Monday, September 26, 2011

The Trilogy Theory

I remember when I finally read Lord of the Rings the first time. When I finished "Fellowship of the Ring" I was in a car on a Very Long Drive and rather despairing over the cliffhanger ending. I lamented for a while about how I knew exactly how The Two Towers would start, but I didn't have it with me to read. However, a few minutes later we stopped at a Goodwill store and I found a copy of the entire trilogy in paperback that I could buy for $2. Well, that was not too high a price to pay for my curiosity so I got to find out if my guess about Two Towers was correct.

It was. My next rant was about how Lord of the Rings was not a trilogy. Not by any stretch of the imagination. It was all one book that was simply too long to be published in one volume. When I got home I looked that up and, again, I was right.

My theory branched out from there into the realm of what I termed "real" trilogies, and later "Perfect Trilogies." Two examples of this are Star Wars and Pirates of the Caribbean.

The first Pirates of the Caribbean movie was really good. I loved it. And it ended all neat and tidy. Nevertheless the characters had more than enough charisma to create another story, so I felt no trepidation about the second one. I didn't care for The Dead Man's Chest, however. It had little plot, a lot of random filler material and it ended, predictably enough, on a serious cliffhanger. The third movie was the logical conclusion to the trilogy, picking up seamlessly where the second left off, (only with more drama and suspense) and ending in a very complete and tidy manner, all strings tied.

See, they made a movie, not knowing how it would go over. When it was successful they made a second and planned a third. That's what makes a perfect trilogy. The first is stand alone, the second ends on a cliff hanger, and the third wraps everything up permanently.

To prove my point let's examine the original Star Wars. A New Hope is a complete story. There is absolutely no set up for anything further. George Lucas, made a film, called it Star Wars, The End. Only... it was very successful. So he made a second one, and planned a third. The Empire Strikes Back builds on everything A New Hope never predicted, and sets up for one more sequel, ending on a chilling cliff hanger. The Return of the Jedi picks up where ESB left off and tidies everything up in a satisfactorily conclusive manner.

That is the Trilogy Theory and it only applies to those books and movie that do not know they are going to be trilogies when they first come out. Planned trilogies are more like three volume series, or one really long book, and thus do not have a theory. 

1 comment:

  1. Can't say I agree with you on Star Wars -- George Lucas had the other two in mind (or at least he says he did) he just couldn't be too open about it because of those darn studios and producers.

    On Pirates, however, you're spot on. Worse still, they hadn't even finished writing the third script when they began to shoot.

    Good thoughts, overall. :D