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Not All Films Have to Be Endlessly Long, Despite What the Russo Brothers Say

Give me enjoyable runtimes or give me death.

Thanos in Invinity War

The Russo brothers and I don’t always see eye-to-eye. Recently, we covered why a three-hour Avengers movie might be a bad decision in the long run (pun intended). Now, the directing duo behind Avengers: Infinity War and the upcoming Avengers 4 is talking about why we might be at the end of the era of the “two-hour-long feature” and I find myself wildly disagreeing with them on that.

Joe Russo said, “We are in a major moment of disruption. The two-hour film has had a great run for about 100 years, but it’s become a very predictive format. It’s difficult, I think, to work in it. … It’s sort of like saying, ‘We all like sonnets, so let’s tell sonnets for 100 years, as many ways as we possibly can … I’m not sure that this next generation that is coming up is going to see two-hour narrative as the predominant form of storytelling for them.”

The Deadline article on this subject wasn’t necessarily clear as to whether or not this was about the runtime of films, or if it was about the medium of the two-hour film as a whole, but let us assume, for a moment, that it’s about the runtime of films. We definitely should not be at the end of the two-hour film as a format—not in the slightest.

A lengthy epic sure sounds great in theory, but they only work some of the time in practice. While certain stories demand long runtimes, such as the Lord of the Rings expanded editions, others most certainly do not. In fact, certain genres thrive on brevity. A two-and-a-half-hour comedy, for instance, seems like it might overstay its welcome, and I prefer my horror films to be short and sweet, rather than dragging on and on.

Even films that “need” that extended runtime can still drag. There are few films that run long that I wouldn’t want to trim down somewhat. Infinity War was a favorite of mine, and I still wished we’d streamlined the Thor/Rocket subplot. On the subject of films this year that I didn’t like, Suspiria needed someone to cut out the entire Klemperer plot and just focus on the witches and the dancing; it had no business running as long as it did.

We can even see the idea of an overly long feature film drifting into television. Some shows don’t have the story to sustain themselves past a certain amount of episodes. The Handmaid’s Tale season two definitely felt bloated and overlong, and many Netflix series get accused of a bloating phenomenon where they’re given lengthy and underserved episode counts.

And that’s not even touching on how cinematic universes drag stories out. You know what doesn’t need five films? Fantastic Beasts. Not everything has to be part of a convoluted, overarching narrative.

There’s value in editing. Less is sometimes more.

A trim, streamlined narrative isn’t a bad sign, and cramming too many subplots and arcs into a project isn’t a sign of genius. Maybe a simple story isn’t the end of all things, but rather, something we should consider going back to in certain cases. A short film isn’t the end of the world, but might leave your audience wanting more, rather than make them feel like it should’ve ended ten minutes ago.

I’d take the former over the latter any time.

(via Deadline, image: Marvel)

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Kate (she/her) says sorry a lot for someone who is not sorry about the amount of strongly held opinions she has. Raised on a steady diet of The West Wing and classic film, she is now a cosplayer who will fight you over issues of inclusion in media while also writing coffee shop AU fanfic for her favorite rare pairs.