10 films of two halves

Sometimes, the second half of a film doesn't measure up to the first half. Or, it far surpasses the first half. Rob chops up 10 films into their constituent parts...

Return of the Jedi

With Tarantino and Rodriguez’s Grindhouse proving that joining two different films together just doesn’t work (Death Proof – rubbish, Planet Terror – ace) Rob takes a look at films that intentionally or not can be split into two:

Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Quite an easy one for starters, this. It’s obvious where the break in the narrative comes – and if you have the special edition DVD it’s even easier, because you have to switch discs. The Fellowship has gathered in Rivendell and are discussing what to do with the Ring (I always wondered why nobody suggests getting a eagle to fly over mount doom and drop it in) and we, at last, move onto the story proper. No more broken carrot gags or ambling around having a great hobbity time: things get serious. When the Fellowship is formed the ante is upped and real danger lies ahead. While both sections are superb, once the quest starts (over a hour and a half in) the film picks up the pace, leading to one of the best arm-hairs-standing-up, shiver-down-the-spine moments by the legend that is Ian McKellen: “You shall not pass!”

Classic.

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1st half:

3 out of 5
2nd half –
5 out of 5

Artificial Intelligence: AI

This Spielberg sci-fi extravaganza splits fandom down the middle – is it genius, or, erm, utter crap? The film can be seen really easily as two very different films, the first half, of course, being a clinical sci-fi based masterpiece and the second the sugar-coated mess that is Spielberg’s homage to Pinocchio. If Haley Joe Osment had just stayed at the bottom of the pool for a few extra seconds, faded to black and then rolled the credits the film would be seen as an outstanding piece of sci-fi. As he doesn’t, the film ends up an uneven mess.

1st half:

5 out of 5
2nd half:
1 out of 5

Return of the Jedi

With Han locked away in Jabba’s palace, it’s left up the rebels to infiltrate the Hutt’s lair, rescue the carbonite encrusted hero and escape with their lives. That’s the premise for the best TV-length Star Wars movie of all time. Packed into just over 40 minutes, there’s a giant stop-motion monster, a lightsaber battle, love, gold bikinis and action galore… it’s just fantastic.

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The second half of Jedi is just Ewoks.

1st half:

4 out of 5
2nd half:
2 out of 5

From Dusk Till Dawn

A perfect heist/horror combination that changes tone with a crash as soon as Salma Hayek gracefully sashays onto the screen. What was, up until that point, a pitch-perfect gangster/kidnap film suddenly flips, turning into a gore-soaked survival horror movie that would make Resident Evil turn green with envy.

Both sections are great: blended together with an ear-blowing soundtrack with cameos from Tom Savini and Cheech Marin to produce a movie that can easily be watched in halves or as a whole. It’s the movie equivalent of a fantastic Tex-Mex sandwich.

1st half:

4 out of 5
2nd half:

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4 out of 5

King Kong

Whether it’s the Willis O’Brien masterpiece or the Peter Jackson fan-fiction homage, the film can easily be split in two – the first half once again being the stronger of the two as in each version we are treated to dinosaurs, evil natives and a eerie jungle scenario. In the latter half of both movies the fish-out-of-water (or indeed monkey-out-of-jungle) scenario just doesn’t work, especially in the overly sentimental Jackson version that has Kong skating. Urgh.

1st half:

4 out of 5
2nd half :
2 out of 5

Full Metal Jacket

Intense, vivid and unrelenting, the training session overlooked by R. Lee Ermey is as hardcore a training regime as any soldier has ever been put through on film. Psychologically breaking down the soliders to become drones, the relentless early morning drills and killer schedule drains out every last vestige of humanity from the rookies. Then, of course, they go to war… and, erm, it becomes an advert for the London Docklands (see also: Starship Troopers for the same set-up.)

1st half:

5 out of 5
2nd half:

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1 out of 5

Saving Private Ryan

Depicting a near-perfect battle sequence and one of the most staggeringly accurate fire fights ever seen on film, the first half an hour of Saving Private Ryan will go down in history as the most extreme and harrowing depictions of the horrors of the beach landing. However, once the battle is concluded the film changes tone, becoming an all-boys-together adventure. Tom Hanks leads his merry troop off to find Private Ryan, and in the process completely destroys what could have been one of the best war movies of all time.

1st half:

5 out of 5
2nd half:
2 out of 5

Titanic

They flounce around for 2 hours… and then the boat sinks. Next!

1st half:

1 out of 5
2nd half:

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3 out of 5

Aliens

Without the tense and tight directing skills of Ridley Scott, James Cameron played to his strengths as an out-and-out master of action movies, making Aliens bigger, louder and altogether more over the top than its subtle predecessor. However, when you look back at the entire film, nothing really happens until about an hour in. After the marines infiltrate the power plant and the infamous “they’re all around us” line, a fire fight kicks off a hour and a half’s worth of non-stop action. The result is an awe-inspiring reward for the tepid beginning.

1st half:

2 out of 5
2nd half:
5 out of 5

Hulk

The first half of Hulk is fantastic… for a character study of Bruce Banner. But Hulk is supposed to be a superhero movie. As a friend of mine’s kid said, “This Hulk film is rubbish, the Hulk isn’t in it.” He’s right – it’s nearly an hour until the jolly green giant hits the screen. And then the tense melodrama is wrecked by silly non-action and an hour’s worth of CGI boredom.

Ultimately, Hulk is neither a superhero film nor character driven piece. Neither part of this film works and with the trailer for the new Hulk movie online, I hope they’ll get the all-important mix of action and character right this time round. I hope that they can get the all important mix of action and character right on this outing.

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1st half:

3 out of 5
2nd half:
2 out of 5