actually that really hurts.
Krzysztof Kieślowski's 'Colors' Trilogy
The only trilogy of films that so thoroughly plumbed the human condition was actually called 'The Human Condition.' These words might ring hollow in the wake of a paragraph praising 'Ocean's Thirteen,' but to refer to 'Blue,' 'White,' and 'Red' as three of the greatest films ever made is still to damn them with faint praise. Each film superficially represents a stripe on the French flag, but their political content is heavily outweighed by their searing universal appeal.
'Blue' is a rough and aesthetically rambunctious drama about a woman whose husband and child are killed in a car crash, 'White' is a pitch-black comedy of return that plays like a Kundera novel and stars Julie Delpy, and 'Red' is a tale of fraternity, unlikely friendships, and the ridiculously perfect face of Irene Jacob. The films transpire in the same universe, with a few overlapping moments stitching them together, but it's not until 'Red's' breathtaking final scene that the connections between the three stories really click together in a way that makes Kieslowski's trilogy as legitimate as any there ever was.
Lars von Trier's 'Golden Heart' Trilogy
'Breaking the Waves' is about a zealous woman who satisfies her paralyzed husband by having sex with lots of menfolk, 'The Idiots' is about a group of people who pretend to be mentally handicapped in public because "spazzing out" supposedly returns them to a state of childlike bliss, and 'Dancer in the Dark,' is about a poor and nearly blind factory worker who hopes to raise enough money to afford an eye operation for her son. It's also a musical starring Bjork, which in and of itself should make it categorically unlike any other film ever made (unfortunately). But the women at the center of these unforgiving anti-misogynist tales all have one thing in common: extraordinarily depressing lives. Oh, also hearts of gold. They're all well-intentioned and improbably naive, put upon by a world in which they're simply too innocent to survive. And they're all played by actresses who completely hate Lars von Trier. Incidentally, two of these rank among the best films of the last 15 years - the other one is about people spazzing out.
Other recent trilogies worth checking out include:
- Michael Haneke's 'Glaciation' Trilogy
- Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's 'Death' Trilogy
- Gus van Sant's 'Death' Trilogy
- Nicolas Refn's 'Pusher' Trilogy
- Judd Apatow's 'Everyone Loves Raymond' Trilogy