As a child of the 90s, short feature films were the norm for me. Every movie I watched was no more than 90 minutes long – and even shorter than that. It wasn’t until I was a pre-teen that my mother introduced me to one of the longest films I had ever seen: The Lord of the Rings. Ironically, even though each of the films in the franchise is three plus hours long, the time spent watching them flew by like a breeze.
The same applies for movies like Pearl Harbor and The Dark Knight trilogy. Even today, sitting down to watch those films feels effortless. Lately, however, sitting through a long film at the cinema can feel like a chore rather than an experience. I don’t know when that began to happen, but this year is a prime example of that with the releases of Avengers: Endgame and IT: Chapter Two.
Seeing as Endgame was my most anticipated film of the year, the run time didn’t really concern me on one hand. On the other, it did because I feared the majority of the film would be drawn out. The two times I saw Endgame in cinemas, it both did and did not feel like a three hour movie. When I viewed it a third time at home though, those three hours passed by incredibly quickly.
So why are some moviegoers turned off by long run times while others don’t mind? Perhaps a lot of moviegoers are not accustomed to watching films that are more than two hours long. Maybe technology has limited our attention spans even more. What about a combination of both scenarios? I believe the issue may be that a large number of films sacrifice plot for fluff by stretching their run times to an unnecessary degree.
Each time I watched Avengers: Endgame, the one thing that stayed consistent was I never felt the movie was drawn out. Being the culmination of twenty-one films and the final film in the Infinity Saga, the Russo Brothers were very meticulous in their details. From callbacks to previous Marvel movies to the dialogue and comic book accuracy, almost every scene was vital to the bittersweet, satisfying conclusion. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for IT: Chapter Two.
IT: Chapter Two was another highly anticipated film of mine, however, I tempered my expectations after word of mouth began to spread that many people were disappointed with the movie, particularly its two hour and forty nine minute run time. After my first viewing, I also felt IT was entirely too long and dragged on quite a bit. However, the movie didn’t feel long at all during my second watch. I thought it was even better the second time, but still left the cinema feeling that certain scenes were very drawn out.
Films with long runtimes can be both beneficial and detrimental. It all comes down to how well executed the narrative is. Although Avengers: Endgame didn’t need to be three hours long, it was earned due to the Russo Brothers crafting yet another excellent, cohesive story. On the other hand, the execution of IT: Chapter Two’s story was the film’s biggest weakness. Some scenes needed additional footage whereas others should have been shortened or cut altogether. With Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman fast approaching, the nearly four hour runtime is seriously dissuading me from watching it even though I have the option to pause the film whenever I choose. Here’s hoping Scorsese will deliver a narrative that will make for a smooth runtime.