Movie Run Times Debated

A conversation I had with dethpillow lead me to write an article on run times based on what dethpillow and I talked about.

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By xStarLordx - 2/13/2014



Hey Everybody! Its me, xStarLordx! You know who. The one guy who wrote a strange first article that some people said that they wouldn't touch with a 12-foot pole. Yeah, that's me. Anyways, I had an interesting conversation with a fellow user, dethpillow. Captain America: The Winter Soldier's run time has possibly been found. It may run in at 2 hours and 15 minutes which is ,If I am correct, 10 minutes shy of The Avengers. There were people who were excited and others who felt it was unfair that Thor: The Dark World received a shorter run time, which is under 2 hours. So I posted a comment saying I hoped Guardians would get over 2 hours, and somewhat close to the length of a Lord of the Rings film.

(I'm not saying that just because Guardians of the Galaxy is my favorite comic book series, especially the series from 2008.)

I backed up my statement by saying the members of the team would need some time to explain back stories and etc. All that stuff. The reason I said that is that ,from what we know, most of the teammates origins will have to do with a villain making it reasonable for them to have time to focus on their origins. The only character I can't see getting time for that, or just a small mention is Groot, just because his might not be as relevant as the others AND it hasn't been mentioned by Gunn or any other cast or crew.



Not long after I posted my comments, dethpillow and I started talking more about run times. While we didn't necessarily talk about what makes a good run time or what makes one bad, I formed my own beliefs, if you will, on them.

What makes a good run time:

A good run time should be long enough to tell the main story while keeping the audiences attention and ,if necessary, add a side story. (As long as it doesn't completely pull the audiences focus from the main story.)Keep a steady pace. Keeping a steady pace will make sure the viewers will keep focus and won't get bored. If a movie moves too fast it will confuse the audience. But, if the movie moves too slow it will bore the audience and they are probably going to want to leave. Plus, no one wants to go back to see a sequel if the first movie was slow/fast.

If the movie has multiple origin stories, (i.e. Fantastic Four or X-Men:First Class), make time for each character, while keeping a good flow with the story.



If the movie will be split into two parts it may be hard to keep that steady pace, or it might be a chance to add more to the story. Regardless, the pace at the end of the first part should agree with the beginning of the next. If a movie ends slow and sad, the next one should begin slow and sad. If the end leaves off on a high note and somewhat fast, the next should begin on a high note and somewhat fast.

Conclusion:

The audience should never feel bored or confused, because that probably means the pacing was off..... or they're watching Inception. And if the run time is too small, the story will seem like its bouncing all over the place and moving too fast. If it is too long, it will seem boring unless you find a way to keep the audiences attention involved.

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28 Comments
NovaCorpsFan - 2/13/2014, 11:14 AM
Nice one. You came back hard, dude. [frick] the haters, keep it up.
xStarLordx - 2/13/2014, 11:16 AM
Yeah I admit the first one was weird. But It was my way of finally contributing and I was happy with it. Thanks man.
GizmoEl - 2/13/2014, 11:19 AM
Even though I would've loved the beginning half of Thor to be a little bit longer so we could see more of Lady Sif, The Warriors Three, and Thor in battle.. I'm okay with the run time. It was brilliantly paced and i loved every minute of the movie. Avengers' run time was great too. It was a bit slow during the helicarrier scene but it was necessary to develop characters. It's pacing was great.
GizmoEl - 2/13/2014, 11:20 AM
Great write up! Keep em coming
xStarLordx - 2/13/2014, 11:21 AM
Thanks @GizmoEl! The encouragement helps. And I agree, more of them would've really been great but I thought it was still good too.
dethpillow - 2/13/2014, 12:14 PM
great article! yeah that was an interesting discussion, and this is a topic that totally merits looking into. right on.

I'm personally always more in favor of shorter run times it seems, but like I'd mentioned, I think maybe that could be cuz I just don't realize what the run time is when I'm enjoying a movie. So it only usually comes to my attention when i start dying for a cigarette, squirming around and wishing that it would end so i can get outside or do something else.


In general, i like these kind of films to keep to around 2 hours, maybe a little more if they're more slow and heavy in nature. But I notice a lot of times, like with Thor 2, people saying that it needed more time in order to flesh stuff out and tell backstory. I kinda have the opinion that if you're going over 2 hours and can't make your point that there's something wrong with the writing. like again using Thor 2 as an example, I don't think we needed more Malekith, but we needed the time spent with him to be better used. Cuz his whole deal in the movie, i don't see as being very complex and I think was pretty much explained, it just wasn't explained well, in the sense that it didn't convey what it was supposed to. At least to most people who watched the movie. and maybe the whole thing with Bor and the genocide should've been told in a more direct way so that we realized what this hatred was for. And stuff like the comedy, I think didn't need more time, of course, haha. but it needed better jokes, or a better direction and pacing or editing for the jokes. but i really felt like Thor 2 moved along at a decent clip, and overall with pacing, i'm glad they kept it like that. it felt fun to me, like a little adventure blast of a Thor comic.

One thing that I thought was interesting what we were talking about before was how you were saying that a property like GOTG, needs a longer run time, cuz of how it is pre-existing material. unlike Star Wars which is what I was using an example in Han and Chewie, about how we just didn't need to go back and explain much about them, it all got revealed pretty naturally in the stories dialogue and stuff.

and that's a good point you made... cuz even if the general audience might not know these characters at first, the fact is they are made better characters by all we know about them. And when they are being presented for who they are now in the comics, that identity has been informed and built thru years of comic book stories... so some it might very well be more important to talk about than Han and Chewie. So I liked that point you made, especially when looking at this as a first entry into Marvel's cosmic movies. So there's a lot of background things that they are gonna want to touch on at least. And I think, of course, Marvel is looking at it like this... like Cosmic Movie 1.

So yeah, I can see it like that and agree. I think tho that given the uphill with selling this unknown property, that I still think we're gonnna something around 2 hours even, if even that much. And I think that's simply becuz of trying to meet the demands of an adventure movie.
they're gonna want this to stay quick and clean, stay fast and dirty, and I think this is one where we might see them really push even against the core of what we might like to see more as fans in order to meet the more pressing, for them at least, concern of giving this a bigger chance at being a 'hit'.

yeah, there's definitely a lot of trade offs and a lot of consideration going into run times.

great article! good job, i'm wondering now what you're first article was... haha. gonna look it up. right on.
wookiefit76 - 2/13/2014, 12:31 PM
@ xStarLordx

Nice comeback. I agree, but even you said,"..The audience should never feel bored or confused.." Unfortunatly, studio's have realized that this happens at about around an hour and forty-five minutes. Diehard fans want more, but then we allways do. Studios make their movies for a wider audience.

SauronsBANE - 2/13/2014, 12:37 PM
Awesome to see you right back and writing more editorials, xStarLordx ! This looks fantastic, you're definitely getting the hang of it already.

A good run-time really, really depends on the type of movie you're talking about. Lord of the Rings needed a 3 hour run-time (and even MORE in the extended editions, which really is the best way to watch that trilogy) just because of the amount of characters it had, the multiple stories it was trying to tell, the action, the plot, the character development...everything there needed a lot of time to tell.

But then other movies that are much simpler compared to that, like Thor or Captain America or any other movie that's not an ensemble film, they should be able to work in around 2 hours. That's plenty of time to set up the characters, properly define them (their motivations, their flaws, their strengths, basically why we should care about them at all), and introduce some conflict and then resolve it.

The pacing of a movie plays into this as well. Finding a balance between action and heartfelt character moments can be extremely tricky, and a lot of movies fail miserably at this.

"If the movie will be split into two parts it may be hard to keep that steady pace, or it might be a chance to add more to the story. Regardless, the pace at the end of the first part should agree with the beginning of the next. If a movie ends slow and sad, the next one should begin slow and sad. If the end leaves off on a high note and somewhat fast, the next should begin on a high note and somewhat fast."

I find that interesting, but I have to disagree with that. I'm not so sure that kind of consistency really matters all that much. Again, it really depends on the particular story being told. To use LotR again as an example, The Fellowship of the Ring ended with Frodo and Sam optimistically heading off into Mordor, and the next movie opened with Frodo's pulse-pounding, frantic dream of what happened with Gandalf in Moria. And again, The Two Towers ended ominously, and Return of the King opened with Gollum's backstory.

Those endings and beginnings don't exactly fit smoothly into each other, but they work. I'm sure there's tons of examples out there as well. Just my two cents though! But again, great job!
GliderMan - 2/13/2014, 12:38 PM
The longer it is the better it is, period, Idgaf what anyone says.
BenjiWest - 2/13/2014, 12:41 PM
Your first article wasn't too bad. This is a great write up. Keep giving us great editorials.
xStarLordx - 2/13/2014, 1:10 PM
Thanks for the feedback everybody! Whether you agree or disagree it's all helpful!
xStarLordx - 2/13/2014, 1:13 PM
@dethpillow In case you haven't found it, I'll tell you this, it's a touchy subject no one is going to want to associate with.
WorstUserNameEver - 2/13/2014, 1:53 PM
Seems to be a very positive attitude in these xStarLordx comments threads... weird!
cipher - 2/13/2014, 2:28 PM
I don't really have a "preferred" run time or anything. I mean, if all the cogs are in place and all the little bits an' pieces run smoothly, then I've got no complaints. If it's well paced, then it doesn't matter to me if it's over two hours, or under.

The pacing is what can kill it for me, not necessarily the length itself. You have to know when to move, and when to let things breathe a little.
cipher - 2/13/2014, 2:29 PM
Oh, and welcome to editorials, bud. Stick around.

:)
Gigacrusher45 - 2/13/2014, 2:44 PM
All I can say is don't complain about a movie being too long when the length of movies is posted in the same place as the show times. If a movie is 2hrs 30in don't come out saying "that movie was too long" when you knew it was 2hrs 30min going into it. Maybe if it FEELS long is one thing. If you just don't have any patience is another.
batz11 - 2/13/2014, 2:57 PM
Only run-time I'm concerned about is tomorrow night with my gf :)...great article btw...
GizmoEl - 2/13/2014, 2:57 PM
Congrats on making main!
dethpillow - 2/13/2014, 3:27 PM
@xStarLordx - ha, yeah, i looked it up and unfortunately, i don't know those movies. but i thought the comment section in it was pretty civilized. u should see when people really get savaged. :0). but anyways, great job with this one.

and i most agree with @cipher, it's really about pacing regardless of actual run time. so anything could really work, if they manage to keep u wrapped up in it. it could be just the fact that i smoke, or feel like i need to get out of there for other reasons, sometimes i wonder if it's purely that.

but i know i really enjoy watching movies at home more, cuz i can really devote my attention to just one scene or two at a time. like MOS and IM3 were both so much worse when i saw them in the theater. once i got home and able to watch them in installments, i was much happier with both of them.
OptionFour - 2/13/2014, 4:57 PM
Nice article, xStarLordx. The writing and formatting is much improved, well done.

At a studio level there is a lot that goes into a run time, I think. My understanding is that the studio will want a movie to hit certain projections for the run time based on how they want the movie to be perceived, and what they think the audience will tolerate. They will then tell the director to cut a certain amount of material from his film in order to fit that time, which is what muddies things to some degree; the director doesn't necessarily want to make all of those cuts. Sometimes great material gets left on the cutting room floor, things that really enhance the story - like the material that was taken out of Watchmen. It sounds like a really inorganic process, that probably leaves no one totally happy.


From the creative side, however, every story has a natural ending point. Look at westerns for the obvious example.
We don't need to know what happens when the nameless protagonist rides out of town toward the sunset; we don't need to know where he does, or what he does. That would be overshooting the story. Can he have another tale, say two towns over, or whatever? Sure, maybe, if it makes sense for his character arc. But each story has a natural/ideal termination point that shouldn't be ignored.
This is relevant to CBMs mostly because the characters have always been written with the intention of infinite serialization; we can always make more stories for them. They have no natural finishing point (or if they do we ignore it), which turns the films into something a little strange, and new.

As to the mention of character origin stories . . .
Its an interesting problem, fairly unique to CBMs. Our characters have otherworldly powers, and strange costumes, so we feel like we need to know how they ended up where they are. But this problem doesn't really exist in traditional sci-fi.
Take Star Wars, for instance. Speaking only of the original trilogy (because I can't be arsed to sort out the mess that was the second trilogy) they never mention what we would consider 'origin stories' for Han Solo, Chewbacca, Leia, or even Obi-Wan Kenobi, or Yoda. We learn about them as the films go on, mostly with throw-away lines here and there ("your father and I fought in the Clone Wars together . . . "). But we largely do not learn where they are from, what their first adventures were, how they picked up their various skills, etc.
Its a unique problem. Maybe, even after all the comicbook films that have come out in the last twenty years, we still haven't quite figured out how to frame it.
OptionFour - 2/13/2014, 5:01 PM
Also, @dethpillow

I tend to agree that the problem of 'not having time to flesh things out' is a misnomer.
Though there are always going to be exceptions, I like to think of it this way: every movie I've ever seen has been - more or less - two hours. Sure, fifteen minutes give or take is pretty common and there are exceptions, as I mentioned.

But they all get about two hours.
And there are certainly films that do a hell of a lot of character development in two hours.
If the writer can't nail it in that time frame, then they weren't going to nail it with three hours, or four hours, or ten hours.

The problem isn't the run-time its the writing.
MightyZeus - 2/13/2014, 10:30 PM
Good editorial and interesting write up. I think this editorial has brought up a good topic on the run time of films and when it's appropriate for films to either have short run times or really long run times depending on the film, story, characters and plot. For instance most book adaptations have long run times in which set movie is a success and is not prone to negativity due to the run time eg. Lord of the Rings trilogy or The Deathly Hallows Part 2. Because so much is happening in each story and each of the characters are interesting and draw in the audience it keeps the audience engaged where they do not realise the long run time. Book adaptations that make you feel disengaged and makes you realise that the run time is to long for a film could be for e.g. The Deathly Hallows part 1 and The Hobbit. Both films have interesting characters but each of the circumstances dont exactly drive the plot and there is a case of putting too much in or adapting too much to fit in the film where it becomes over saturated for the audience or over bearing.

Gravity has a perfect short running time which makes you realise that the film s running time is appropriate for the story it's trying to tell and that film and scenario is appropriate for the length of time. The film is centered on one main character trying to survive in space. As some one has brought up in the comment section that the problem is not the run time it's how the story is conveyed towards the audience and is it engaging and the other problematic factor is the writing suitable for the running time.
Starkasm - 2/14/2014, 3:19 AM
This was on my article. I feel the love.
Firgosaurus - 2/14/2014, 4:29 AM
Pacing and content is more important to the movie than runtime. You can tell an sweeping epic based on the Iraqi War and it would be interesting as long as the pacing is consistent and the content is interesting.

I find runtime to not be indicative of quality.
xStarLordx - 2/14/2014, 6:42 PM
@batz11 Lol.
Wolf38 - 2/14/2014, 8:02 PM
Personally, I found Thor: The Dark World to be too long. But that's purely relative to the content of that film. Generally, I prefer shorter, more concise films. It's a rare one that can push 2.5 or 3 hours without dragging.
ThunderKat - 2/14/2014, 11:44 PM
Firgosaurus,

I agree.


Anything under three hours that has good pacing and quality content wins! TDKR was way too long. It was so much slower than the previous two that I was losing my interest in all of the characters. Same with MoS. It had many flaws, but it's pacing and length didn't hide any of them.
Conversely, "The Avengers" ebbed around Hawkeye's being freed, but got right back on its feet and started running. Both "Thor" movies moved at a really nice pace.
Run time is hardest on origin stories as they are particularly challenging to make flow. I love Spider-Man, but Raimi's could have been a step or two faster. "Batman Begins" is currently the best origin story on film.

All of that said, can we get a movie/show that stays in one time period instead of the interspliced past and present? It's is now old hat and becoming very cliche.
dethpillow - 2/15/2014, 10:45 PM
@ThunderKat - agreed. i think the key to a good Spidey origin film, is don't do a superpowered villain. do him fighting crime and being new to the whole thing. have the biggest bad guys be the Enforcers working for Kingpin, or maybe Hammerhead.

and then of course now... if you did an origin again, you would entirely skip the origin and do it in voiceover or something. that's what i think Webb should've done, started with a Spectacular Spider-Man type intro where he's sitting on a building and talking to us and telling us real briefly what happened and then he sees a crime and jumps in and stops it. then get to the actual story. if u did that you could even do a supervillain, but i think ideal Spidey origin should focus on street level threats anyways.

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