Multi-Part Films in Hollywood: When Profits Matter More than Storytelling

Remember when Hollywood used to release movies such as The Ten Commandments which ran for around four hours and had one intermission in the middle? Sure, sitting through a four-hour movie is a long and tiring process that can test both the patience and bladders of moviegoers everywhere, but when it gave a fantastic story that could only be accomplished with a long running-time, it is hard to imagine the thought of trimming even twenty minutes from the movie.

That is unfortunately a thing in the past. Nowadays, if a film such as The Ten Commandments were released today, it would either be significantly trimmed down to a shorter running-time (which today would typically be around two-and-a-half hours) or adopt the trend of splitting itself into two movies that are awkwardly labeled with “Part 1” and “Part 2” at the end of the title. Some movies may go even further than that and make a three-part trilogy, with the most notable example being Peter Jackson’s adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, as well as the adaptation of Atlas Shrugged. Regardless of whether it is two or three parts, multi-part films have swiftly become a new norm for Hollywood filmmaking, one that has been met with divisive reception from audiences.

Why have multi-part films become such a massive staple of Hollywood movies in this decade? Are there creative reasons that make the splitting of films worth the effort, or is merely a means to make more money? And is this new trend in the film industry beneficial to audiences, or is it becoming a detriment for both audiences and franchises wanting to tell self-contained and complete narratives?

The Death of the Intermission

There are various points that are worth mentioning regarding the state of movies in the film industry, but possibly one of the most important points is that the state of multi-part movies is a trend that has been building up in Hollywood for quite some time and has now reach its pinnacle in this decade. When films running around three to four hours was still acceptable, directors would design their story to have an intermission around the halfway mark that would last for around ten minutes. This was initially for technical reasons; movies were projected through the use of film reels, and the intermissions served as a way for the projectionist to change reels. The technology improved over time but was still required for particularly long movies such as Ben-Hur and Lawrence of Arabia.

The intermission screen for Gone with the Wind.
The intermission screen for Gone with the Wind.

However, the function of the intermission eventually served a new function: to give the audience a quick breather in the middle of the story. While for some viewers it may not be an issue to sit in a theater for a few hours to watch a movie, others – such as children or older people – may be bored or uncomfortable at sitting through an entire story for such a long time, especially if they have to hold their bladders for the entire duration. While the intermission was not used extensively in movies, and its use began to decline as the years went on, films such as 2001: A Space Odyssey and Gandhi continued to use it as a means of both allowing the audience to take a quick break and telling a longer story that would have likely needed to be trimmed down in length without it.

The reason why all of this information is important when talking about multi-part films in modern filmmaking is because the death of the intermission marked one of the first major steps by Hollywood to make more financially beneficial decisions that benefits studios more than audiences. Having long movies and intermissions takes up a lot of time in the theater, which reduces how many time slots a theater can use to play films to audiences. Shorter movies and the absence of intermissions allows for more screenings to present movies, which effectively phased out the use of intermissions. Its death is not because of archaic design or technological advancement; it was a step made towards greater profitability.

Creative Control in Blockbuster Franchises

The absence of the intermission in films is not always a major issue, however, just as long as good writers and directors are able to tell a well-developed story within their time constraints with little studio interference. However, that is not always the case; some films have notorious backgrounds of studios tampering, either to reduce them to a shorter length or to change or add content they feel is appropriate for audiences. Films such as The Golden Compass and a number of Ridley Scott’s films, such as Blade Runner or Kingdom of Heaven, show what happens when studios interfere in the production of movies for creative or financial reasons, which often results in the quality of the movies suffering for it. Nowadays, filmmakers are lucky if they are able to make a three-hour movie, especially if it has an expensive budget.

The Golden Compass
The Golden Compass film was notoriously plagued by production problems, including studio interference which trimmed the movie to a shorter running-time, downplayed anti-religious themes from the book, and cut out the original ending for a sequel that never came to be.

When it comes to Hollywood movies, directors should be considered fortunate if they are able to be given an extensive amount of creative freedom when directing a blockbuster, especially if it is part of a massive franchise. To some extent, filmmakers may be given some creative freedom with how they tackle a project – a trend that has become slightly more prevalent in some franchises such as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with Guardians of the Galaxy becoming an unexpected critical and financial success under James Gunn who, until now, had only directed a few cult films. However, even in that context, directors still have to be kept on a leash to an extent with what they can do because studios have their own agendas to meet; there is some level of freedom so long as it stays within the boundaries of what the studios think is acceptable.

Whenever there is a successful property, sequels are often the easiest way to make more money off of a movie that did well at the box-office. Whether it is for comic-book movies (such as the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the upcoming DC Cinematic Universe which is building off of Man of Steel), book adaptations (such as The Chronicles of Narnia or The Hunger Games), or other movies ranging from a wide variety of genres (such as Taken or Home Alone), anything that succeeds financially and is met with at least enough good critical reception that could result in similar or improved box-office results is often given the sequel treatment. Some franchises end when either the filmmakers or the studio believe it is time to bring it to a close (such as Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy), but others will be prolonged seemingly indefinitely as long as it continues to make money (Saw‘s financial success led to six sequels despite negative reception).

However, as the 21st century of movies has proven thus far, a number of these sequels could be considered cash-grabs. How many people do you know that were clamoring for a fifth Ice Age movie? Or how about a third Hangover movie after The Hangover: Part II practically ripped its plot straight from the first movie and only changed the setting from Las Vegas to Bangkok? There are cases when sequels are made when audiences demand them, but in a lot of cases it is a studio decision – one that is made more with the intent of building off of the success of a previous movie rather than because audiences wanted to see the story continued despite having a somewhat resolved ending (unless it is sequel-baiting). While sequels may be great opportunities to build on the foundations of a previous film and improve upon it (such as the excellent sequels to Toy Story and How to Train Your Dragon have proved), they are mostly there to repeat the same formula that worked the first time without making any significant changes.

Back-to-Back Filmmaking in Hollywood

With some major franchises, the best way of telling a massive story while also reducing production costs and the duration of the shoot is back-to-back film production. The term “back-to-back” refers to the making of two movies under one production. Rather than shooting one movie, working on it for a year or two, and releasing it in theaters before working on the next installment, back-to-back filmmaking allows a director to have one long shooting schedule (usually with a small break in the middle) and all of the completed scripts, which allows the filmmakers to work on both films around the same time to complete them quicker and save money.

There were a handful of films in the last few decades that implemented back-to-back filmmaking to make sequels. One of the earliest examples is Richard Donner’s 1977 film Superman: The Movie, which was shot back-to-back with Superman II and developed alongside the first installment before production was halted on the sequel to finish the first movie. Robert Zemeckis also shot Back to the Future Part II and Back to the Future Part III alongside each other (Part II was released in 1989 while Part III was released in 1990). There are various other franchises that have also shot concurrently, such as The Matrix, The Lord of the Rings, and Pirates of the Caribbean. The general plan behind these releases is to have each film released one year apart (with the exception of the two Matrix sequels which were released six months apart) in order to make the wait between the movies as short as possible.

The Matrix Reloaded
Neo fighting against multiple copies of Agent Smith in the continuation of The Matrix Trilogy.

In some respects, films that were created through back-to-back production could be technically considered as a multi-part movie because of how they are produced around the same time and for usually having a story that can only be considered complete after one has seen every film. Sometimes this involves telling one story that, due to time constraints, has to be spread across two movies to tell. Even before back-to-back film production became prominent, major blockbusters such as Star Wars would use sequels that, while possibly having different plot scenarios for each film, would still be unified by an overarching story that eventually resolves itself in the final installment. For example, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest focuses on Jack Sparrow’s attempt to escape the clutches of Davy Jones, which ultimately fails, resulting in the next installment, At World’s End, focusing on his friends coming to rescue him for a greater conflict.

Sequels have various purposes in storytelling, but the general idea is that it is not telling the same story twice across two movies; it is supposed to continue the story from the last movie. When a narrative ends, it ends, even if a sequel continues the story later on. They are meant to be complete stories with a beginning, middle, and end. So even if a new installment continues the story, the previous one can still be taken on its own terms because it has its own self-contained narrative.

The dawn of multi-part films, however, is also the death of complete narratives.

Harry Potter and the Two-Part Finale

While Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill is technically the first major multi-part film, which in its original cut ran over four hours before the director opted to split it into two parts, the movie that set a huge precedent for multi-part films is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1. The case revolving around Deathly Hallows is similar to Kill Bill in that it wanted to tell a story that is so massive that it would be difficult or impossible to condense all of it into one film and do it justice – especially if it is the conclusion to a long and enormously popular franchise. However, there is one major difference between the two; while Tarantino’s film is an original story not tied to any source, Deathly Hallows is based on a book – one that, much like all of its predecessors, were designed as complete narratives that were never intended to be split in half.

The teaser poster of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows advertising the release of the final entry through two parts.
The teaser poster of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows advertising the release of the final entry through two parts.

The decision by Warner Bros. and director David Yates to split the final Harry Potter film into two parts received mixed reception by critics and fans. Some people were pleased about getting another Harry Potter movie and having more time to wrap up loose ends, while others were skeptical as to how a two-part film would work and having to wait a year to see the rest of the movie. Despite the controversy surrounding this decision, the director insisted that it was the best way of bringing the massive franchise to a proper close, which considering the length of the later Harry Potter books and the amount of content that had to be cut out in prior film adaptations was no easy task.

When the movies came out, there was an interesting gap in audience and critical reception between the two parts. The first one to be released, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1, while still receiving good reviews from critics, is one of the lowest rated films in the franchise. Yates’s direction, the performances, and the impressive production values were highly praised, but the slow pacing was a point of contention among critics. Part 2, however, was released to universal critical praise from critics and audiences that trumped even the highest of expectations, earning the highest ratings of the franchise and smashing numerous box-office records.

So what did Part 2 do so well to receive far more critical praise and box-office results than Part 1? The major reason why is simply because a lot more happens in the second part than the first. If Part 1 was mostly set-up with little action, then Part 2 was mostly action with little set-up. Where Part 1 spent the majority of its time building up the casualties and battles to come, Part 2 went full-force and dealt some of the most visceral and emotionally devastating moments in the franchise. For any movie in general, many of the parts that most people tend to remember are around the second half – particularly during the climax – where there is more action and stakes. This gave Part 2 significantly more weight by delivering the massive payload that has been built up for seven movies.

However, there is a problem with Deathly Hallows that cannot be attributed to any of the prior installments in the Harry Potter film series: neither Part 1 nor Part 2 can function as stand-alone movies. Granted, one could argue that none of the Harry Potter sequels are stand-alone because of how they require prior knowledge to the films that came before, but this issue is worse for Deathly Hallows because they are two halves of one story. While each entry in Harry Potter’s journey is just one part of a greater story, each chapter still told complete stories that still left room for a future installment. Deathly Hallows simply stops at the halfway point and leaves audiences to wait another year and pay again to see how the rest of the story plays out.

This is more problematic given the fact that, unlike any of the other film adaptations of the Harry Potter book series by J.K. Rowling, Deathly Hallows was never written as a two-part book – it was written as one book. In fact, it is actually one of the longest books in the series. Unlike films which have to present their stories under a strict running-time (at least as far as most big-budget Hollywood productions are concerned), books are able to tell much bigger stories with much more leeway in terms of how long they can go. On one hand, the decision to split the book into two films allows Yates to work around the running-time issue and tell more of the story to tie up more loose ends (prior films in the series had been struggling to condense the material of the books). On the other hand, it is also breaking apart a story that was meant to stay as one cohesive whole, thus making the entire affair somewhat disjointed unless someone sat through both films in one sitting that would require over four hours.

Even with those circumstances, however, it is not impossible to adapt a book such as Deathly Hallows into one movie. Remember how Yates managed to direct the longest book in the franchise, Order of the Phoenix (which in the US release was 870 pages long), into what was at the time the shortest Harry Potter film at 139 minutes? What is even more baffling is also the fact that the second book, Chamber of Secrets, which was one of the shortest in the series, somehow managed to become the longest Harry Potter film with a 161 minute running-time. This was back when the Harry Potter films were mostly focused on younger audiences, meaning that kids at the time had to sit through a near three-hour movie for a book that is not nearly as complex as later entries.

So now audiences and filmmakers have arrived at a tricky dilemma: is it better to have a short adaptation that tells its story quicker but has to rush or overlook certain parts, or tell a longer adaptation that can do a lot more but may test audiences’ patience? The frustrating part about this question is that the answer varies with different people, but for those who have faithfully read the source material and are eager to see a proper adaptation of a story they love, it is very likely that they will sit through a long adaptation if it means getting the best movie possible. There were only a handful who complained about how long the Chamber of Secrets movie was, yet there were a lot more fans who were frustrated at how much was cut out from the Goblet of Fire movie and how short Order of the Phoenix was. When it comes to pleasing the devoted fans of a franchise, it is always best to make as few compromises to the source material as possible.

The film adaptation of Deathly Hallows did not necessarily need to be strictly two-and-a-half hours or less, but if it were three hours, it is likely that most people would not have cared. If fans continued to pay to see the Harry Potter films for eight years, regardless of how long they were or how many liberties they took to cram as much material from the books as possible, do you think they would have not done the same for Deathly Hallows just because it was three hours long? Jackson’s adaptation of The Lord of the Rings is proof that audiences are willing to sit through a very long movie if it means getting a satisfying adaptation; the last film of the trilogy, Return of the King, had the longest running-time at three hours and twenty minutes, and it won eleven Oscars, including Best Picture. If The Lord of the Rings could end a franchise as massive and detailed as what Tolkien had meticulously crafted in such a long movie, why not Harry Potter?

Breaking Dawn for Multi-Part Films

This is where the biggest issue of multi-part films comes into view: they exist more for the benefit of studios than audiences and the movies themselves. While the splitting of Deathly Hallows at least had good intentions that were focused on wrapping up every plot thread and delivering a satisfying and grand conclusion, more and more films are being given the multi-part treatment regardless of whether it would benefit the movie or not.

The first warning sign came with the Twilight franchise. Despite being the source of criticism and parody by almost anyone not a fan of this series, the Twilight books were, much like Harry Potter, a huge phenomenon that would spawn its own series of film adaptations. Critical reception for the films has ranged from mixed to negative opinions by critics, but the movies grossed so much money that it showed no signs of slowing down. With the franchise achieving a similar success to the Harry Potter film series, it came as little surprise that the last installment of the Twilight book series, Breaking Dawn, would receive the same two-part film adaptation treatment as Deathly Hallows.

Even though it may be unnecessary, Breaking Dawn may not the worst case of splitting a book into two movies. Much like Deathly Hallows, Breaking Dawn is a lengthy book that is around 750 pages long, which is difficult to condense into a final movie that would likely have had to adhere to a similar two-hour running-time that the previous film adaptations had. However, the timing of the announcement parallels so closely to Deathly Hallows that it cannot be marked off as coincidence. The last few Harry Potter films were released very close to the Twilight films, and the announcement of the two-part adaptation of Deathly Hallows came before Breaking Dawn received the same treatment.

Despite its anti-climactic resolution, the final battle sequence had a considerable amount of action compared to previous installments and was praised by critics.
Despite its anti-climactic resolution, the final battle sequence of Breaking Dawn – Part 2 had a considerable amount of action compared to previous Twilight films and was praised by critics.

The two parts of Breaking Dawn were met with similar critical reaction to the previous Twilight movies, with the majority of reviews ranging from mixed to negative. Part 1 received the worst reviews of the two, having some of the weakest review scores of the Twilight film franchise and also receiving eight nominations from the Razzie awards (an award show that recognizes the worst films of the year), including for Worst Picture. Much of the criticism (beyond the usual problems in the Twilight films) was attributed to the slow pacing, overlong running-time, and lack of story and action. Part 2 received slightly more positive reviews than Part 1, praising the higher stakes, better pacing, and impressive climax. However, reception was still mixed to negative, and the Razzies nominated the film for eleven Razzies, seven of which it won, including for Worst Picture.

Despite having less than positive reviews for both films (which can frankly be attributed to the rest of the films in the franchise), there is a trend that you will likely notice when comparing the review scores of the two parts of Breaking Dawn to the two parts of Deathly Hallows. Deathly Hallows – Part 1 has a 78% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 65 on Metacritic, while Part 2 has a 96% on Rotten Tomatoes and an 87 on Metacritic. Breaking Dawn – Part 1 has a 24% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 45 on Metacritic, while Part 2 has a 48% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 52 on Metacritic. When placed side-by-side, it is evident that the last parts of both of these two-part movies received the best critical reception, and it is likely that for most multi-part films, the last part will have the best reviews due to having more action and meaningful story moments. As a result, Part 1 tends to be a slow and slightly unsatisfying appetizer for the main dish to come with Part 2.

There and Back Again…Again

After the release of Deathly Hallows and Breaking Dawn, two-part films suddenly became a new trend in Hollywood, which was further cemented when it was announced that Jackson’s adaptation of The Hobbit would be split across two movies. This announcement did not upset fans much; in fact, some would argue it made people more excited that the trip back to Middle-Earth would be longer than one movie. But then Jackson made a subsequent announcement that attained a notable amount of controversy: that the two-part film adaptation of The Hobbit would become a trilogy, starting with An Unexpected Journey, continuing with The Desolation of Smaug, and ending with There and Back Again (which would later be re-named into The Battle of the Five Armies).

Considering that The Hobbit is shorter than all three of the Lord of the Rings books, it is baffling that three movies were needed to adapt this story. However, Jackson wanted to go beyond simply adapting The Hobbit to the big screen in his return to Middle-Earth. Rather than just telling a relatively simple adventure story like how it was presented in the book, Jackson wanted to connect the story further to the lore of Middle-Earth developed by Tolkien while also tying it to the events of The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. While An Unexpected Journey was mostly faithful to the source material, as it was being developed around the same time the announcement was made that the two films would become a trilogy, the later two films made more extensive use of Tolkien’s Appendices found in the back of The Return of the King, which also required re-shoots in order to add enough scenes to the last two movies to make each story more substantial.

One of the most notable changes to The Hobbit was the addition of Tauriel, a character who was created solely for the film adaptations.
One of the most notable changes to The Hobbit was the addition of Tauriel, a character who did not appear in the original book and was created to add a stronger female presence in the film adaptations.

Critical reception to all three films in The Hobbit trilogy have been divisive from both critics and audiences. An Unexpected Journey is the most faithful to the source material but suffered from slow pacing and an overlong running-time, taking over forty minutes to begin the adventure. Desolation of Smaug has better pacing and more action but further deviates from the book and feels uneven at times (primarily due to its extensive use of re-shoots), most notably during an unnecessary twenty-minute climax that is left unresolved by an abrupt cliffhanger. The Battle of the Five Armies has more stakes and an epic (if overlong) battle but has barely any story (almost all of which completely deviates from the book) and feels strangely rushed in places, ending the trilogy faster than The Return of the King‘s multiple endings but not allowing enough time to make any of its last few moments meaningful.

Unlike The Lord of the Rings films which were designed much more consistently and with more care towards the source material, Jackson’s indulgence in his return to Middle-Earth has resulted in an incredibly uneven three-part adaptation of The Hobbit. Barring the fact that the movies progressively deviated from the source material and whatever other problems the movies have, the major glaring issue that The Hobbit has that The Lord of the Rings did not is that it is too big. The Lord of the Rings needed three films – one for each book – in order to tell a massive story. The Hobbit, on its own terms without any connection to the Appendices, is shorter and smaller in scale than The Lord of the Rings; it did not need two films to tell the story, let alone three. The Hobbit film trilogy wears out its welcome by bloating a small story into three overlong movies, each with uneven pacing and storytelling that never comes together as a whole like The Lord of the Rings film trilogy did.

Happy Hunger Games

Keeping in tradition with the Harry Potter and Twilight franchises, The Hunger Games made the unsurprising announcement that the last installment in the trilogy, Mockingjay, would also be split into two parts. However, to the credit of both Deathly Hallows and Breaking Dawn, at least those two books were both over 700 pages long, which is difficult to condense into one movie. However, the biggest issue that the two-part film adaptation of Mockingjay has is that the book is less than 400 pages long, which is around the exact same length as the previous two installments. Considering how the film adaptations of The Hunger Games and Catching Fire were able to successfully adapt their stories in a two-and-a-half hour running-time, there is no reason why Mockingjay should not have been able to do the same under identical circumstances.

"May the odds be ever in your favor."
“May the odds be ever in your favor.”

To the film’s credit, Mockingjay – Part 1 does work as a solid set-up movie. One of the greatest strengths of The Hunger Games films is how they expand upon the books’ political and social commentary by exploring what happens behind-the-scenes , showing life in the Districts of Panem and even the Capitol, the latter of which allows President Snow to have more established motivations and become a more fleshed out antagonist. The splitting of Mockingjay allows the filmmakers more time to go even further and add the most substantial and intriguing political commentary out of any of the Hunger Games movies. While Mockingjay – Part 1 is similar to The Hobbit film trilogy in how it tries to expand upon the source material while telling the same story, the latter makes more deviations that detract from the main story, while all of the additions in Mockingjay – Part 1 are there to develop and complement the core plot.

However, while Mockingjay – Part 1 does a good job at developing the universe and setting up the events of Part 2, it still suffers from many of the problems that previous two-part film adaptations have suffered from. Because most of the major action scenes in the book happen in the second half, Mockingjay – Part 1 is forced to find ways of entertaining the audience with very little action to build excitement. It is not like there is no action or excitement; it is just that there is barely any at all compared to the last two films which both had an entire story to set-up the battles and deliver the action. Much like Deathly Hallows, Mockingjay – Part 1 is mostly just set-up with little action, but what makes this case even worse is that the book itself was fairly short. With only the first half of a book that is just shy of 400 pages, there is not enough story to warrant splitting this movie into two parts.

The Future of Multi-Part Films

While the majority of multi-part films from major franchises, such as Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hobbit, have been released (and with Mockingjay – Part 2 set to conclude the series on November 2015), one would hope that Hollywood might take a break from splitting more films into multiple parts. However, even though some of these films have a few years left until they are even released, studios are already jumping on-board the bandwagon and announcing more films to undergo the same treatment.

If the announcements of the Twilight and Hunger Games film franchises splitting their last installment into two movies did not surprise audiences much, then hearing that Divergent was going to do the same thing came as a surprise to absolutely nobody. Following the exact same routine as the aforementioned franchises, the next installment to The Divergent Series, Insurgent, will be released as a complete movie, but the last installment, Allegiant, will be split into two parts. This in particular is becoming a strange trend with multi-part films. Why is it that it is always the last one to be split into two parts? If it is becoming so hard to adapt a book into one movie, how is it that the middle entry in a trilogy has never been split into two films? The answer is that it is becoming less of a reason to make a larger story and more so to prolong the existence of these film franchises and make more money at the box-office.

However, there is one notable multi-part film that is different from all of the ones discussed before (except maybe The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions, but this was before the labeling of “Part 1” and “Part 2” films became a common trend) – one which could set a frustrating precedent for Hollywood blockbusters to come. Prior to this announcement, all of these multi-part movies were limited to just film adaptations of book series, but then came the announcement of Marvel’s “Phase 3” line-up of movies in the ever-growing Marvel Cinematic Universe. Excitement was through the roof already with the announcements of long-awaited characters such as Black Panther and Captain Marvel getting their own movies. However, even with those characters, the one subject on everyone’s mind was: “So where is the third Avengers movie?”

Saving the best for last (at least if one excludes the humorous reveal of the actual title for the third Captain America movie, Civil War), Marvel showed a grand teaser that combined footage from several movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, including footage from both The Avengers and the teaser for Avengers: Age of Ultron. In the mix of these familiar shots is swooping cinematography moving around some golden object, and at the end of the montage, it is revealed to be none other than the Infinity Gauntlet, wielded by a grinning Thanos. A flash of light later, and a plain Avengers logo is revealed, and then suddenly, the subtitle appears: Infinity War. But the announcement did not stop with that. Immediately after the reveal of the subtitle, two more appeared underneath Infinity War: “Part 1 – May 2018” and “Part 2 – May 2019.”

Marvel taking up the gauntlet...literally.
The bombshell announcement of the Marvel Phase 3 reveal.

Comic-book movies have officially jumped onto the bandwagon now, and it is not stopping with Marvel either. DC Comics has been setting forth their own plans for a shared cinematic universe, with films such as Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad, and Wonder Woman being released to tie into the long-awaited and highly anticipated Justice League movie. However, unlike The Avengers which waited until its third film to split into two parts (which could be justified given how many films had been released in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and how massive the scope will be), DC Comics has already announced their plans to split Justice League into two films, with Part One set to be released in November 2017 and Part Two in June 2019.

Considering that the Marvel Cinematic Universe will almost certainly surpass Harry Potter as the highest-grossing franchise of all time with the release of Avengers: Age of Ultron, the announcement that a blockbuster as popular and profitable as The Avengers will undergo the same multi-part treatment will likely incite other studios to split their blockbusters into two parts. Will the sixth Transformers movie be split into two films? Should audiences also anticipate a two-part Bourne movie? If filmmakers adapt the last book in the Chronicles of Narnia book series, The Last Battle, would that be a two-part finale like Deathly Hallows was? Even if some of those ideas sound ridiculous, it seems like studios need almost no justifiable reason nowadays to commit to this routine, especially if it makes more money.

Multi-Part Films Are Becoming a Detriment to Filmmaking

From a studio standpoint, one could argue that multi-part films are a good way of saving costs when making these movies. To an extent, yes, but it has to be a very popular franchise that is guaranteed to make a massive profit to do so. Some of these multi-part films can have a budget ranging from $200-250 million per movie. Franchises such as Harry Potter and The Hobbit can easily recuperate that money; each film makes around $900 million, so when you make two films that spend the same amount of money and earn a profit as high as that for each film, you would make more money than doing the same process for just one movie. However, Divergent was not an earth-shattering box-office success; it made less than $300 million on an $85 million budget. With reactions to the first movie being mixed among fans, and with more special effects entering the mix with Insurgent which will likely add more costs, there is a chance splitting the last movie into two films could lose more money than gain.

The Divergent Series: Insurgent
With Insurgent hitting theaters in March 2015, will the last installment, Allegiant, make the same mistakes as other multi-part films?

Studios could also make the argument that they are doing justice to the last entry by telling more story than they could have if it was only one movie. As some of these films have proved, however, that is not the case. Even the best multi-part films have some people who criticize the slower pacing and lack of action in the first part while also noting the emphasis on action over story in the second part. This results in the two films becoming more uneven than if it was only one movie. Making matters worse is that the extra running-time afforded by having two movies is often unnecessary; they just end up becoming bloated halves of a greater story that do not have enough in each half to warrant them getting their own separate release. There are only a few examples of multi-part films which could be justified, but the rest are hardly made out of necessity.

Another common argument that could be made is that having the last entry split into two movies means that the franchise will last longer and it will draw out the inevitable and sad conclusion to a beloved series. In ways this is a valid argument, but the problem with it is that, no matter what anybody does, the franchise has to end at some point. There can only be so many sequels released for a franchise before it finally ends, and oftentimes when something insists on staying longer, it only wears on audiences’ patience. Take The Simpsons for example. The show was a classic in its first handful of seasons – a revolutionary show that is one of the most iconic ever put onto television. And then it kept going. And going. And going. And going. As of now, the show is on its twenty-sixth season, and audiences are seeing the declining quality of the show with every new season.

To put it simply, less is more. Shows like Avatar: The Last Airbender (which ran for three seasons) are remembered so fondly because of how high the quality of each season was and how it ended in its prime without over-staying its welcome. Those that try to prolong its existence just because it is famous or popular will eventually lower in quality or become uneven. This is no different for movies, most notably with the state of multi-part films today. Sure, you can see one more Hunger Games movie on Thanksgiving. You can also see another Avengers movie in the summer. However, this only turns the excitement of seeing the next entry into a waiting game – waiting for the second part to come out after seeing the first, waiting to see when the franchise will end – which only detracts from the enjoyment of the experience knowing that every time you pay $10-13 for a movie with “Part 1” or “Part 2” on it, you are only getting half of an experience.

The system of multi-part films has deviated from developing more complex stories and has become essentially a year-long intermission that you have to pay for with every movie. At least when the intermission was around, you did not have to pay for both halves of a movie, and you only had to wait ten minutes to see the rest of it. The trend of multi-part films, however, has become a bad influence on Hollywood filmmaking that adds content (which in most cases is insubstantial) but subtracts value and quality in the process. Rather than adding more substance to a story, it instead splits the story into two bloated halves that prove to be mostly middling efforts. It is a trend that is wearing out its welcome, but it seems like it will persist for several more years. For studios, quantity is more important than quality, and the process of Hollywood filmmaking is now entering an era where capitalizing on the success of a franchise matters more than delivering un-compromised and well-crafted movies that audiences will remember passionately years from now.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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74 Comments

  1. “Part 2 of this article to come next month.”

  2. Someone once finger-wagged at me for protesting that Kill Bill was stretched into two saggy films. My argument was that Tarantino suffered from constantly having smoke blown up his nether regions and, therefore, thought everything he wrote was pure gold. He wouldn’t have wanted to cut anything at all while the Weinsteins would have wanted a certain number of mutliplex screenings per day. All of a sudden, their pupils turned into $ signs, like in a Hanna Barbera cartoon, and they collectively decided on the two-film, two-entrance fee grift.

    This person drank the Kool Aid, solemnly telling me that Kill Bill *had* to be split because the first film was a action film while the second was a western. I had to remind him that Tarantino’s ‘From Dusk Til Dawn’ played as a straight thriller for the first chunk before mutating into a horror film and there weren’t any refund requests for being given a two-genre film.

    • A point must come in the life of every artist where nobody ever says ‘No’ to them any longer. At that point, they may as well retire.

      • Monique

        Agreed, Duval. It’s true of books as well — if a series is successful, subsequent books will be edited far less well than earlier ones. The last 2-3 Harry Potter books were not as tightly-plotted and organized as the first few; Laurel Hamilton’s Anita Blake series goes rather famously off the rails. First drafts of creative work are almost indulgent by definition; it’s the editing that makes them sing. When an artist is “too popular to be edited”, the quality of work suffers.

  3. Awesome article!

  4. Farra Curl
    0

    It’s ‘all about the Benjamins’ and Hollywood will keep stretching stories out for as long as it pays them to do so.

  5. What’s the benefit here? Well, those who enjoyed a film (for example, I rather enjoyed “The Hobbit”) get more of it, and those who did not enjoy it are under no obligation to watch any of the sequels.

  6. There is also the issue of special/director/extended/extra’s versions available on expensive endless blue rays. In addition to Ridley Scott planning two or more films following on from Prometheus, the 3D (arrgh) blue ray release has seven extra hours of alternative beginnings, endings, deleted scenes, etc etc

  7. Gigi Sutherland
    0

    I never have and never will watch a full-length film that ends in the middle of the story, unless I can watch the rest of it straight afterwards.

  8. Really great article! You brought in some really great comparisons between multi-part movies. I agree with you that for some adaptations it might be a necessity, a lot of companies seem to be cashing in on the idea instead of giving audiences a nice, concise story.

  9. McCaggers

    Fantastic article! Multi-part films are certainly wearing thin by now. Splitting “The Hobbit” into three parts particularly baffled me. Well done delving into all those lengthy films!

  10. Amanda Dominguez-Chio

    Interesting article. Great job.I agree that the decision to split Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows met well, but I will never understand why they decided to split Breaking Dawn, since nothing happens. I also liked what you said about “less is more,”how prolonging its existence will lower the quality, which I agree. Once again, nice job!

  11. LaurenCarr

    Great article! I’m not sure viewers would sit through a long movie with breaks. Our current society, “right now” ADHD, has changed since the time of The Ten Commandments.

  12. Excellent article! There are occasions where having a film broken up into two parts works (Kill Bill, Harry Potter) but ONLY if it is to represent a tonal shift in the story. In Kill Bill Part 1 was primarily a revenge film, drawing inspiration from the samurai films, primarily “Lady Snowblood”, from Tarantino’s adolescence, whereas Part 2 was similar to a western film, in the vein of Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West. Having it broken into two parts worked. Similarly, HP Deathly Hallows PT 1 was a road film whereas PT 2 was a war film.
    However, most film franchises these days, (Twilight, Hunger Games, Divergent), are breaking up there final films into multiple parts simply as a means to increase box-office receipts. I for one did not see Mockingjay Part 1 simply because it is half a story to a book which already felt too long and meandering.
    I am thankful that there are people like yourself who are spreading the word that we do not want our films in pieces, we want whole, finished products.
    Once again, great article!

  13. Perhaps it’s indulgent, but I like that we got 3 Hobbit movies. Is it a bit overkill? Yes, but for fans who want to spend as much time in Middle Earth as possible, why the hell not?

  14. KatPosey
    0

    The hobbit would also have made a good 2-parter; they would have had to cut way to much of the book to fit it into one movie. The problem is that studios (after seeing the success of Deathly Hallows 1 and 2) are splitting movies that DON’T need to be split. There don’t need to be 3 Hobbit movies or 2 Mockingjays, and splitting Breaking Dawn into 2 movies was just the most blatant “fuck you” money grab possible. Some book-to-film translations warrant a split, but 99% do not.

  15. i challenge anyone to come up with a way that Deathly Hallows could have been done in 1 film without cutting out any important and meaningful scenes and still be under 3 hours long. Go ahead. I personally loved it and cant even begin to think of how they could…

    • Completely agree Harry Potter HAD to be 2 parts (I think the Hobit should have gone with 2 parts as well personally). On Mockingjay – from what the director is saying I think we’re going to get a bigger ending. I am trying very hard to say this without any spoilers BUT I think it’s commonly known that Suzanne Collins cops out a bit on the ending. The last 20 pages could have been another 100 or so but she gave 1 sentence explanations for everything that would then happen rather than showing (She broke the number one rule in writing – show don’t tell).

  16. Don Folse
    0

    Harry Potter was perfect! Loved that they divided it in two parts!

  17. I think is sooo funny when people make the claim that there’s not enough material in any given book to make more than one movie from, when many films (some of the best films out there, in fact) take place entirely in a single room, with a handful of characters max. There’s *plenty* of material even in Mockingjay to derive two entertaining two hour movies from. A better point would be that often adaptations in general just aren’t ridiculously great movies, and the lack of greatness can be slightly more noticeable with the added stigma of a blatant for-profit decision like splitting one book into two films.

  18. Baumgartner
    0

    to quote The Doctor “No More”

  19. Zoila Mosley
    0

    I feel like this is just one of those things that the movie studios can never get right. You get mad when they don’t fit everything into one movie, but you get pissed of they split it into two. Also, it’s brilliant money making.

  20. Mccloud
    0

    I propose a new rule: no less than 400 book pages per movie. Splitting the 800-page Deathly Hallows? Yes. Splitting the 300-page Hobbit into three? Um, no. Splitting the already lackluster 400-page Mockingjay? No.

    • Jessica M Farrugia

      Great rule! It was a shocking move from the director of the Hobbit. I refuse to seem these multi-parters in the cinema.

    • I disagree about The Hobbit. The movie tells a much fuller story than the book does. The movie goes into what’s going on in all of Middle-earth at the time (or more of it, at least), not only with Bilbo and the company of Dwarves. It may have been better off as the originally planned two films. (I think changing to three films was actually the more of the studio’s doing, honestly, but I don’t have a huge problem with it)

  21. In my opinion, the HG movies keep getting better and better so if they can keep up the high quality scripts, acting, directing, etc, I think the two parts might actually work well. Now, the Hobbit and Breaking Dawn REALLY didn’t need to be split. But just because a lot of the splits are unnecessary and bad, it doesn’t mean all book-film adaptations haven’t/can’t get it right.

  22. I have yet to see a book that has been split into two films that did not warrant a split (other than Breaking Dawn, as I did not read the book to know if what was included in the films actually happened in the book, or was added; although I do know that the “final battle” at the end of the second part was an addition that was not in the book).

  23. Qillard
    0

    I think the problem will lie if studios one day decide to start splitting any book into multiple films (ex: if the Harry Potter film series had been 14 movies long).

  24. You might, with a lot of persuasion and an explanation of previous events, get me to watch the LAST film in the sequence, but who on earth would pay to watch just the FIRST one?!

  25. Cisneros
    0

    The benefit? Get the profit from three cinema visits instead of one.

  26. TammiLeyva
    0

    It’s mainly a question of substance and narrative arc, I think. Trilogies only work when the individual films aren’t weakened by having to be “stand-alone” blockbusters, and there needs to be substantial character development from start to finish. On the other hand, some recent “high quality” TV serials are becoming infected with “film blockbuster” moments, as if our attention span isn’t able to be held by dramatic exposition alone these days.

    As an example of how it should be done, we viewed the two early eighties BBC Smiley TV serials, 12 hours of the highest dramatic quality, with not a minute wasted.

  27. I challenge someone to write a two hour film of the Deathly Hallows in which everything that needs to happen, happens. Granted, this is a subjective story-telling decision, but I think that it would be extremely difficult to do. The book is so exposition and plot heavy that trying to squeeze it into one film would be incredibly rushed. At least doing this meant two films of normal length, rather than what Peter Jackson is doing, which is ridiculous …

  28. As a Harry Potter Fan I LIKED that DH was split in two parts.

  29. I think out of all these fandoms, most Harry Potter fans were happy that Deathly Hallows was split into two films.

    • Actually, yes, it made sense to split the last Harry Potter movie. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was a VERY long and informative book. It tied many many things together from other parts in the story, and every single detail mattered. I’m sure a lot of fans would have been mad if the movie wasn’t split and they left out a lot of things.

  30. Of course the first thing people point to are greedy studios, and while this does hold truth, SO WHAT? Movies ARE indulgence. Films can be great art, yes, but I hardly think anyone expects “Mockingjay” to be on AFI’s list of the 100 greatest films. These movies are supposed to be fun.

  31. Very good points made in this article, though I do have mixed feelings about the recent spread of movies. With my obsessions like Lord of the Rings, a three part hobbit movie was a dream come true. Afterall, who doesn’t want more of what they like? In many cases, the splits are excessive, yes. But sometimes, it makes the end much more invested with the watcher, much more anticipated. So sometimes, I will give up and refuse to see the last part of a previously enjoyed book series (such as the Hunger Games), but in others, I feel as if I have been taken on a grand adventure that climaxes after years. Like mini series such as Sherlock, the next edition is built up to with excitement after long periods of waiting.

    Anyways, fair analysis. Nice work!

  32. Matthew Sims

    This was no more evident than in The Battle of the Five Armies, which just felt like making a movie around a battle which did not need to be as long as it was. There is a point where the telling of the story, and the lengthening of its representation on film becomes less interesting than the story itself. That said, I honestly miss the longer movies and would not have been reluctant to see a Hobbit movie even if it was 4 hours long, as long as all of the major points in the story were touched on. Great article and points.

  33. This truly shows how hypocrite people are with film adaptations. When they cut lots of stuff, when they try to cram everything into two films, when they say they wouldn’t be upset to have a book adapted as a six hours film (even J.K. Rowling said that if this would have happened with the HP films, people will be still complaining). DH needed to be cut into two films, people don’t appreciate it enough (Especially how difficult it was for David Yates to adapt these books).

  34. Carlota Irish
    0

    DH part 1 is my favorite Harry Potter movie. I think the pacing is just right, it doesn’t drag at all. I think the problem often is that the decision to split is made without seriously considering if the source material warrants it.

  35. I loved the hobbit movies!

  36. I think splitting films into multiple parts is actually a good thing. It allows them to focus more time on the story and characters.

  37. The Doors
    0

    Splitting Mockingjay was completely unnecessary and Breaking Dawn and The Hobbit could have done without a split, but extremely few people feel the same about Harry Potter so saying EVERYBODY isn’t wise.

  38. Willson
    0

    Every Hollywood movie is made for the money.

  39. August Merz

    You raise a lot of good points in this article Seth. The main problem I have with multi-part films is that they can all too often create the feeling that the time between releases just feels like a year long intermission. For example, Kill Bill Vol. 2 felt like a genuine sequel to Kill Bill Vol. 1; sure it continued the story, but it’s tone was different and no matter what, it was as story worth telling. The Hobbit, however, felt almost like a Saturday morning cartoon that ended with a cliffhanger whose outcome was obvious. As much as I enjoyed the movies, The Hobbit Trilogy really didn’t have a sense of economy and ended up feeling like two four hour long movies rather than three three hour long movies, if that makes any sense. Again, this is a great article, I enjoyed it very much.

  40. I don’t mind it. The Deathly Hallows, there was no way they could’ve have done the finale book justice with just a 3 hour movie. They would’ve cut out way too much from the book, leaving people with questions and unresolved problems. Yes, they still did cut some parts out (i.e. a majority of Dumbledores story) but they still were able to get the main point across. Another example, probably the greatest one, is Mockingjay! When I first heard the news that they were splitting up the finale book, I asked “WHY!!!” I really didn’t think it needed to be split. But then I reread the book and realized that it really does need that second part. I think the reason comes from the fact that everything that happens in Mockingjay happens so quickly. Suzanne Collins didn’t spend a lot of time on each event that happened in the book. And I don’t think people realize that the information provided on that one page is actually very important to the overall story. Now with two parts they can expand on that information and make Mockingjay better than the first two. Splitting movies, especially ones based on books, is very beneficial to the story, not just to the company funding it.

  41. Hear, hear!

  42. reddick
    0

    I think it will allow film franchises to end on a high note and translate the novels to the screen in a positive way.

  43. kaminski
    0

    I don’t think Mockingjay needs it, I’ll wait to judge until I see the movies.

  44. Jamie Tracy

    Great read.
    I agree with what you are saying when dealing with films that are a series like Twilight, Harry Potter and Hunger Games. All movies based on a series of books.
    When it comes to movies like Avengers Infinity War: Part I and Part II I am not as upset because it is similar to movies like Friday the 13th Part 1-? or Oceans 11, 12 & 13.
    When we see films announced from a book series that has 3 books in it we assume there will be 3 films. As you have stated, that theory is shot now. However, when a studio announces a new film and it will have a part 1 & 2 we should applaud them for being forthcoming.
    All that being said. These decisions are likely made for theater goers and not those that wait to watch it on Blu-Ray or even worse, illegaly download movies to watch at home. So the thought of sitting through a 4 hour film without an intermission is daunting. I’d do it in a heartbeat for the right film but not the over-inflated finale to a movie trilogy.

    Great job. Nice engaging topic.

  45. ScottRaia

    Thank you so much for articulating what I’ve been complaining to my friends about for so long. I know some of we avid book fans like to watch the subplots, but I when Warner Bros announced that The Hobbit would be three movies and not two, I half-expected there to be an timed essay component as well.

  46. Let me start by saying that as a Hunger Games fan. After the riveting and heart-pounding Catching Fire (both as a book and an incredibly-adapted film), Mockingjay as a novel was a bit lacking in many regards. A lot of events occurred that were only brushed over in the novel, and splitting the book into two films will allow for the story to be told in full.

    • Tomok Benavides
      0

      As director Francis Lawrence said, “it’s the story that gives meaning to [the rest of the series].” For this reason, I think speaking for “everyone” in saying that audiences do not want split-films is a gross generalization.

  47. Helen Parshall

    This is such an excellent look at something that has been bothering me for ages. I was pleased about HP 7 being split into 2 films because it was such an integral part of my formative years that I wanted it to be done and done well. Flaws and plot licenses aside, I was pleased. Since then… I think franchises are just trying to keep the money rolling. While I will defend Peter Jackson to the death – I’m a proclaimed LoTR fanatic – I think that there really was no need to make one book into three movies. Had this been the trend in filmmaking ten years ago, perhaps Return of the King would have included the battle for the Shire and been split into two movies. As such, ten years ago I was pleased with the art of filmmaking… Now I think it’s becoming a cheap attempt at making more money at the box office than pleasing fans. Anyways, a long response, but well done! This piece gets to the heart of something many people are considering when going to the movies. I work at a theater and when Mockingjay 1 was released, so many guests were walking out going “why”

  48. I think the model that Jackson gave Hollywood in making the film trilogy, The Lord of the Rings, is a good one. All three made at the same time with a limited budget. It produced a consistency in the film making. Imagine if the Harry Potter franchise was made crammed into five years with the same set of writers ,producers and director. It would have been a more intimate and appealing experience for the audience.

  49. aileenmaeryan
    aileenmaeryan
    0

    If movies and books are two different mediums of storytelling, then it makes sense to me for some books to be made into multiple movies. For Mocking Jay Pt. I, I don’t see the film’s ending as the book’s middle; the film exhibits its own story arc, and I can’t imagine the book being crammed into a single film.

  50. Amazing article! These franchises are alienating more casual viewers and even tiring the true fans. Splitting a small book into three parts was unnecessary and the Hobbit Trilogy felt bloated and over done even in the very first movie. The Marvelverse works well as multi-part films because their source material, comics, must have action at every turn and remain fast paced at every page turn. Some books work as multi part, others don’t. One thing is for sure, people are finally noticing Hollywood’s tricks to earn more profit.

  51. I agree with you that splitting films is often unnecessary, but I also agree that it is working well for Mockingjay so far. I enjoyed Mockingjay Part 1 a lot, and I may have missed seeing action just a little bit, but I like what the filmmakers did with suspense.

  52. Indeed I couldn’t agree more. Harry Potter was a necessity, but Hobbit and others was just absolutely ridiculous. You could see the sloppiness and you could even almost see the greed in them. Hollywood is no longer about telling grand stories that will be remembered for ages. It is about making money, and although every filmmaker wants to make money, to have a story defiled over money is horrific and schlecht. I’m going to make a rash statement and argue that perhaps we need to work on developing film and television industries outside of Hollywood and give other cities an opportunity to tell grand narratives. Just because a movie is a great box office seller, doesn’t mean it is good in quality. If we are to create a grand canon for films, we need to focus on telling better stories with the medium. After all only time will tell how long these movies last. Ultimately it is quality and not quantity that dictates a work of art’s success.

  53. Great article! I loved the insight and also agree with your facts. I wonder what will happen when people have so little patience the hour and 30-minute films will have to be trimmed. I certainly hope the feature never becomes the short again. Thanks for a great read!

  54. This is a difficult decision. On one hand splitting a film into two parts could be beneficial for all parties. Fans get to see more of what they love, and the studio(s) can keep the lights on. Sometimes it may be necessary to have two halves versus a longer movie. While I won’t mind sitting in a 4 hour movie, many working adults, college students, and parents (mine mostly) don’t have the time to sit for 4 hours.

  55. Abhimanyu Shekhar

    Wow, I never knew Pirates of the Caribbean was also meant to be a back-to-back initially. I thought it was just lengthened afterwards.

  56. Very well put down. I would like to add to the commentary on intermissions. Interval blocks work like a charm by helping us to join-the-dots in every film until half-point. They let the content sink in to the audience with better clarity. But this is not the case in India where we have forced interval blocks for Hollywood films. Even for an engrossing, one-shot experience like Birdman. It also points to the audience and their movie-watching culture. How patient they are, and how appreciative they are about the art.

  57. Very interesting. personally i found with the harry potter split film to be effective, but no so much with the hobbit,(possibly due to my knowledge of the book) or breaking dawn.

  58. Your right. Multi part films do suck.

  59. Once again, this shows the unoriginality of movies today. Franchises and marketing is what it is all about.

  60. When i see a movie title end in “…Part One” I sigh before looking away. Giving up the integrity of the story to build suspense generated towards profits is pitiful.
    If movies like IT, a 1100 page novel, can be thrown together in one slab, then one Hunger Games book can be mowed down to two hours.

  61. It is a lot about marketing and profit. Movie-making is big business, and it seems more and more that studios want sure things. Stretching out a franchise certainly does this. Look at the Bourne movies. They really shouldn’t exist any more. Or the Bond films. Big cash cow, and that’s not even looking at the tie-ins, which those movies have way too many of.

  62. JLaurenceCohen

    The first volume of Kill Bill is all fight scenes. The entire story is in volume two, which is a great movie. I think the first volume represents Tarantino at his most self-indulgent, whereas the second volume has great dialogue and character development (and plenty of fighting).

    I think there was enough story in both parts of The Deathly Hallows, but splitting up Mockingjay into two movies and The Hobbit into three was not that effective.

  63. moonkid

    I think it works for Harry Potter because you can add much more of the source material, which is something Potterheads have been complaining about. However, this doesn’t work for most series’ as exhibited by Twilight.

  64. Emily Deibler

    I am…definitely sick of the “cut the finale into two parts” trend. With HP, it was sort of okay because, in the source material, the book had different tones between the “angsty camping adventure” part and the final battle part. However, it sounds like most films are dragging along the narrative when compression would be better.

  65. The essence of your thesis I find to be accurate, particularly considering that there is no reason, besides financial, to make a two-part movie. If the movie fan base is large, the fan base will be willing to go through a long movie (perhaps even five if you want to push the premise). If the fan base is not large, but small, then it matters little what is done.

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