How Long is Too Long?

Will Stead

Films are getting longer and longer, and I don’t think my bladder can quite handle it. I’m massively in favour of directors and creatives being given more freedom to put the stories they want to tell on screen. If a story needs 3 or even 4 hours to be told, then I will happily sit through it. But there’s become a recent cult-like obsession with ‘deleted scenes’ that has worked its way into the editing process. Will Stead discusses the pitfalls of overly long movies.  

You go to any YouTube video today and look at the comments for a deleted scene from a popular franchise, and all the comments will read along the lines of “oh man, why did they have to cut THIS out! I would’ve loved to have seen it in the movie” – and, more often than not, it can be answered simply with: ‘it didn’t serve the story’. Zack Synder is a prolific perpetrator of this habit; he consistently leaves scenes that serve no purpose to the story in the final cut simply because they look cool. Why? What did I ever do to deserve this, oh great and powerful Synder? 

I shan’t bash Synder too much though, as his version of Justice League at the very least follows a trajectory I hope is replicated by more lengthy movies. He put in an interval. Synder kindly segmented his movie into 4 parts, which gave me ample time to: go to the toilet, have a drink, go for a walk, feed the ducks, write a poem, get married, have a child, raise them, die, be reborn, and return to my initial age, before moving on to the next part of his movie.  

Movies are now released quickly on streaming services, sometimes even at the same time, so I shouldn’t mind missing 5 minutes of a movie in the theatre because I’ll soon be able to watch it at home anyway

James Cameron has already combatted my dilemma, however. When talking about the upcoming Avatar 2: Wet Blue People Cameron said that “it’s ok to get up and go pee”. While I praise him for not holding it against me that I have the bladder of both a small child, and old man, I do feel slightly guilty about missing out on part of his movie. A factor he also perhaps hasn’t considered is the fact that while the movie may be his own, I’m the one paying for a ticket. If I go the toilet during the movie, I’ve effectively paid £8+ to urinate.  

The ultimate counter to my own argument lies in the streaming industry. Movies are now released quickly on streaming services, sometimes even at the same time, so I shouldn’t mind missing 5 minutes of a movie in the theatre because I’ll soon be able to watch it at home anyway.  

Maybe James Cameron is right, maybe we should all just shut up. I might hate sluggish movies, with scenes devoted entirely to fan service and pointless dialogue, but that’s just me. As much as I love to talk about the evil movie making industry and how they just want our money, maybe I’m wrong. If all the industry wanted was our money, why would they be devoting tens of millions of dollars in extra budget so a movie can be 3 hours long? Perhaps this new trend in making lengthy movies benefits everyone; fans get to see more of what they paid for, artists get to realise their vision on the screen in a truer form, studios get more positive praise which boosts executives’ egos. It’s a win-win-win.  

It’s maybe time I, and everyone else, realise that if a movie is too long and we can’t concentrate or focus then maybe the movie isn’t made for us. If I find Zack Synder’s film-making style to be egregious and extensive then that’s ok. His films aren’t made for me. I shouldn’t wish for him to change his vision just for me. I was genuinely happy for the people that got excited about Martin Scorsese making a 3.5-hour movie that would feature the face of a young Robert De Niro on the body of a pensioner. It personally wasn’t for me, but then again what do I know; I tell people I understand Eraserhead 

Let art be art and let the people consume, let movies last hours and let me go to the toilet. 

Will Stead

Featured image courtesy of mika via Flickr. No changes were made to this image. Image license found here.

In article trailer courtesy of Avatar via Youtube. No changes were made to this video.

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