“I checked out the movie Babel and it says on the back of the DVD case that it’s part of a trilogy. Do I need to see the other two for it to make sense?”
We remembered when Babel was nominated for an Academy Award back in 2007, but didn’t remember it being part of a series; the movie seemed to stand alone.
Searching “Alejandro González Iñárritu,” the name of the director, in Academic Search Premier, one of the research databases available through CLEVNET, brought up a few scholarly works and archived magazine reviews of his films. We found a mention of a thematic trilogy in an October 2006 issue of Rolling Stone. According to the article, Babel and the other two movies in the series, Amores Perros and 21 Grams, are united by a similar structure, with each movie consisting of separate stories that are all tied together by one tragic event. Dolores Tierney’s paper “Alejandro González Iñárritu: Director without Borders,” published in 2009 in New Cinemas: Journal of Contemporary Film draws attention to the films’ common themes of inequality, particularly between First- and Third-World countries, and fate.
Unlike traditional trilogies such as The Lord of the Rings, where missing one movie means you’re missing part of the story, movies in a thematic series don’t need to be watched in any order for them to make sense, as they’re tied together not by a common plot but by common themes and often common actors. Edgar Wright’s Cornetto Trilogy (named for an ice-cream treat that’s popular in the U.K.) is another example. Consisting of Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The World’s End, the trilogy deals with growing up and “the dangers of perpetual adolescence,” as Wright noted in a 2013 interview with The Toronto Star. Each movie has the friendship between Nick Frost and Simon Pegg’s characters at its heart, and, of course, each includes at some point a different flavor of Cornetto.
For more information on Iñárritu, Celestino Deleyto wrote a book on his work that’s available through CLEVNET. He’s also featured in The Director’s Cut: Picturing Hollywood in the 21st Century, and all three movies in his trilogy, along with all three in Wright’s trilogy, are available in the system.