Arts·Group Chat

Why are so many movies being split into two parts?

Culture critics Niko Stratis, Rad Simonpillai and Cassie Cao join our weekly wrap panel to talk about whether mid-story cliffhangers in film franchises actually work.

The Spider-Verse sequel, Dune and Fast and Furious are just some of the recent movies ending mid-story

Official posters for Fast X, Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part One, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One
Official posters for Fast X, Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part One, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One (Universal Pictures, Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros.)

More and more blockbuster movies as of late are ending on major cliffhangers. But does it succeed in bringing audiences back for more, or just make them mad?

Comedian Cassie Cao, film critic Rad Simonpillai and pop culture writer Niko Stratis joined host Elamin Abdelmahmoud to discuss the unending trend of blockbuster movies being billed in two parts.

We've included some highlights below, edited for length and clarity. For the full discussion, where the panel covers the new The Flash film and the Golden Globes sale, listen and follow the Commotion with Elamin Abdelmahmoud podcast, on your favourite podcast player.

Elamin: Listen to me when I tell you that Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is possibly one of the best Spider-Man movies ever made. We were talking about this movie two weeks ago at this very table. Niko, Cassie, you guys were here. You said, "Elamin, you should go see this movie." And I did. And now I'm mad at both of you because it was fantastic — except for one thing, which is that it ends on a giant cliffhanger. For me, that was just a giant buzzkill … and it's kind of got me thinking about the fact that blockbuster movies keep coming in two-part movies now. And I have had it with two-parter movies, okay?

Fast and Furious advertised Fast X as "the beginning of the end." My guy, just make one movie and then end it. It is not that complicated…. Dune was like, "Here's Dune Part One. Wait for Dune Part Two." I don't want to! I just want to get the story one time. Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning, they're advertising that as Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part One. Why are movies coming in two-parters? When I go to the movies, I go to the movies for closure. When the movie ends, I want to feel satisfied that we've arrived at a certain destination. Rad, where do you stand on this? Should I be mad about this? Should I stop being mad about this?

Rad: Let me just say that you're having the exact same reaction as my 11-year-old daughter.

Elamin: She's a real one.

Rad: Because when the Spider-Man credits roll, she's like, "What? Where's the rest of the movie?" I'm like, "It's coming in the next movie." And she's like, "When is the rest of the movie coming out?" And look, I'm not sharing the sentiment because for the most part, I think if you have given us a movie that stands on its own — it gives you a satisfying story, and a satisfying emotional arc — and then adds a cliffhanger to that, I'm all for it. And, you know, this takes a page out of Empire Strikes Back, which is arguably the greatest sequel ever, maybe — and the only Star Wars movie worth any salt.

WATCH | Official trailer for Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse:

Elamin: The episode number is right there in the title. But when I show up for Mission Impossible, Ethan Hunt's going to do a thing, and it's going to be over by the time that it's done. And I can go home and be like, "We've resolved it," you know? The Syndicate is done.

Rad: Well, there is a resolution in this movie. There's an emotional revelation and all of that. And so, I'm all for it. When you mentioned certain two-parters, I get it — like Avengers: Infinity War, which was a hollow nothing until that cliffhanger came along, I get it. Set those aside. 

Elamin: It's, like, 6 hours. 

Rad: Yeah, but no, this warranted it. It earned its stripes.

Elamin: You know what it reminds me of? When Harry Potter split the last book into two movies, and I was like, "Who needs this? You could have absolutely fit this into just one movie." Cassie, you're the screenwriter on the panel. Where do you stand on cliffhangers in movies? 

Cassie: I felt the same way you did when I watched [Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse]. It was so long. All these superhero movies are so long. We were getting to 2 hours and 15 minutes and I was like, "They're not going to wrap it up. They're not going to wrap it up! How do we solve all these problems?"  

Elamin: I was panicking in the chair.  

Cassie: Yeah, absolutely. I was like, "God, how are they going to pull this off in the last 10 minutes?" But I will say, I think the cliffhanger — I respect it. I think game recognizes game; we're talking about it so much, you know what I mean? They give you that closure, you go to sleep [and] you forget about this movie. But here you are, weeks later — mad, angry. This is, I think, the next generation of rage farming.

WATCH | The ending scene of Dune: Part One:

Elamin: I'm mad because I've been robbed of something. I'm looking for emotional closure and I don't have it, Niko. I don't have it at all.  

Niko: I think it's interesting that you referenced Dune, a movie famously based on more than one book. It is a series of novels. 

Elamin: Fine. But when you're going to adapt the thing, you're adapting the first novel. 

Niko: Sure. But there's another novel after the first one.  

Elamin: Yeah, but that's not a *me* problem.

Niko: I feel like it strongly is a *you* problem. You're telling me this mission is impossible, and you want to wrap it up in two hours?  

Elamin: I just want to wrap it up in one movie, and then like five years from now be like, "We're going to make another one. He's going to climb the Burj in Dubai," or whatever.

Niko: The comic book movie part of it makes sense because this would be a serialized story that doesn't end on a closure — because you want somebody to buy the next issue in a month or whatever. Like, on Spider-Man I like that ending. I don't always like it — like on Fast X, that could be one movie…. But every now and then, I like the anticipation of what will be next because it's nice to have something to live for. 

Elamin: You know what I'm learning, is I'm out in the cold on this one. All of you are against me, and it's fine.

Cassie: To compromise, I do think that at the beginning of two-parters, they should do a little recap like, "Last time on this…" In the Spider-Verse one, I was like, "That was four years ago. I do not remember."  

Elamin: If only they had an art form for this, called "television." That is literally a thing that exists.

You can listen to the full discussion from today's show on CBC Listen or on our podcast, Commotion with Elamin Abdelmahmoud, available wherever you get your podcasts.

Panel produced by Ty Callender.


Trishla Parekh is a 2023 CBC News Joan Donaldson Scholar. For story ideas, you can contact her at