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O’Hare: Movie franchises often tarnish legacies with one too many sequels

“The Dark Knight Rises” was one of the best movies of 2012, not only because it kicked ass on its own, but also because the mind-blowing final five minutes ended the trilogy perfectly.

Similarly, in 2010, “Toy Story 3” was the ideal finale, complete with the same themes of friendship and loyalty that resonate throughout the series.

Both of these movies are outstanding individually while providing closure to their respective franchises. This is why I am content “The Dark Knight Rises” will remain a trilogy, and cynical about rumors of a “Toy Story 4.”

Time and again, great movie franchises tarnish their legacies by not knowing when to stop.

1981’s “Raiders of the Lost Ark”introduced us to Indiana Jones, the fedora-wearing, whip-wielding archaeological adventurer. The prequel, “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom”(1984), was just as good, and “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” (1989) might be the best of the three. For two decades, Indiana Jones was one of the greatest trilogies of all time.

Then, in 2008, “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” was released, and we learned that, apparently, you can survive an atomic bomb by hiding in a lead-lined refrigerator. It also has one of the biggest cop-out endings ever. I wish someone had told Steven Spielberg to keep E.T. out of Indiana Jones. If only Indy had woken up to find it was all a nightmare.

“Rocky” (1976) taught us that sometimes it’s not about winning but about going the distance. “Rocky II”(1979) and “Rocky III”(1982) are both solid sequels, and “Rocky IV” (1985) single-handedly ended the Cold War. If “Miracle” (2005) and “Zero Dark Thirty”(2013) had a baby, it still wouldn’t be more patriotic than “Rocky IV.”

Nevertheless, Sylvester Stallone failed miserably to wrap up the franchise with “Rocky V” (1990). After beating the Communists on their own turf, the Italian Stallion – Stallone – arrives in the United States to find he’s broke and brain-damaged, and has a resentful son who miraculously aged about seven years during Rocky’s flight home from Moscow.

What is more, Rocky’s protégé, Tommy Gunn, betrays him for a Don King look-alike. “Rocky Balboa” (2006) provided some redemption, but “Rocky V” will forever be the bastard child of the franchise.

Adapted from Mario Puzo’s novel of the same name, “The Godfather” (1972) is an absolute masterpiece, portraying Michael Corleone’s (Al Pacino) reluctant takeover of the family crime syndicate from his aging father Vito (Marlon Brando). “The Godfather Part II” (1974) shows flashbacks of young Vito’s (Robert De Niro) rise, juxtaposed with Michael’s struggle to maintain his father’s empire. “The Godfather Part II” was the first sequel to ever win an Oscar for Best Picture, and is arguably one of the greatest movies of all time.

Twenty-six years later, “The Godfather Part III” (1990) was released. Francis Ford Coppola’s first mistake was casting his own daughter, Sofia, as Michael’s daughter Mary. Sofia is an incredibly accomplished writer and director, but her performance in “The Godfather Part III” proves she should stay on the other side of the camera. The movie has a climactic ending, but utterly fails to live up to the greatness of the first two movies in the franchise.

Last year produced a slew of sequels, and there are even more in store for 2013, as franchises like “Iron Man,” “Die Hard” and “The Fast and the Furious” will all have new installments. We can only hope those involved in current franchises will take a lesson from the Dark Knight Trilogy and know when to walk away.

James O’Hare is a senior history and political science major. His column appears weekly. He loves cheeseburgers. He can be reached at jpohare@syr.edu.


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