In this era of cinema, movie franchises are everywhere you look; one day or another, they all have to end. The trilogy seems to be the most common, popular and successful medium of movie series,’ and that’s probably because a trilogy as a whole (in parallel with a movie’s three-act-structure) offers a beginning, a middle and an end. In the first film, we are introduced to the characters, the world, and the story. In the second film, the stakes are raised, sacrifices are made, and the character is threatened. In the final film, the hero has to fight to protect his world, and emerges from the climax as a changed person (this all is simply following the Hero’s Journey). A trilogy offers normalcy as far as this goes, and it seems that there is one thing some studios are doing that is completely screwing this whole thing up: making a 2-part finale film. Is this trend of a two-part finale hurting movies based on books, or hurting movie series’ in general?
Of course, this is only really an issue when the films are based on books or other forms of source material, and have to add A LOT of content in order to fit the new runtime, which is double what it would be usually. There are only a dozen or so examples of films that have been split into multiple parts, one of them being the very successful and beloved Kill Bill Vol. 1 and Vol. 2. One reason that Kill Bill worked so well as a two-part story is because it was completely original; Quentin Tarantino didn’t need to follow any specific story or adhere to any guidelines or expectations, he could simply do what he wanted. This is not the case for Harry Potter, Twilight, The Hunger Games, or The Hobbit, which I will be focusing on here. In all four of these examples, at least one of the films in the finale lagged in pacing due to the drawn-out nature of the writing. Specifically, I’m speaking of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Each of these, I feel, is much slower in pace, less fascinating in story, and sort of just treads water for a portion of the film because it tries to be like the book (or, in The Hobbit‘s case, adds WAY TOO MUCH to the book’s story, and bogs itself down).
The biggest reason that none of these films work (well) is because they try to hard to be something else. Let’s say that the studio didn’t want to make a one-movie series finale simply and exclusively because of the story’s length, and not because of box office gross. The two-part finales of Harry Potter, Twilight and The Hunger Games could have been amazing 3-hour films. Instead, they were four-and-a-half-hour films that I don’t think I’ll revisit very often because they’re slower than they need to be. Saying that a 3-hour film won’t gross as much at the box office as a 2-hour film is a flawed argument because fans of films don’t care about length as much as quality. Just look at the highest grossing films of all time: Avatar and Titanic, and if you’re one of the people who say “no, no, with inflation taken into account, actually Gone with the Wind is the highest grossing,” then take a gander at that runtime too. My point here is that people will see GOOD films, even if they’re long films. A trilogy like The Lord of the Rings killed at the box office because positive word of mouth is the best form of advertisement, and it will get nearly anybody into a theater. This year, word of mouth killed movies like Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad, and yes, although they made a buttload of money, their first to second week drop-offs were hideous, and that is all from bad word-of-mouth surrounding the quality of film. In fact, now, people are trying to publicize the Ultimate Cut of Batman v Superman because it’s better… and hey, it’s longer, too.
The point I’m trying to get at with all of this is that studios need not adhere to expectations by trying to give fans more content, when it’s not the best content that it can be. People love quality content more than simply content in general. The Hobbit is a great example of this: turning a small book into a 10-hour trilogy by adding a bunch of nonsense didn’t work, and keeping as much of the book in the movie adaptation doesn’t work either. There’s a whole ‘nother essay I can write about source material, but the main thing is: if you want the source material, read the source material. An adaptation is just that, it’s not a direct translation. Sometimes, that can work such as in The Lord of the Rings, but other times, just make good movies, and then you’ll make the most money, and everybody will be happy. What do you think? As always, thanks for reading and I’ll see you soon!