Hollywood: The Battle For More Money : Or How We Need To Stop Comparing Films To Their Source Material – Part 1 (of 1) | Seek First Productions

Let’s be honest, this is getting ridiculous. 


Take a classic literary work that was recently adapted to film, such as The Hobbit. It’s a presequel following one of the most successful film franchises of all time, both commercially and critically. It was a rarity to find an anti-LOTR fan during the early 2000s. Heck, the LOTR trillogy was nominated for a total of 30 academy awards, and garnered 17 wins. I call that a success.(A)


Pictured Above: New Line Cinemas Execs, circa 2001

Yet, the Hobbit films haven’t done nearly as well. They have done very well, but while every LOTR film has made more money than the previous film, The Hobbit trilogy has, so far, done the opposite. (B). Even though The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies only has to make $958 million for The Hobbit trilogy to surpass LOTR's box office earnings, it’s actually only predicted to make $903 million. Yes, only a paltry $903 million... that’s like, pennies. 


"This is very bad for me... mostly because I'm broke."


It should be a bit of a shock that The Hobbit trilogy is underperforming, but I feel as if it was expected. The original LOTR trilogy took great liberty with the source material in order to make the story more feasible to produce and more digestible within the film medium, but in spite of this it was praised as one of the greatest trilogies of all time. Now look at The Hobbit, which, for those of you who don’t know... is a very short book. If LOTR was the Bible, The Hobbit might be a tract. So, it shouldn't be as difficult to adapt to film, correct?

http://s3.amazonaws.com/bo-assets/production/tiny_mce_photos/26227/original/hobbit3.png"Pffft, please. When have we EVER failed you."


Let it not be said that studios don’t listen to their audience, and let it not be said that this is always a good thing. For years, YEARS, film goers have complained over the merit of the “adapted screenplay”, or a film which adapts work from a stage play or novel for the big screen. For the most part, we’ve always accepted that a film will not remain 100% consistent with it’s source material, because the source material is not produced within an identical medium. This is good, as it provides opportunities for creatives to explore new dimensions within an established universe to tell a compelling story.

http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_mc61phJzmQ1qbvodpo1_500.gifA lot of you. Right now.


The Silence of the Lambs. One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest. Dracula. Jurassic Park. The Maltese Falcon. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. True Grit. All Quiet on the Western Front, The Shining. All of these were based on novels, and they have all become cinematic staples. I'm willing to bet that they didn't feel pressured to "live up" to the source material. 


Then the Harry Potter series happened, and everyone got super moody. “They left out an important part!”, “It’s nothing like the books”, etc. So the studio execs got an idea: “So that we can include more material from the book... let’s release the final film in two separate parts! That way the audience will enjoy more material! (and we’ll make more money).”This worked out very well for them, mostly because they made a lot of money.  Suddenly, it seemed a pretty good idea for every studio to do the same thing for their book to film franchises. And what’s happened? Suddenly the storytelling from most of these big budget releases has dropped dramatically. Not to mention that the movies still weren't entirely accurate to the novel. 


I mean, take Mockingjay Part 1... it was sorta boring, right? I know that Jennifer Lawrence is an academy award winning actress, but that doesn’t mean that we want to watch her cry for 2.5 hours, especially without any resolution to look forward to. I know that might be pretty confusing, Hollywood. The Hunger Games and Catching Fire were both excellent adaptations of the source material, and each of those installments was full of thrills, adventure, and strong performances. Mockingjay Part 1 is not a film I would refer to as “thrilling” or “adventurous”, although it’s performances are pretty great (again, we don’t need tears for 2.5 hours though). I think it’s because the original material wasn’t designed to be adapted to film "as is". It shouldn’t expect to be, because it’s a book! Likewise, a film shouldn’t feel as if it needs to be “split” in order to appease the novel gods, because it’s a movie!


Imagine if a bunch of classic films were split into multiple “parts” to make the fans of the book “happier”. 


A Clockwork Orange – Part 2, Jurassic Park: The Two Hour Kitchen Scene, The Graduate: Not Like Our Parents, Full Metal Jacket: The Part Where We Actually Go To War, Gone With the Wind - Part 3, or The Godfather – Part 2! 





It’s addressing a problem that doesn’t need to exist. A movie’s primary goal should be to create an experience that is optimized for the cinema, not to fulfill the expectations of a needy fanbase. 


One of the best film franchises I can think of is Star Wars. It’s not based on a book, but it is a franchise that tells a big story split into multiple parts, and each part from the original trilogy is expertly told as a cinematic experience. When Star Wars Episode VII was announced, it was a bold, but noble, decision to retire the extended universe. For those who aren’t aware, the EU was a series of novels, comics, and games produced after the Star Wars films were produced, and they were considered canon, but Lucasfilm chose to abandon the EU so they could freely draft a new compelling script for another film. This was the right decision.



Pictured Above: Nerd Rage personified


Star Wars is a movie trilogy first, and a series of novels, comics, and games second. Better to ensure that your new material won’t be hamstrung by it’s exhaustively extensive EU then to attempt to make the 200 people who have actually appreciated ALL of it satisfied. That’s why when you translate a novel to film, it’s called an “adaptation”. Things have to change when you use a new medium. 


To bring it back to The Hobbit... we are talking about a relatively small children’s story, which is being expanded to three films. This is the sequel to a film trilogy, which was adapted from three fairly large books. So, that’s one book per movie. On top of that, The hobbit is also jam packed with a ton of information from the LOTR Appendices, which is like... a whole buttload of books. 



But can you imagine if The Hobbit were one film? You might have to remove a scene or two to fit it in to two hours, but it’s totally possible with some creative storytelling! Imagine if there wasn’t the pressure to satisfy a bunch of detail oriented fans, and just make a strong film akin to the original LOTR trilogy! I think that trilogy proved that you will make more money, and more awards with that approach. Take the energy you would have spent on those two superfluous extra films, and produce two other amazing movies instead. 


Of course, I'm still totally watching it. BUT I WON'T. LIKE. IT. 

tl;dr? Hollywood, stop splitting movies into multiple “parts” please.


Chris Keyes

Director of Digital Content

Sources: A - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lord_of_the_Rings_(film_series)#Academy_Awards, B - http://www.ibtimes.com/hobbit-vs-lord-rings-how-much-battle-five-armies-must-make-new-trilogy-beat-original-1717176