Serious question: Has there ever been a trilogy—bona fide, I mean, not just a film and its two sequels—that isn't widely considered a masterpiece? No matter how mediocre some or even all of the films may be, people just swoon at the sheer triptychyness of the whole affair. (See also: Red Riding, Dreileben, etc.) I came to a somewhat belated understanding with the first installment and its bloated origin story, which starts out sluggish but gets more and more compelling as its ostensible hero is systematically deceived, humiliated and otherwise abused, learning the hard way that with great power comes great responsibility; or that a Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack; or maybe just chill the fuck out there Slashy. But shouldn't there be a tad more action in a samurai series? Ichijoji Temple features one badass-if-brief duel at the beginning, one man-vs.-army showdown at the end, and a whole lotta deadly soap-opera in between. (Plus it's not even clear to me why Musashi calls out this swordfightin' academy in the first place. Far as I can tell he's just trying to make a name for himself, the way young gunfighters seek out Old West legends; unlike the first film, though, this one doesn't seem to find such behavior juvenile or shameful, which meant I found myself kinda rooting for the ostensible bad guys.) And Ganryu Island does nothing but stall for nearly two hours, as Musashi postpones his inevitable face-off with the effeminate rival (which, again, has no emotional undercurrent whatsoever because it's strictly glory-seeking) in order to go be a humble farmer for a year, which despite the presence of some bandits is about as exciting as it sounds. Sunrise duel, when it finally arrives, is superbly elemental and suggests that Inagaki might have been something had he been a stronger judge of material. But the series honestly needs Harvey Scissorhands to fashion one solid two-hour film from all the largely redundant and/or monotonous footage. All the same, it's arguably worth enduring for the drop-dead gorgeous Eastmancolor alone. Let's see digital rival that.