I just finished watching The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 last night, which I found perfectly okay, yet agreed with what everyone else was saying that it was mostly filler, leading up to the Capitol-invading finale where the real action happens.
Splitting a final installment in half is a trend recently, and we’ve seen it in everything from Harry Potter to Twilight as a way “better tell the story” by not having to cut down large books. In some of these cases, it does sort of make sense, as the final Harry Potter book was more than three times as long as the first one, and cutting so much out would really hurt the story.
But for Mockingjay? The final book in the trilogy is literally the exact same length as Catching Fire, practically to the page. It’s a story that really did not need to be split at all, at least not for dramatic reasons, and the result is nothing but a cash grab.
And yet, I can’t blame the studio for doing this. Not really. If people will pay for two halves of a movie, I suppose that’s what you have to sell. And yet, I really do think it often creates one sub-par film nearly always leading into a better finale. I can’t help but think there’s a better way around this.
Almost always the two halves of these type of movies are shot at the same time, meaning it’s usually not a matter of a movie being released and then them having to go back and finish shooting the second part.
As such, I’m wondering how many devoted fans (and there are plenty of devoted fans for this type of series), would simply pay double for their ticket price, and sit through a five hour movie in order to watch the entire story all together, all at once.
This idea struck me when I saw the first Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1. The movie ended, and I was like “that’s it?” I would totally have stayed put for another two and a half hours to watch the second half, perhaps with just a quick 15 minute breather for a bathroom break. I have to believe I’m not alone, but perhaps I’m overestimating the free time and patience of the movigoing public. It can be hard enough to carve hour 3-3.5 hours for a movie between driving and previews and the film itself. How much harder would 5-6 hours be for some? They may stay home altogether.
I do have a back-up plan in mind for this scenario, one where the second half of the movie is released a week or two after the first one, rather than six months to a year. I have to imagine it would be possible to finish both halves of the film to make this kind of release happen, and I think it would energize sales of both as audiences raced to complete the two halves of the puzzle, knowing that they would be able to view the full story within one to two weeks, or at least the same month. It can be jarring to see a movie that almost always ends on an anti-climax, and then have to pick it up six months later.
Perhaps I just don’t know the industry well enough to understand why neither of these things are possible, but I do worry about this becoming more and more of a trend. In video gaming, fans always complain about being nickel and dimed for DLC that adds things to games that should have been there in the first place, but now some of these movie series are outright doubling how much they cost to watch because they’re splitting stories in half when they really don’t need to. I don’t think this is widespread enough yet to be truly be called an epidemic, and only very, very confident series can do this, but still, I’m tired of every major series finale being split into a “to be continued” storyline that spans six months or more.
What do you think? Do you not mind two-parters? Do you wish you can watch them back to back, or at least closer together like me?
[Photos via Warner Bros.]