Monday, July 23, 2012

The Fallacy of the Trilogy Pattern

With the third and final of Christopher Nolan's Batman films now in theaters, I spent some time recently reflecting on some of the more well-known film trilogies.  I remember reading that the overwhelming opinion of many film-viewers was that the quality of each of the three films in a trilogy followed a predictable pattern.

The first, it was said was good enough to draw attention to the franchise.  It developed the characters and injected interest in their story into the consciousness of the general public.

The second film was the crowning achievement.  With the main characters established, new challenges and trials could be introduced.  the story hit the ground running and gave you the most bang for your buck.

The third film was usually the source of heated debate.  Did it end the franchise successfully or did it stagger off into the sunset like the athlete with injury problems who should have retired three seasons back?  Regardless, the third film showed a significant drop off from the second, often held in regard as the best of the three.

I argue that this is really not much of a pattern at all and below, I set out to provide evidence toward my argument.  Please peruse the following graph and think of each trilogy mentioned (I know I left a number out, but the graph was becoming rather cluttered) as you saw it...

Two things should be evident from looking at this graph.  First, I am not very skilled at graphic design. Second, the suggested pattern does not hold as steadfast as some would suggest.  In fact, several trilogies had the second film in the series nearly knock the success of the franchise off the rails before the third could be released.

I welcome any and all questions, challenges and debates regarding the opinion expressed above.  Of course, I am speculating on where The Dark Knight Rises might fall on this graph and I have ignored that extra film that had Indiana Jones in its title for reasons which I hope are obvious.


  1. Personally I agree with most of your chart, but I think you were too nice with Episode II, Godfather III, and way to rough on Indiana Jones II.

  2. Thanks for reading and for your comment. You are probably right on at least two counts. Had I the chance to do it over again, Episode II should have ranked as "Not the worst of the trilogy" and Godfather III should have been considered "Horribly Awful." I sort of painted myself into a corner by having "Not the worst" and "awful" as my only disapproving ranks. This is why I had no other way to categorize Temple of Doom. It was the worst of the trilogy so I didn't want to call it good and was thus left with only the "horribly awful" option. You know what they say, "You live, you learn through being corrected by fellow nerds." At least I think it goes something like that.