So I went to see The Hangover Part III last week as the fourth of my 10 movies that I want to see this movie season. (Iron Man 3, The Great Gatsby, The Hangover Part III, After Earth, The Internship, This Is The End, Man of Steel, World War Z, Grown Ups 2 and Pacific Rim) I went into the movie with tempered expectations as I had already heard some unflattering feedback from critics. However, I always temper my expectations for sequels because rarely are they as good or better than the original. In this instance, how many times can they wake up hungover and not remember what happened the night before? Seriously, how many times can they play out the plot of Alan drugging all of them which leads to a night of debauchery?
As always, I don’t want to give anything away, but this movie goes in a slightly different direction and is a solid sequel to the original Hangover. It’s not one of my favorite sequels of the past 10 years, but it had some funny moments none the less. The payoff comes at the end of the movie shortly into the credits. It’s not as good as the first one or even Hangover II, but you will get some laughs out of it. It was a 5 out of 10 for me.
As I was leaving the movie it got me to thinking, are sequels ever as good as the original movie? There are some that came up in recent memory, so I did a little investigating. You can find dozens of lists that cover the best sequels of all time and for the most part they all include the same movies. I never found a list for the past 10 years so I had to do a little more Research. One trend has emerged in the movie industry and that is to make sequels of big blockbusters, which for the most part over the past 10 years are sci-fi and superhero movies, hence the entries on my list of the top 6.
#6 X2: X-Men United
I was never a comic book geek growing up. I know, that’s hard to believe. As a kid I never really knew much about the X-Men. In the 90’s they became more prevalent and when the original X-Men movie came out in 2001, I was definitely hooked. The original movie was solid, but it required a lot of explaining and back stories to establish the characters. The variety of characters was rather limited. When X2 came out in 2003, they opened up the comic books and brought out a lot more heroes and villains with powers ranging from Nightcrawler’s ability to teleport and Iceman’s ability to create a wall of ice in an instant. Contrary to popular belief, Rebecca Romijn’s power is not her ability to dress up in body paint, but instead her character Mystique is a shapeshifter. X-Men encompasses the dream of all 12 year old boys everywhere who wished they had superpowers of their own.
#5 Star Trek: Into Darkness
I covered this movie in my last blog post, but I hope many of you have seen this one in theaters by now. I only wish I had seen it in IMAX 3D. Packed with action, a solid story line, and great character development with some side antics from supporting players. An overall enjoyable viewing.
#4 Star Wars Episode III
Many Star Wars fans in their late 30’s and older don’t really appreciate the new Star Wars prequels because we were prejudiced by the memory of the impact that the original 3 movies had on us. Back in the early 80s, Star Wars was a cult. But back then, there really wasn’t much to compare it to. Nowadays, we have a dozen new sci-fi thillers coming out every year. So this particular sequel had a lot working against it before it even came out. For me, the struggle between Anakin and Obi-Wan goes down as one of the best good vs. evil stories in movie history. When Obi-Wan finally defeats Anakin, it gives birth to the whole original series and sets the stage for Luke’s coming of age Jedi story. It brings the whole series full circle. I’m a bit skeptical about the next trilogy that is in the works. Other than James Bond, I’m not familiar with any other 9 movie series.
#3 The Dark Knight Rises
In 2005 the reboot of the Batman franchise began. Following the 90’s megaflops where 3 different actors played the title role (Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer and George Clooney), it was hard to envision how they could save the reputation of DC’s dominant superhero. Little known Christian Bale took on the role of Bruce Wayne and his alter-ego and put his own twist on the dark but savvy hero. Every part of the story is about his ultimate struggle through life that stems from his parents being murdered when he was a young child. He was left a fortune and spent his life seeking revenge for those that killed them. Batman Begins provided a nice lead in to the transformation from Batman to the Dark Knight. The third movie in this trilogy, Dark Knight Rises provided a fitting end (?) to the personal struggles and relationship burdens that Bruce Wayne had carried with him for all these years. The graphics were spectacular, especially the football stadium scene. Bain was a worthy adversary, but the best part of the movie was the twist that revealed who the real villain was in one final fight scene. It is now rumored that there may be more movies to come featuring Chris Nolan’s creation, but it may not be Bale that dons the mask. There is an outside chance that Robin, portrayed and revealed in this move through the role of Blake played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, could become the new Caped Crusader in The Justice League which is scheduled to be released in 2015.
#2 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
After 2 years and over 8 hours of films, The Lord of the Rings trilogy came to a conclusion in 2003. Frodo and Sam’s journey from The Shire to Mordor would be completed when Frodo threw the ring into the center of Mount Doom along with Gollum. The cinematography was groundbreaking within the film industry and it was during this time that IMAX really hit its stride in theaters. It was this trilogy that made me a staunch IMAX enthusiast. The Return of the King went on to become one of three films to win a record 11 Oscars (Ben Hur, Titanic) including Best Picture and Best Visual Effects. The storyline is compelling but the visual effects and breadth of the characters are what give the film such broad and lasting appeal. I never get tired of watching this movie which is a key component to what makes a movie epic.
#1 The Dark Knight
With all due respect to the five other movies on my list and those that I may have omitted, The Dark Knight remains one of the best movies (second only to The Avengers in superhero films) let alone sequels, that I have ever seen. It has all the grit and substance that The Dark Knight Rises has, but with the added impact of the Joker played by the late Heath Ledger. Ledger “created the most iconic villain Hollywood has ever seen”. Recently, a video has surfaced of an interview conducted with Heath’s father who discusses the diary Heath kept during the filming of this role which he became so intimately dedicated to that some fear it may have contributed to his untimely death during the post production editing phase of the movie. In some morbid fashion, the passing of Ledger may have contributed to the legendary status of his character leading him to posthumously win an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. His spot on portrayal of a psychotic villain who is only out to wreak havoc on Gotham is eery. There are more stories that have surfaced regarding a warning Ledger received from Jack Nicholson on the danger of taking on such a mentally demanding role. Heath pulled I off flawlessly.
So this is my list. And for the record, Hangover III was not even in my top 20.
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