By Joe Strange
Here’s the thing, last week I wrote about Hollywood’s penchant for writing for sequels, and mentioned that I’d probably do another piece on Hollywood’s equally annoying habit of splitting the final instalment of a series into 2 films. Now I was going to leave it alone for a week or so, but then Neill Blomkamp came out earlier this week saying that Alien 5 (not it’s official name) is big enough that it could be split into two films.
It’s like he’s goading me to write about it. Well, I’m not rising to it Blomkamp! I’m not!.
Who am I kidding, I totally am.
So this trend, the idea of splitting the final instalment of a series into two separate films, is not always a bad thing, there are definitely some really great positives to be gained from clefting films in twain, but just as with everything, there’s the nasty underside to it as well.
The idea of splitting a story in two to tell it isn’t new, but there’s definitely been a resurgence with the influx of young adult story adaptations. It ‘started’ back in 2010, with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 1. The seventh Harry Potter book is far from the longest, (that prize goes to The Order of the Phoenix for it’s chapters upon chapters of teenage angst) but was chosen to be split into two separate feature films for the sake of telling the whole tale, and since the Harry Potter fandom is rather… enthusiastic, it seemed like the right thing to do. After all, The Deathly Hallows doesn’t just take place in a school, there’s forest wanderings, house visits and magical bank heists, so it made sense to split the instalment with the most set pieces into two films and tell them a year apart.
Except it didn’t work quite as well as WB hoped. Sure on a commercial level it totally did; Part 1 took over $960 million worldwide, while Part 2 took over a billion monies. But fundamentally they destroyed the pacing of the whole book, and while together Part 1 and Part 2 are great, separately they just don’t tell a good story. I mean, when, at the beginning of a film you have to have what amounts to a ‘previously, on the Deathly Hallows’ something’s not quite right.
You can’t deny that part one feels more like a prologue to part 2 than its own film, even if it did have that wicked animated scene with the three brothers, that was awesome. Don’t get me wrong, I bloody love Harry Potter, and by splitting the films they did manage to cram in some of the more complicated lore that was necessary to the story. You know, the stuff that Rowling just seemed to put in the last book like it’s been there the whole time… WAND LORE.
(What the hell am I doing? I’m giving J.K Rowling a hard time on the internet…)
So, onto something a little less universally adored…
Twilight! That’ll do! Shortly after Warner Brothers pulled the ol’ saw-a-book-in-two magic trick with Deathly Hallows, Summit entertainment did the same with Breaking Dawn; the final book in the Twilight series.
Now, on the record, I’ve neither read the books or seen the films, so I’ll keep this short.
The critical reception of the film was less than great, reviewers called it ‘slow and joyless’ and many called it ‘unintentionally hilarious’.
Compared to the boy wizard story, Twilight‘s splitting gambit didn’t fair too well; a story that was pressed for content anyway, having that content stretched further made for sluggish watching. But here’s the thing; combined, Breaking Dawn part 1 and part 2 grossed over $1,500,000,000.
That’s a LOT of money.
Now how would you feel, as a producer,if someone said; “look, the WB did this great thing; they split their movie into two and made more than twice what they could have with one. We could tell a concise story or, OR, we just do that and go and buy an island somewhere”.
It’s going to be the island right?
Of course money is involved, and the majority of studios care only for the figures at the box office, but as fans, and as story-lovers, we shouldn’t be taking this lying down, because it’s detrimental to the things we love.
Though I’ve not seen Mockingjay Part 1, I have read The Hunger Games series. But I can tell you from just reading the book and seeing the version of the world that they’ve crafted in the 2 films prior that there isn’t two films worth of story in there. Sure, there’s the politics and the rebellion, but here’s the issue; your demographic isn’t particularly interested in that side of the story. Look at the bloody Star Wars prequels: Trade embargos? Treaties? Just give us the damn light sabres!
This shows in a lot of the criticism for Mockingjay Part 1, it seems to many to just be a prologue for a story that they’re kind of ready to tell any way. If any book in that series had the content to be split into two it would have been Catching Fire, but they just rushed the personal development at the beginning (And super drunk Haymitch) and leapt right into the arena, which itself didn’t get all of the attention it deserved, that clock thing was fantastic.
I know, if they had done that then we wouldn’t have seen much of the arena in Catching Fire Part 1 and would have had a boring, slow film that seemed like a warm up for the next part. (Sound Familiar?) But Part 2 would have been great, you could actually develop Finnick and the other characters instead of, whatever they actually did with them, I honestly forget.
But yeah, the point stands, it was a series that just didn’t need to be split. Stop splitting movies Hollywood, and Blomkamp, buddy, maybe just make a story that doesn’t have to be told over 4 years, just tell a good short one. As much as I love great big expanded universes, it’d be nice just to have a movie we can sit and watch without worrying when the next one’s out. Unless it’s absolutely necessary, like stretching a 300 page book into 9 hours worth of Hobbit-y CGI action.
Wait a second….
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Joe Strange, Editor/Sort-of-idiot