Yes, there will be spoilers for all of the movies discussed. If you are reading my blog without having seen any of those movies, I don't really know why you're reading my blog.
We'll start with a topic I'm far too familiar with, and one that you all have read way too much about from me. So I'm going to breeze through why Return of the Jedi is far from the best of the Original Trilogy. It starts with the second Death Star, a rehash of big baddie from Star Wars. That's unoriginality at it's finest, combined with a trap so many sequels are victim to: do the first movie, but bigger. This was taken literally, as the second Death Star is supposed to be bigger than the first. Moving past that, we have the fighting teddy bears and their rocks and arrows beating an armored military. Follow that up with the reduction of characters like Han Solo to one-note copies (Ghostbusters II is the best (worst?) example of this, with Peter Venkman, who becomes a walking one-liner). Truth is, Return of the Jedi does have some of the most powerful scenes of the series (you'll see this again): Luke unleashing all of his anger on Vader, Vader finally turning on the Emperor, Luke burning Vader. The best moments follow the main arc of the trilogy, Luke's journey.
So which of the Original Trilogy is the best? Look no further than this post of mine from a year and a half ago.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, moreso than any other film I'm going to talk about, has endeared itself to so many of my friends. I think it has a lot to do with it being, for my age group, our first Indy movie. It's fun. It's funny. It's adventurous. I get it. I just disagree with it being the best. We'll start at the beginning, most literally. The movie starts with an explanation of how Indy became the Indy we grew to love after two movies. When I say explanation, what I really mean is that as it turns out, Indy got his scar, his outfit, his whip, and his fear of snakes all in one afternoon. Not through years of adventures, misadventures and fedora shopping. Nope, it all happened at once. And he stole his outfit from a graverobber (ironic? No, idiotic). You don't explain every awesome detail of a character. That's a bad idea. I don't want to know exactly how Jack Sparrow got the Black Pearl, or the compass, or his hat and jacket. Nor do I want to know where Han Solo bought that kickin' vest, or anything at all about Wolverine's childhood (those stories are bad). It's a bad way to open. But it makes sense to start with Indy as a kid thematically, since Indy is a man-child throughout the movie. And much like Return of the Jedi (and Ghostbusters II) suffers from "do the first movie, but bigger," The Last Crusade goes back to Nazis and Judeo-Christianity. Except they subvert the idea of Indy as this rugged hero by making him a child in front of his pops. I don't know, I just don't enjoy the complete turn-around of his character for this last movie. I feel much the same way about this as I do about Han Solo's character in Return of the Jedi. What The Last Crusade did right, though, was make Indy proactive. Raiders of the Lost Ark ended with Indy doing nothing. The Last Crusade's third act was all Indy saving his dad. Indy doing, instead of watching.
So which of the Indiana Jones saga is the best? Before there was nuking the fridge, there was "closing your eyes while the mystical power of God burned holes into Nazis and melted faces." Raiders of the Lost Ark takes it. Great set pieces, stunts, villain, damsel, and on and on. It's as close to a perfect action-adventure movie as I've seen. All of the fun of The Last Crusade, minus the cheese.
Return of the King. Oscar-winning end of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. A mostly badass film. What this film does, which I find a hard time forgiving, is undermine a lot of what the prior two films set up: the time is now for men to take a stand and step into their role as protectors of Middle Earth. Gandalf and Elrond chat about it, and I'm thinking Gandalf and Aragorn, too. The Two Towers shows the capabilities of men, their heart and valor, and skill when led correctly. We see Aragorn step-up and show King Theoden how you handle the Uruk hai of Saruman. We see faith in allies rewarded, when Gandalf shows up at dawn of the fifth day with the Riders of Rohan. So come Return of the King, Gondor is in dire need of the Rohan to come mess up the army that is wrecking them. The beacon is lit, dramatic music plays, Rohan will ride. Awesome. Man coming to aid fellow man. Except that a day before riding to battle, Aragorn, the true king of Gondor, rides off to go get a ghost army that we just found out existed. Rohan rides without them, and does some damage, but the numbers are to much. Just then, Aragorn shows up with the ghost army and wins the battle. Let's go over that last bit again: Aragorn's ghost army wins the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. Ghosts of men, not actual, living men, nor the alliance of Gondor and Rohan, but ghost men. I get the idea: Aragorn is the true king, he can unite and lead any man or group of men. But what this actually does is make the men who live in Gondor and Rohan, the men who will be fighting for Aragorn once he releases the ghosts from their oath, it makes them look weak. It makes them look incapable. It's bad storytelling. Especially the way it was told in the movies. I won't pretend to know how it was in the books, as I'm yet to complete the series, but all of a sudden, we hear about this ghost army. No real set up, no foreshadowing, just Elrond telling Aragorn to go get them. This is one aspect that should've been changed. Make it men's victory, not ghosts'. That said, much like Return of the Jedi, this has some of the best scenes of the series: Gandalf talking to Pip about dying, Aragorn kneeling before the hobbits, Sam being Sam. But the ghost army hurts the movie too much for me. Especially since, as Gimli suggests, maybe they should've hung onto them. Why not take them to Mordor to finish the job? Leaders need forethought, Aragorn.
So which of the Lord of the Rings movies is the best? The open, The Fellowship of the Ring. Our introduction to these characters, and the only time we lose characters we've come to enjoy being around. Between the time we spend in the Shire, Gandalf the Grey being the greatest wizard ever, Boromir destroying Uruk hai by the dozen, and the over-the-top cheese of the Council of Elrond, the first entry in the trilogy nails it. It's not as scattered as the next two films, due in large part to the characters later being scattered, but it's here that the tension that lasts the remainder of the trilogy builds. It's here that we see the stakes. Thus, I say Fellowship takes it.
We won't even get into why Jurassic Park III is the wrong answer to this question. There is no way of looking at that movie that won't make me sad and angry.
Satisfying third acts are hard to pull off in a movie, let alone a series of movies. It's commendable to get good, conclusive third films. I enjoy all of the above movies immensely. They all work excellently as the third and final stop for these characters (what's the Prequel Trilogy? Kingdom of the Crystal Skull? Never heard of it. The Hobbit? Mostly different characters...Mostly). They just aren't the best of the bunch (here's hoping Chris Nolan can come up with a great third act to his series).
Yep, so that's that. Think I'm wrong? I know some of you absolutely disagree about The Last Crusade, so let's make a discussion out of this! Leave a comment and I'll make the attempt to see things from your (deranged) point of view!
Next post WILL have something about Prometheus, and the new Batman trailer, Spider-Man trailer, new Batman footage, and an update on how much ass The Avengers is still kicking a month into its release! Until then, reading amigos.