Sunday, February 10, 2019

The fear of three hours

I've heard a lot of hand wringing in the past few days about the fact that Avengers: Endgame is likely to clock in at three hours. ("Likely" because it's possible Joe and Anthony Russo are still tweaking it.)

Not just among snarky people on the internet, who use the announced length of this movie as further fuel for their arguments about the bloat of the MCU in general. But also among industry prognosticators who suspect the studio must be worried about audiences' capacity to sit through a movie of this length without an intermission.

Give us some credit.

The three-hour movie is nothing new, and I would argue that we are more conditioned than ever to watch it.

It's true that a mainstream movie of this length has not come out in a while. But they used to be par for the course. The Lord of the Rings movies are a prime example, and though their length was legendary, I don't remember the studio worrying too much about that. When I finally saw The Green Mile last year, which is pretty much three hours on the dot, I marveled at the fact that I don't even remember the film's length being a subject of discussion back in 1999.

There seemed to be more variability in the length of movies back then too. Ninety-minute movies were far more common then than now as well.

But that's what might make us better conditioned for a three-hour Avengers: Endgame in 2019. Fans aren't really expecting a 90-minute experience at the movies, as even comedies frequently approach or even breach the two-hour mark thanks to people like Judd Apatow. And no blockbuster movie of any kind is under two hours and 20 minutes. What's an extra 40 minutes on top of that?

Sure, it will be useful to go to the toilet before the movie starts. But you can say that about any movie.

As for the prospect of bloat, Avengers: Endgame seems like as good a candidate to be three hours as any movie in history. You can quibble with 11 years' worth of narrative choices that got us to this point, but now that we're here, I don't think it would be fair to say that this movie will be three hours because the Russos couldn't kill their darlings. It will be three hours because the movie has 47 main characters, half of whom, granted, are "dead."

If all the ticket sales for Marvel movies are any indication, no fan who sees Avengers: Endgame is going to be grousing about too much movie. They'd probably watch a four-hour Avengers: Endgame if you gave it to them.

And if you're one of those snarky internet types, or a critic who resents having had to watch these last 22 movies, then I guess you aren't really a "fan," are you?

Look, I can be that snarky guy too. And I certainly haven't been on board with the MCU for its entire history. There were some really fallow years in there.

But I'm on board now.

A three-hour Avengers: Endgame?

I'll lap up every minute of it.

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