The Big Picture: Broken Movies

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Broken Movies

This habit of major film studios breaking films into different parts has some ups and downs.

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I'll add James Gunn's opinion (agree with him by the way)

"Listen, I love big ass shared universes in movies, as well as huge franchises. But I'm a little worried about the numerous shared universes being planned by the studios, without having a strong base film to grow from - or in some cases, NO base film to grow from. Star Wars had the original Star Wars, the Marvel Universe had the original Iron Man, the Dark Knight series had Batman Begins, even movies like Transformers and Twilight - these were movies audiences loved, and the audiences demanded more from these characters. But these days studios are trying to grow trees without a strong seed. Execs and producers and sometimes even directors are focused on the big picture, without perfecting the task directly in front of them - making a great movie. And studios are trying to grow franchises from non-existent films or middling successes. It's like they aren't taking audiences into account at all anymore.

I know George Lucas, Kevin Feige, John [sic] Favreau, etc, had ideas where their films would potentially lead in the face of success. But I don't think it ever got in the way of making that first movie count as if it was the last, of making it something wonderful that people would love whether it led to other films or not.

In short, I think this new business model is flawed. I think filmmakers and studios should be prepared for the big picture, but never, ever let it get in the way of making a single great film. Be a little more experimental and see what works as opposed to trying to force success. And mostly, remember that we as an industry exist to serve the audiences, to communicate with them - they have a voice in what we create as well. We are not here to dictate what they want to see, mostly because that's simply not possible."

Bob.. I like you but I swear if you dare pitch that to a studio and irt gets made. I will hunt you down and make you watch Food Fight on a 48 hour loop.

Now that said, Bob you optimism is admirable but we all know how this is panning out. Stretch one story across 3 films, it's the same thing that's turned many people away from comics. The fact that you have to watch /read 3 other movies featuring characters you don't give a damn about just to follow a single story concerning the one or two characters you do give a damn about.

Admittedly marvel is handling it well but the Hobbit is atrocious. Look The Hobbit was a short story, as in shorter than any of the Lord of The Rings books by a wide margin. By this logic we'd have had 9 Ring movies and we all know that studioes are essentiually using this as a critic shield. Because until the story is over you can't really give fair criticism of the story.

Nonidological pragmatism does not suit you Bob! ;)

In a morbidly curious kind of way, I want to see where this three(?)-part pitch of Green Eggs & Ham goes. Who's being cast? Is this part of a "Seussiverse" with cameos by the Cat and the Lorax? So many possibilities...!

...all of them bad. So, pitch it at Sony and watch them go ape for it?

I'm yet to see the book to movie adaptation where I thought "you know, I'm glad they split that into two parts."

Now, I like it so far in Marvel, even if the MCU seems to have added some filler to push extra plots (Iron Man 2 comes to mind). But part of the reason it seems to work with Marvel is that they're not identically adapting the source material in the first place. And I'm reasonably confident that Civil War and Infinity Wars will do the same. This means that they can build a movie in two parts. The individual MCU movies feel relatively complete. Even when they're based off a specific arc, or borrow elements.

With a book, you see largely linear interpretations, which do all the setup in the first and all the payoff in the second. Does it have to be this way? No, but if you thought "the book was better" snobs were bad before, wait until you start doing more than omitting Dobby and Kreacher from certain scenes.

I also think a big part of it is simply audience attention span. Especially for the books aimed at kids or young adults. We simply don't expect kids and teens to sit through longer movies, so we frame things in a way where people will still watch. That is, assuming the motive isn't solely profit.

Rituro:
In a morbidly curious kind of way, I want to see where this three(?)-part pitch of Green Eggs & Ham goes. Who's being cast? Is this part of a "Seussiverse" with cameos by the Cat and the Lorax? So many possibilities...!

...all of them bad. So, pitch it at Sony and watch them go ape for it?

We're going to see hints of the Lorax's dark, troubled past before his own origin movie hits.

But, I thought this has been going on even before the 21st Century... Granted, I'm thinking about the original Planet of the Apes movie series, the original Godzilla movie series (kinda), and that one french six-movie ensemble series centered around a dude choosing between two women as the overarching concept, alone, but I don't think this whole "Broken Movie" strategy has only been going on since this turn of the century... It has only gotten worrisome because now every suppose "stand-alone" movie has to leave a [more prominent] reference or two to either remind viewers that this is part of a similar timeline/universe as the other movies that came before or will come after this one or, worse, you can tell that the movie cannot be viewed without watching the movie that came before or after it, even if there isn't anything that connects them together outside of the character roaster, maybe...

Overall, this only seems to be more fixated in the type of movies that only get nominated for "Best Special Effects" or something like that and not something that would get nominated for "Best Picture" or something to that effect... Now, if this business trend does seep into the type of movies that are usually nominated for "Best Picture", for example, then we might have a bigger problem in our hands... But, I digress, for the most part...

Ack Bob! Don't even joke about that! You know what happens when Dr. Seuss and Hollywood mix!

FPLOON:
But, I thought this has been going on even before the 21st Century... Granted, I'm thinking about the original Planet of the Apes movie series, the original Godzilla movie series (kinda)

But those aren't examples of broken movies at all. There's a huge difference between making a sequel to a stand-alone movie after the fact, and deciding to make multiple films right from the start. If you watch Planet of the Apes and never even know it had any sequels, you still get a perfectly good experience from watching it as a film on its own. But as Bob says, no-one watches Deathly Hallows Part 1 on its own because it simply doesn't make sense to watch half a film. Franchises growing out of the success of a film are certainly not new, but planning entire franchises from scratch really is.

Hmm I don't know, Bob's proposal could be what Hollywood needs to make a great Seuss adaptation. The problem being before that they do add characters and themes that were not present in the original stories and take little time as possible to shallowly address the original's themes and characters.

So of course they need to add even more themes and characters and expand a short story even longer between multiple movies because exploring simple yet thought provoking ideas in an interesting and imaginative setting is just ridiculous!

So you go Bob! My only question is that is the first film going to explore the obsession with the green eggs or the ham? I can't wait to see this come to fruition.

Well after The Cat in the Hat, The Lorax and (I guess) Horton Hears a Who, making Green Eggs and Ham will be kinda bad or awful and yet still make a pile of cash money.

Kahani:

But those aren't examples of broken movies at all. There's a huge difference between making a sequel to a stand-alone movie after the fact, and deciding to make multiple films right from the start. If you watch Planet of the Apes and never even know it had any sequels, you still get a perfectly good experience from watching it as a film on its own. But as Bob says, no-one watches Deathly Hallows Part 1 on its own because it simply doesn't make sense to watch half a film. Franchises growing out of the success of a film are certainly not new, but planning entire franchises from scratch really is.

I actually think it's quite easy to watch Part 2 on its own, I just find that the camping bits in Part 1 go on for way too long on account of the fact that the book isn't very friendly to a film's three act structure.

I've never really had a problem with franchising or series-building as far as storytelling possibilities - some of the biggest culturally significant moments came from reboots (John Carpenter's The Thing) and sequels (Godfather, Star Wars). What bothers me, aside from the obvious problem that everything is being recycled and originality is being pushed aside in favor of nostalgia, is that movie-going is getting damn expensive, both for consumers and producers, so we're left with either enormous bombs (Lone Ranger) or successes attributed to base spectacle (Transformers). Even worse, world-building can go horribly wrong with retcons and ransoming: this year alone I've seen Xmen DOFP and Cap 2, the former's sole achievement being "Hey, we fixed X3, everyone's alive, status-quo restored, wait until next time for something interesting to happen!", the latter demanding I see it before Agents of Shield if I didn't want spoilers.

It can be great and I really enjoy it when it all works, but, like the James Gunn quote above, it requires smart, creative showrunners and that's unlikely to happen as studios and brand increasingly take precedence over ideas and artistry.

With serialization returning to movie theaters, I wonder if it will turn full circle. I think seeing a remake of The Phantom Creeps might be cool, but only if Rob Zombie is involved.

I'd like to quietly point out that the accusation of The Stand being 'unfilmable' was rendered moot when they made a tv miniseries out of it. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Stand_(TV_miniseries) The running time of 366 minutes is comperable to four ninety-minute films so... I'm not sure what the milestone is as far as bringing it to the big screen. Not having to write to allow for commercial breaks, I guess?

Not that I object. The miniseries was good for what it was, but I'm sure there's room for improvement along every axis.

LordTerminal:
Ack Bob! Don't even joke about that! You know what happens when Dr. Seuss and Hollywood mix!

To be fair, I thought Carrey was AWESOME as the Grinch, but that was only because he was good at emoting. But, yeah...I agree.

Remember when Lord of the Rings was broken up into three books because publishers believed readers would be intimidated by a 1000 page tome, but had no problem with going "Psych! You gotta buy two more books to find out what happens!"

I wonder what would have happened if they hadn't done that. The story was originally broken up into six "Books", identified only by number. Would the film adaptation have been six movies instead of three? I bet Peter Jackson looks back now and wishes he'd had the clout to do that. I bet Warner Bros. does too.

Zachary Amaranth:
With a book, you see largely linear interpretations, which do all the setup in the first and all the payoff in the second. Does it have to be this way? No, but if you thought "the book was better" snobs were bad before, wait until you start doing more than omitting Dobby and Kreacher from certain scenes.

Eh. Order of the Phoenix went from being the longest book in the series to being the shortest movie, and I don't remember anything significant being left out. They probably could have shortened Deathly Hallows into a single, long movie by cramming some of the setup into Half-Blood Prince, which was already not much more than setting up the finale.

I'd just like to point out that, yeah, I did watch Deathly Hallows Part I on its own, without going on to Part II. I think the second part's a big letdown (especially the end), and I love the pace and time given to Harry and Hermione in the preceding film. I'd say Part I has some of the best scenes (or certainly my favourite) in the series, whilst Part II just blew away any sense of mystery and anticipation and left me slightly disappointed.

Other than that; agreed with James Gunn's take on things, as well as Bob's 'when it's done well, it's good' rationale (and that this type of media consumption is culturally contextually emergent, and not some big corporate evil).

What's this? Bob's cautiously optimistic about the upcoming DC Cinematic Universe? Well, shut me down! But I agree, when done well and planned out in advance, serializing a story makes sense, because I see it as not just showing characters doing stuff, but creating a bigger world that looks and feels alive while we're following people who just so happen to live in it. Hell, serialized movies are way old, like Flash Gordon.

GamemasterAnthony:

LordTerminal:
Ack Bob! Don't even joke about that! You know what happens when Dr. Seuss and Hollywood mix!

To be fair, I thought Carrey was AWESOME as the Grinch, but that was only because he was good at emoting. But, yeah...I agree.

Robot Chicken had that explained:


And if they want to expand on Green Eggs and Ham, they can just ask "What makes them green?" and go from there.

I think it really depends. There is something really beautiful about a singular, self-contained story where everything is perfectly crystallized and expressed within the frame of one story. But that's not the only way to tell a story. So, I kinda get the concern about the death of self-contained stories, but I don't think the rise of shared universe franchises is a bad idea, either. It's all a question of what kind of story you're telling, why, and how you execute it.

It all depends. I like the idea of a universe just going on and on, so long as the material stays interesting.

The problem is that the universes must be fed, so studios will put whatever they can on the screen to keep justifying the making of each movie in said universe. That's why 3 movies was usually such a good number for good material. After that, you just run out of good ideas.

The only place where this doesn't hold up is the Marvel universe... The reason being is that they don't have to keep coming up with new ideas, all of the ideas are already in the comics and tested. So they know what material works and what doesn't. That allows them to use the main story points as islands within the universe and they can build bridges between each of those islands.

Making movies for the sake of making movies will make some money, but in the end it will never make the possible money that it can if the material just isn't good. Unless it's a Pirates of the Caribbean movie, then God help us all.

You would be surprised how many people are opposed to actually picking up there phones and actually looking things up. Case in point: everytime im debating someone and something we both are unsure of comes up and they just show an unwillingness to google it. It literally blows my mind everytime.

Plus people would just bitch, The film explains nothing.

I kind of see where your coming from bob but thats probably not gonna happen.

I like your viewpoint and that you can see a good side to it. Between Netflix and google few would be shutout of the continuum of a shared experience and that is a good thing. The old ways of chopping a concept down to ninety plus minutes and many great moments that captured the audience of the book/novel/comic/graphic novel/kickstarter were never filmed and couldn't even be included in the deleted scenes from the director's cut.

Good piece, Movie Bob.

My favorite split adaptation is The Neverending Story. The movie adapted the first half of the book, and it was fantastic since the book feels like 2 completely different stories anyway. The sequel adapted the second half, and was crap, but the second half of the book was nowhere near as good as the first anyway, and their mutual sucking didn't drag down the brilliant first movie.

It's just so weird how nowadays, works are designed to be franchises, instead of developing into one.
Sure with the way Marvel planned it it worked because they're good movies, but then you see the way spiderman has been treated in his last 5 films and will be treated in the future, and it feels like the entire thing is only there because someone has made a contract at some point. And it still works just by the sheer number of people exposed to the marketing, and 3D inflating cinema prices.

Steve the Pocket:

Eh. Order of the Phoenix went from being the longest book in the series to being the shortest movie, and I don't remember anything significant being left out.

Wasn't that the one where they left out all the James/Sirius moments that were supposed to lead in to Sirius getting his ass killed? I don't know what you mean by "significant," but that character building struck me as more significant than half the stuff they left in the movie.

I don't particularly care, mind. Though I would have liked to have seen more of Fred and George, and especially more chaos in their drop-out scene. And actually, that part I do sort of mind. There were some really cool scenes I would have liked to have seen, necessary or not, that were cut out of this movie (not that I particularly loved Order of Dark Phoenix), while other movies were longer, somewhat better structured, or in the case of Deadly Camping Trip, two movies. Not that this is a deal breaker for me, but I do care, even if just a little.

They probably could have shortened Deathly Hallows into a single, long movie by cramming some of the setup into Half-Blood Prince, which was already not much more than setting up the finale.

They could have made Hallows 90 minutes, provided it was a cohesive film. I'm still not sure the result we got was cohesive, because I kept falling asleep.

Anyway, none of this has to do much with what I was talking about. I'm speaking to the difference between non-linear interpretations with a comic book story that borrows elements from established stories (considered acceptable) and doing the same for movies (where even the omission of tertiary characters is apparently a major sin--I personally liked the fact that Dobby's influence in a couple movies was replaced by Longbottom, as it makes it seem like he was more than just window dressing until he grew the beard. I'm pretty sure this isn't the standard opinion, though). The actual omission of things wasn't as important as the idea of rewriting large chunks of the books entirely, which I'm pretty sure would have led to millions of killing curses.

Going back to the first part of this statement, there's a big problem in interpretation. what I read in a book, say Order of Marcus Fenix, may be different than what you read in the same book. Not that there are different words (barring a George Lucas-like rewrite, which does occasionally happen), but different people latch on to different things. When the first HP movie came out, a week later a bunch of people were complaining there was too much Hermione, and another group entirely complained there wasn't enough Hermione. And given the way Hermione pretty much carries Harry's useless ass through the books, I'm more or less in the second camp, but for every choice they made, they split the fanbase. It's pretty much impossible to satisfy everyone unless you do a shot-for-shot deal, and even then you'll get complainers because the text doesn't necessarily meet their interpretation. Do we need every scene? Not really. I'd prefer the movie be cohesive. On the other hand, I would have liked to have seen the endcap scenes involving Sirius' gift to Harry, which to me drives home how phenomenally stupid Harry can be. Again, these are not dealbreakers to me, but I think we all have our preferences and that makes putting out a major book based movie already like disarming a bomb while someone sings ICP in your ear.

In any event, the whole point was why I thought it worked better in the instance of one set of adaptations over another. Comics are far from immune to bitching (see: Batman/Superman doesn't kill), but on this point, I have trouble seeing novel-to-film adaptations working out if they go this route. At least, until they enter into classics territory. Maybe in a hundred or two hundred years.

Personally, I don't understand why movie versions of books keep breaking up the last adaptation up into two parts. Other than to make money, I suppose.

...Also, does anyone else but me want to see a dramatization of Doctor Seuss' career? Don't tell me that wouldn't be awesome!

GamemasterAnthony:

LordTerminal:
Ack Bob! Don't even joke about that! You know what happens when Dr. Seuss and Hollywood mix!

To be fair, I thought Carrey was AWESOME as the Grinch, but that was only because he was good at emoting. But, yeah...I agree.

Hey I liked the Carrey Grinch as well but that doesn't mean it was a good movie. Or that it makes up for Cat in the Hat.

I don't mind that everything turns into a series. I think it's great. But I also think the flaw here is doing things like they are doing with the last Hunger Games book. One boring movie and one good movie (like Bob's Harry Potter example). I don't like when a movie intentionally puts sequel bate in the film for the next because movie studios can't be trusted to make good movies all the time. Take Green Lantern for example. The film was not good. We all know it. I wanted to like it, but it just wasn't that good. But they did this world building as if they were going to do sequels. So we see a really really short training montage with Green Lantern Corp and we get introduced to those character only for the film to bomb and have no hope of a sequel. The flaw is laying down the expectation for a sequel and then that sequel never coming. We can always expect sequels for movies that do well. But when there is a great property and the movie doesn't do well, it's extremely frustrating.

I think the Marvel films are great series, but they also all work individually. You don't need the bigger scope or it doesn't need to drop hints about the sequels. They are good stand alone films that work by themselves. Mocking Jay part 1 is not a good film because it relies far to heavily on whats to come rather than what is good about that story. I'm not afraid to say that the first Hobbit was good because they work as an individual film. Though, I do take exception with them not killing Smaug at the end of the second movie, it was unnecessary and detracted from the film overall since that was the big conflict of the second film.

BigTuk:
Stretch one story across 3 films, it's the same thing that's turned many people away from comics. The fact that you have to watch /read 3 other movies featuring characters you don't give a damn about just to follow a single story concerning the one or two characters you do give a damn about.

Admittedly marvel is handling it well but the Hobbit is atrocious. Look The Hobbit was a short story, as in shorter than any of the Lord of The Rings books by a wide margin. By this logic we'd have had 9 Ring movies and we all know that studioes are essentiually using this as a critic shield. Because until the story is over you can't really give fair criticism of the story.

Your comic-book analogy strikes a chord with me. I was DC all the way in the 1970s. They had complete stories in a single issue and in the day, I had to go to a cigar store to buy them and you never knew what they'd even carry month to month. Then one day around 1979, (long story short) I knew I could buy a to be continued comic as I would definitely be able to get the next part. Then specialty stores and I was on board with Marvel. DC followed suit with multi book stories. And they were great because they had stories that simply couldn't be told in a single comic.

Then came all the cross-overs. Rather than buy 12 Batman stories a year, I had to buy them and some other series. Not because it was necessary to tell a story but because I was being forced to do so. That pretty much was the end of my comic book buying days (in the 1990s).

I too hope that doesn't happen in movies.

As for the abomination of taking a short story and stretching it out over 3 movies (I'm looking at you Hobbit) that is a different sin. Boycott!

And, as usual, the pragmatic viewpoint is the correct one. I am a huge fan of world building and continuity in general so this kinda storytelling appeals to me. Hell, I was a big proponent of the (dot)Hack anime experiment from years back and I'd love to see that kind of cross-media storytelling grow out of this practice. Do I think Mockingjay and Breaking Dawn probably could've been done just as well if not better as single movies within their respective series? Yes. Does that stop me from loving how they wrapped up Harry Potter or the fact that they were able to pull in so much of the Tolkien world outside of the four books that everyone knows for the Hobbit? No. Good with the bad, I'll take the joy of seeing these things I love become more expansive any day, even if it comes pre-packaged with annoying, corporate sponge-wringing alongside.

I do admit that I wish more studios would take some chances with changing up the source material a bit. Marvel's been making huge changes to characters for their movie-verse and yet the fans are (mostly) placated by the little nods that they get to feel all smug about understanding when they first see them rather than when everyone else has googled them.

Steve the Pocket:
Remember when Lord of the Rings was broken up into three books because publishers believed readers would be intimidated by a 1000 page tome, but had no problem with going "Psych! You gotta buy two more books to find out what happens!"

I wonder what would have happened if they hadn't done that. The story was originally broken up into six "Books", identified only by number. Would the film adaptation have been six movies instead of three? I bet Peter Jackson looks back now and wishes he'd had the clout to do that. I bet Warner Bros. does too.

6 Lord of the Rings films, one for each book, would have been much better; although I don't know how successful they'd have been with the general audience, given that one or two books would be pretty devoid of battles, or largely consist of Frodo and Sam walking.

As a gigantic fan of the book, I only watched Lord of the Rings for the first time last month, and one of the most interesting things to me was how much Jackson had rearranged the plot to make it fit into being three films. The three volumes of the novel have no beginning/middle/end, no structure to them - which works fine in its original format, given that they were released at the same time. With the films, because they were released one at a time, they had to be written and designed to be independent films in their own right (which they certainly are).

Anyway, 6 films would have been really great. We'd have gotten a deeper exploration of the cultures and themes within the book, as well as not having to leave out certain plot points or stories (like Tom Bombadil, of course!).

As for splitting movies in general: honestly, I have no problem with it. Films are constricted by their run times, and making more films means more space to explore the content. If it's done well, then more is generally a good thing.

treeroy:

6 Lord of the Rings films, one for each book, would have been much better; although I don't know how successful they'd have been with the general audience, given that one or two books would be pretty devoid of battles, or largely consist of Frodo and Sam walking.

In nerdier days, I used to watch the films this way, skipping scenes then starting over for the other half. If you make the cuts in the right place (basically following the book as closely as possible), it really works great. Jackson has mentioned that as he was making the films, he basically wrote/edited/structured the story as it was in the book (knowing he would mix later) to make sure each individual piece was working on its own.

I'm not sure general audiences would have appreciated it though, because you would have one movie be about one group of characters, then the next be about an entirely different group. That would confuse and test the patience of many - especially at the time, when franchising wasn't as common a thing.

It's a wonderful defense of the Avengers Universe for sure but most of what Bob said doesn't really address the issues I personally take with splitting films up. Those films with Captain America in are all self contained films, all worth the entry fee to see them individually at the cinema. Yes no one film contains the entirety of Cappy's story but they contain the entirety of a story. This is the kind of franchising or serialising or whatever you want to call it I'm fine with.

The Hobbit on the other hand has no place being split into 3 films and, at least in my opinion, it really shows when watching them. There's a lot of build-up interlaced with unnecessary filler and no real payoff at the end of either of the first 2 entries; they each basically serve as a 2 and a half hour trailer for the next. This kind of franchising just strikes me as straight up greed tryingto squeeze every penny out of a popular franchise. If LOTR or Hunger Games had only been low level successes instead of massive cinematics phenomena I very much doubt these films would be getting split into multiple parts that require multiple payouts for the customer. If I pay £10 to see a film I want to get £10 of entertainment. I don't want the value of that £10 (and my time) to be held to ransom behind having to pay out again for part 2 (and part 3 in this case).

The other, less common, kind of franchising that I'm not a fan of is this mindless belief that you can just transfer any story from one medium to another purely based on its popularity. They're looking at 4 films for The Stand. FOUR! What happens if the first film tanks? Those who do watch it then only get 1/4 of a story. Even if it is successful enough to last all 4 films that's 6 hours of screen time minimum. Why not go for a big budget TV series (given how much more successful these have gotten in recent years), likely making it more affordable and allowing greater flexibility with the storytelling? Alternatively why not accept that maybe that particular story is best left as a book and isn't practical to transfer to the cinema. Sure sometimes it works and that's great but in a situation like this where it's clearly impractical from the start why try and force it to work? Nirvana's Nevermind is a great album but people would laugh at any director who attempted to 'translate' it to the big screen. Pulp Fiction is one of my favourite films of all time but if someone brought out a video game of it my expectations of it being both good and actually related to the source material would be non-existent because it's just not the kind of story that would work like that. Some artistic expressions fit one medium and that should be fine. Instead some people decide it's worth bending and distorting them to be told a whole new way that was never intended for them.

BigTuk:
Bob.. I like you but I swear if you dare pitch that to a studio and irt gets made. I will hunt you down and make you watch Food Fight on a 48 hour loop.

It gets better: he didn't even mention he's planning to have it be a prequel tie-in with earlier release The Lorax.

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