This week witnesses Arnold fulfilling his promise to be back in the fifth installment of the Terminator franchise, Terminator Genisys. For some of you in big metro markets, the movie is already out and you’ve shelled out to see Schwarzenegger reprise his role as everyone’s favorite time-traveling robot, T-800 (Model 101). While sure to be a crowd-pleaser with some interesting plot developments, even though the trailers seem to have given away half the movie, the Terminator franchise has to be running on fumes at this point due to the age of Arnold and the waning quality of anything after the second.
Which leads to the question; which movies have been able to endure to a fifth movie and still deliver a quality movie-going experience? Not that many franchises have reached the fifth movie, although we will surely being seeing more in the future as sequel-itis is spreading, but getting there does not ensure the quality of the films (hence the previous statements about The Terminator movies). That being said, let’s take a look at five fifth movies that proved to either be a continuation of quality or a resurgence of what made some of the installments that came before so good.
5) YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE
There are a handful of movies that I could slip into this spot. Once again for another Top 5, I had a list of four good movies I wanted here, but I had one bottom spot to fill with a personal preference. I could have put Peter Jackson’s fifth installment of the “Middle Earth” anthology of movies, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, at number five. However, what ultimately mattered more to me was a movie that does not cause me to throw up in my mouth a
little bit a lot.
You Only Live Twice was Sean Connery’s second to last movie as Agent 007 before taking a hiatus, only to return in the role two more non-consecutive times in Diamonds Are Forever and Never Say Never Again. While it is certainly not the best of Connery’s Bond films, my personal favorite being Goldfinger, it is one of the most remembered movies for the full introduction of the head of SPECTRE, Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Donald Pleasance). He was introduced as an unseen character in the previous film, Thunderball, but this movie gives you the full reveal complete with a trip to his secret volcano hideout. He is conniving, sinister, seems to have unlimited resources, and has that iconic look and lair that would be directly spoofed by Mike Meyer’s in his Austin Powers movies. The movie is criminally underrated and boasts a clever and fun script from the close, personal friend of Ian Fleming, famous kid’s author Roald Dahl. While it eventually loses its way with a sequence of more and more absurd and outlandish plot points, thus the reputation it has developed for being spoofed, it is those absurdities that made this campier and over-the-top Bond movie one of my favorites as a kid.
4) HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX
It can be argued, quite convincingly, that the Harry Potter movies did not have a resurgence or a continuation, but were a bell-curve of quality, with the second half of The Deathly Hallows being great and the lone outlier. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was a peak for a couple different storylines that started in my favorite movie, The Prisoner of Azkaban, as well as a tantalizing launching pad for a couple storylines that would take us to the end of the Harry Potter saga. Harry gets his first kiss, Ron and Hermoine continue to bicker, we meet the menacing Dolores Umbridge, Harry grapples with death and loss, and Dumbledore and Voldemort rumble.
As a consequence of adapting a wildly popular series of YA Novels, there are sure to be criticisms, gripes, and wild opinions. As a fan of the books only after the movies were finished, I was left to form my wild opinions after Daniel Radcliffe had become bitter at his money and fame. That being said, one characterization from book to movie that was well fleshed out and superbly acted is Imelda Staunton’s performance as Dolores Umbridge. She’s a sinister, harsh acolyte of Voldemort veiled in pink cashmere and a sweet, plastic smile. Staunton never gives away too much of Umbridge’s motives until the time is right. She has this aloof idealism that drives her view on life, forms her gait, and ideally suits her to wield a Gestapo-like iron grip on Hogwarts once given control. Not one of my favorite characters in the books, but one of my favorites from the movies.
3) FAST FIVE
After Fast & Furious, the fourth installment in The Fast & The Furious movies, there was a lot of speculation the goodwill from previous installments was dried up. While the 4th movie was not nearly as bad as people make it out to be, the franchise was on life support. Could the public even consider coming back for more explosive, popcorn viewing, again? Should the franchise end while it still had the energy to recoup the budget?
So what do you do? You hire a former WWE wrestler to Rock Bottom your franchise out of its cinematic comatose state! Enter Dwayne Johnson, formerly known as the Rock, with his high octane brand of male machismo and South Beach-style charisma. This movie was not even close to my favorite of the movies, but it allowed #6, #7, and the forthcoming Furious 8 to happen! Yes, thanks to the Rock, I’m sure your grandchildren will ask you what it was like to see Fast Five in the theaters before you go and see Two Furious Dozens: Part 2.
2) X-MEN: FIRST CLASS
McAvoy and Fassbender, two accomplished actors with supernova bright futures, managed to capture the dynamic of two friends turned foes. It was so good you could be duped into believing that Fox actually manufactured a serum that brought back Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellen’s youth. And of course, throw in a younger, budding star who would soon carry the hopes and wishes of every teenage girl on her shoulders in J-Law, and you have a recipe for success. It has carried the franchise to viability and piles of cash that have only one negative; the movies haven’t bombed so Marvel Studios can buy back the X-Men.
1) STAR WARS: EPISODE V – THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
Star Wars wins by technicality!! What, did you think I would put Attack of the Clones here??? You, sir, must be George Lucas. In that case, welcome to Reel World Theology, George! I loved your movies, but my least favorite is Attack of the Clones. And technically it is only the second film in your saga. Also, can I have your autograph? And a lightsaber? You have one of those, right? Or at least just leave a Tauntaun or TIE Fighter in my garage.
For those of you not named George Lucas, can there be any other at #1? The answer is “no”.
I would say a lot more here, but in a bit of foreshadowing, I will have a-LOT to say about Star Wars and especially the Empire Strikes Back starting in July. Until then, let’s say I love Star Wars…a lot.