Last year, we found out that JK Rowling was writing the script for a film adaptation of her little Comic Relief schoolbook, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. My initial thoughts were, “Hmm, a fictional encyclopedia with no actual story is a strange choice for source material, but still, more from the Harry Potter universe! Excellent!” Plus it would be interesting to see how Rowling’s novel-writing talents translated to writing screenplays.
Then I found out today that it’s going to be a trilogy. And I feel like I’m betraying someone by not being terribly excited about it.
A film, great. But did it really need to be a trilogy?
When it was announced that Deathly Hallows was going to be adapted into two films, everyone was going, “Oh, it’s just to make more money, blah blah blah.” While I’m not naïve enough to suggest that economics weren’t a factor in the decision, I do think the end result worked just fine. Did it work for the best? I can’t say; we don’t know what form a single film would have taken. But although Deathly Hallows Part 1 was a bit slow-going, Part 2 was one of the best films (if not the best) of the franchise, so the decision was worth it for that alone, to do the climax justice.
Then other franchises thought this looked like a great idea, and this time, even my idealistic mind recognised that greed was the primary motivation. There was no other reason to split The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn into two films – that book barely had enough story for one! (As analysed here, over a fifth of the first movie’s running time is nothing more than pure padding.) While more devout Hunger Games fans than I may disagree, I can’t see why Mockingjay‘s story couldn’t fit into one film, either.
Then there’s the Hobbit trilogy. Splitting a book that’s shorter than any of the individual Lord of the Rings instalments into a trilogy seemed peculiar. Once again, however, when I saw An Unexpected Journey, I didn’t find anything wrong with it with regards to pacing, and I thought it was a good decision. After seeing The Desolation of Smaug, however, I wasn’t so sure. That one did feel longer and more dragged-out than it needed to be, and I have a bad feeling There & Back Again will be the same. Maybe part of it was Peter Jackson being a little too ambitious, but at the same time, ‘money, money, money’, the studio would have been thinking.
So in the last few years, Hollywood has found a new strategy for making sure-fire money – and I guess I’m disillusioned because that’s what this latest decision on FBAWTFT feels like.
At first glance, even more material from this wonderful franchise sounds like it can only be a good thing, but more does not necessarily mean better. I would much rather have quality than quantity. I love Harry Potter, I’m looking forward to seeing how FBAWTFT develops; and it would be a shame if it was spoiled by Hollywood executives with dollar signs in their eyes, making the whole thing longer than it needs to be, in the name of profit.
But of course, everything is still very much on the drawing board at the moment. So, as with Ben Affleck playing Batman or Arnie playing the Terminator again, the sensible thing to do is sit back and wait until the film(s) actually comes out before passing judgement. (There are, naturally, obvious exceptions to this rule – like if it turned out Justin Bieber really was going to play Robin.)