Earlier this month it was announced that Allegiant would be split into two movies.
Big shock? Yeah not so much.
The splitting of the final book in a young adult series into two movies is a trend that legitimately started with the splitting of a large final book in a series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Film studios saw this extra cash flow and decided to capitalize on it. The trend first spread to the Twilight saga with the final book Breaking Dawn and then on to the pretty small book of Mockingjay from the Hunger Games series as well as The Hobbit from the Lord of the Rings series before arriving at the Divergent series’ final book, Allegiant.
I completely understand the film studios reasons for wanting to split the movies. Their job is to look at the bottom line. They spend a little extra money to make basically a movie twice as long and then release Part 1 and Part 2 a year apart for huge profits. And if they time the Blu-ray/DVD releases just right, they can capitalize on the profits of Part 1 just in time for the theatrical release of Part 2 and then capitalize on a combo pack at Christmas. There is a good return on investment for them.
Doesn’t this make consumers just sound like dollar signs? And before you rationalize that it’s okay because they’ll make up for it by having more time to stay “truer” to the book, you should remember: the studios only care about how much money they make. They only care just enough about keep the integrity of the book intact to get you to spend money at the theaters and buy the Blu-Ray combo edition of the final movie and the collector’s editions of the whole series. Because…well…profits.
However, there is something more important, more problematic, here than profit margin and keeping the integrity of the book intact. In fact, we are seeing that the fluidity and conceptual understanding of story-telling is falling apart. Let me explain…
A movie version of a book, at its essence, is a visual story. Instead of seeing words on a page, audiences see pictures on a screen. The author has chosen his or her way of telling the story. Some authors choose to write the story in a single book. Others have chosen to write trilogies or quadrilogies. No matter what their choice is, the author has chosen the way he or she feels the elements of the story will fit into place. By breaking up the last book into two movies, essentially, story elements are being awkwardly rearranged. In other words, it’s like taking a 5-Act play and forcing the 5th act to be split into two acts. It makes no (fluid or logical) sense.
And though I can accept a story being retold in different way, what really is at stake is the future of story-telling. I’m all for breaking up a final book into two movies if the content can support it. However, we should not keep doing it because of a trend or for profit margins because then what we are really telling the next generation is that the elements of story-telling are not something worth treasuring. Once we start losing the elements story-telling, we begin to lose elements of our humanity.