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Hollywood, one film per book, that's it!

Posted Wednesday, April 16, 2014 at 5:17 PM Central

by John Couture

In case you have been living in a cave and only come out during awards season, the latest trend in Hollywood is taking one book and chopping it up into two (or more) films. As with most things in Hollywood these days, I blame Harry Potter.

Famously, Warner Bros., who was sad that the seven book franchise was ending, decided to fleece their golden goose one last time and commissioned and eighth movie by splitting the final book into two films. Now, granted, The Deathly Hallows is a massive book, but I’m still not convinced that the events in the book necessitate two separate movies. Given that an eighth film was inevitable, I probably would have taken the last two books and split them into three films as the main competing narratives about horcruxes and deathly hallows overlap the final two books. But, I digress.

Warner Bros.’ success with this formula resulted in Summit doing the same thing with their competing successful young-adult franchise, and suddenly The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1 and The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2 were born. Warner Bros. went back to the chop chop well once more with the barely 300 page novel The Hobbit and turned it into three movies.

Not to be outdone, the financial windfall enjoyed by The Hunger Games immediately convinced Lionsgate that it needed to split Mockingjay into two films, despite there barely being enough material in the last book to fill one film. So, it shouldn’t be surprising at all that even the mediocre financial success that Divergent has enjoyed ($125 million and growing) was enough to convince Lionsgate to split up the third Divergent book.

Revisionist History

Naturally, you would think that I would be appalled given this proliferation of substandard films that only serve as one last desperate money grab, but with Divergent, I’m intrigued. You see, there are real problems with Allegiant.

Without getting into spoiler territory, I will simply say that the book is a divisive one with many young fans of the series feeling betrayed and let down by the ending. Having read the books, I do think that splitting up the last book will be tough as there really isn’t enough material to support it, but therein lies the opportunity.

Switching gears a bit, there’s another book being turned into a movie later this year called Gone Girl. You may have caught the trailer for the film earlier this week. Anyhow, that film also suffers from a divisive, controversial ending and the author took the opportunity of the film to change said ending. Now, that could be interpreted in any number of ways, but lead actor Ben Affleck says that it’s basically a “whole new third act.”

Now, this could all simply be nothing more than a publicity stunt or it could signal a real departure from the printed word. The trailer naturally doesn’t give it away, but sharp eyes might be able to see enough to make you believe that Ben wasn’t exaggerating.

Given that Gone Girl is a highly successful New York Times best-selling book, such a drastic change is, itself, a scary proposition. And yet, it’s a way to not only make the film stand out from the book, but to perhaps make the story better. I was in the camp of those who didn’t particularly feel satisfied by the ending, while my wife enjoyed it. So, needless to say, we’re looking forward to seeing the film in theaters in October.

Moving Forward

Looking at Allegiant, author Veronica Roth has an opportunity to not only revisit her characters, but perhaps rewrite their destiny. I know that Lionsgate is probably pushing her towards the latter, especially if the franchise starts to get really successful.

Because you know, four movies are nice, but five of six films are better. Ultimately, every franchise is different, but most times splitting one book into two films is nothing more than a cash grab and believe it or not Hollywood, we are wise enough to see through your veiled attempts to present it as anything but.