The Purge Franchise Should Have Quit While It Was Ahead
For those of you perhaps oblivious to what The Purge movies are about, allow me to give you a quick summary. In 2014, after an economic collapse, the “new founding fathers” introduced an idea that they believe will release pent-up aggression, reduce crime rates and improve the economy: The Purge. One day (12 hours) a year, all crime becomes legal. Within this window, all emergency services are halted and all civilians have to make a choice. This decision is quite simply whether to purge or to hide. There are a couple of laws which remain intact such as not using explosives or killing politicians. Everything else is on the table. The first movie in the series introduces us to a family who are simply trying to do the latter option. Let’s take a look!
The Purge (2013)
Rather than going into extensive detail surrounding the plot of the first movie we will instead look at why it wasn’t hugely special or impressive. Ignoring the fairly unique idea that The Purge introduces, the movie itself becomes nothing more than a home invasion movie. We witness almost an identical story line by watching Strangers, Breaking In, You’re Next or any other movie of this sort. With Ethan Hawke and Lena Heady playing the lead roles of the movie as the parents of the Sandin family, it’s a little disappointing that such actors weren’t given more to work with.
So all in all the movie itself doesn’t provide viewers with anything new to deal with really. There is some backstabbing, some clichéd moral decisions and ultimately a somewhat well-rounded ending that signals the end of the Purge through which an announcer states that it was the most successful purge to date. The movie is set 8 years after the first purge which takes place in 2014 with this movie being set in 2022.
The Purge: Anarchy (2014)
The sequel introduces viewers to new characters and a new movie element. Where the first tackled a very typical story line, the sequel takes on a political twist. Not only that but the character’s and their stories are far more compelling. For starters, we have Leo Barnes (played by Frank Grillo). Leo is using the purge as an opportunity to enact revenge on the man who killed his son in a drink-driving accident. He’s been preparing for this day and his own survival isn’t important…provided his son’s killer dies. Kitted out with a bad-ass car and an arsenal of weapons (and training), Leo is the purge’s anti-hero.
On the other side of the coin we have Eva Sanchez and her family. Eva’s apartment block is the victim of one of many targeted attacks by a government agency to wipe out poverty-stricken areas (and those within them). To cut a long story short, Eva and her family cross paths with Leo and he tries to help them survive…never putting revenge to the back of his mind.
The Purge: Anarchy is interesting because it opens up the political playing field. An idea comes to light that the purge itself isn’t fair, it isn’t equal and it isn’t solely about releasing pent-up aggression. In fact, the government’s targeted attacks and the nature of the purge serve one main purpose: wiping out those deemed “less important” to society. We see that the upper classes view the purge as entertainment and view the lower classes as sub-human. Everybody loves a good “fight the power” movie and The Purge: Anarchy offers just that. In my opinion, this sequel is the peak of the entire franchise!
The Purge: Election Year (2016)
Sadly, the excitement of becoming a political franchise clearly overwhelmed the minds of those behind the movies. Election Year finds Leo Barnes returning as a bodyguard to Senator Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell). Going from Anarchy’s political motivations, Election Year jumps right into being entirely political. It follows Senator Roan’s journey to try to put an end to the purge…or more accurately, her journey to survive it after being targeted for assassination.
Similarly to how the first movie of this series didn’t stand out greatly in comparison to any other home invasion movie, Election Year falls into the same pitfall both within the franchise itself and within any political protection movie. It has moments of pretty high intensity but other than that there isn’t a great deal it can offer viewers. An introductory flashback provides us with an insight into the backstory of the Senator in order for us to understand her position (namely her family was murdered during the purge) but that’s nothing new to the purge universe. For me at least, the movie falls flat in comparison to Anarchy.
Just when you would figure they’d call it quits, the franchise announces The First Purge.
The First Purge (2018)
On the 4th of July we will be able to witness the origins of the purge. The movie is set to show the introductions of the purge to a small community for the first time (and how it spreads). Could this be an interesting movie? Sure! Experiencing how people took to the violence during the initial stages would certainly be a new point of view…but do we really need another movie at all? Personally, I’m a bit purged-out. I think that once the movie covers the first steps to violence within the small community, it’s essentially going to become like the rest of the movies. The only difference will be the general lack of preparation of the characters. With stars such as Y’lan Noel, Lex Scott Davis and Marisa Tomei being involved in the movie, we can at least expect the acting to be to a high standard.
The story could go in either direction. The way it looks based on the trailer (rather unfortunately) is as another rehash of the same idea. They’ve thrown in some politics, they’ve set a family up who think they’ll be fine but presumably won’t and they’ve got the politicians preaching the same points that we’ve heard in the last few films. They even have the same military tactics of wiping out the lower classes that we’ve already seen. What’s going to be different? I’d predict absolutely nothing! Another issues seems to be the undermining of the purge idea itself. It was interesting to believe that having 12 hours of violence a year made the US a better place. In truth, wiping out the lower classes is the cause of this benefit. Maybe this is the message the writers hope you to take away from the franchise…who knows!
As with many movies within the industry today, the ideas are being milked dry due to prequels, sequels, reboots, remakes and generally speaking, similar ideas. I can’t say it would shock me to see reboot of The Purge in as little as 5 years. So how could they keep the idea fresh? Simply put, I think the movies need to explore a fresh perspective. We’ve watched a family defend itself, we’ve witness another family defend itself with the help of an anti-hero on a revenge mission, and we’ve witnessed a politician and her body guard…yup, you guessed it: defend themselves. We occasionally catch a glimpse of sick and twisted characters but the stories are ultimately still positive by the end. If anything, the franchise is more akin to a superhero movie than a dark political thriller/horror.
My suggestion would be to appeal to the dark side of the viewers. We can all agree that the Joker is an incredible villain, right? He’s psychotic but cunning and clever. I’m not suggesting we throw the Joker into a Purge movie. But why not focus on a character similar to him? Wouldn’t that mix things up a bit? Let’s follow someone who is purging purely for fun and doesn’t care about vendettas or survival…simply entertainment. Of course the character would have to be very well-written otherwise they would just come across as a cheesy Hollywood villain stereotype. If the writers were so keen to give such a character a backstory, they could demonstrate a trauma that essentially led him to grow up alone and survive the same way.
There is no denying that the overall premise of The Purge franchise is unique and original. Sadly, it appears that almost all of the imagination and creativity went into this idea and this idea alone. How such an idea can lead into such clichéd characters, story lines, sequels, prequels and endings is entirely beyond my understanding. If The First Purge turns out to be a great addition to the franchise then you certainly won’t hear me complaining…but my skepticism leads me to believe that such an outcome is highly unlikely. Even more worrying is that were this film a success, chances are that another sequel would be on the horizon. This would be alongside the TV series currently being developed.
Thank you for reading! What are your thoughts on the Purge Franchise? Do you enjoy the current movies and if so, would you like to see more? Comment down below!
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