The Split-Book Movie Phenomenon
In the past four years there has been an interesting trend within book-to-movie adaptations of splitting a book into a two-part movie. Usually, this is done to the last installation of a series. Beginning with the split of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows for the screen, we’ve seen many YA science fiction series’ split, from Twilight to The Hunger Games. As a Potterhead, I was excited when I learned that the Deathly Hallows would be split into two. I’d read the books and knew that splitting the book into two movies would allow for more character development and less scene skipping than had happened in the previous movie adaptations. As the finale of a franchise with seven installations, it made sense to me. However, due to its success, it opened the door for many other YA movie-adaptations to capitalize on the trend, sometimes for worse.
Obviously, it is extremely lucrative to expand what was originally three books into four movies. Fans of the story will undoubtedly see however many movies studios decide to produce, and people just seeing the movies will most likely see the sequels in order not to miss the entire story. But as a book purist, I feel like the cash-grab can sometimes negatively effect the story.
The Twilight Saga was the first franchise to copy Harry Potter, by splitting Breaking Dawn into two parts. When the announcement came that it would be split, I was still in my Twilight phase, and it still confused me. I couldn’t understand why there needed to be two parts to the story. It wasn’t nearly as dense as Harry Potter, and really just ended up dragging the two parts along in a way that felt unnecessary, adding, as the Twilight movies usually did, two unnecessary fight scenes, I guess to make it more exciting.
The same thing happened with The Hunger Games, a story I love. I just recently saw the last installation, Mockingjay Part 2, and while I thought the movie was amazing and well done, it still felt unnecessary. While the overall tone and acting of the Hunger Games movies are really well done and consistent, I think my least favorite movie of the series is Mockingjay Part 1. It was a good movie, but it dragged a lot in the middle. It’s not that I needed back to back action at all times, but there were moments where the movie lagged in a way that it wouldn’t have were it to just be one movie adaptation rather than two. There were weird added scenes that felt unnecessary when there was already plenty of material to go with. Maybe I would have been complaining about all the things they skipped were it to just be one movie all together, but I’m already complaining about the things they skipped or changed. As a book purist, that’s more or less what I do. While I don’t feel like any of the Hunger Games movies were even close to being terrible, I worry about it if only for the capitalistic nature of it. I think of the movies that have split their finale into two, The Hunger Games has done it the best, but that doesn’t mean that now every YA dystopian or sci-fi story should do it.
Granted, there are some valid reasons for splitting a book, and I felt that Harry Potter did it for those reasons. The Deathly Hallows was an extremely long and detailed book with a lot of characters and moving parts despite largely being told only from Harry’s point of view*. If I’m being perfectly honest, I would have loved them to do it for another installation in the story, Order of the Phoenix. I won’t get into my rant about the problems with the Order of the Phoenix adaptation right now, but I feel like that movie was an example of why splitting movies sometimes is necessary. I guess what I’m saying is that splitting adaptations should only be done when absolutely necessary.
*My only real beef with the Deathly Hallows two-parter is that they have all this extra time and still didn't get Dumbledore's story right, but that's another rant for another time.
However, I doubt the trend is going to end. As of right now, Divergent’s last installation, Allegiant will be split into two parts. It’s been said that The Maze Runner will not split its ending, but who knows they might change their mind. And with the coming of more YA dystopian series being adapted into movies (I just saw a preview for The 5th Wave in theaters before Mockingjay Part 2), I have a feeling this phenomenon won’t be going away soon.
I implore you all, however, to look at The Hobbit as the grossest offender of this trend. While not YA, and not split in the same way, The Hobbit is one book that was turned into a trilogy. While I love the visuals of the movies, and haven’t been able to get through a Lord of the Rings book yet, it was clear to me when watching The Battle of the Five Armies that the writers of the story were just making things up at that point. There’s a difference between the writing of the original authors and the movie-adapters; one is very intentional about what they put into their story while the other is just adapting it and when they add things that weren’t necessarily in the original story, they run the risk of diluting it. This has always been my personal struggle with the Hunger Games movies, as there are very poignant commentaries on society (while exaggerated in the form of Panem) that get left by the wayside or not fully developed in the movie adaptations, virtually changing the point of the movies. While I think that the first installation did a pretty good job of sticking to that commentary, as the movies went on it felt like a part of that was lost in the writing, especially in the Mockingjay two-parter.
Either way, I feel like this post is really just an excuse for us to make all book adaptations television shows. While some things might be changed (like in Game of Thrones) we at least get more of the plot, and better character development without the adapters just seeming greedy. Who’s for a television adaptation of Harry Potter?