How 2023 became the year of the half-movie


For those who’ve frequented your native movie show this summer time, you then’ve absolutely observed a development among the many present crop of blockbuster motion movies: the phrases “To Be Continued” popping up on the display simply earlier than the credit roll. Cliffhanger endings in sci-fi films, thrillers, or superhero films aren’t unprecedented, however American filmgoers haven’t seen this many films divided in half for the reason that increase of younger grownup novel diversifications within the 2010s, when the ultimate installments of the Harry Potter, Twilight, and Starvation Video games collection have been every cut up into two components.

Whereas every of these movies overtly marketed their bisected nature, a few of this summer time’s abrupt, yearlong intermissions are coming with little or no warning. How did this apply come to be, and why is it again with a vengeance?

A short historical past of the back-to-back movie sequel

Keanu Reeves as Neo stopping dozens of oncoming bullets in The Matrix Reloaded
Warner Bros.

Again in 1973, producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind decided that their adaptation of The Three Musketeers may not be worthwhile as a single, three-hour movie. To double their return on funding, they minimize the film in half at its deliberate intermission and launched it as two separate movies, The Three Musketeers and The 4 Musketeers a 12 months later. This incensed the cast and crew, as they have been solely paid for a single manufacturing, and since then, expertise contracts have been particularly worded to stop producers from cobbling collectively further films from the footage of what was supposed as one movie with out correct compensation.

However, it stays less expensive to retain forged, crew, costumes, units, and props for a number of movies in the event that they’re filmed both concurrently or back-to-back. As such, when a studio is definite that it desires a number of new entries in a collection, it ’ll usually try to roll the productions collectively. This enables it to retain expertise, save on setup prices, and roll out stated sequels quick, earlier than viewers curiosity fizzles out. This additionally allows filmmakers to finish one installment on a cliffhanger, with the understanding that the story will get resolved within the subsequent movie.

Marty McFly holds his hoverboard in Back to the Future Part II.
Paramount Footage

Examples of this manufacturing technique embrace the second and third chapters of the Again to the Future, Matrix, and Pirates of the Caribbean franchises. Nevertheless, as a lot sense as this all makes on paper, you’d be hard-pressed to search out anybody who would boldly declare the third installment of any of those three trilogies to be their finest. Significantly within the circumstances of The Matrix and Pirates of the Caribbean, the primary half of those back-to-back productions grew to become crowded with new characters and complex concepts, which the second half struggled to resolve. At finest, audiences are left with four-to-five-hour epics that don’t play practically as nicely individually in theaters as they do when marathoned collectively at residence.

After the outstanding success of The Lord of the Rings, a whole trilogy filmed as a single manufacturing, studios obtained extra bold with the long-term planning of their franchises, however in addition they grew to become extra depending on them as money cows. Harry Potter producer David Heyman claims that the choice to separate the seventh and closing guide, The Deathly Hallows, started with screenwriter Steve Kloves, but it surely’s onerous to think about that Warner Bros. wasn’t begging for the prospect to make an eighth movie and an additional $1.3 billion. (Actually it was greenback indicators, not story calls for, that satisfied this identical studio to stretch The Hobbit, an adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s shortest, slightest Center-earth novel, into three movies.) On the heels of The Deathly Hallows, Half 2 in 2011, the Twilight and Starvation Video games franchises would comply with swimsuit, stretching the ultimate novels of their supply materials into two movies apiece. From a studio’s perspective, this was solely logical. Why make one surefire hit when you could possibly make two for lower than twice the value?

Revenge of the two-part film

Vin Diesel leans against a car in Fast X.
Common Footage

With the inspiration of the Hollywood movie trade irreparably cracked by the appearance of streaming and additional shook by the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s no shock that studios have doubled down even additional on established properties and franchises. Every of this 12 months’s stretched-out blockbusters gained their prolonged intermissions by barely totally different means, however all the time with the pretense of a inventive necessity, that the story that the filmmakers had deliberate was just too epic to include in two-and-a-half hours. Nonetheless, given the economics of it, this declare isn’t all the time convincing, particularly for the reason that outcomes have assorted wildly in high quality.

Quick X was the primary of this season’s bisected blockbusters, and simply the weakest. Each Quick franchise entry for the reason that fifth has run previous the 130-minute mark, as their stakes, stunts, and listing of stars have grown uncontrolled, however the concept that anybody would wish twice that lengthy to conclude a narrative about individuals attempting to kill one another with vehicles is patently ridiculous. The issue right here seems to be two-fold; first, if star and producer Vin Diesel is to be believed, Common has an countless urge for food for extra Quick films, even suggesting that the studio has asked for the two-part finale to become a trilogy.

Common has but to verify this declare, besides apparently to greenlight the Dwayne Johnson-led Quick & Livid Presents: Hobbs & Reyes, a spin-off movie set between Quick X: Half One and Half Two that will or will not be the third movie Diesel was speaking about. The second drawback is Diesel’s inflated opinion of the depth of those movies; the man compared himself to Tolkien final 12 months, however there’s completely no indication of a grand design to his saga. Johnson’s post-credits cameo promising his return to the franchise was filmed just weeks before Fast X premiered, and the film’s cliffhanger concurrently teases that a number of foremost characters might have died and that one other long-dead character is definitely alive. Drawing this franchise out will not be doing it any favors.

Miles Morales stands in a bodega in Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.
Sony Footage Animation

On the opposite finish of the standard spectrum is Spider-Man: Throughout the Spider-Verse, the sequel to the Oscar-winning Into the Spider-Verse. It was all the time anticipated that Throughout the Spider-Verse would arrange no less than one further spinoff (centering on Gwen Stacy), but it surely didn’t develop into the center chapter of a proper trilogy till halfway by way of manufacturing. In December 2021, the primary teaser trailer introduced that Throughout the Spider-Verse had been retitled Throughout the Spider-Verse (Half One). Producers Phil Lord and Chris Miller confirmed that their deliberate story had outgrown the bounds of a single movie and been expanded into two, with manufacturing of the primary chapter flowing repeatedly into the second. Months later, Throughout the Spider-Verse (Half Two) obtained its personal distinctive title, Past the Spider-Verse.

Whereas it does function a cliffhanger ending, Throughout the Spider-Verse efficiently justifies itself as its personal movie, with the ultimate minutes establishing a brand new set of characters, conflicts, and stakes. One can simply see how the storytellers may, in good religion, decide that this needs to be two films quite than one. This has, nevertheless, come at a horrible value to the animators behind the movie, who’ve been run ragged by Lord and Miller’s constantly fluctuating demands over the course of the 2 movies’ countless manufacturing cycle.

Tom Cruise drives a yellow car in Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One.
Paramount Footage

Mission: Unattainable — Useless Reckoning: Half One’s manufacturing has also overlapped with its sequel, although maybe not as initially supposed. Images for Useless Reckoning was delayed a number of instances in 2020 and 2021 because of outbreaks of COVID-19 among the many forged and crew, and by Tom Cruise’s commitments to advertise High Gun: Maverick in 2022. Manufacturing for Useless Reckoning — Half Two started in 2021, however is still not finished filming, with the SAG-AFTRA strike placing an indefinite maintain on this and each different main Hollywood manufacturing. (Among the many different films on maintain? Depraved: Half One, over at Warner Bros., proving that this development isn’t going anyplace.)

Regardless of Useless Reckoning: Half One not resolving its central storyline pitting superspy Ethan Hunt in opposition to an unhinged A.I., it nonetheless approximates having a starting, center, and finish by way of the evolution of latest protagonist Grace, portrayed by Hayley Atwell. Ethan’s battle is at its midpoint, however her origin story is full. Solely time will inform whether or not this funding in Grace will repay together with her taking the lead of the franchise after Useless Reckoning: Half Two, or if Tom Cruise will truly keep making these movies until he’s 80 years old.

Dune the old school manner

Chani touches Paul Atreides' face in Dune: Part Two.
Niko Tavernise/Warner Bros.

And, lastly, there’s this 12 months’s solely concluding chapter to a bisected blockbuster, Dune: Half Two. When the primary of director Denis Villeneuve’s Dune movies hit theaters in 2021, many viewers might need been unaware that they have been sitting down for an adaptation of the primary half of the enduring Frank Herbert novel. Nevertheless, although it was absent from the advertising and marketing, Villeneuve did, no less than, embrace “Half One” within the title card of the particular movie, dampening the blow of its less-than-satisfying ending. That is notably hanging provided that, in contrast to the remainder of our half-movies, Dune was produced without a studio commitment to finish the duology. This makes the movie’s cliffhanger much less of a tease and extra of a plea, for the reason that collection would solely proceed if the viewers demanded it. We’ll discover out in October whether or not or not Dune: Half Two can dwell as much as that demand.

Every of those sequel methods has a whiff of cynicism to it. The Quick franchise mannequin operates on the idea that audiences will gobble up new collection installments no matter their high quality, whereas Spider-Verse and Mission: Unattainable appear content material to easily hold taking pictures/animating without end till somebody stops them. One may characterize Villeneuve’s Dune technique as weaponizing viewer outrage to extort one other film out of a studio, however this, no less than, places the ability within the palms of the viewers, letting us inform them what we would like quite than vice versa. It’s tough to inform if anybody methodology of slicing a film in half yields constantly higher outcomes, but when this launch mannequin pays off on the field workplace, you may wager that our examine’s pattern measurement will get loads larger. 

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