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The Pros & Cons of Splitting Wicked Into Two Movies

Ariana Grande and Cynthia Erivo on Wicked

There’s “Something Bad” happening in the latest updates from the big-screen adaptation of Wicked, but certain news has also been “For Good.”

Stephen Schwartz created the Wicked musical as an unofficial prequel to MGM’s 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. In the stage play, Elphaba (Idina Menzel) and Glinda (Kristin Chenoweth) become the unlikeliest of friends after initially loathing each other. However, they soon follow different paths in life that once again put them at odds.

Ever since Wicked premiered on Broadway in 2003 and became an instant sensation, studios have been planning to adapt the story to the big screen. But after several delays that now span 20 years, Universal Pictures is currently producing the long-awaited Wicked movie starring Cynthia Erivo as Elphaba and Ariana Grande as Glinda. Meanwhile, director Jon M. Chu (In the Heights, Crazy Rich Asians) has been picked to helm the film.

This week, Chu surprised fans with yet another update – and delay – for the Wicked movie. In a tweet, the director thanked fans for the support they’ve shown for the Wicked film and revealed that he had some news to share.

“As we prepared this production over the last year, it became increasingly clear that it would be impossible to wrestle the story of Wicked into a single film without doing some real damage to it,” Chu wrote. “As we tried to cut songs or trim characters, those decisions began to feel like fatal compromises to the source material that has entertained us all for so many years. So we decided to give ourselves a bigger canvas and make not just one WICKED movie but TWO!!!! With more space, we can tell the story of Wicked as it was meant to be told while bringing even more depth and surprise to the journeys of these beloved characters.”

Chu concluded the statement by announcing that the first Wicked film will be released in December 2024 and part two will come out in December 2025.

Understandably so, this update has divided the opinions of Wicked fans.

The most glaring negative reaction to Chu’s tweet is that this cinematic adaptation has been pushed back yet again. Talks about a Wicked movie have been going on since the early 2010s, with people like J. J. Abrams and Ryan Murphy being considered as potential directors at different points in time.

The first tentative release date for the film was December 2019, but that never saw the light of day. When the film finally entered production in 2018, it was halted for Cats, which turned out to be a huge critical and commercial failure. The studio then announced that the movie was back in production in 2019 and shared a scheduled release date for December 2021. Once again, that didn’t happen. As of 2022, even the most diehard fans of the musical are disappointed, annoyed, and exhausted as they wait for this movie. Thus, fans didn’t love the idea of waiting until December 2024 to watch the first film and then wait yet another year to watch the second part.

On the other hand, there are also a few advantages to splitting up the film into two parts. For one, most Broadway musicals with a three-hour runtime end up having to cut a lot of songs and, at times, even entire characters for their film adaptations. Recent musical films like In the Heights and Dear Evan Hansen went through major cuts and plot changes that frustrated fans of the stage productions.

By dividing Wicked into two movies, there’s a much higher likelihood that no characters and no songs will have to be cut from the final edit. There’ll also be plenty of room for producers to add new songs and introduce new characters within the Wicked universe without compromising the music and personalities that the fans already love from the original Broadway show. This is good news for fans who had been concerned about certain less popular songs being potentially cut from the movie due to time constraints.

Lastly, some film critics justify the failure of the Cats film adaptation by citing how “rushed” the entire production felt. The movie appeared to greenlit overnight, with casting and filming dates being announced immediately after. Even the special effects of the movie became a mockery on social media due to how bad the CGI looked in the final product. Wicked will also require quite a bit of CGI for the big screen. Thus, one can hope that producers won’t compromise the quality of the film by giving it a much longer production time.

For now, though, Wicked fans will have to get their fix of the musical by watching it live on Broadway or listening to the cast recording album.

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