The latest film in the Divergent series, ‘Allegiant’, has left a lot of viewers confused. It shares the title with the final book in Veronica Roth’s young adult trilogy, but yet you have a look at IMDB and there’s another Divergent film set for release in 2017, with the entirely made up title ‘Ascendant‘. Having seen Allegiant recently, it doesn’t feel like half a film as much as some other split films did (looking at you Hunger Games!), and with a quick glance at the Wikipedia plot summary for the book (spoiler warning), you’ll soon find out that the plot of Ascendant is approximately one paragraph long if any of it is to be based on the final book in the series. This got me thinking about the current trend of splitting one book adaptation into two films, so I thought I’d get some thoughts into a blog for you. Would love to know your thoughts on this topic also, so drop a comment at the bottom or tweet me!
Back in 2010, the first part of the final Harry Potter film, The Deathly Hallows was released, kicking off the trend of splitting books into two films. Twilight’s Breaking Dawn then followed suit in 2011, The Hunger Games’ Mockingjay in 2014, and finally the Divergent series’ Allegiant in 2016, to name just some of the notable ones.
Let’s start with The Deathly Hallows. At roughly 607 pages, it was a pretty weighty book, but not the longest in the series; Order of the Phoenix wins that prize at 766 pages long. Whilst devout Potter fans were always calling out for more content and for every page of their beloved books to be transferred to film, the films up to this point certainly had not done a bad job in terms of how faithfully they had been adapted.
The decision to split the final Harry Potter book into two films seems to me to be an entirely monetary decision. The first part is undoubtedly weaker than the second, didn’t perform as well at the box office, and is really just the teaser trailer ahead of the feature film which is the final conclusion.
A friend argued recently that if you love a franchise that much, you’d like to see more films, so splitting one film into two parts is a good thing as it keeps the suspense and excitement going and gives the fans more content to enjoy. I take this on board, and if it were the case that splitting a film did greater justice to the book source material, I’d be more ok with it, but for me, the split seems to make it more obvious that they’re just trying to fill time for the sole purpose of making more cash, rather than doing it with the motive of trying to make a better film for the fans.
Comparatively shorter books such as Mockingjay (390 pages), and Allegiant (526 pages) have absolutely no business being split into two and have resulted in weaker films as a result when compared to the others in the series. A book should be easily adapted into a 120-150 minute film; when stretched over 240-300 minutes, the cracks start to show and we’re left with either two average films, or one good/great and one average/bad film, and very rarely two great films.
The first part of a split film is undeniably a tricky one. There has to be enough action and excitement to make it a film that can stand alone, but yet it also needs to save some excitement to make you come back for the second part. The carrot is very much being dangled in front of us and we’re allowed a nibble, but we don’t get the full snack until a year or two later. This is something I find incredibly frustrating!
Let’s look at a slightly different side of the things and think about the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit as an example. The Lord of the Rings books are chock full of content (just over 1000 pages in the entire trilogy if you only count the “story” content), and Peter Jackson’s film trilogy pushes 557 minutes in total, but there are three films and three books. The long runtime was needed to do justice to the source material, and yes the films are long, but for the epic scale of the story, it’s acceptable.
Now if this trilogy was released today I’d be willing to bet any money Return of the King would be split into two parts; personally something I would find incredibly disjointing, as I much prefer to view a film as a whole rather than watch one part and then wait for another.
The Hobbit book (322 pages) is shorter than any of the Lord of the Rings books but yet Peter Jackson decided to turn it into 3 films with a combined runtime of 474 minutes and to this day I still don’t know why. Let’s do some quick maths here, the Lord of the Rings book trilogy has 678 pages more than The Hobbit, but yet the film’s only have a mere 83 minutes more in their runtime than The Hobbit trilogy. This is quite simply, MADNESS.
Now I don’t hate on The Hobbit films as much as some people do; I think the first one is great and that they decline in quality over the course of the films with filler becoming more evident as they progress. This is a classic example of money winning over story, and a move which was completely unnecessary in my eyes. Rather than one good, one average and one bad film, would it not have been better to make one 3 hour epic or perhaps two 120 minute films and have stayed truer to the source material?
In the book to film adaptation world, there is however some light at the end of the tunnel, as the guys behind the widely successful The Maze Runner series, has made the decision not to split the final part into two films. Well, for the moment anyway! Arguably this series has not made as much money as some of its other young adult counterparts, or maybe people are finally realising that stretching a 300-400 page novel over two films is perhaps not a good idea after all. It will be interesting to see whether this decision influences others that will follow, and personally I would welcome it.
So where do you stand on this topic? Would love to know your thoughts so please send them my way, either in the comments, or send me a quick tweet at @sarah_buddery.