Thursday, May 5, 2016

Batman v Superman Was 30 Minutes Too Long and 30 Minutes Too Short: A Few Words On Movie Length

Obligatory thumbnail. We'll get back to it later in this article.

We've talked about this before on the podcast, but I have believed for a number of years now that Hollywood blockbusters have gotten too long. 

This occurs to me every single time in the theater and mainly because at around the two hour mark or so my thoughts shift from whether or not I agree with Captain America or Iron Man on whether or not the Avengers should be accountable to the public, to "oh my god, when's the next lull filler scene happening so I can take a pee break". On this note a very warm thank you to Batman v Superman for including a scene with Kevin Costner so I knew when to take that break. 

I would like to thank 30 seconds in Picasa for this.

Shakespeare's old idiom on brevity being the soul of wit is something I often find myself agreeing with and echoing whenever I talk about long movies. Length certainly has become a problem in big action movies, mainly for reasons of value. That's why books are also often encouraged to elongate their narrative to reach a certain amount of pages so that the reader can feel a certain sense of value for money per hour spent. With ticket prices now having averaged out at ten Dollars or Euros, people are feeling a certain sense of value from a long movie. Makes sense, after all, why spend ten Dollars on a two hour movie when you can spend it on a two and a half hour movie? But often these movies are not elongated in a way that I appreciate: instead of making the central conflict a bit meatier (or tofuier depending on your dietary habits) and deepening the intellectual implications of the central conflict between, say Batman and Superman, or Iron Man and Captain America, the movies tend to get lengthened with action scenes. Action scenes are all nice and good, who doesn't like some pulse pounding battle scenes after all? Flashy lights and the fitting sound on a 4K Cinema Display and Dolby 7.1 System sound pretty great, right? Yes, but after a certain point it can start to feel exhausting. Be it sensory overload or repetition, eventually an action scene can outstay it's welcome. For me, action scenes have become the great sin of superhero comics. A book already short in monthly installations often breaks it's interesting narrative and character interactions, it's very plot, for a fight scene that is often two pages too long, and even though a movie and a comic are different mediums, the idea is the same: padding. 

Captain America: The 30 minutes too long Avenger
And it doesn't have to be that way, padding should not be the first thing that comes to my mind when I think of movies with a run time of 157 minutes. And I shouldn't think of a tight, well-paced romp when I hear of a run time 115 minutes. The Dark Knight was a long movie, some call it overtly long, but it had a reason to be long, and that was the story of Batman and the Joker battling for the soul of Harvey Dent. An epic crime drama that deserved it's running time, with action scenes that grew organically from it's story. On the other hand we have a movie like Man of Steel or any given entry in the Hobbit trilogy, or, yes, even Captain America Civil War. Movies that had good premises, but whose action scenes outstayed their welcome because the characters kept fighting after they had already made their point. A heroic second wind is one thing, a heroic third and fourth wind is quite another. 

Pictured: short and shit. 
Pictured: short and good. 

Long movies have their place in cinemas, as do short movies. If your premise allows for a longer movie please feel free to make it longer. The audience will understand it. This is where I'm coming to the title of this article: Batman v Superman was either too long or too short. I believe the latter might be the case, going by anecdotal evidence form Zack Synder's comments about a Director's Cut hitting home video, and knowing that the Director's and Ultimate Cuts of Watchmen were massive improvements over the theatrical cut. We'll have to wait and see on whether or not I was right, but I hope I could make my point in the confines of this article: leave when it's hardest to go, not when you are asked to leave. 

Schrödinger's Movie: Neither too long nor too short until final cut.

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