Series or Stand Alone?
Series or Stand Alone?
I’m asking this question in regards to books, movies.
I think it’s down to the writer, the plot, the characters and the story. I don’t think it’s a good idea to milk a story for all it’s worth just for monetary reasons (the way they’re splitting a lot of the final movie adaptions of books into two, or even three parts). If this happens the story can feel stretched. Like Bilbo says ‘I feel thin, stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.’ A story can feel thin if it’s stretched over too many books. A good example of this is the Divergent series. I’m a fan of the first book. It had a solid story and some gripping action. But it felt incomplete. More of a set up. If there’d been less time spent focusing on the romance and training, the series could easily have been two books. But then there’s the argument that time spent developing character would be reduced. I’m not sure I agree with that. Divergent had enough character development, and Insurgent had the meat of the three book series’ story arc that two books would have worked. Allegiant felt a little pointless–very well written… But not a lot happened and the third book suffered because of it—thousands of fans and many critics agreed.
But some series do need to be two, three, four+ books. Harry Potter is a prime example. Rowling created a colossal world in the Potter books, and confining that and Harry’s story to three or four books wouldn’t have done it justice. The world needed seven books to be fleshed out (though Rowling managed it in the first book alone. More proof of her unparalleled world-building skills) and we needed to see Harry grow up for the resolutions in the final book to impact the way they do. So in the case of Potter, a series, and a pretty long one, was justified. Necessary even.
A series that has been stretched out to over a dozen books (twenty when the latest is released in September) is the Jack Reacher series. But this again, can be justified. The Reacher books connect, but they are by no means a must-read-from-the-very-beginning-to-understand type of series. You can pick up the eight, third or eleventh Reacher book and slide into the story and get to know Reacher without having had any clue who he was before. This kind of series, again, can be justified.
The Hunger Games is a series I’m not sure about. It’s common practice, since the Huger Games, for YA series to be trilogies. But with the Hunger Games I’m not sure if it needed three books or not. On the one hand, the three books, like with Potter, allow the world and characters to develop fully. Two books may not have been enough. Despite the second book, Catching Fire, being my favourite of the series, I’m not sure it was entirely necessary. It’s a bit of a carbon-copy of the first book, and the plot doesn’t move along all that much. If the ending of the second book had been worked into the ending of the first book, then Catching Fire could almost have been omitted, and Mockingjay could have become the second and final book.
In regards to the film adaptions of The Hunger Games, the splitting of Mockingjay into two movies is undoubtedly for monetary reasons. Mockingjay Part 1 felt incomplete, without plot, and if it hadn’t been a couple of hours long, it could have been the first forty minutes of a movie. The Hobbit didn’t feel this way. Each film had a solid plot, and each film felt justified. As did the splitting of Deathly Hallows. The battle of Hogwarts needed an entire film, there is no question. Looking to the future, the decision to split Allegiant into two films is one that can’t be called anything other than a cash-grab. There is nowhere near enough story in Allegiant to justify splitting it into two movies. And the movies will likely—Part 1 more so—suffer because of it. I might be jumping the gun in saying that, but from the evidence of Mockingjay Part 1—which was still a great movie—splitting a book into two when the story is more suited to one movie, is hard to see as anything other than an attempt by a movie studio to milk more money from something successful.
Many fans will look forward to spending more time with characters, in the worlds they read about in books. And I’m one of them. I’ve got no problem spending more time in Middle-Earth and The Wizarding World, or seeing Katniss take down President Snow. But sometimes, it’s good to look at it from a non-fan’s point of view. Is it necessary? Does it weaken the film/book?
I prefer book series to stand alone stories most of the time. I like to get invested in a world and a set of characters, to follow them through several books. And sometimes the world and the characters are solid enough that you forget there’s little in the way of story or point in the series being a series. Sometimes it’s the opposite and Bilbo’s words come to mind.
But which do you prefer? Series or stand alone?