Thursday, June 12, 2014

Take a Stand - First and Second Movie Installments

Doug: We're back with another request for you to "take a stand" -- to declare which of the following pair of films, as a pair, was your favorite. Today we're looking at three movie series that were blockbusters in the Bronze Age. Each of these movies spawned several sequels, but I think among those of us assembled today we'd agree that the first two films in each series were the best. Now, hopefully for today's discussion you can reflect on your first viewing of the two films. Of course, in today's age of video rentals, digital viewing, etc. it's quite possible that someone may not have seen these movies in any sort of close temporal proximity to each other. Be that as it may, here's your charge: of the three film "franchises" below, which had your favorite first two installments? And you have to take them as a couplet -- no "well, I liked the first one here but that second film over there was way better!" Nope... take a stand!

Jaws and Jaws 2


 Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back


Superman: The Movie and Superman II


William Preston said...

What, no Westworld/Futureworld pairing?

Never saw Jaws II. I remain appalled by the notion that such a thing exists.

Supes I and II both let me down. Much as I love the first movie (and I listened to the soundtrack endlessly, staring at the photos on the slipcovers), I never cared much for the goofy Luthor plot; the second one a) got silly and b) invented some sort of finger-power-beam and c) had Supes sleep with Lois, none of which worked for me.

The clear winner is SW. Both films did exactly what they needed to do, and the charms of each are different—the marvelous lived-in feel of the first one, that sense that the characters were (in the later words of Indy Jones) making it up as they went along; the dire tension and dramatic filming of the second one. (I did think Empire got waylaid by some goofy moments like the yeti and the giant creature in the asteroid, but, man, otherwise, what a powerful movie. You never knew where the story was headed.)

Anonymous said...

No Planet of the Apes ??!! POTA is more BAB than Jaws. It'll have to be Star Wars then - SW may have been 1977 for America but in the UK it didn't open until after Christmas '77 and that was only London, the rest of us had to wait while it slowly moved around the rest of the country - I got to see it on May 30th 1978 more than a year after its' original U.S. opening. For a long time I only knew The Empire Strikes Back through the Marvel adaptation but I don't think it's anywhere near as good as the first film ( which I refuse to call ANH) even though everyone says Empire is better.

Anonymous said...

If there was some way I could get my post to start on the bottom and crawl upwards to some point far far away, you would know my vote is hands down for Star Wars. So many great little moments spread through out those first two movies. Just a few off the top of my head: She's faster than she looks, can someone get this walking carpet away from me, curse my metal body....Han wasn't the Falcon's first owner!?! Hand down Hand down! Luke, I am your father.........

Movies don't get any better than this. And they didn't. Better luck next trilogy George.

The Prowler (Dude, you kissed your sister).

Edo Bosnar said...

My answer back then would be the same as the one I can give today: Star Wars & Empire. Even though I'm nowhere near as big an SW fan now as I was then, I remember how much both of these movies blew my socks off. And they still function well as exciting science fantasy action films. As William notes above, they both do exactly what they need to.

The Superman films are a close second, although even back then I found II disappointing for several reasons, or rather one big reason: the whole Lois thing. Unlike William, I had no problem with Supes and Lois getting busy, I just thought Superman having to give up his powers to do so was a really strained plot device. Which then led to that incredibly cruel ending, i.e., Superman "nobly" giving her amnesia.

david_b said...

What up,, no love for 'Cannonball Run'...?

Or 'Smokey and the Bandit' for that matter.

(...wait, they were different films, right..?)

Nope, agreeing with the sentiment so far, SW it is. Both movies swept me away effortlessly. All three did their job very well: The first introduces and is a very novel film, the second delved deeper into the characters, like a 2nd Act of a great play.

Well, I can't speak for the Jaws series, but both Supes and SW did that very well.

And they made a lot of toy makers very rich.

dbutler16 said...

Well, it's pretty easily Star Wars for me. A life changing event if these ever was one. I loved the Superman movies as well. I never did care all that much for the Jaws movies. To me, the best thing about an action movie is the bad guy, or the conflict (physical or ideological) between the protagonist and the antagonist. In a movie about a shark (or piranhas, or a natural disaster movie) there is no true battle of wits, or of philosophies, or anything. The "bad guy" is not sentient, which makes it a lot less interesting for me, in terms of action movies.

Humanbelly said...

Oh gosh-- hard to take a stand on behalf of any of these three pairings, but I'd agree that Star Wars/TESB is clearly the strongest candidate in this pool. I know I've seen Jaws 2, and can't remember a single thing about it (maybe Roy Scheider in danger of losing his job again?). The ending of Superman 1 (reversing time by spinning the planet backwards)truly, truly ruined the entire film for me, and the "sleep w/ a human, lose your powers" mandate of the second one was similarly stupid, as well as its unexplained resolution. I ultimately liked both of those films for the most part, but could never declare them Favorites.

So STAR WARS 1 & 2, having both been terrific theater experiences when they came out, does win this particular race. BUT. . . .

. . . they don't have a prayer of getting out of the shadow of ALIEN/ALIENS. I think that in the horror/sci-fi/adventure genre that we're focusing on, there's never been a better pair of first two films. Both quite, quite different in tone and style. . . and yet both bear up amazingly under repeated viewings. ALIEN is one of the few films (like IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE) that I simply never get tired of seeing.

Best Two of all cinema? Well, you may get a lot of serious film buffs who will never let that crown be wrested from Godfather 1 & 2. (I've yet to see the second one, so I'm no proper judge). And I'd even give a shout-out to the first two THIN MAN films from the 1930's.

HB (Still waiting for that long-anticipated sequel to The Super Mario Brothers movie. . . )

Humanbelly said...

Oh wow! Hey Doug, the Blogger's eatin' the posts again!! Mine was there a minute ago, and had disappeared (along w/ a couple of others) upon refresh-ment.

It's the NSA. . . I KNOW it is-!!


Doug said...

HB --


I have released the Kraken that was your first comment today.


Humanbelly said...


Doug, so Spammer is run by the NSA???

Oh, I knew it, I KNEW it!!!

It's all a dark, world-dominating collaboration between the Hormel corporation, the estate of William Randolph Hearst, and the still-living, cryogenically-preserved head of J Edgar Hoover-!!!

(Thanks for pullin' me back out of Limbo, Doug. Much appreciated, as always.)


david_b said...

Hey, I've used a lot of NSA stuff in my long career, bunch of great joes.

Remember, "I'm from the Government and I'm here to help.."

Don't think for a moment I can't look up your file, HB.

Humanbelly said...

Oh cripes. . .

delete history
delete history
delete history. . .


Doug said...

Ah, just remember, boys -- on the Internet, nothing is ever truly deleted.

Although I'm sure some leave a larger digital footprint than others...


Murray said...

Jaws x 2 doesn't even rank. Flounders out of the gate and was disqualified from running.

The remaining pairs are a very tight race indeed. However, the distinct winner is Superman!

I'm trying to recall those halcyon days of my teen years, how it felt to sit in front of the big screen, not filtered thru years of wisdom and smooth sophistication. (a.k.a. "jaded")

I was a Superman reader my entire childhood. I loved George Reeves and his show, but endured the shoestring special effects. I was primed for a full colour, big budget depiction of the Man of Steel. I swear when I left that cineman, if I had had a 9 volt battery to lick, that would be the last spark of energy I needed to fly my own self. Wow, what a moment.

Yes, #2 had a variety of goofy problems, but still wasn't a deal-breaker. We have to take them as pairs.

Star Wars dazzled me thru and thru, but we have to make a choice, so it comes in second. And Empire (I know I run counter to popular opinion here) had its own share of deadwood junk. When Darth Vader made his great fatherhood revelation to Luke, I distinctly recall wincing "You're f**king kidding me...what a lame cliche move" I waited with metaphorical crossed fingers all the way to Jedi, hoping that story would reveal Darth going "Psych! Gotcha!"

(The wonderful Smokey and the Bandit is 1) way better than Cannonball but 2) has a sequel so pathetic and sad that I could never vote for them as a pair)

Doug said...

Colin --

I thought of including POTA on this shortlist, but as the first film came out theatrically in 1968, and the fact that we've discussed POTA a whole bunch around here, I left it off.

In hindsight, inclusion of POTA and Beneath may have made the decision tougher for some.

I distinctly recall, as a non-worldly 11-year old leaving my first screening of Star Wars and thinking "that was the best movie I've ever seen". Then a year later I walked out of Superman thinking "that was the best movie I've ever seen."

Those years were so much fun! Star Wars, Superman, POTA still dominating my thoughts, KISS, Megos, etc. O to be that age again.


Anonymous said...

If you have never seen it, I recommend Superman II - The Richard Donner Cut. It restores the original Marlon Brando footage and the story makes more sense than what was released in theatres. The "campy" Luthor still must be endured but overall it is much better than the Richard Lester version.

Karen said...

Along those lines Doug, sometimes I wish I wasn't so critical of everything. Back then I could enjoy stuff and not realize that maybe it wasn't the best made film or best story or best acted -I just liked it for whatever reason, and that was enough!

For me, I would have to choose Sta Wars and Empire -they're just a complete piece, even if a few things don't make a lot of sense. Jaws is a great standalone film, and should never have had a sequel. I enjoy Superman and Superman II but not nearly as much as those Star Wars films.

Speaking of POTA, I've been doing some flying recently and I loaded 'Beneath' on my tablet and watched it on one flight, and I have to say, I really love that film! If you just took the first two films in the series they would have been a complete story. The elements with the mutated humans were really interesting and of course the bomb-worship resonated for someone of my generation -I doubt it would go over with today's youth.

Is anyone interested in the new POTA film? I 'm looking forward to it. I guess we should run a post for it, assuming some of you will see it.

Rip Jagger said...

I can still believe a man can fly, but the Force is with my answer to this one.

The first two Star Wars movies were epic. They changed the way movies were made...period.

Rip Off

Humanbelly said...

Karen, is it me, or has there not been a huge PR push for this new POTA film? The first one wasn't bad-- mostly held back by a terribly ineffective performance (IMO) by James Franco. Simply never, ever found him believable as a cutting-edge scientist.

But yeah, we totally plan on seeing it. (Hoping to catch EDGE OF TOMORROW on Sunday)


William said...

As soon as I saw this list, I knew Star Wars would run away with it. There's really no contest, in terms of legendary status anyway.

I have a unusual story regarding both the Star Wars and Superman movies. It's unusual because I actually saw Empire Strikes Back, and Superman 2, before I ever saw Star Wars (A New Hope) or Superman 1.

This is because when both of the original movies were in theaters my family was going through some serious financial difficulties, so we couldn't afford to go to the movies. I was around 11 years old when SW came out, and I felt very much like an outcast when all the other kids in school would be talking about how incredibly awesome it was. (Same with Superman). In fact, a kid once asked my what my favorite Star Wars scene was, and I had to admit that I had never seen the movie. The immediate reaction from all the other kids was "WHAT?! How could you have never seen Star Wars?" This was followed by much teasing, pointing, and laughing. (Which is pretty much the schoolyard equivalent of being stoned to death).

So, Empire Strikes Back came out when I was around 14, and by then things were a little better and I was able to go see it. I was awestruck by its awesomeness (to say the least). Then when I was around 15, they re-released the original Star Wars movie in the theater and I finally, at long last, got to see it as well. It immediately became my favorite movie.

Then around that same time Superman 2 came out and I was able to see that too. And again I was blown away. I actually never got to see the original Superman movie in the theater. I had to catch it at a later date on HBO, but needless to say, I loved it.

Most people on here are saying that Star Wars and Empire are the hands down winners in this contest, (and I agree for the most part). However, an argument could be made that if all you ever saw was SW and Empire, (and skipped Jedi), you would go crazy because Empire ends with several plot points unresolved and leaves the audience totally hanging big time.

But Superman and Superman 2 were both complete movies that didn't require you see the third one to finish the story. In fact it's actually much better to totally forget about the 3rd (and 4th) Superman movies and just pretend that they don't exist.

Karen said...

HB, I agree, it seems like there is a lot of advertising for this new POTA. I hope that's a sign of confidence by the studio. Certainly they have at least one very solid actor (Gary Oldman) -not sure who else is in it. It looks exciting, and I'm curious to see how far they spin off from the original series. I like that these new films are not direct remakes but new interpretations of the idea.

Doug said...

I am very excited for the new POTA film. I enjoyed the first one, although I can certainly see HB's reservations about James Franco. However, I felt that John Lithgow was very good.

I still love the Apes like I did when I was a little kid. And Edo, I didn't hate Tim Burton's remake. In fact, if it had a different ending I might even say I liked it. But I did not at all care for the ending.


J.A. Morris said...

Star Wars by a mile.

I liked Superman and I love Superman II (the better of the Superman movies), but Star Wars and Empire are films I could watch forever without getting bored.

Empire Strikes Back is one of the best sequels of all time, up there with Godfather Part II. But for me, Star Wars will always be a better movie due to the presence of Alec Guinnness. Sure, he makes cameos in the sequels as Kenobi, but his performance in the first movie makes it special.

Jaws is excellent, but Jaws 2 is a piece of celluloid dross. Even when I was a kid, I knew Jaws 2 sucked.

Gary said...

Not even close-Star Wars by a mile.

Edo Bosnar said...

Doug, yeah, I suppose the end of Burton's PotA was kind of a downer, but to me it sort of fit into the entire, almost tongue-in-cheek feel of the entire film. Basically, I look at that movie as a sort of Elseworlds version of the whole PotA mythos - so I don't get worked up over all the things Burton "got wrong" or, even worse, "ruined." 'Course, it also helps that I was never a diehard PotA fan anyway: I liked a few of the movies, and vaguely remember the TV show, and that's about it.

Humanbelly said...

Actually, w/ the POTA remake, I'd go so far as to say that Andy Serkis carries that film (but yep, ol' John Lithgow keeps his end of the bargain as well, no question). I think there's a tendency to seriously underestimate or under-appreciate the very special kind of live talent like Andy's that can truly breathe a soul into the core of a motion-capture CGI character like that. Think also of Zoe Saldana in Avatar-- heck, I found her more real and genuine than most of the smaller "human" supporting cast & extras. More human than the entire cast of MATRIX, in fact-- save perhaps for Hugo Weaving, ironically enough.

And yeah, Gary Oldman has made a goodly chunk of artistically questionable "big" films in his day. . . but geeze, he NEVER fails to improve them. (There will never be a better Commissioner Gordon).


William said...

We should add Raiders of the Lost Ark and Last Crusade to the list. If it's O.K. to skip over Temple of Doom. (Which is still a good movie, but not as good as the other two).

Anonymous said...

The ending of the Tim Burton POTA film is actually more in keeping with the ending of Pierre Boulle's novel.


If I remember correctly, the novel ends with the human astronaut escaping from the planet of apes. Once in space he is picked up by a couple of space travelers from an advanced civilization. The reader assumes the rescuers are human - the big reveal at the end is that they too are apes.

Teresa said...

Superman 2 was my favorite of the two. But Superman 1, was a strong 2nd place. I was mainly a DC reader and Christopher Reeves brought my Superman to life.

The best sequel, by comparison, is Star Trek 2.
I was a kid when ST1 came out. I was in awe of the Enterprise refit.
But other than that I had ants in my pants the entire movie. I was still on a Star Wars high. Slow and plodding was unacceptable in my Sci Fi.
Poor Decker....

Empire Strikes Back is my favorite of the SW trilogy. Star Wars made it possible. Star Wars made the nuanced Empire Strikes Back a great film. RotJ had some good moments too. But it was an autopilot.

Ace Hamilton said...

I never understood the love for Superman II. I love a good super villain brawl as much as anybody but the movie is a mess, not even close to the quality of the first film, although the director's cut is a marked improvement.

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