WELL, THAT HAPPENED: Mockingjay I: Full price, half the movie

By on November 25, 2014

Jackson Hole, Wyoming – The third film in The Hunger Games series has arrived, and unfortunately, we’re only being allowed to see half of it. Unlike the Harry Potter series, The Hunger Games is a young adult trilogy consisting of three books, each one practically the same length. When Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the seventh and final book in that series, was adapted into two movies, many fans were thrilled. After all, the longest novel, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, a whopping 870 pages, was condensed into a film that lasted 139 minutes. With the Deathly Hallows adaptation, it seemed nearly impossible for a single film to cover all the important events in the book. As a result, there was very little outrage.

Of course you needed two films to highlight all the action. Plus, there was a logical break in the novel, a clear moment when Harry and his friends had achieved what they needed to achieve, and were ready to face their ultimate foe: Lord Voldemort.

Filming both Deathly Hallows movies required a $250 million budget, and they grossed a combined total of $2.4 billion. That is a huge, huge return. Of course, Harry Potter was a rare international phenomenon that launched the young adult book-to-film adaptation trend we have today.

The next film series to split its final chapter into two films was the forever-loathed Twilight saga. The fourth book in its series, Breaking Dawn, jumped on the Harry Potter bandwagon. Author Stephenie Meyers argued that Breaking Dawn needed two films, because “the book is just so long!”

The third book, Eclipse, was 629 pages, and was adapted into a 123-minute film. Breaking Dawn, at 754 pages, was ultimately split into two films totaling 232 minutes. Having read Breaking Dawn, I didn’t feel like two films were necessary to cover the whole thing. If every author had their say, I’m sure they would argue that any adaptation of their work needed three films so nothing gets left out.

Now, let’s move on to the current young adult box-office buster: The Hunger Games. When the first two films, both starring Hollywood’s “It Girl” Jennifer Lawrence, debuted, they made an incredible amount of money — a combined $1.5 billion in ticket sales. From a monetary standpoint, it seemed only logical to split Mockingjay, a book of only 390 pages, into two separate films.

One rabid message board commenter named Alice was irate.

“I love The Hunger Games, and Mockingjay is a good book — the best of the three — but NO WAY should it be split in two. There is barely enough material for one.”

I had to agree with her. Having read the book, splitting Mockingjay into two films made as much sense to me as Peter Jackson splitting The Hobbit into three.

I managed to see Mockingjay: Part One this past weekend and when the film ended (after an unsatisfying climax that didn’t even involve the main character), the audience let out a collective groan. We had all paid $9 to see half a movie, and wouldn’t be able to see the conclusion until November 2015. While the film had its exciting moments, I couldn’t help leaving the theater thinking that I’d been duped into seeing a two-hour trailer for the next film.

Unfortunately, Hollywood can get away with this trend because, as I’ve mentioned, film adaptations of books for young adults make exorbitant amounts of money. The producers can count on fans of the books to immediately shell out their cash on opening weekend, because the audience will be invested no matter what.

After seeing Interstellar and Birdman, I hated how simple of a movie Mockingjay: Part One is. I’m no film expert, but I can tell when a director is just phoning it in.

Truthfully, the only thing a director of a book adaptation needs to do is showcase events that are in the script. If the audience, made up of fans familiar with the book, recognizes events from the book portrayed on the big screen, the film is a success. Adaptations have often been criticized for venturing too far from their source material. The Golden Compass film is a perfect example of book fans retaliating against Hollywood’s creative version of their favorite stories.

Let’s just hope we don’t have to endure Fifty Shades of Grey 3: Part One in the future. As if we would endure the first one, anyway.


About Andrew Munz

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