Are Modern Movies Too Long?

Bladder Bursting Blockbusters – are modern movies too long?

As Alfred Hitchcock said, “The length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder.” Beautifully said and appropriate for most films. wikipedia creative commons film photo

The above-linked Yahoo News Story lists wonderful films clocking in at 90 minutes – Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark – films that would have foundered at longer lengths (like their very own sequels/prequels, actually). Hitchcock wisdom aside, I ‘m not sure 90 minutes is the magic minute number for all films.

The Lord of the Rings films are, inarguably, verrrrry loooong. But the Lord of the Rings book is thousands of pages! Thousands. That trilogy needs the length to explain things properly, and still many of the movie version’s storylines are compressed. Tom Bombadill was eliminated as a plot point – which I am okay with, granted – but when favorite characters like Faramir and Theoden get short shrift, it irks. The poignantly dark story of Denethor was reduced to a joke. Saruman’s film farewell was just unfortunate, compared to his kick-ass denoument in the novel. My point is, the movies could have been even longer in this case, but not shorter.

Titanic was also very well told, despite the seemingly-excessive screen time. It’s a clean story with a good pace; I would have hated to miss any of it. Titanic is long, yes, but somehow stays fresh with every viewing.

The Color Purple is another classic long film without fat. Shawshank Redemption fills its running time nicely; The Abyss is just about right…so, not every long film is a tedious bore.

wikipedia creative commons peter jacksonBut then there are the films that really could have – nay, should have – been shorter. Peter Jackson, fresh off the Oscar success of Lord of the Rings, was granted much too much leeway to directorially dictate King Kong.

Jackson’s overweening Kong story clunks along with frequent gratuitious interludes, like the psychotic bug swamp gross-fest. By the time the gorilla gets to NYC, you’ve long since stopped caring about anyone but the girl, and you wish Jack Black would just die already.

Did you know King Kong is actually the movie that inspired the creation of RunPee in the first place?

We really should make an award for that.

So what is the answer? Besides being armed with a list of good PeeTimes?

Well, directors should hire excellent film editors, for a start – people who know when a story starts to sag but don’t keep you breathless for the whole ride, either. A movie like The Bourne Identity got it right – not slow, but not exhausting. Aliens got it right and so did Pitch Black (even though, once again, their sequels forgot how to tell their stories properly). Finding Nemo is just about perfect. Australia didn’t get it right: sitting through it feels like watching three unrelated, rather tedious films.

What movies do you think are too long? Is it only epic and adventure films that suffer from poor editing? What movies do you think got it right?

18 replies
  1. polyGeek
    polyGeek says:

    That is a classicly great idea: The RunPee movie awards. We can have an award for the most difficult movie to find PeeTimes for, the easiest movie to find PeeTimes for, movie with the longest PeeTime. I think we can call that last award the Burly Brawl or something after the fight between Neo and Smith in Matrix II.

    Reply
  2. Rick Swift
    Rick Swift says:

    Excellent article, and I too thought Jackson had way too much rope for King Kong – awesome that KK was the film that inspired such a useful site!

    I can say being “in the biz of reviewing” that some movies just make me want to reach through the screen and smack the shit out of the editor – as a result, I stopped drinking anything before a movie. “Go easy on the Pepsi, Fuller.” So, for a long movie like Australia, I knew going into it what to expect – it is the smaller movies that sneak up on you, and you are like – WTF, why is this two and a half hours long? Being concise is still something I am working on personally though, so, I cut the editors some slack (pun intended). But, lately I wonder if the SNL editors are making feature length films, because they don’t know when to pull the cord on a meandering, boring scene.

    Reply
  3. Michelle
    Michelle says:

    I think there are few movies that are truly served by going over the 2 hour mark. Many could easily have 20-30 minutes edited out and still retain everything needed to enjoy the film.

    Not only is a film more enjoyable without the filler, but given the average moviegoer has a short to medium attention span, it may also do better at the box office.

    If a filmmaker truly feels they need the length, they should save it for the DVD version.

    Reply
    • polyGeek
      polyGeek says:

      I think it entirely depends on the quality of the movie. Like Jill said: the Lord of the Rings movies could have been even longer and I would have savored every extra minute. But more importantly the Transformers movies would have been much better if they had included more long slow panning shots over Megan Fox’s body.

      But seriously folks…What bothers me much more than a long movie is some of the short movies that get made these days. Anything less than 90 minutes, no matter how good it is, seems like a bit of a rip off.

      Reply
  4. Michelle
    Michelle says:

    Lord of the Rings is a rarity and that is largely due to the original material. Tolkien’s story is so complex it really did work better when you view the extended editions on DVD – but it still was wise to do the edited, albeit still lengthy – versions for the theater, as the average moviegoer wouldn’t have sat still for 4 hrs per movie.

    Let’s face it, if editors truly did their job and streamlined the filler material out, there wouldn’t as much of a need for RunPee. LOL

    As for the shorter films, I think at less than 90 minutes, it’s hard to really set up the characters as needed. To tell a good story, you need to care who these people are, which is hard to do if the film is too short.

    The real rip-off is that theaters charge so damn much for movies period, regardless of the length of the film. $10 for a ticket; another $10 for concessions per person; parking fees; etc. A minimum-wage earner has to work 3-4 hours just to see a 2-hr film. It’s just much cheaper to wait until the DVD comes out.

    Reply
  5. Jeanne Ukwendu
    Jeanne Ukwendu says:

    There used to be a time, I think they are called “The Olden Days”, where there was intermission during movies. The movie “Gone With The Wind” comes to mind. Even on the DVD, they have an intermission. Of course, I’m sure the theaters loved intermissions – assuming people bought more drinks and snacks…

    Reply
    • polyGeek
      polyGeek says:

      @Jeanne, I wonder why they get rid of intermissions. Of course they can’t show as many movies in a day but they make up for it in sales. It’s a mystery to me.

      Reply
  6. Jilly
    Jilly says:

    Jeanne, we are hoping movie theaters will love RunPee also, since it will allow folks to buy sodas again. Of course when people buy sodas they’ll buy more food. All one big happy commercial venture. Our partner of choice is Mountain Dew, since it is full of caffeine and is bright yellow, our favorite color here at RunPee.

    Intermissions, in those Olden Days, were a good idea. I wonder what happened to them? When did they stop?

    Reply
  7. Jilly
    Jilly says:

    @polyGeek The Burly Brawl gets my vote for Longest Pee Time. LOL. We’ll call these the “Bladdy Awards” …all we need is some kind of golden statue that looks like a, ahem, bladder. 😛

    Reply
  8. Jilly
    Jilly says:

    @Rick Swift Thank you for the nice comments! I agree; with my small bladder I knew better than to drink anything before or during movies…and I’d still have to runpee anyway. So working on this is also a service to myself. 🙂

    I do think a lot of film directors and editors just don’t know when to cut things – are they too close to the material to see things clearly? If a movie is going to run over the 90 minute mark, there better be someone making sure the story is tight enough to warrant it. I do think epics have the hardest row to hoe. Australia could have taken a page from Titanic, in my eyes.

    Reply
  9. Jilly
    Jilly says:

    @Michelle DVD versions are really a life saver. Those can be as long as the director’s vision and no one will complain. In fact, it’s like getting more for free!

    The DVD LOTR versions are to me the De Facto versions. I don’t even remember what was in the theatrical releases any more. LOTR did about as good as ever could have been done to bring the book to life. I do think that. And I also think a lot of that was due to the high caliber of actors in the film, who were constantly walking around with the book, reminding PJ what was appropriate to Tolkien and what wasn’t.

    But yeah, if all movies were streamlined, or had intermissions, there wouldn’t be a need for RunPee. For the price of movies these days, they may as well be long! As long as I have a PeeTime then there’s no worries.

    Reply
  10. izzilla
    izzilla says:

    I think they need to be longer, but of better quality. Sure, The Dark Knight was a great movie, but it lacked the punch that movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey packed. They should have intermissions again, too. Actually, I really liked The Shining, too, and A Clockwork Orange…okay, maybe the problem isn’t that the movies are too short/long, it’s that Stanley Kubrick is dead. All in favour of the Kubrick Zombie, say aye.

    Reply
  11. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    If it is a good movie, i love every minute, and sometimes it is okay if a movie lasts about two hours. But sometimes the story is telln so lame, that one hour would be adequate.

    Reply

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Are Modern Movies Too Long?…

    As Alfred Hitchcock said, “The length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder.” Beautifully said and appropriate for most films.

    The above-linked Yahoo News Story lists wonderful films clocking in at 90 minutes – …

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply to Sarah Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *