It started with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Filmmakers decided that to do book adaptations justice, they needed to start splitting their movies into two parts. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I was hopeful about this change.
At the time, I was still really upset at Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – yes, I know everyone else loves that movie – for leaving out details that I thought were important, and with two movies, all the details could be included. Unfortunately, while I actually really liked Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1, it was Part 2 that fell short for me.
But the movie industry took notice, and several movies have been made since Deathly Hallows, like Twilight: Breaking Dawn, The Hobbit series and the upcoming The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, that have been split into two parts in order to supposedly do the adaptations justice.
But do these movies really succeed? Or do they simply act as money makers for Hollywood? Let’s examine them one at a time.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
I’m a sucker for character moments, so Part 1 really came together for me, particularly through the explorations of Harry, Ron and Hermione’s camping trip/Horcrux search and Bill and Fleur’s wedding. We got to inhabit the world more than in previous films, simply because we were given more time to do so when the main action sequence – the Battle of Hogwarts – took place in Part 2.
But this is also the problem with the way Deathly Hallows is split. So much of Part 2 is simply the Battle of Hogwarts that the movie suffers from a lack of substance. Would it have been possible to do the entire story of Deathly Hallows in one movie, however? I’ll never be sure.
Twilight: Breaking Dawn
I’m going to be completely honest and say that I was forced by friends to see the Twilight movies, but I never actually saw Breaking Dawn – Part 2. Why? Because while I found Twilight, New Moon, and Eclipse watchable, I was bored all the way through Breaking Dawn – Part 1 with the wedding toasts being the only highlight.
Deathly Hallows has a huge battle sequence at the end, and I know Breaking Dawn – Part 2 has a battle sequence at the end too. But the other Twilight movies had major battle sequences that didn’t require the films to be split in two. So why this one?
Yes, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was a fine movie, but I’m still not sure why The Hobbit required not one extra part, but two. It absolutely mystifies me that The Lord of the Rings series, each book of which has to be at least twice as long as The Hobbit, was made as one movie for each book while The Hobbit was split up.
But the industry learned from previous films that this could be done, so they did it. I’m sure that The Lord of the Rings movies had problems and missed out on a lot of events in the books, but they must have done something right to each be nominated for – The Return of the King even won – an Academy Award for Best Picture, a feat neither The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey nor The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug achieved.
As a book lover, of course, I would like for every detail of a book to end up on the screen, but as a screenwriter, I know that books and movies are different entities. What works in a book doesn’t always work in a movie and vice versa. The entire point of an adaptation is to take what works in the book and add to that what will make it work as a movie.
When you try to remain too faithful to the books, as movies with multiple parts often try to do, the movies simply don’t work as movies but more like books put on film, which is admirable but not what adaptation should be about.
Maybe the upcoming The Hunger Games: Mockingjay will prove me wrong on this point, but if Mockingjay, which is roughly the same length as the other two books needed two movies, why didn’t The Hunger Games or Catching Fire?