The Last Picture Show…Part 2
Forget debating the merits of sequels; ignore prequels and remakes, heck we can even discount the reboots and the spin off films, it would appear that the latest trend in Hollywood is to split your film into two.
This new fad comes squarely from the literary crowd. Harry Potter, Twilight and now The Hunger Games have all given us a series of books, translated onto film and then one of their number has been split into two films. Shameless commercialism? I think so. But reserving judgement, there must be some logical reason behind it. Given the book background of all three film series there must be something at work…other than the exploitation of hapless children who will have to see the cinematic version of their beloved tale.
The three films which have visited or are due to visit Splitsville, Tennessee have one thing in common; they all represent the final book in the series of their respective literary works. Perhaps we are on to something here. So in order to preserve the integrity of the story, to capture all the elements of the book, the film director couldn’t possible chop out pivotal moments in order to make the film a palatable 2 hours and 30 minutes. That must be it. It still smacks of getting two cinema box offices out of essentially the same story. We’ll continue the hunt.
Well maybe there is so much material in the final books of each series that in order to do justice to the story, more screen time is needed. The sheer volume of the work requires a film split into two. Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight clocked in at 498 pages, New Moon was 562, Eclipse was 629 and Breaking Dawn was 754. There we have it, “Breaking Dawn Part 1 and 2” needed to be so because of the hefty word count. But hang on, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was 766 pages long, Half Blood Price was 607 and so was The Deathly Hallows. “Order of the Phoenix” and “Half Blood Prince” weren’t split into two and they were the same length and longer than Deathly Hallows. Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games clocks in at 374 pages, Catching Fire at 391 while the soon to be split “Mockingjay” comes in at 390. So the reason for splitting the films cannot be for the sheer numbers of words on the pages.
The plot thickens even further when we consider another literary piece which has been relayed into film. The Hobbit, unlike its Lord of the Rings siblings, is one book. Yet we are being forced to endure three films of extended dialogue, endless running over hilltops and tiny insignificant subplots drawn from the furthest reaches of J.R.R Tolkien’s work in order to somehow justify three films. Here there is no way that the sheer volume of content can be used to justify the splitting of one book into three films which will surely all clock in at a good 3 hours each when Peter Jackson has released his extended versions in a few years time.
An often quoted excuse is that the splitting of films into two parts is to try and satisfy fans, fans that just don’t want to say goodbye to their favourite glittery moody vampire, or facially scarred wizard. However, surely, given the success of the books long before the film versions were even considered…the true fans know what is going to happen? They know the stories are going to have to end. Granted a few people will watch the films and then read the books only to find naturally, that the books were better, but still all good things come to an end right – who would be naive enough to keep wishing the characters onwards?
There is one film, severed into two parts which works. That is Quentin Tarantino’s martial arts, spaghetti western hybrid “Kill Bill Vol 1 and 2”. While not drawing from a book, the story is inspired by a character created in a graphic novel. Yet, while most agree that “Vol 2” is by far the weaker film of the pairing, the film had to be a duo. To have condensed all the blood, gore, action and stylised dialogue into just one 2 hour film would have ruined the spectacle and the flow of the piece. Instead having a fizzing and popping “Vol 1” followed by a broodier Vol 2 worked. Tarantino’s cartoon book approaching, flicking through the story’s timeline and melding different cinematic styles united the two films and neither suffered for it. One might argue that “Kill Bill Vol 1 and 2” are effectively two very separate films but they are drawn from the same material and chopped into two for artistic reasons.
As a fan of The Hunger Games books, I sit and watch the films appear on the cinema screen with trepidation. While I have enjoyed both “The Hunger Games” and “Catching Fire” films neither has matched the imagination of my mind. Catering to a child audience in order to get bums on seats and money in the box office tills will always have been the priority. Have the films suffered as a result of this…arguably yes. Did they push the envelope enough…no. So it is with utter fear that I look towards “Mockingjay Part 1 and 2”…of course I’ll go and see them both…but am I happy about the money grabbing scheme I’ve been lured into…no.