Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 looks to be an epic finale. This week, MRQE looks back on the most memorable goodbyes at the movies: the last installments for some of our favorite franchises. Or in some cases, what should have been the last!
Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983) -- MRQE Metric: 81
We start off big. It is one of the highest grossing sequels of all time and it set an enormous precedent for film trilogies. Personally, Episode VI was before my time. But it must have been something memorable to sit in the theater and watch Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker defeat the Emperor in a battle for the galaxy. Ewoks notwithstanding, Return of the Jedi is a great conclusion. Lucas' prequel trilogy years later may have added some undue excess to the Star Wars mythology. But, Jedi remains the essential finale to this day, for any fan looking to explore the Star Wars universe.
Back to the Future Part III (1990) -- MRQE Metric: 68
Robert Zemeckis' time-traveling saga is next on our list. Back to the Future Part III's western story line may have seemed like putting the trilogies' Delorean in reverse at the time. But, this non-futuristic film actually offers a genuine lesson on the finer things in life. While Back to the Future Parts I and II dealt mostly with the pseudo-science of time travel and the "heavy" consequences of Doc Brown's invention, Part III had more to do with simply finding one's place in the universe. For Doc Brown, it was finding true love in the Old West. But let's be honest, the hover board played a big part as well.
Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) -- MRQE Metric: 87
With a two-part adaptation of The Hobbit finally in production, Peter Jackson has returned to the helm to give fans what they have been craving all along. But, too all unfamiliar with J.R.R. Tolkien's anthology: The Hobbit is a prequel to Lord of the Rings. And it certainly would not have been green lighted by the studio if The Return of the King wasn't the box office goliath that it turned out to be. To watch Samwise Gamgee carry his friend Frodo up the cliffs of Mount Doom was an instant classic. Who cares if there were three or four false endings before the credits rolled? Return of the King was an epic finale in the most literary sense. On a side note, I remember back in late 2001 when Fellowship and the first Harry Potter film hit theaters within months of each other. That was a great season at the movies!
The Godfather: Part III (1990) -- MRQE Metric: 76
And now, a break from the science fiction/fantasy realm. But, like Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, The Godfather was also a literary adaptation, based on the acclaimed novel by Mario Puzo. Most fans are quick to disregard The Godfather: Part III. Even director Francis Ford Coppola has gone on record saying that the first two parts are a "series" while the third part is an "epilogue." Some epilogue! Picking up years after Part II, Michael Corleone is now an older man, weathered with guilt (and a nice nickel-toned haircut). Admittedly, this film does not hold up against its predecessors...especially if the predecessors are two of the greatest films of all time. But Part III remains entertaining. Think of it as the last piece to a prized movie collection, incomplete without it.
Toy Story 3 (2010) -- MRQE Metric: 90
Woody, Buzz and the gang bid farewell to Andy in one of the more heart wrenching moments in cinema from last year. Toy Story 3 took ten years to produce, and it was well worth the wait. As Andy gets ready for college, the toys are inadvertently shipped off to a children's day care center where they meet a big, friendly bear named Lotso and his community of misfit toys. But things aren't what they seem and Lotso's ruthless ways are quick to surface when Woody tries to help Buzz escape. In the end, the bond of friendship is what rescues the gang from fiery death. As of now, Toy Story 4 is "in development" on IMDb, so let us celebrate this "last hurrah" before those words become moot!
Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade (1989) -- MRQE Metric: 82
I know, I know. The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was a phenomenal success, making millions of dollars worldwide and successfully reintroducing Indiana Jones to a younger generation. But can we get real for a second? The Last Crusade was the THE LAST CRUSADE for nearly twenty years before Spielberg decided to dip his chalice back into the cinematic fountain of youth. I enjoyed The Crystal Skull, but The Last Crusade, in my opinion, is the definitive final chapter. Everything, from the casting of Sean Connery to the last, iconic image of Indy and his pals riding off into the sunset, works wonderfully. Go back and watch The Last Crusade and tell me I'm wrong!
The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) -- MRQE Metric: 80
The Bourne Identity was a surprise hit back in 2002 for Matt Damon. Doug Liman directed an excellent film. But no one expected the sort of grit and mayhem that Paul Greengrass would bring into the fray. With The Bourne Supremacy and our next entry on the list, The Bourne Ultimatum, Greengrass revolutionized the action-movie genre. Unsteady camera work, minimal dialogue and crazy mixed-martial arts are the new standard. Take a look at the trailer for Quantum of Solace and notice how the creators bit a hefty chunk out of the Jason Bourne formula, down to the Judy Dench soundbyte: "Get Bond!" ("Get Bourne!") I'm biased to Ultimatum because they shot the final scene at the New York City Port Authority, mere miles from where I live! And again folks, I'll be eating my words soon enough: a fourth installment is supposedly in the pipeline. For now, keep some room open on your DVD shelf.
Clerks II (2006) -- MRQE Metric: 66
And for some comic relief, Mr. Kevin Smith. Growing up in Northern New Jersey, Smith's View Askewniverse will always be near and dear to my heart. Jay and Silent Bob were strange cult characters that I immediately gravitated to as a wide-eyed 12-year old comic book reader with sophomoric tendencies. "Snootchie bootchies," "snoogans," and "deusa" were the catchphrases of my youth! Clerks II was the last time the pot-smoking duo were on the big-screen. So, have we seen the last of Bluntman & Chronic? For now, as Kevin Smith continues his grassroots production campaign, I will say, yes. But you never know. Clerks III, perhaps? That would be "Snooch to the nooch!"
Monty Python's The Meaning of Life (1983) -- MRQE Metric: 74
More of a series of sketches rather than a uniform narrative, The Meaning of Life was the last in an epic film trilogy released by the collective Pythons. The Holy Grail and Life of Brian were nothing short of brilliant. And as the titles suggest, the British comedy group never shied away from tackling big issues with their comedy. And my, were the results big! A personal favorite would have to be the restaurant scene: a big fat man, and all his vomiting glory. Gross, you say. But this film actually won the Grand Jury prize at the '83 Cannes Film Festival. Grossly engrossing, I'll say!
Red Dragon (2002) -- MRQE Metric: 67
The Silence of the Lambs is one of the scariest movies of all time, and a Best Picture winner from the 1991 Oscars. Red Dragon is a prequel. BUT, it was the last time Anthony Hopkins starred as Dr. Hannibal Lecter; and it is a very enticing film. I found Ridley Scott's Hannibal disappointing. And with Brett Ratner in the director's chair, I expected Red Dragon to be even worse. But I was pleasantly surprised. Ralph Fiennes was excellent as a deranged killer with one scary tattoo. And Anthony Hopkins is the reason you go back for more! Hannibal the Cannibal is one of the greatest movie characters of all time. And Red Dragon provided Hopkins with one final bow...for now.