Steven Soderbergh's 2012 film "Magic Mike" appeared to be, on paper, a wild, raucous night at the movies. Alex Pettyfer plays a handsome young buck named Adam who's working in construction and just looking to make ends meet. He is taken under the wing of Michael, a.k.a. Magic Mike, played by Channing Tatum, a handsome veteran in the world of male exotic dancing. Adam learns the trade, while Michael longs to make enough money to start his own business and leave stripping behind him. The story is based loosely on Tatum's own experiences as a young exotic dancer, and the memories of his own mentor.

Soderbergh, however, was more interested in the financial aspects of this story, and told a tale not of nude bodies and nights of partying, but of an economy designed to discourage financial growth. It was a surprisingly downbeat, adult drama masquerading as a bachelorette party. It wouldn't be until Gregory Jacobs' 2015 sequel "Magic Mike XXL" that the party atmosphere would be thrust into the proceedings. The sequel reunites several characters from the first film — Adam is noticeably absent — and puts them on a bus to make one last strip tour before retirement. It's a film about how much fun it is to hang out with friends, how sex and money are both powerful currencies, and how hot the actors are; the camera rarely stops leering at Tatum and at Joe Manganiello. "Magic Mike XXL" was the wild party that the first film promised to be.

After the success of both films, "Magic Mike's Last Dance" has been made, due in theaters in early 2023. Soderbergh will be directing again. Little is known about the story at this point, apart from what Soderbergh has told Total Film.

The Trojan Horse

With the first "Magic Mike" being a story of financial woes and a weak economy, and the second being a story of fun and sex, Steven Soderbergh purports the third to be a blend of the two. Notably, he called his film a Trojan Horse, only with the shirtless warriors on the outside. Once audiences have been lured in with the film's more titillating aspects, he will spring headier themes on them. In Soderbergh's words:

"It was clear that a movie about this process was going to be a wonderful Trojan horse to discuss or expand on some ideas that were nascent in the other two films […] Primarily, what is desire? What is sexy? What is fantasy? What is the role of fantasy in someone's life? It was a really great opportunity to talk about some relationship stuff regarding sexuality that the movies have been gradually moving towards."

The first two "Magic Mike" films deal heavily with the separation between genuine sexual desire and the playful pantomime version of sexuality one might encounter at a strip revue. What is an interaction with an exotic dancer but a brief moment of playacting wherein both client and professional temporarily pretend that they are engaged in a real-life sexual encounter? "Magic Mike XXL" especially explores the line between genuine, quiet attraction, and the noisy, demonstrative sex powers the men display while dancing. A highlight of "XXL" is when Joe Manganiello does an impromptu dance for a gas station attendant just so he can get his mojo back.

Two Movies In One

That both-movies-in-one idea was what drove Steven Soderbergh's pitch to Warner Bros. for "Magic Mike's Last Dance." He clearly liked the down-to-earth, moody, realistic angle he brought to the original film, but also seems to appreciate the wild fun of the second movie. "Last Dance" seemingly aims to be the best of both worlds. As Soderbergh put it:

"And so I really pitched it as a twofer. I said, 'We get to do this forensic study of how to put on a dance show, and we get to really do a deep-dive on these other ideas that we've been trying to build on in each of the two films.'"

According to the Total Film article, "Last Dance" will see Mike in a relationship with a character played by Salma Hayek Pinault. She will persuade Mike to give up a job bartending and put on a strip show in England, staged at a theater that doesn't ordinarily put on exotic dance routines.

"Magic Mike" has become such a notable cultural force that, in 2022, one can buy tickets for "Magic Mike Live" in Las Vegas, NV, a show conceived by Channing Tatum and meant to emulate the real life the shows seen staged in the films. The live show is also touring North America and, if you're in the area, will be passing through Florida at the end of December 2022. Soderbergh may be prepping for Mike's "Last Dance," but it seems the party will continue indefinitely.

"Magic Mike's Last Dance" hits theaters on February 10, 2023.

Read this next: 20 Underrated Comedy Movies You Need To Watch

The post Steven Soderbergh Pitched Magic Mike's Last Dance as Two Movies in One appeared first on /Film.