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The Challenge of Part Three

Banes at 12:00AM, Jan. 19, 2023

And a One and a Two and a–

The third and possibly final volume of the Guardians of the Galaxy films is coming out later this year. Or next year. Or whatever.

I liked the first two a lot, and in an interview snippet, James Gunn mentioned how the third chapter in a film franchise can be a tough one. It's true.

Many of the big, iconic film series have a tough time with Part 3. It's challenging! With part one setting the stage, and usually telling a standalone story (if they're smart), and Part 2 expanding the world, deepening the characters and raising all kinds of intriguing questions, cliffhangers, and possibilities, Part 3 has the responsibility of answering the questions, and paying things off, and ending things in a satisfying way.

Return of the Jedi is an early example of the cinematic Part Three, and it does a fine job - there are plenty of people who cite it as their favorite Star Wars movie. There's plenty of fun stuff in there. But it definitely has some issues.

Ditto The Godfather Three, Superman Three, Back to the Future Three, and so on.

Some of the issues are

I'm no stranger to this demon, and the struggle to not repeat is a challenge when writing these
weekly Newsposts, and even moreso when writing ongoing comics! After the world first seen in the first part, and the expanded possibilities in the second, it can be tough to keep it all feeling fresh! Part of that is, of course,

Creator Fatigue
When you watch Scream Three, for example, it's not surprising that the lead actors look a little tired, and the script feels a bit less focused than the first two. Even part two doesn't quite live up to the tightness of the first Scream. With busy actors, and sequels that were pumped out pretty quickly, there's definitely more vigor from everyone a few years later with Scream 4, and years after that, Scream 2022. I do enjoy the third one quite a bit personally. Like Return of the Jedi, the power of the character arc for the main Protagonist gives Chapter Three a lot of compelling watchability, and rewatchability.

Answering Questions/Predictability
I mentioned the intriguing questions raised in a successful Chapter 2 in a series. Chapter Three has the task of answering those questions and solving those problems. In a way, this probably makes it easier - a good Chapter 2 sets up clear problems to solve, so Part Three at least has a starting point in that way. But trying to deal with those obstacles and challenges, and have things make sense, but not be too predictable, is a challenge I think. This must be even tougher in the Internet/social media age, where fans have theories, and expectations that Part Three has to try and match…or at least not fall too short.

Of course, this applies to a certain kind of franchise, where there's a somewhat continuing story. Some series are more standalone adventures with the same characters, and franchises like Lethal Weapon and Indiana Jones have very solid third chapters. The Last Crusade especially, is a very strong chapter that might hold up better than The Temple of Doom.

One issue creators face is how to approach Part Three. Do they attempt a change in tone like the old Superman Franchise or 90's Batman movies? Or dig more into the character's past like Indiana Jones or Scream?

What do you think are the challenges of Part Threes? Which ones stand out to you as failures or successes?

I've gone on too long here. See you next time!


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EssayBee at 4:28PM, Jan. 19, 2023

Since Banes brought up Batman, I think it's interesting that both Batman Forever and The Dark Knight Rises are easily much weaker than the first two entries in their respective runs. (In fact, I think it's interesting that the second entry in both of these series--Batman Returns and The Dark Knight--are probably the best, followed closely by the first entry, then distantly by the third.)

EssayBee at 4:25PM, Jan. 19, 2023

PaulEberhardt--Herbert was critical of messianic/hero figures, so the progression of the first 3 Dune books makes logical sense as a sort of rise and fall of a hero figure. I agree Dune Messiah is the weakest of the first three, but it's still strong and delves into some really important and interesting issues. Children of Dune is great--not as great as Dune, but it sits comfortably next to that sci-fi giant.

DylanTale Comics at 1:01PM, Jan. 19, 2023

I think that one of the things that can really help any third installment is not just how you continue things that have already been set up (characters and plots especially), but also what new things you introduce to the franchise. Both Guardians of the Galaxy and the Avengers are great examples of this, even though the latter has 4 films with more on the way. In the original Avengers, you had 6 main heroes. In Age of Ultron, that roster got doubled. In Infinity War, you had between 20-30 main heroes. In Endgame, there were 64 heroes, plus at least 5-6 freaking armies. The same goes for GotG. In Vol. 1, you started with 5 titular characters. Vol. 2 added onto that roster. Now, in Vol. 3, it looks like there's going to be even more! With my own upcoming Set 3, that's kind of where I'm going. I'm going to really open up my universe with a big expansion of characters, so I'm glad you're discussing this, especially with this being 2023 along with a lot of "3" movies/seasons. (Coincidence?)

Banes at 7:29AM, Jan. 19, 2023

@PaulEberhardt - Fascinating! That's so true; the number three is ingrained in us culturally...and maybe even more deeply than that? There's something powerful about it. Good point about the attempt to force a five-shaped peg into a three-shaped hole as well! It's not always the way to go. Thankfully it's not a hard and fast law, because it's not always the right way to tell a story!

PaulEberhardt at 7:29AM, Jan. 19, 2023

Btw. I think the first three books of the Dune series would be a good example of an author unnecessarily trying to draw out a two-parter into a trilogy: Dune Messiah really needs the kind of investment in the story you could only ask of a diehard fan, and the only real reason to ever touch it is to understand what's going on in Children of Dune a little bit better, that doesn't quite reach the high bar the first novel has set, but at least is readable again, and most importantly, the story of Muad'Dib feels much more complete. Just my two cents on that, though, and apologies to all Frank Herbert devotees out there.

Banes at 7:24AM, Jan. 19, 2023

InkyMoonDrop - Oh yeah, Die Hard 3 is the most fun for me! By far the one I rewatch the most. I guess I just know the first so well, and saw it so many times in high school. After 3, what I've seen didn't feel like Die Hard and I stopped watching somewhere in there. And of course, Alien! It was a troubled production to the extreme from what I understand; haven't looked into the details of that. It's incredible that David Fincher did an Alien movie. I gotta revisit that movie sometime soon!

PaulEberhardt at 7:20AM, Jan. 19, 2023

Three is a magic number for sure. One more concept the ancient Greeks or some other ancients left us and that stood the test of time. It's a powerful symbol for rounding things off: birth and infancy - adulthood - old age and death; heaven - ocean - land; the good - the bad - the ugly; too hot - too cold - just right; environmental sustainability - economic sustainability - social sustainabilty; third time's a charm... We're culturally wired to expect a third part before anything can really feel complete. Authors don't have to try and fit a five-part idea into three parts or extend a two-part one, but many feel compelled to, and the scary thing is that even scientists try that with their theories to this day, as if they still were the kind of alchemist sect they've long stopped being.

Banes at 7:20AM, Jan. 19, 2023

@davidxokuloga - Yeah, there are plenty of those out there, also Bond, and the various horror franchises, and that's not even going into the ocean of superheroes!

Banes at 7:18AM, Jan. 19, 2023

@bravo - Ah, you're talking about the third TRILOGY, eh? Absolute reams of articles could be written about that...and have been! And will again! xD

Banes at 7:16AM, Jan. 19, 2023

@Ironscarf - yes, Star Trek 4! It's kind of a Part Three in a way, with Trek 2-3-4 being somewhat of a trilogy. Viewed that way, ST4 was a resounding success as far as Third Album! But as you say, it was freed from the expectation and the answer/resolution of the Spock death, so it had some freedom. Whales, Comedy, no villain, and Time Travel! Who knew that was the winning formula??

Banes at 7:13AM, Jan. 19, 2023

@ozoneocean - BTTF 3 seemed to shrink the world down so much! They were trying to finish the story and pay off the characters, and it works on that level but I was hoping for more out of that movie too. I remember thinking it was going on so long without addressing Marty's problems in the future - how would that be resolved? I didn't realize how quickly that could be answered at the end, haha. I can appreciate the emotion of it and the finality but yeah, it felt so small, and slow, after the roller coaster of Part 2!

InkyMoondrop at 7:01AM, Jan. 19, 2023

Third installments, where I think the result was better than the previous ones: The Good the Bad and the Ugly, Thor, Glass.

InkyMoondrop at 7:01AM, Jan. 19, 2023

Die Hard 3 - Not as liked as the first one and people prefer it to the second one (which is my favorite), but all in all, it still holds up and is very entertaining. Alien 3 - Definitely people's least favorite from the trilogy, obviously tried not to repeat the first one and figured it could not hold a candle to the second installment, so it tried once again: reinventing itself. To be fair, there's symbolism and a real inferno-like mood to the whole thing, it also explores how it's not exclusively compatible with humans, so that was a pleasant surprise. Sure, it's disappointing to see it do another reset on Ripley's character and therefor getting rid of some characters we grew to like from the 2nd film, but in order for Ripley to lead men who lost everything, it's kind of a unspoken necessity for her to lose everything as well and if you spent enough time reading up on what went on behind the scenes, you know what absolute disaster would've this turn out to be without Fincher.

davidxolukoga at 6:27AM, Jan. 19, 2023

What about franchises that say “F” you to trilogies. Like: Harry Potter, the MCU, police story, and fast & furious, just to name a few.

bravo1102 at 5:01AM, Jan. 19, 2023

The magic of the trilogy. Gotta do three books every time kind of like the three act play structure. Each has its build ups and climax but the big pay off is that final act. Lucas always had a trilogy in mind with the Star Wars saga. Starting in the middle he took away any big reveals for the first trilogy and how do you top the second? Who are the antagonists with the empire gone? And it ended up a cop-out.

Ironscarf at 4:56AM, Jan. 19, 2023

In the music world this is usually referred to as difficult third album syndrome. Do you keep the same formula and risk boring people, or do you try something new and risk alienating loyal fans? By the fourth iteration there's often less pressure and expectation, or more pressure to try something different, so you might get Star Trek IV, The Voyage Home.

Ozoneocean at 4:37AM, Jan. 19, 2023

Back to the Future 3 was interesting. The first one was a tight stand alone movie. the second opened up the world and hinted at the last one. The last one paid off the hints and gave us a super special time travel climax going back 100 years... Though personally what I really loved about the series was they they opened the world in the second one. Rather than going bigger and paying off with a huge climax for the 3rd one I would've much rather they just continued to expand the world of the future and pay off stuff that happened there. The future stuff from the second film was the best part of that film. I really think that opening up the world is a better way to do things rather than closing it down.

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