Two Parters: We’re not hungry for seconds

It’s the latest Hollywood-made plague, and it’s coming to a cinema near you. We’ve done remakes. We’ve done 3D. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, two-part films are taking the film industry by storm. But is there any point to them?

Two-part films are not to be confused with sequels. Sequels give rise to new characters, new ideas, and new plotlines, or at least a fresh story arc. Sometimes things like “character development” and “background” will crop up, if the director’s feeling generous. Sometimes they’ll even be good. Two-parters (for want of a stronger word) don’t generally do any of these things. They are literally one film — one story — released in episodic form. Like Star Wars, but worse. At least Star Wars had different planets and stuff.

You don’t get your money back, either. You can’t leave a £5 deposit until the second half comes out. No, this is the biggest laugh-in-your-face moneymaking gambit since Scientology. And people are actually buying it.

You call it “clever marketing”. I call it “daylight robbery”. And I want all £15.70 of my money back.

Sitting in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, I had the depressing realisation that I’d been conned. It was bad enough when they had to break off Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End so the audience could have a toilet break. It wasn’t so much an experience as a waiting game. When would the curtain go down? When would I lose the threads of what the hell was happening? How long would I have to wait until the big finale? Why was it that they could squeeze The Order of the Phoenix into one film, but not a significantly smaller book like Hallows? What creative disaster could possibly have made Hollywood do this to us?

The answer, sadly, is simple: desperation. Hollywood is gagging for those rare films they can call “global phenomena”. You know, the kind of films that have fans camping overnight at the door, having just tattooed their face with the protagonist’s name and likeness. When they get one of those films, they cling. And what better way to milk a franchise than to extend it well beyond its natural life, forcing its fans to empty their wallets not once, but twice to see the whole show? It’s like a life support machine for the Bicentennial Man. Just leave it be. Let it die a dignified death. Or in Twilight’s case, just let it die. Now. Please.

“The stage is soon set for an all-out battle in ‘The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1”. I didn’t make that up, by the way. That’s an actual quote from the Odeon website. For those of you that have actually read the books, you’ll know that they don’t even have a battle in Breaking Dawn, let alone an “all-out” one (unless “all-out” is a cue for everyone to leave the cinema). Smeyer made us think they would so we’d keep labouring through her brick-sized death rattle of a finale, and then absolutely nothing happened. How this non-event necessitates two films baffles me. But people just keep lapping it up. And in answer, Hollywood just keeps pumping them out.

And I’m not just biased against Twilight. They’re doing it with The Hobbit, too. As an avid Tolkien fan, I was aghast to hear that even Bilbo Baggins is going under the knife this year. The Hobbit is somewhere in the region of 100 000 words long. That is by no means an excessively large novel; certainly no larger than any of the individual books in The Lord of the Rings. What’s next? Two-part newspapers and songs?

You might argue that a longer film allows for greater exploration of the fictional universe, or helps it stay truer to the source material if it’s an adaptation. But film isn’t trying to reproduce a novel word-for-word. Some things inevitably have to be omitted. No matter how long a film is —  whether two parts or twenty — it can never scratch too far beyond the surface. Film is aesthetic, not all-inclusive. But that’s the beauty of film as an art form.

Maybe one day, filmmakers will remember the point of the editing process. Until then, here’s hoping two-parters will die off more naturally than their franchises.