The end of Kenshin

How many times have you heard someone say, 'It was a pretty good movie, but the ending sucked!"

If you fumble the conclusion, it can spoil the whole story.

It's even more important to end a franchise on a high note, because if the last movie in a series is a dog, it can taint all the rest of the flicks that came before it.

Three words: The Matrix Revolutions.

Fortunately for fans of the Rurouni Kenshin trilogy, you're in good hands.

This tale of a former assassin who tries to save Japan from a crazy man boasts a thrilling third act.

Of course, I won't tell you the ending, but I can tell you about the ending.

Let's see how it compares to the finale of some other favourite franchises.

THE END OF KENSHIN

KENSHIN: THE LEGEND ENDS

The only reason franchises exist is because people love the first film so much that they want to see more.

This was definitely the case with the original Rurouni Kenshin (2012) which found great success in Japan, and later around the world.

The first film focuses on Kenshin's origins as a former assassin who turns his back on murder and devotes himself to protecting the weak.

It did so well that two sequels were immediately put into production - Kyoto Inferno and now, The Legend Ends.

By any measure, it's a monster finale.

Kenshin (Takeru Sato) is now fighting over the very fate of Japan against the bonkers Shishio (Tatsuya Fujiwara), who wants to overthrow the new government and establish a dictatorship.

How can Kenshin keep his vow against murder when he's up against a savage, fire-breathing, mummy-wrapped psycho?

Well, maybe with a little help from his friends.

With some wonderful character moments and many show-stopping sword battles, The Legend Ends definitely goes out with a bang.

FRANCHISE BOX OFFICE

FIRST MOVIE: US$61.7 (S$77 million)

LAST MOVIE: Opened at top spot with US$12 million in Japan during its first weekend, and is expected to climb much higher.

FRANCHISE CRITICAL CONSENSUS

FIRST MOVIE: Thrilling action with beloved characters.

LAST MOVIE: Perfect end to an amazing trilogy.

CONCLUSION

Started strong. Ended strong. Superlative stuff

THE END OF TWILIGHT

TWILIGHT: BREAKING DAWN - PART 2 (2012)

The six Twilight movies brought in more than US$3.3 billion($42.2 billion) at the worldwide box office. Pretty hard to argue with that kind of success.

While the first film was a rather edgy, low-budget affair, the final flick was an all-out action epic.

The climactic battle between the Cullens and the Volturi is truly spectacular, and the final twist - where it was all just a dream - is tons of fun.

Many haters hoped Twilight would eventually fizzle, but the final chapter brought in the best numbers and even some of the better reviews of the whole series. Sparkling beautifully is the best revenge.

FRANCHISE BOX OFFICE

FIRST MOVIE: US$393 million

LAST MOVIE: US$830 million

FRANCHISE CRITICAL CONSENSUS

FIRST MOVIE: Good teen film, but more for the fans.

LAST MOVIE: One of the best of series, but still just for fans.

CONCLUSION

Improbably popular series goes out on top.

THE END OF BATMAN

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (2012)

Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins (2005) took audiences by surprise with its serious tone.

But the guy was just getting started.

The two sequels took the Caped Crusader's broodiness to murkier depths.

With The Dark Knight Rises, one sensed that the whole endeavour was close to collapsing under its own weight.

The villainous Bane's terroristic antics cut a bit too close to the bone.

Everyone involved in the production - including Nolan and his star Christian Bale - gave everything they had, and were more than ready to move on.

Even Batman himself finally wearied of the constant insanity.

The franchise ended perfectly, having nothing left to say.

FRANCHISE BOX OFFICE

FIRST MOVIE: US$374 million

LAST MOVIE: US$1.08 billion

FRANCHISE CRITICAL CONSENSUS

FIRST MOVIE: High-quality thrills.

LAST MOVIE: Yowza!

CONCLUSION

Nolan managed to sustain the high-quality sturm und drang for the duration.

THE END THE HANGOVER

THE HANGOVER III (2013)

Oh dear.

The problem with the final Hangover movie is that it isn't a hangover movie at all.

The first two stuck to the basic premise - a bunch of idiots wake up after a crazy night and have to figure out what happened - and found great success.

The Hangover III abandons this idea, and basically just ends up being a generic action comedy.

Dark, demented and laugh-free, it was rightly rejected by audiences.

FRANCHISE BOX OFFICE

FIRST MOVIE: US$467 million

LAST MOVIE: US$362 million

FRANCHISE CRITICAL CONSENSUS

FIRST MOVIE: Raunchy good times.

LAST MOVIE: Dark and dumb.

CONCLUSION

There is no cure for this particular hangover

THE END OF UNDERWORLD

UNDERWORLD: AWAKENING (2012)

While never quite a mainstream blockbuster franchise, Underworld has hummed along quite nicely, making a tidy profit on relatively low budgets. Kate Beckinsale stars as Selene, a sexy vampire antihero with a convoluted backstory.

The original Underworld was a rather empty exercise in goth-lite style, but by the time Awakening came along we were invested in Selene, especially in her skin-tight latex catsuit.

Beckinsale's scenes with her vampire daughter proved unexpectedly powerful, giving her final appearance in the series real weight.

Unfortunately this is the last we'll ever see of a fanged Beckinsale, as Underworld is being handed over to Theo James in the planned spin-off.

Sorry, but without Beckinsale, it just isn't Underworld. It's over.

FRANCHISE BOX OFFICE

FIRST MOVIE: US$96 million

LAST MOVIE: US$160 million

FRANCHISE CRITICAL CONSENSUS

FIRST MOVIE: Flashy but hollow.

LAST MOVIE: Pointless.

CONCLUSION

Critics be damned, this stylish genre franchise always upped the ante for its charismatic protagonist.

jjohnson@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Oct 8, 2014.
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