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Can Guardians of the Galaxy avoid the perils of the threequel?

Can Guardians of the Galaxy avoid the perils of the threequel?
April 14
17:11 2017
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James Gunn is hooked on a feeling. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 hasn’t even been released yet and the writer/director has made a declaration of threequel rights. In a Facebook post, Gunn has confirmed he has signed up for a third movie featuring Marvel’s oddball band of sci-fi heroes. “There is a history in Hollywood of haphazard endings to trilogies,” he declared, “and I didn’t want to become a part of that dishonourable tradition of pretending the third one doesn’t exist.”




He’s clearly throwing shade at bellyflops such as Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and Batman Forever, where received wisdom tells us acclaimed directors oversaw the first two instalments only to see the third messed up by lesser talents. By sticking with the franchise he helped jumpstart, Gunn wants to elevate Guardians of the Galaxy into the same bracket as Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight saga, or Peter Jackson’s brace of Tolkien trilogies. But he might do well to remember that sitting in the same cool canvas director’s chair for three films is no guarantee of success, as these examples demonstrate.

The Matrix Revolutions

With its extended, kinetic car chase and multiple-Agent-Smith mega-brawl, the Wachowskis just about got away with The Matrix Reloaded. But the bizarre climax of that sequel – which slammed on the brakes for a mansplaining lecture about free will from a parachuted-in bore called the Architect – extinguished much of the excitement surrounding the arrival of The Matrix Revolutions six months later. What should have been a triumphant finale to a franchise that redefined action movies turned out to be a long, dreary trudge toward a waterlogged fistfight. This wasn’t even a haphazard ending, just a boring one.

Trudge ... The Matrix Revolutions.
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Trudge … The Matrix Revolutions. Photograph: HO/REUTERS

Austin Powers in Goldmember

Mixed in with all the pew-pew space battles and colourful alien worlds, Guardians of the Galaxy is essentially a comedy, so the critical trajectory of Austin Powers, the snaggle-toothed spy franchise created by Mike Myers but overseen by director Jay Roach, might provide a teaching moment. The first instalment cultivated a cult audience on home video and The Spy Who Shagged Me became an unexpected box-office monster. So what caused the catastrophic comedic drop-off in the third film? Spoofery is hit-and-miss at the best of times, but knowing appearances from Tom Cruise, Gwyneth Paltrow and Steven Spielberg set a smug, self-satisfied tone that was hard to shake. Gunn should probably cool it on the cameos.

Spider-Man 3

After all the goodwill earned by Spider-Man 2 – still a high-water mark in comic-book thrills, even in our superhero-saturated age – the usually brilliant Sam Raimi somehow signed off on multiple terrible decisions to bodge Spider-Man 3, a film stuffed with duff baddies at the expense of anything resembling a coherent plot. It killed a globally successful franchise stone dead for a decade, although, by having his formerly friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man fall under the influence of a malevolent alien intelligence, Raimi inadvertently created an Emo Peter Parker meme that will probably outlive us all.

Franchise-killer ... Spider-Man 3.
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Franchise-killer … Spider-Man 3. Photograph: Courtesy Columbia Pictures/AP

Scream 3

No one begrudges horror veteran Wes Craven his success with Scream: the snarky, self-referential slasher hit gave the director a valuable profile boost in 1996 and presumably spurred a new generation of fans to seek out some of his earlier, nastier movies. Scream 2 went even more meta, making being a sequel an intrinsic part of the plot, while a new bunch of attractive youngsters were diced and sliced. By Scream 3, writer Kevin Williamson had bailed but Craven stuck with it, and while he could still stage some effective jump scares, the meta commentary that once seemed so daring and delicious now felt tired.

The Godfather Part III

Even when compared with dreck such as X-Men 3: The Last Stand or Blade: Trinity, Francis Ford Coppola’s belated second sequel to his towering Godfather saga is still a favoured punchbag for critics, presumably because expectations have rarely been so cruelly dashed. If there’s a lesson Gunn could learn from Coppola’s misstep it would be this: don’t wait 15 years before starting work on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 because – 70s rock-powered soundtrack or not – you might have lost your mojo.




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