When Will It Stop? Enough With the Two-Part Finale Quadrilogy Fad
by Alex Billington
November 26, 2014
Hollywood loves repeating itself. This week alone we're getting new trailers for brand new Star Wars and Jurassic Park movies, like it's the 90s all over again. But there is a new trend that is becoming increasingly frustrating - the two-part split finale of film-to-book series like Twilight, Harry Potter and now Hunger Games. With the first half of Mockingjay, the finale of The Hunger Games, now playing in theaters (my full review) the unsettling feeling of "why?!" has grown in me. This film once again proves that the quality of the work diminishes in exchange for a desire to make more money on a franchise that's temporarily popular. When will this fad end? Because it needs to stop. Don't Hollywood executives already own enough yachts?
To properly dive into this editorial, I wanted to look at where this fad came from, how we even got to this point. Along with The Hunger Games: Mockingjay and The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, there are a few other recent series being turned into a quadrilogy. For years we were all satisfied with just a trilogy - Star Wars, The Matrix, Lord of the Rings, The Dark Knight, everything big that made tons of money was just a trilogy. Sure, maybe they'll make another trilogy (or more sequels) in a few years. But now it seems to be about squeezing out every penny by extending one story into multiple movies - when it's totally unnecessary. Aside from The Hobbit, the Mockingjay finale feels way too dragged out. And the quality of the film suffers.
Not only did Mockingjay earn less at the box office than the first two movies on opening weekend (though still the biggest opening of the year), but the average scores/ratings have dropped down from the first two (64 vs 67 & 75 via Metacritic). The loudest discussions I heard during that weekend were "why?" Why do we have to go see Part 1 when everyone is saying it's only half a movie? My impression is that opening weekend earnings were down because not as many people want to pay to see half of a movie. They'd rather wait until next year when both parts are out together (of course we expect back-to-back showings then, just hold out).
Frustration with Hollywood's decision to split a one-part finale into two-parts is spreading from movie fans to regular audiences. Of course I'm not the only one complaining, evident by this tweet from Duncan Jones:
There is only one good reason to split the end of a trilogy into two parts; Because you want to buy a big-ass yacht.
— Duncan Jones (@ManMadeMoon) November 21, 2014
Is it really all about the money? Why are Hollywood executives ignoring the complaints and doing it their way, when even the fans want one movie? There's no clear answer here, other than yes it is all about the money, and perhaps that's all they can see. But it becomes a problem when the quality starts to drop, and that was certainly the case with Mockingjay. There were many scenes that felt like added expositional fluff that the writers had to fit in otherwise it would be a 90 minute movie. And if you split a grand finale into two parts, they better not be 90 minutes each. Fans want their money worth. Unfortunately, it felt like this never built to anything exciting and was only leading to the second half, which we'll have to go see next year.
But is giving them half a movie with strained plotting actually giving audiences their money's worth? I don't think so. Then again, money talks, and they are still making millions. And by the end, they'll be sitting on at least $1 billion earned off of The Hunger Games. But I'm worried that money is going to make this fad turn into a trend which will turn into the norm. And those execs will get another yacht or two, and we'll suffer through double-dip sequels that could've been better. But who am I to complain? I don't work for the movie studios, and I did enjoy Mockingjay, just not as much as the first two. So when did this madness start?
As far as I can tell, this most recent trend all began with the Alien Quadrilogy box set from 2003, which was where that buzzword originated from. In all truth, "quadrilogy" is not even a real word. The real word for a series of four items, following up "trilogy", is actually "tetralogy". Hollywood didn't get into the split finale, however, until Harry Potter decided to finish up with a split two-parter after six movies. Around the same time that was announced (in early 2008), Guillermo del Toro (and Peter Jackson) were working on figuring out how to turn The Hobbit (just one book) into multiple movies, and Twilight was starting to head to its conclusion with a billion dollar haul by extending the fourth book into two films. On Deathly Hallows:
"I swear to you it was born out of purely creative reasons," producer David Heyman told the LA Times. "Unlike every other book, you cannot remove elements of this book."
That quote comes direct from the LA Times original story about the Harry Potter finale being split in two. The article is packed with quotes from everyone in the production defending the split, including author J.K. Rowling, with all of them claiming it was important to keep everything from the book. If that is the real reason, then why is it just this book that can't have anything cut? Is it just the prestige of the "finale"? It doesn't make sense. And my least favorite Harry Potter movies? Part 1 and 2 of Deathly Hallows, both were a big let down after some amazing movies before. This seems to be the trend - the split always results in a drop in quality, despite quotes defending the choice for creative reasons. However, it doesn't really pay off.
Editor's Note: I was reminded (thanks to my friend Cory Everett) of another key split that set a precedent a few years before Harry Potter split its finale. Quentin Tarantino's double bill of Kill Bill, Part 1 and 2, was one of the first mainstream split stories organized by Harvey Weinstein (so do we blame him?). The first half of Kill Bill hit theaters in 2003, and the second another year later; while the original uncut "Whole Bloody Affair" version was only shown in 2011. I remember going to theaters twice to see both movies, and had no complaints, but then again that was a one-off story that wrapped up neatly in two movies - not four.
Looking back through cinematic history, there have been occasional quadrilogy series: Rocky, The Karate Kid, Jaws (sort of), but they're mostly sequels that continue through fourth and sometimes fifth or sixth films. Or sometimes, after the trilogy, they reinvent the series and continue on (kind of like how Jurassic World could be considered the fourth movie in the Jurassic Park series). There's an entire Wikipedia page listing movie series with four entries, but this really seems to be a recent trend at studios. A trend solidified because of financial success in the long run, and how much that outweighs the complaints in the short run.
Here's a few other examples of series where the fourth movie, even if it is just another sequel, seems to be the worst: Indiana Jones (Nuke the Fridge, anyone?); Underworld, Ice Age, Shrek, Spy Kids, Superman (The Quest for Peace, really?) even Transformers. On the flip side, there's [REC] and Rambo which perhaps represent a quadrilogy that ain't so bad. But two series out of, well, everything else? I'll say it again - this needs to stop. But will it stop anytime soon? (I doubt it.) Don't forget that Disney/Pixar just put Toy Story 4 into development, and James Cameron's Avatar has three more back-to-back sequels on the way. At least none of them are split two-part finales, but I fully expect we'll see more of those in the next few years, too.
So what can be done about this? How can we, as moviegoers, make our voices heard? If anything, opting to ignore Mockingjay - Part 1 was the right decision. Showing the studios they can't make as much from a split (even though I'm sure that won't matter once Part 2 hits in late 2015 and makes a bajillion dollars) is the best way to make them listen. Other than that? We just have to suffer through it. The studios will follow the money, and as long as people keep paying for tickets to Part 1 and 2, they'll keep making them that way. I've always hoped that Hollywood would learn and improve, but it seems like they're still addicted to figuring out ways to trick people into paying twice. Because when it comes to "success", box office is still all that matters.
Though here's the truth - I honestly wouldn't mind if it was worth it, if there were actually "purely creative reasons" for it, but that doesn't seem to be the case. Time and time again, the ravenous desire for more and more money has lead to results where creativity and quality are squelched. It's not often that a story already told perfectly in one book really needs to be stretched across two (or more) movies, and maybe that is the difference between Hollywood and the book publishing industry. When it comes to making money, it's not actually about the story any more, instead it's about how they'll convince moviegoers to keep buying tickets no matter what "creative" choices they make. I'd just like a ride (or three) on one of their yachts sometime.
What do YOU think about the Mockingjay split? Are you hoping this fad doesn't continue on?
Reader Feedback - 41 Comments
It will end when the core fanbases of these books protest the "Part One" installments by not going to the theater. So basically, it's not going to end.
JDubs on Nov 26, 2014
CoolwhipSpecial on Nov 26, 2014
Im on board, Did not see CF1 for this very reason. I will not reward their cash grab with my money.
Brian Sleider on Nov 26, 2014
I loved Deathly Hallows Part 1 & 2. Favorite book, favorite movies. Great stuff in both.
xShineyxDiverx on Nov 26, 2014
This is the best example of why they do it, I loved those books and movies.. Its the best way to A. Make money. B. delve into book a little deeper. C. satisfy audiences.
Jon Odishaw on Nov 26, 2014
Yeh that first movie was a long hiking trip with a touch of camping, boring as shit.
Brian Sleider on Nov 26, 2014
I thoroughly enjoyed it.
xShineyxDiverx on Nov 26, 2014
Fair enough, book was great but thought the two films were utterly crap
OniLink97 on Mar 20, 2016
I felt the best bits in Mockingjay 1 were the stuff that were in one way or another changed from the book by Francis and his team, and the inverse for the weakest bits aside one or two exceptions. There was stuff either added or changed, but never taken away. If anything this shows to me anyway that if Francis DID have to make this into one film (and I hope he does sometime down the line do a 2h30+ if needs be combined cut or something), he'd have to make changes to the book's story in the first half of the book - his changes would be for the betterment of Mockingjay as a FILM (emphasis on the word film, because frankly so many of the fans are defending the bits that people criticise for legitimate reason because "book faithfulness" and I'm not talking about the fans accusing people for "not getting it" thematically when 1. the film is well done thematically IMO and 2. that's not the issue 3. not all slow paced talky thematically charged films have to be a slog to get through) - unfortunately the core fanbase will be up in arms and it feels to me with these book adaptations they're tying too hard to please them. Theatrically anyway, I don't think Lionsgate would have let Francis do a TDKR/Interstellar-length Mockingjay film - which is another issue why this is pretty much unavoidable. At least Francis is considering the idea of doing away with Part 1 end credits and going straight to Part 2 during opening night marathons.
Anton Volkov on Nov 26, 2014
I find this to be a complicated issue. For example, creatively, I had no problems with splitting Deathly Hallows. I don't like that that has become the trend, splitting novels into multiple films when it is not needed. But beyond that, I'm not a fan of the 'part 1, part 2' naming scheme. For example, they split the Hobbit into THREE films, and the 2nd even has a full on cliffhanger ending. But for me, it tastes better going down because they at least had the dignity/artistry to NOT put a blatant 'part 1, part 2' subtitle on the films. I HATE that, it just displays such a lack of creativity. Being lazy enough to label something 'part 1' with a 'part 2' on the way, you might as well call it 'cash grab', because it openly advertises that this is a film not meant to exist on its own merits. That is why I pray that Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 and Part 2 get re-named to "Infinity Gauntlet" and "Infinity War", just to make each film feel like a whole, like its own story. Hopefully Marvel Studios will learn from the backlash.
Chris Groves on Nov 26, 2014
Mocking Jay is easily the worst book but I enjoy part 1 better than the two previous movies. I wish they would release part two in the summer instead of next thanksgiving but have no problem with them splitting the book in two. My opinion might change if the next movie is horrible but because of the longer run time they were able to add things that were not in the book like the rescue mission.
doasis23 on Nov 26, 2014
Mockingjay was horrid
Chandler Scaringia on Dec 29, 2014
When will it stop? When audiences stop paying money to watch these films. Don't expect that to happen anytime soon.
Trey Wilson on Nov 26, 2014
It's kind of hilarious how this is suddenly a problem. I remember being so pissed off when everything was a trilogy, and for the most part, that's still the case. (A Hangover trilogy? Really?) If an action/adventure movie was even remotely successful, you could be damn sure they'd make two more. And that was before Marvel upped the ante with a trilogy of PHASES, condemning us to dozens of obligatory ticket purchases. I'm actually relieved that some movies decided not to bind themselves to the obligatory trilogy format anymore, even if that means more of them. One can hope that series might actually number themselves around creative necessity rather than profit, although hope is about all that is. The Hobbit, after all, has absolutely no business being three movies, especially considering the direction they took. So yes, I find the two-part finale trend annoying, but it's really just a continuation of Hollywood's franchise fetish. And as for Mockingjay, I actually appreciated the slower pacing this time around. For someone who read the books, the first two were way too compressed. Maybe this just goes to show that books shouldn't be made into movies at all. They're much more suited to be TV mini series.
Boiler Bro Joe on Nov 26, 2014
Indeed, I think it was actually Lord of the Rings, and not Kill Bill, that upstarted the idea (or at least the trend) of planning out a trilogy in advance and shooting back to back--meaning they were produced simultaneously. I think that's part of why the creativity and quality got preserved through all three movies. I remember Pirates of the Caribbean following suit by filming parts 2 and 3 simultaneously ('06), as well as Matrix 2 and 3 ('03)... and this planned-trilogy trend then developed into this two-part finale thing, which I guess Harry Potter kinda introduced. By now, though, with all its franchises, Hollywood is becoming more and more like TV.
Terry Craig on Nov 27, 2014
"If that is the real reason, then why is it just this book that can't have anything cut?" Because Deathly Hallows is a linear story, with very little subplots. The others had material that could be cut or changed and wouldn't affect the main story-line for the book. They could have made major changes to Deathly hallows and had one film, but that would disappoint all of the fans who have been waiting a long time for the finale. At least HPatDH was an almost 800 page book, the others are barely 400 pages long.
Issac on Nov 26, 2014
I don't agree with this.The OP is right,its all about money. OotP was the longest book and second shortest movie and they didn't split that. They split DH and still messed it up. They made major changes to the last half of part 2 and a lot of fans were disappointed.
guest on Nov 28, 2014
Our voice is our dollars, loved the first two Hunger Games and will wait until next year to see the final two. The Hobitt underwhelmed me, didn't even finish the second one. Read both books, so I can wait.
mooreworthy on Nov 26, 2014
ragethorn on Nov 27, 2014
The hobbit wipes the floor with mockingjay terrible movie
Chandler Scaringia on Dec 29, 2014
I loved the books and the third one was my least favorite because to be honest it was boring. I have no doubt that it should have been one movie. Mockingly part 1 felt like a tv filler episode and we have to wait an entire year to see the conclusion, like those Dragon Ball Z episodes where they spend the entire time powering up. The pacing was completely off compared to the first two movies as well. This really was a hollywood cash grab and I feel for people who use their hard earned money because they love this property. Some exec out there is at the bank counting the zeros.
TK on Nov 26, 2014
i am glad they didn't split interstellar in a two part movie! I almost died from being bored!
Avi on Nov 26, 2014
A bit troll'ish
Steven on Nov 26, 2014
it was magnificient,awesome en a pure marvel of modern cinematography! Happy? Yes now go to bed because nerdy kids need there sleep...
Avi on Nov 27, 2014
Why should it stop when it seems to be just getting warmed up? 😛 Another thing, Billington, Avengers: Infinity War is a two part sequel which is not an adaptation of a book nor a direct adaptation of a comic book story (I think), do you have different, more positive feelings on that?
Tuomas Lassila on Nov 27, 2014
A very good point. I argued against it when it came to Hunger Games and The Hobitt, but not so much for Infinity War which will very loosely be based on the comic series. Infinity War will not be bound by novel rules, so therefore will not have to worry about what to include or leave out for the sake of pacing. Empire Strikes Back was a fantastic cliff hanger that did not disappoint and was worth the wait. We all choose to hate other films cause they sin differently than ours.
mooreworthy on Nov 27, 2014
While I hate the 'Part 1, part 2' naming scheme of Infinity War, I do think that it won't play out like these '2 part' films typically do. Which is 'a first film with a lot of set up and a big cliffhanger ending' to be followed by a 2nd film that resolves everything. I think a big part for me thinking it won't be a direct 'cliffhanger where the sequel picks up immediately after' is that there are two films that will be released in between, Captain Marvel and Inhumans. So I'm imagining that those films will also take place between the two parts. So in terms of story and execution, it isn't looking like a typical 2 parter...which makes me believe they went with that naming scheme because it was the 'trendy' thing to do. But now that the 2-parter mini-fad seems to be receiving a lot of disdain from the public, maybe they'll dump it. Keeping fingers crossed for "Avengers: Infinity Gauntlet" and "Avengers: Infinity War" a year later. Marvel has a few years to get around to making the change.
Chris Groves on Nov 27, 2014
My theory for the Part 1-2-naming is that Avengers 3 will adapt Marvel story arcs Infinity Gauntlet and Infinity War, so I think that since those arcs have a connection to each other, maybe other part will adapt the other arc and other part the other, but they just share the same main title as a huge event. Wait, does my theory make any sense??
Tuomas Lassila on Nov 27, 2014
That's what I love about the Infinity saga, the fact that two other Marvel films will be there to hype and fill the void until the closer. Business is business, but that should entail customer satisfaction, which Marvel has demonstrated so far.
mooreworthy on Nov 27, 2014
I have no problem with "quadrilogies". None I have a big problem with movies being split in half though. I don't think Alien 3 & Resurrection are split in half even though they both have their fair share of problems. Thank goodness I have no interest in Twilight, Harry Potter or Hunger Games.
ragethorn on Nov 27, 2014
Is it confirmed? I rather a 3 hour epic.
ragethorn on Nov 30, 2014
This reminds me of paying more for just one long movie divided onto two separate VHS cassette tapes because they released it that way to make more rental fees during the 1980s.
CptGrimsdale on Nov 27, 2014
I haven't seen any of the movies that have been split, but it still irks me so I fully understand and agree with your points. For me, it was Back to the Future 2 and 3 that really pissed me off. Part 2 ended on a cliffhanger and the third movie didn't come out for six months. If I had known that, I wouldn't have seen the second movie until the third came out. Total cash grab, as they were filmed back-to-back. The Infinity War 1 and 2 get a pass since they're not technically based on novels, but I really wish they'd avoided Part 1 and Part 2 in the names, perhaps going with "Avengers: Infinity Gauntlet" for the first and "Avengers: Infinity War" for the second. I just hope it's not a cliffhanger.
CoosCoos on Nov 27, 2014
Or you know you could just address the main issue here.. pay inequality.
Ry on Nov 27, 2014
You can FEEL when the "split" is for creative reasons or for money. I thought that it was ok to make the HP finale in 2 parts, even the book can be divided in two parts (the quest for the Horrorcruxes and the final battle). But for Twilight and the HG, it feels that is for money.
Miguel Garay Boszeta on Nov 27, 2014
Geez. Give it up Alex! As bad as they are (and this one definitely IS), as long as they can $500M or more, they are here to stay. Settle in.
Movie Bear on Nov 28, 2014
AB, I totally agree with you on this. It needs to stop. Some times it will be done well, but more often and than not, it will be dumb and lame.
DAVIDPD on Nov 29, 2014
You're insane, Deathly Hallows worked perfectly, part one was a great film and part two was even better. I actually believed them when they said it was for creative reasons only, J.K. Rowling would never sacrifice the quality of her books transitioning to the big screen just for more money. Plus there's a little known fact, Goblet of Fire was originally going to be split into two parts but they decided not to do it which proves that the production team wasn't doing it with DH for the extra money, if that was all they cared about you bet your @$$ GoF would have been split. Even though I don't care for Twilight and know damn well it was for the money, it actually worked to a degree with their finale based on the structure of the book's story. The movies were garbage particularly part one, but it still worked somewhat. Unfortunately, Mockingjay on the other hand was just embarrassing. Even though I loved Deathly Hallows 1 & 2 and thought it worked perfectly, I still agree this crap needs to stop, every time I see a trailer for a finale's "part one" I just roll my eyes and get annoyed.
Drey on Oct 27, 2015
Eh, each to their won, I found DH part 1 and 2 utterly dull. Part 1 just dragged and dragged, they spent too much time in the forest and part 2 rushed everything and then gave us 40 minutes of an overlong and utterly drab battle scene, so poor and boring. I love how the director said that they could into cut anything out yet he still did. Just make it one long 3 hour film, cut the forest and battle scenes in half, regained 40 minutes already.
OniLink97 on Mar 20, 2016
Sorry, no commenting is allowed at this time.