Although no stranger to bold statements, when emblematic film critic Mark Kermode announced on his radio review show this summer that the Toy Story trilogy was the greatest trilogy of all time it seemed a particularly bold one. This is no slight on Toy Story films, but one would immediately presume that due to the multitude of famous trilogies that exist, there must be other serious contenders to that title. The original Star Wars trilogy, for example, spawned an entire subculture and may be some of the most enamoured films of all time. The Godfather is constantly topping favourite film polls and its sequel is said to be one of the best sequels of all times. The Matrix, Back to the Future, Mission: Impossible; the list of famous trilogies is a long one.
The point Kermode makes, however, is that every film in the Toy Story trilogy is a classic. This is a rarity. Despite the number of big trilogies that exist, they seem to be cursed to falter somewhere along the line. The number 3 has often been far from magic when it comes to series of films. The Godfather Part Three forever scarred the memory of two of the greatest films of all time. The third Spider-Man was so overblown and disjointed that director Sam Raimi was never given another chance by Warner Brothers to put things right despite creating two of the best superhero movies of the decade in Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2. And although no longer parts of trilogies, the third instalments to both the Alien and Terminator franchises were far from the sci-fi classics they followed. Of course there are exceptions to the rule, but for every Return of the King that finishes off a trilogy with a flourish there have been several X-Men 3’s that have fallen so very flat.
It baffles that films with such good source material to work from have so often flattered to deceive. There have been so many great ‘2s’ so why have there been so many painful ‘3s’? Perhaps by the time of a third movie the universe in which the trilogy is set has no room left for any good ideas. The third film is often the most ridiculous; the pretentious philosophizing amidst unintelligible battles in The Matrix Revolutions being one of the most infamous cases of this. In the case of the Ocean’s trilogy, the ideas were lost by the second instalment.
I’m still not sure I agree with Kermode’s assessment that the Toy Story trilogy is cinema’s greatest however. In fact the trilogy problem itself may be slightly overblown after all. Many lesser-known trilogies from the art-house world have been completed without tarnish, existing as a consistent and enjoyable entity. The Three Colours trilogy, The Pusher trilogy and The Vengeance trilogy are all worth a look. Perhaps then, it is the films that have captured our hearts so much in their first and second outings that always seem to fail on their third. Heightened expectation from all corners has probably culminated in crushing disappointment. Alien 3 and The Godfather Part Three aren’t bad films; they just pale in comparison to their counterparts and are thus held in derision.
This is Toy Story 3’s crowning achievement. Very few films in recent years have been awaited with such anticipation and expectation. Toy Story 3 was following in the footsteps of two of the greatest animated movies of all time. If it were anything but spectacular, it would have failed. Chris Nolan’s Inception may have stolen the blockbuster back from the 3-D, gun wielding and loud films we have had to put up with but Toy Story 3 will go down as the most important film of this summer for breaking the big movie trilogy curse. We may not have to wait long for the best of both worlds however; Nolan’s next venture is a return to the Batman Universe, and a project that has already been nicknamed Batman 3.