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Friday Flix: Breaking Up

September 30, 2011

I’ve gone on record on this blog as saying that I hate this trend of movies being broken into two parts like “Harry Potter” and “Twilight” and “The Hobbit.”  To me it just reeks of exploitation to get stupid people to pay for two movies instead of one.  Yet this summer when I watched “Captain America” I thought it really needed to be two parts.

The first part would have pretty much been the movie as it was.  That is that Steve Rogers becomes Captain America and takes down the Red Skull.  In the process he crashes a plane into some arctic ice.  But what I thought was that they needed a second part where he gets unfrozen in the modern era.  (Or it could have even been years ago, like the ’90s or something.)  Then he would have to deal with all the issues like his girl being either really old or dead and how the culture has changed and whatnot.  Sure this stuff will probably get some lip service in the Avengers movie, but probably not a lot with all the other stuff that has to be sandwiched into it.

And really it would make sense because the comics took place in two different eras, the ’40s and then the ’60s.  They didn’t do everything in a couple of issues, right?  Really since the story has two different eras, you’re covering a lot of ground, more than one movie could do justice to.  Instead we cover one era pretty well in the movie and then the other gets a real half-baked treatment.  That doesn’t seem fair for an iconic character, does it?

Well sure there probably will be a sequel eventually (I think it performed well enough for that) but it’ll be after the Avengers movie, which is a bit too little, too late to me.

In writing sometimes the question comes up whether a book should be one story or two.  If you’re in that situation, you really have to examine what you have going on.  Is there enough going on to support a second story?  Or would it be easier to scale a little back and just make it one story?  In the “Captain America” example I think there were enough issues to support a second story.  Some would argue there are in Harry Potter, Twilight, and the Hobbit.  I have no idea about the first two.  The latter I’m pretty sure the answer is no if you go by just the novel and not additional stuff added in later.

The closest I’ve had to this situation was when I was writing the fifth Scarlet Knight story.  I had all these flashbacks to a love triangle between our two witches Agnes and Sylvia and Agnes’s husband Alejandro.  Eventually I decided that there was enough of a story in these flashbacks to warrant a prequel.  Which led to numerous bad or stalled attempts at such a prequel.  Eventually I might get that right.  The point remains though that sometimes when you’re working on a story you realize it leads to other stories.

Monday is the thrilling adventures of Indie Publishing and the Lexicon of Doom!


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  1. Movies and books are too different for me to really discuss them interchangeably. I know that’s not your intent anyway – but thinking about movies seems to access a different area of my brain. Still, good ol Cap should have some serious adjustment issues and I’m sure they wont be dealt with appropriately in the Avengers movie. But who knows, maybe he wakes up, fights for humanity, then has his big WTF moment at the end of the movie – I’ve gotten prequelitis myself and am thinking of writing endlessly in my own fictional timeline.

    As for splitting movies in two – I’ve hated it since The Matrix. I didn’t mind the BTTF movies doing it though.

    • The Back to the Future, the Matrix, Lord of the Rings when they shot 2-3 movies at once it was fine because they were intended as entirely different movies. It’s just this new trend of breaking things into Harry Potter 7 Part 1 and Harry Potter 7 Part 2 and so on that irritates me.

      • Oh, well. I was just thinking of that whole cliffhanger ending for a movie. You’re against just as a matter of principal if the original work was one story? Hmmm… was that ever done before recently? I read a sci fi trilogy a few years ago that covered four books. There was this huge apology from the author about it because it was his publisher’s decision to split the final book into two.

        I don’t know – the thing about movies that I latched onto was the cliffhanger endings, which piss me off. I was too young to really get bent out of shape about Empire, but I do recall the moving ending and I was like, WTF just happened? Why is the movie over now? Everyone I like just got their butt kicked and then the movie ended. Well, I got over it and after Jedi, realized its genius. However, when they did that cliffhanger business in the Matrix I was pissed off all over again. The main difference between that and Empire was that I was older, and didn’t just sit through 2 hours of awesome before the cliffhanger. So, I suppose we’re mad about two different things there. I don’t have any issues, in principal, with turning a single book into two movies. Hell, they turned the Game of Thrones novel into 10 Television episodes… that’s like, four movies.

      • I don’t have any problem with real cliffhanger endings so long as they’re resolved by the author. Mr. Troublewithroy knows how I feel when the author doesn’t resolve them! I’ve actually used a few cliffhanger-type endings in the past, like in the Scarlet Knight stories volumes 4, 5, and especially 7. But that’s different than a movie studio manufacturing a cliffhanger ending by breaking a book into two parts. With the Potter movies especially they slimmed down all the other ones into one movie and those weren’t short either, at least not by the fourth or fifth one. Now all the sudden you can’t fit the book into one movie? Come on.

        I don’t think that’s a trend that will really catch on because in order to do it you need something where part 1 is guaranteed to succeed. I mean if they’d broke “Green Lantern” or “Bucky Larson” into two parts, who would care? Not many people went to see the first part, so no one’s going to see the second. It wouldn’t surprise me if for instance Warner Brothers wanted to split the next Batman movie into two parts. And I’d probably go watch both so long as the first one is good. So I guess I can’t fault Potter/Twilight fans too much. Still, it’s like with the crappy 3D jobs like “Clash of the Titans” and such, just a way for the studios and theaters to make some extra bucks.

        And for the record, Empire is my favorite ending ever. Was it Dante in “Clerks” who said the reason it’s good is because it’s a downer which is like real life? Maybe it was a different Kevin Smith movie. Or maybe it was “Free Enterprise.” Anyway, whoever said it in whatever movie I totally agree.

  2. When it comes to books, I love one-shots. I don’t read many sequels. I’m happy for the occasional recurring character to crop up in a writer’s work (Paul Auster’s done this a few times, for example) and I don’t necessarily mind different stories set in the same universe, but mostly all of my favourite books are standalone, complete stories in their own right. My preference these days is for self-contained, original stories that play themselves out in one go and satisfy my curiosity in the process.

  3. I’m not sure I see the distinction between a one-shot movie and a two-shot movie. Yeah, I know that the Harry Potter & Twilight movies are probably being deliberately broken up to generate more income, but that’s something that Tolkien and Dickens each did with their books. A better question to ask might be “Why not make six movies and have every single thing from the books in them?”

    Comic books tend to be longer stories focused on single-shot episodes: Spidey fights the Vulturions, but also continues to deal with larger issues in his life, like J. Jonah Jameson being deranged. Nobody really complained about “The Dark Knight Returns” being broken into four books before it was joined into one, or “Crisis On Infinite Earths” being released in serial, 12-issue format.

    Like sequels, I think you enjoy the double movie if you like the movie itself or it’s well done. Same with the double book, although I think there the idea is to maybe keep it to a manageable price as opposed to a manageable length. Stephen King had to whittle down “The Shining” originally, and when I hear that George R. R. Martin’s gritty reboot of Middle Earth’s latest installment is twenty-zillion pages, I think “Well, I probably won’t be picking that up, soon.”

    I think it all depends on the richness of your universe and the quality of your writing. Franzen probably could have cropped out the rock star character in “Freedom” and given him his own book, and “Freedom” wouldn’t have suffered much by excising most of that character, even though he drove part of the plot. But did it hurt to have him in there? No, because while it made the book longer and digress-y, it also helped fill out that world and I found the character to be one of the better ones in the book.

    So for my “Lesbian Zombies Are Taking Over The World!,” for example, I originally planned it to be about book-length. It’s up to almost 500 pages now, and the plot hasn’t hardly advanced at all — so it’ll be a multi-book epic, obviously, which I think is warranted.

    I guess I kind of talked myself into seeing that what you said is right, except that I don’t automatically mind them splitting up movies into two parts.

  4. What’s up with my inablity to reply anymore to the original thread? Well, regardless, the more I think about Empire, the more I realize it isn’t really a cliffhanger – a real cliffhanger would have ended the movie without Luke getting rescued by Leia and Chewy. It just had a few plot threads remaining to be resolved. But I don’t know if I want to go see a space fantasy movie and then praise it for being so much like ‘real life’ because of it being such a downer. It was dark, I can live with dark, I’m drawn to that. But if it were more like ‘real life’ then Leia would have already been pregnant and not sure who the father was. Luke would have jumped at the chance to join Vader and those pilots for the Empire would quit ramming into each other with those giant ships… that goes way beyond stupid.

    • I don’t know what it is with WordPress where it does that after like one reply. Of course I can always reply to the right comment in the thread by going to my comments page.

  5. I think George Lucas should capitalize on what you are pointing at here and break the original Star Wars movies into two pieces, throw in some filler special effects stuff to round out the movies to about 1:20 minutes a piece and then re-issue them.

    I’m just kidding.

    But I’m sure he’s thought of it.

    On your comment on my blog about Dead Island’s trailer becoming a movie…I don’t know if you were joking or whether you knew this ahead of time, but LionsGate Films greenlit the movie for production based exclusively off of the trailer for the video game. It shall be released soon…probably early 2012. So either you’re a prophet or you are just in the know.

    Either way, congratulations for nailing that one.

    • I didn’t know that but I think I’ll claim I did and get people to start thinking I’m psychic. What that trailer demonstrated to me is how important the right music is in a movie. I don’t think that would have been nearly as effective if they’d used a heavy metal song or something. The piano melody gave the right tone of sadness to effectively set the mood.

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