The Problem With Multi-Part Movies

In the beginning we had movies. Sequels were few and far between. Then things began to change and we started to see more and more sequels. That wasn’t a bad thing at first. It allowed for a world to expand. It allowed for new adventures with our favorite characters. However, we reached a fever pitch, when we started to get sequels coming close to double digits. Worse was the sheer number of movies with sequels. We saw movies that had no business getting sequels coming back for another journey. Then it happened, sequels weren’t quite enough. Just making a sequel wasn’t enough for a studio that wanted to maximize profits. Instead, we started to see studios breaking up final installments in series. Why have one payday when you could have two? That’s what the studio hoped for.

Part 1 Harry Potter Deathly Hallows (5)Most recently Mockingjay Part 1 was released to the tune of an opening weekend with $123M. That was a drop from it’s predecessor Catching Fire. There are some people who believe this may be a sign of franchise fatigue. To others this is an effect of Mockingjay Part 1 just not being as good as Catching Fire (which is 100% true in my opinion). However, I believe the actual culprit for the drop and the reason it didn’t make nearly as much as its two predecessors (less over $25 million each) is the fact that it is one of the dreaded two parters isn’t the end. From all the data I’ve looked at The part adjacent to the final installment traditionally does less than the last (Deathly Hallows, Twilight, The Hobbit). There are only a few historical films that have done this so far, but the trend to continue this seems to be emerging and increasing.

Here’s the problem with these multi-part movies, they are only the beginning of the end. Rather than giving us a full story, we are delivered half a story in the most fulfilling way possible. However the term Part 1 tacked on to the film automatically indicates to us that we aren’t going to receive a full story. Even more distressing is the fact that Part 1 and Part 2 (Part 3 as well in the case of the Hobbit) indicate an imbalance in story. As much as I love Deathly Hallows Part 1 and 2, the first film is a gut punch as we see what the trio has to deal with; while the second was a large climactic battle that kept the tension high nearly the entire movie. Mockingjay seems to be taking this route as well with Part 1 dealing with the more emotional elements and Part 2 being more action oriented.

breaking_dawn_part_1I believe a large part of the problem is simply that we are being delivered what is part of the end, but isn’t the whole end. Thus by it’s very nature will scare people away who would rather see the story as a whole. For many people this means sitting out Part 1 and waiting until it’s available on home video and then catching Part 2. Why? Like I mentioned before, it’s because we aren’t getting the whole story. People don’t like cliffhangers. People push through cliffhangers as they await the ending to whatever was left open ended. Thus Part 1 of any final installment is going to feel less complete by it’s very nature.

The problem we as the audience face is the studios inclination to continue this practice. It gets them two pay days rather than one. On a money making franchise this can mean additional money to support smaller films, which is not a bad thing. The studios can always fall back to the logic by allowing two movies, the story doesn’t have to cut as many threads from the story. You are made to feel like you are getting a more faithful reproduction. If The Hobbit is any indication that isn’t true. Yes, you get a number of scenes that likely would have landed on the cutting room floor if it was a single film. However, multiple films also need to fill in additional screen time to fill a supersized run time.

Do you enjoy part 1 of two part films?

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2 thoughts on “The Problem With Multi-Part Movies

  1. Well it depends if breaking up the story across multiple films allows for the most faithful adaption of a novel than I am all for multi-part films. In addition, the Star Wars franchise is really designed as a multi-film story hence the “Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back” as opposed to just “The Empire Strikes Back”. Even though each film is self contained as far as having a beginning, middle and end, each film is also one part of a larger whole.

    The biggest two part film on the horizon is The Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 & 2, however most likely each film will stand on it’s own. Part 1 will most likely see Thanos get his hands on the Infinity Stones with the various heroes trying to stop him, whereas Part 2 will see Thanos wielding the Infinity Gauntlet with the heroes having to find a way to overcome his new God-like powers. In addition, both Captain Marvel and Inhumans come out between the two parts of Infinity War which would imply that both of those films take place during the events of Infinity War.

    • Here’s where I’m going to get nerdy. An -ology (duology, trilogy, quadrology, etc) is designed to each story has a beginning middle and an end, but each story contributes to a larger overarching story with a beginning middle and end. Star Wars thus far is two trilogies. The problem with Mockingjay is that it’s taking a story with a beginning middle and end breaking it in half and then having to create a structure that fits.

      Avengers: Infinity War should be interesting. I have a feeling it’s going to be a doulogy with proper beginning middle end for each.

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