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Hunger Or Greed?

Friday 29 November 2013, 14:58

Mark Kermode Mark Kermode

Like some other recent franchises the final book in the Hunger Games series will be split into two films. Is this an artistic or a financial imperative?

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Who cut the Hunger Games?


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    Comment number 1.

    I think it would be interesting to hear from literature fans who are also film fans.

    However, for me, I don't perceive my brain is naturally geared toward the written word. The audio-visual version works far better for me in terms of storytelling. No doubt, there'll be the money grabbing element especially for film adaptations for film such as Harry Potter and Hunger Games. Ultimately, I'd like to enjoy the ride!

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    Comment number 2.

    This is an interesting one and I think that with the likes of Fight Club making a single book into an even better film it is possible to adapt to a 2/3 hour time frame.

    As Mark mentions, Harry Potter got away with it, and I think that is partly due to the fact there were many other Potter films before it, it did not feel like a greed issue.

    The Hobbit is the other way, yes make LOTR into 3 long films to represent the books, but the hobbit as 3 films drags out a story that can be worked into a shorter version.

    I think the art of cinema is changing and it's more about money than a great visual representation. If Inception can be one film and develop a complex theme and narrative then why can't a book version.

    The counter point is books like Tom Clancys Patriot Games. This was a great book with a fantastic court room scene. With no way to condense it into a 2 hour action film it loses a large scale chunk of plot and empathy with many characters. It became a bad film on so many other levels as well, that I am a little upset I loved the book so much.

    Money is a driving factor and it can work for and against you in the cinema.

    I really hated Lord of the Rings and saw 1 & 2 in the cinema. I have never seen the 3rd and have no intention of seeing the Hobbit. Because there are 3 films, they are losing a % of the audience that may have given a 1 film release a go, but who won't invest in 3 episodes.

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    Comment number 3.

    Adaptations do not have to condense or compress: Brokeback Mountain and Eyes Wide Shut, two of my favourite films, arguably lengthen their material substantially to make sense in the cinema.

    On the other end of the scale, length of book doesn't indicate length of material. The Hobbit, in terms of what happens (the bear, the ring, the spiders, the goblins, eagles, men, elves and dragon) is a long story, albeit a short book (and that is before we add the material from the Silmarillion).

    The only bit of Hunger Games that annoyed me was the Mockingjay tune from Romeo and Juliet... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4FHpmn-KYec

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    Comment number 4.

    Hated Lord of the Rings but still went to see the 2nd and expected Peter Jackson to just make one Hobbit film instead of 3 to appeal to people like you?! Makes sense...

    I think it's about money AND about story and also audience expectations. Some readers are very precious about seeing their favourite books on the big screen and want and expect every dot, comma and verb to be covered onscreen. Some aren't.

    I don't think Harry Potter totally got away with it - Hallows Part One is okay but other than that short animated segment about the legend of the Deathly Hallows it's pretty average fare whilst Part Two is almost too action-packed. But it made a tonne of money and British critics liked it.

    The Hobbit - it's with a heavy heart that I have to say I didn't agree with the decision to create a trilogy, a two-parter made more sense as anyone who's read the book knows it's pretty light on character development (especially the dwarves) and Jackson had to try and rectify this. Plus Gandalf always disappears and for a modern film audience this just wouldn't do.

    Still, there has only been one film released in the trilogy so far so maybe Jackson will be proven right in the end.

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    Comment number 5.

    who cares Battle Royale slaps it

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    Comment number 6.

    Having read the final book last year, I am happy that the film is going to be split into two. The final book was still a great read, however I felt as though a lot of story was squeezed into it in order to finish the franchise off. Also, the second film did seem to miss a lot of detail from the book and perhaps would have also benefited from being split in two. I would rather watch two detailed films rather than one rushed film - and if it is for financial gain who cares? It means more enjoyment for fans like me!

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    Comment number 7.

    Books and Films are totally different beasts. I can sometimes understand book fans' complaints if a major plot point or character is changed, but this final-book-in-a-series-split-into-two-films business is for pure monetary means. You can't get everything in there, unless as Mark says, it's a slim book. So compress it; since running times don't allow for one hundred percent artistic integrity.
    As for The Hobbit; Jackson was supposedly happy at two films, and it was the studio that requested it be made a trilogy. You can't get any more definitive on the reasons for one book/multiple films than that.

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    Comment number 8.

    Splitting one film into two is a practise that has been around for a long time. Ivan the Terrible and Bernardo Betolucci's Novecento (1900) are some examples. The idea has since come back to the forefront, largely thanks to Che (Soderburgh's bio-epic on Che Guevara) and Mesrine. However ever since Harry Potter and ther Deathly Hallows was split into two, the young adult franchises final chapters have pretty much followed suit. Deathly Hallows was justifiably split into two. Part One, in my humble opinion, is the best film in the Potter series, and both Parts differed from each other.

    However financial greed is an obvious motivator in this practice. Che was justifibly split into two because its a bio-epic and a short two hour film in regards to one of the most famous political icons of the twentieth century will feel incomplete. Also Parts One and Two differ aestheticaly, thus making each part contected, yet unique.

    As a minor Hunger Games fan, I think splitting Mockingjay is motivated purely by financial reasons. The book itself is tedious and dare I say it, boring. Unlike Catching Fire which was a sensational read, and to which I'm looking forward to seeing soon. In regards to The Hobbit, the idea that Peter Jackson is doing three films based on the book is purely a money grabbing scheme. The novel does not constitute three parts, and the fact that Jackson may well be releasing extended editions of parts 2 and possibly 3 is further proof at how this idea of splitting a film into two has lost its artistic integrety and has become a money maker.

    Seriously a whole movie based on a books appendices?

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    Comment number 9.

    Is this really a discussion? Of course they split a book into two (or more) movies just to cash in. If not, why don't they split the movie in two and then charge us once? Of course they won't do that.

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    Comment number 10.

    It is purposefully for financial gain. If people are going to see it, then there they will drain every ounce of the source material possible. "The Hunger Games" bored me to tears: tacky sets, ridiculous costumes, and total lack of conviction - and please don't compare it to "Battle Royale."

    Those two-parter finales will always be the norm with adapting popular fiction - expect, sadly, if the "Fifty Shades" adaptation is successful, a similar approach will be taken by the studio.

    The only "Parts 1 & 2" I could tolerate was "Harry Potter:" the best of the entire series. And "The Hobbit" will always be wholly unnecessary in terms of draining a classic book of material; a 180 minute movie would have been suffice here. Greed is rife with the studio heads - they would have "Harry Potter Parts 8, 9, 10" if possible. Filmmaking is commerce, and profit is kindle to many of these industry moguls.

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    Comment number 11.

    The question almost seems to be that they will split the books into multiple films if they think the audience will wear it, so we are more likely to see this done for films targeted at the younger demographic. We are less likely to see say a two parter from the likes of The Great Gatsby (although, looking at the Baz Lurhmann, which I prefer to the earlier Redford, that is a film of two nearly distinct halves as the glitz and surface of the first half falls away once Gatsby and Daisy argue at the party, ahem, I digress).

    The flip side of this trend is the greed from the publishers, who will encourage these sorts of tent pole series from authors, who are now expected to spew thicker and thicker tomes as they progress. Everyone decrying greed has to wise up if they want adaptations of beloved books, they are expensive to make so you can't always blame the money men.

    On the other hand Kieslowski managed to spin ten movies out of ten lines of scripture and three out of the French flag. So it will always really come down to whether the finished product justifies our attention with quality script, acting and direction.

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    Comment number 12.

    I read and enjoyed the Hunger Games Trilogy but I'm not sure that Mockingjay needs to be split into two. It wouldn't improve the pace of the action - although I'm sure it would add plenty of money to the studio's coffers. For Harry Potter I would argue that the Half-blood Prince was the book that should have been extended/split because that was the book in which we really start to understand what Voldemort had been up to setting the scene for the final searches/action.
    I loved the spectacle of LOTR although Peter Jackson managed to loose Aragorn's certainty and sense of duty - making him a more modern/angst-ridden soul. The Hobbit - I liked the (very small number of) bits that were true to the book but was depressed by the additions of Orcs and 'Boss Nass'-type creatures. I will see the next installments but I live in the hope that PJ will one day create a single film of 'The Hobbit' without all the padding.

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    Comment number 13.

    Never, never, never, never compare film adaptations to their source novels. It is impossible to do as the mediums have completely different demands and require completely different techniques. This is why novelists are novelists and screenwriters are screenwriters with very few who can successfully do both. It will only lead to madness (or at least pointless arguments). If a film finds a formula to be considered 'good' then that is all that's important, whether or not it's source is a complete novel, an abridged novel, part of a novel, from somewhere else, or even an original screenplay (if such a thing exists). In short, if Mockingjay parts I and II are as good as the first two Hunger Games films then we should all just be happy!

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    Comment number 14.

    I will go on record and say that as someone who not only liked the first installment of The Hobbit but loved it, the films are receiving a widely, very unfairly negative reaction. Admittedly, as a huge fan of the novel, when I first heard that they had split it into three films, I was a bit skeptical. However, when I finally saw The Unexpected Journey after revisiting the book, I realized that it was absolutely essential to the kind of story that was being told. One has to recognize that the lengths of books do not mirror those of films. What could be a mere two paragraphs in a piece of literature could be an entire sequence in a motion picture. Additionally, Peter Jackson brings in a lot of other material outside of the original novel to help connect it with the rest of the Middlearth mythos. Perhaps the 48 frames per second thing is stretching the ball, but that's another story--the decision to split The Hobbit into three films makes perfect sense. All of the complaints about the first film being too long or dragged out are absolute bogus, as it is not much longer than a single film out of The Lord of the Rings, which were also perfect in terms of length. Seriously, what is up with people these days and film lengths? I thought you were film fans--shouldn't a film being two hours long not be that much of a burden? Where do you people have to be?

    As for The Hunger Games, I was not very impressed with the first film. I found it to be incredibly overrated, horribly made on a technical level, highly derivative, tediously pretentious, and too sanitized for its content. If I want a dystopian science fiction film about the horror of reality television, I'll watch Rollberball; if I want a film about children fighting each other to the death, I'll watch something that truly captures the brutality of it all like Battle Royale. I will still go to see Catching Fire regardless, however, as it's surely more worth it than the atrocity that was Twilight.

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    Comment number 15.

    I read Jurassic Park the novel before I watched Jurassic Park the movie and remember being a little disappointed. The novel was pretty much gutted for the film adaptation, which is usual, but I felt that many plot points of the movie made less sense as a result, such as the relevance of the dinosaurs breeding and how this linked to the technology deployed in the park. In the book, this was a much more important plot point as it meant that the people stuck in the park really didn't know what they were potentially facing, in terms of dinosaur numbers. However, it was interesting that they later revisited the first book in the second film, by finding room to include some more of its exciting set pieces.

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    Comment number 16.

    This movie should've been called The Hunger Games: Counting Sheep. I found it terribly long winded and boring, the ending left me thinking "it took 2 and a half hours to get to this point" part of the third book should've been grafted onto 'Counting Sheep' in order to liven up the story.

    One of the few people to ever see the full nine hour version of 'Greed' Idwal Jones, commented that it had "every comma of the book put in" so this is nothing new. When it comes to adapting popular books for the screen, the writer or director is some times so in love with the text, they can't bare to cut anything. And if the author of the source material is credited as 'Executive Producer' that's usually an indication that every comma and false stop is up there on the screen.

    As for The Hobbit, contrary to a lot of people on this blog and my own expectations, i thoroughly enjoyed the first part and came bouncing out of the cinema ready to watch part 2, so bring it on Peter!

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    Comment number 17.

    In my opinion Mockingjay is not only a difficult read, but a difficult book to like. For me it tramples over several characters that we've grown to love over the previous books and is rather confused in the message it wants to deliver. It's a trilogy that could really have done without the last two books.

    As for splitting Mockingjay into two films, well it's a cash in, isn't it? There's absolutely no artistic justification for that decision. It's not a long book and certainly not a complicated one.

    There's no more Hunger Games films to follow it, well not for a decade or so when somebody will re-imagine it for a new generation, so it really doesn't matter how much you upset or alienate the target audience, you're not going to be getting any more money from them anyway. As an added bonus, double the TV rights, and probably higher DVD/BD/streaming/rental revenues too.

    From a cynical accountant's point of view, why wouldn't you? Everybody wins, except for the paying audience, but who cares about them?

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    Comment number 18.

    hollywod is and always was and always will be about money!

    it is really really naive to suggest that somebody in hollywood still makes movies for the sake of the artistry

    execs will squeeze every drop out of any franchise if it has commercial potential - they are masters at it

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    Comment number 19.

    Personally, although I know I am in the minority, Mockingjay is my favourite of the trilogy. I think this might stem from the fact that, generally, I don't rate them particularly as fantastically written books. The themes, and the ideas, are fantastic (yes I've read/seen Battle Royale, I know all about that argument), and to me those are strongest in Mockingjay. The journey, and the physical and mental effect it has on Katniss et al. are best portrayed in the final book.

    That said, I'm not convinced it will support two films. The source material is quite ploddy, and of all the books it probably spends the longest on the love triangle (even if it still isn't central to the plot). I can guess where they'll split it, as there is a point half way through the book that would allow for a fantastic cliff hanger, but I worry about how they'll have to shift things up, because if they did split it there, Katniss would not be a particular presence in any action scenes. There simply are none in the first half of the book.

    The decision, clearly, was for money, and that's just the way these things go. I loved the final Harry Potter film, not so much the seventh, and I thoroughly enjoyed the first Hobbit film, so I'll wait and see how the films are when they come out, and reserve judgement until then.

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    Comment number 20.

    I believe that Ive said this in a previous blog that although I have really liked the first two Hunger Games movies.(Catching Fire being the better of the two). I really can't see how they can make Mockingjay into 2 films. It really is a case of Hollywood greed especially as they did such a great job with the second film. Mockingjay is one of the most deeply bleak Politically strange books that I have ever read. By cutting it in half you will lose the novels narrative and as (spoiler alert) the book gets progressively bleaker. So the last movie will only appeal people like to self harm. The makers should just end the trilogy with an dark Epic instead of a blockbuster.
    PS making Hobbit into 3 films is just stupid. But I will go and see them and I know I'll reluctantly enjoy them.


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Outspoken, opinionated and never lost for words, Mark is the UK's leading film critic.

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