Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Three Rules of Three

Dear Mr. Nolan,

I hear you're working on a third installment for your highly popular Batman series. Congratulations on making it this far! It's a crowded superhero market out there, and while many would agree you're the creme de la creme of the bunch, a third installment is a tricky thing. So tricky in fact that even directors so lauded and praised have tripped, stumbled, and collapsed into oblivion in the face of such a task. Especially when you consider more often than not they're following highly praised second installments. Add to that the superhero brethren you're carrying with you. You're walking down a path set by films like Superman 3, Spider-Man 3, Batman Forever (nipples 4 life), X-Men: The Last Stand, and Blade: Trinity. Sure, they might not all be bad, but hell if I don't think we can all agree they're damned divisive. And you, Mr. Nolan have as much, if not more, riding on this third installment than anyone. What comes from this will forever define how your Batman trilogy is perceived throughout the cinema marketplace.

So, I thought I'd offer up a little bit of advise. Three lessons learned from the myriad of installments that have come before you. Are you ready?

3. The Rule of Godfather 3 - Static Is as Audiences Snore: Make sure you have an honest story to tell. Nobody wants a 2 1/2 hour ride to nowhere, no matter how over the top or exciting it may be. Also, don't hire any relatives to play crucial roles. It never works out.

2. The Rule of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines - Cheese Undermines Narrative: Everybody loves a little bit of poking fun at your series more goofy aspects, but if you take it too far then you lose the emotional connection. The audience begins wondering why Parker Posey is so camped up and how Jessica Biel ever became a superfighter while Wesley Snipes gives painfully forced speeches through a silent but deadly characters. Or why the hell Richard Pryor is in the damned thing at all.

1. The Rule of the Superhero - Don't Rewrite the Past: This is the key rule. The crucial rule. The most important rule. It has bewitched and undermined just about every superhero film I listed above. They went back to the beginning, and rewrote their own origin story. You cannot get twice the drama from a single event. Further more by trying to rewrite your origin, you end up devaluing the earlier installments, disconnecting the audience from their understanding of your characters and leave them hanging. Your history is left in stone, and if you remove it, you remove your fanbase from it. Never a good way to go.

So, Mr. Nolan, I wish you the best of luck. I know you have the full and undisputed faith of your legion of fans. But their faith in your does not impose anything onto the film you are creating. Unlike the likes of a Transformers series, you have a high bar set and an expectation to meet. Just surviving on pure adrenaline won't be enough. You're going to have to deliver, and deliver well.

Good luck.


All The People Who Want You To Succeed But Won't Blindly Accept That You're Going To (Association?)

9 better thoughts:

The Mad Hatter said...

I have faith in Nolan and his ability to work with what he has already established. I think the fact that this will be his final go with The Caped Crusader will actually lead him to bring the story to a natural stopping point. He's not going to end the series as it were, but I promise you when the credits roll it will feel like this movement of the symphony has concluded.

By the by, not too sure on your Godfather analogy. GODFATHER III pales in comparison to the first two, but there's still a lot about it that does work - care to elaborate?

Oh, and it was BATMAN & ROBIN that put nipples on the Batsuit btw. ;)

Nifty post Helms!

Tom Clift said...

Great advice that all filmmakers would be wise to follow (especially the thing about casting relatives :P) Still, I have little doubt that Nolan will deliver the goods once again...he doesn't seem like the kind of director who would make a film he wasn't invested in

Tom Clift said...

@Hatter - Actually the nipples were in BATMAN FOREVER as well. There were just more gratuitous close-ups in the follow-up :P

Alan said...

I'm mostly worried that by the time Nolan's done, Batman's going to be so dark and destructive that I won't think of him as a hero anymore. I know the comic has emphasized his vigilantism, but it's different watching it on screen somehow.

I suspect if he avoids neon, he'll be fine.

Castor said...

I hope he blows me away, I truly do. But expectations are just so high at this point that he has almost of an impossible mission. And can he truly be great? Because personally, I think he can be very good but great? I don't know.

msmariah said...

I will say that I have a soft spot for Superman III, cheesiness and all.

Given his reputation, I think Nolan will do a good job. However, Maggie Gyllenhaal did essentially rewrite her character in the Dark Knight. She told Nolan, point blank that her character wasn't written smart enough. So Nolan isn't infallible.

Anonymous said...

Agree so much about the last one. Spider-Man 3 in particular was such a slap in the face to people who liked the first two films because of that. I don't understand who thinks that could be a good idea.

Anonymous said...

I'm honestly not too worried. I'm not crazy about The Dark Knight, more in the "good but not great, relax" camp, but I think Nolan knows where his story is going and where he wants to take it. More than that I think he's got the integrity to see the whole thing through without screwing it up the way that other 3's-- Spider-Man 3 being my least favorite-- have been.

Dylan said...

I'm so glad you chose not to include one of the best 3rd films in this post as an example of what not to do. It would have been fighting words had you brought up Home Alone 3. Your ass is spared this time, Univarn!

(Note: I've never seen Home Alone 3.)

On a more serious note: where does Nolan's brother come into all of this? Not cast, but crew (and the brains???).

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