Not So Good Lastest Trend: Spliting Young Adult Novels Into Two Movies

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.

Book Review: Divergent

Recently, I picked up Divergent by Veronica Roth. It is the first book in the Divergent trilogy. It was published a bit ago (Feb. 2012), but I had not really heard much about it until it began making its rounds through the schools where I teach. I knew a bunch of middle and some high school students had read it and thus, I picked it up during a fundraising event this past December at Barnes & Noble because I liked the description of the book on the back.

At first, it was very difficult to read. The first 100 pages or so of exposition and background were a challenge to read due to the present tense voice. It sounded awkward and choppy. Thankfully, when the book began to hit its stride, the present tense actually worked well. In fact, if I was the editor of the book, I probably would have left the awkward beginning because the present tense is so imperative later in the book and switching tenses would create even more awkwardness. Content-wise, I had very little issue with the writing; I rather enjoyed Roth’s description of a dystopian future of Chicago.

Speaking of which, the basic premise of the book is that this “utopian” (really a dystopian) future, society is broken up into 5 groups, called factions: Amity, Dauntless, Erudite, Abnegation, and Candor. However, you can be “factionless” which is their equivalent to homeless. Each faction has a distinct purpose in society, behavioral expectations amongst members, and reputation in society. Each faction functions just like a tribe; there is a distinct rank that must be obeyed. However, the main character is one of a few people who are labeled “divergent”. This label is not fully explained yet, but so far it appears to be that those who are divergent possesses qualities of more than one faction, are not easily controlled, and are a threat to society.

Knowing that Divergent is the first in the trilogy, it is easy to see that this book is the exposition for the entire trilogy. It has a story itself, but its main purpose is to explain the dystopian society and plant the seeds that war is coming. The peace that was sought by the creation of these factions is no longer feasible because the human tendencies of power and greed cannot be suppressed.

There are some grisly elements to the story. There are physical fights, dangerous stunts, suicide, and even murder. However, I do feel Roth weaved these dark elements in well because they are necessary and are balanced out by some happier elements like love and friendship. Roth really probes the reader’s feelings on free will, accountability, society, loyalty, and governance.

I enjoyed Divergent and am looking forward to reading the other books in the trilogy: Insurgent and Allegiant. Also, I am interested to see the movie adaptation of Divergent, in theaters March 2014. Based on previous book sagas like The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Twilight, and Lord of the Rings, I am assuming each book will have its own movie…and perhaps the last book will be split into two movies.

Side Note: In looking up some details for this review, I found numerous reviews for the most recently published book, Allegiant, were very negative. The trilogy ended negatively with many plot questions left unanswered which left many readers dissatisfied with the series overall even though they loved the first two books. So if you are the type of reader who desires a happy, satisfying ending to a series, you may want to skip reading the books and just read the Wikipedia entries and/or watch the movie(s) first.