Oh no. Here we go again. Director Jon M. Chu announced that his adaptation of the beloved single-installment play Wicked is being split into two parts. Yes, indeed – the late early 2010s are happening all over again!
You see, this isn’t the first (and likely, not last) time that Hollywood has split beloved source material into two parts. When anxious movie executives see the well dry up, they’ll perform the desperate act of the two-part book adaptation to squeeze more dosh out of you.
In a world filled with unnecessary movie sequels, here are ten such examples of this happening:
10) The Godfather I & II (1974)
This is the least sinful example on the list. It helps, frankly, that The Godfather Part II is really freakin’ good. It also helps that the movie only partially adapts from Mario Puzo’s novel, having covered most of the book in its predecessor.
In this mafia follow-up, Francis Ford Coppola splits the film between the formative years of Vito Corleone (played by Robert De Niro) and the life of his son, Michael, in the present. In doing so, Coppola adapts the early life of the elder Corleone portrayed in Puzo’s original novel, The Godfather, while filling in the rest with mostly original material.
9) The Three Musketeers/The Four Musketeers (1973-74)
“Father of the Music Video” Richard Lester is known for his work on The Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night and Help! He is also well-known among superhero nerdom for directing the Salkinds’ 1980s Superman II. But, the latter movie isn’t the first time the Pennsylvania-born filmmaker worked with the Salkinds.
Indeed, Lester worked with the father-son duo on another iconic IP – the Three Musketeers. Now Alexandre Dumas’s novel has been adapted for the screen countless times. That listing could be an article all on its own. However, Lester’s take on the classic story is notable for being split into The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers. They cover the first and second halves of the novel, respectively.
8) Dune Parts 1 & 2 (2021-2023)
This one’s a bit of a cheat because the second part isn’t out until October 2023 (as of the time of writing, it’s well over a year away). However, it still stands as an example of a single novel split into multiple films. And depending on where you stand with Denis Villeneuve’s sci-fi gawker, you’ll either be excited or uninterested.
Regardless, however, it’s understandable why you’d split Dune into at least two parts. Frank Herbert’s original novel is lauded for its worldbuilding, entrancing patient readers into its dystopian universe. Denis Villeneuve’s excellent Blade Runner 2049 was an excellently atmospheric dystopian piece and a cinematic argument for why Villeneuve should continue making eerie dystopian movies.
7) Twilight Breaking Dawn Part 1 & 2
Stephanie Meyer’s pop-culture-shaking teen drama fantasy proved a Box Office success of unexpected proportions. So successful, in fact, the Powers-That-Be apparently wanted the milk the final installment for all its worth. And thus, Twilight: Breaking Dawn was split into two parts for its big-screen journey.
I can’t discern whether the two parts were justifiable from a narrative or artistic standpoint. I read halfway through the first novel before arriving (remarkably late) at the conclusion that life is just too short. However, this fact never deterred countless prepubescent girls from indulging in Meyer’s escapist fantasy in both film and novel format. Both parts of Breaking Dawn proved critical and commercial successes and proved the franchise hadn’t lost this appeal.
6) The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 & 2
The Dark Knight Returns is one of the most celebrated comic book stories of all time. While hardcore fans argue over whether Frank Miller’s timeless classic is responsible for ‘dark, edgy Batman,’ not many deny the graphic novel’s impact on the industry. Certainly, it highlighted a golden age in Miller’s career, far before his much-derided All-Star Batman & Robin became an internet meme.
When the time came to adapt the story as a direct-to-video animated feature, the decision was made to split it into two parts. Apart from that, there’s not much to say. It’s a mostly-faithful adaptation that is visually striking for direct-to-video movies. What’s more, a deluxe edition would later emerge, combining the two parts into one cohesive film.
5) IT Chapters One and Two (2016-2019)
Stephen King’s phenomenal bestseller IT is 1,131 pages long. And when you consider the novel constantly switches between two timelines, there’s enough content to justify two films. Apparently, the studio realized this early on, so 2016’s film covered the ‘child timeline’ while the follow-up covers the ‘adult timeline.’
Honestly, as far as multiple movie adaptations go, IT 1 and 2 were good ideas. The 1990 miniseries starring Tim Curry took a different route by having both stories play out concurrently in the narrative, similar to the novel. By isolating each timeline to separate films, the studio could focus on child fear and adult trauma in separate movies.
4) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Parts 1 & 2 (2010-11)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is arguably the film that kicked off the ‘two-part novel adaptation’ trend of the 2010s. After reviewing JK Rowling’s seventh and final Harry Potter adventure, producer David Heyman suggested that Deathly Hallows become two movies. Potter himself, Daniel Radcliffe, concurred that the book wouldn’t be done justice if adapted into one film.
Whether or not you believe the appeal to artistic integrity, it’s hard to imagine Warner Bros. hesitant to go along with it. Both parts of Deathly Hallows performed incredibly well – and greenlighted a spin-off series. And, their flaws aside, both parts of DH are good cinema, faithfully recreating Potter’s darkest chapter yet.
3) The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Parts 1 & 2 (2014-15)
Uh-oh. Lionsgate realized it was fast running out of Hunger Games material to adapt. But one enthusiastic executive went, “ah-ha! Remember when they split up Harry Potter a few years back? How about we do the same here?” At least, that’s how it probably went down.
And thus, the last novel in Suzanne Collin’s YA dystopian trilogy was adapted into two movies. But as far as money-snatching corporate moves go, this isn’t the worst result. The first movie acts as a slow set-up for the action of the second part. You won’t be disappointed if you’re a fan of the books, although some still deem Mockingjay Part 2 an unnecessary movie sequel.
2) Allegiant (2016)
Allegiant is an interesting case. Based on Veronica Roth’s dystopian novel of the same name, the movie covers only one-half of its source material. You see, the studio originally planned to cover the novel’s other half in a follow-up film Ascendant (a decision deemed unnecessary by the Director of the first movie, who also acted as producer of the sequels).
However, Allegiant was a Box Office bomb, earning $172 million on a $110-142 million budget. This was enough to cause Ascendant to descend to a proposed made-for-TV movie before being axed altogether. It appeared the market for YA dystopian book-to-movie was on its way out…
1) The Hobbit Trilogy (2012-2014)
The Hobbit trilogy is the guiltiest offender of multiple-movie book adaptations. While watching the films, you can feel them desperately attempt to justify their existence through epic CGI setpieces, birds-eye shots of New Zealand scenery porn, and ominous monologues about the coming of the Necromancer.
Sadly, the desperation is too evident. The trilogy’s padded runtime, laced with tensionless fights and unnecessary, bland characters, feels almost insulting. By the Battle of the Five Armies, this boring unplayable videogame long outstays its welcome.
Do you think it’s justifiable to base two movies on one book? Is it necessary or unnecessary for studios to split one novel into a first part and a sequel for their movies?