two-hour movie

Do you miss when movies were under two hours and you hadn’t lost half of your night to the black hole of the darkened movie theater? Well too bad, because according to the Russo Brothers, the directors of Avengers: Infinity War and the upcoming Avengers 4, the two-hour movie is dead. Huzzah.

It seems like with every passing year, movies are getting longer. It’s no longer an anomaly for a blockbuster to be nearly three hours long, with movies like The Dark Knight Rises, Les Miserables, and The Hobbit dominating the box office — and dominating our nights. RIP getting home before midnight. If you see a Friday night movie, you’re going to bed at 1:00 A.M. whether you like it or not!

The Russo Brothers’ Avengers: Infinity War was one of these uber-long, high-grossing movies, clocking in at 149 minutes, making it the longest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to date. But that didn’t deter moviegoers, who flocked to see Infinity War in theaters (some hundreds of times!) to the tune of $2.047 billion at the box office. So now that we know that lengthy run times won’t affect box office, that could mean a bright new era where two- and three-hour movies share the movie landscape, and audiences have their pick from a slew of diverse choices, right? Not so, said Joe Russo at Business Insider Ignition (via Deadline). This means the two-hour movie is headed toward extinction, the director said, and that movies will no longer be burdened with a pesky time limit:

“We are in a major moment of disruption. The two-hour film has had a great run for about 100 years but it’s become a very predictive format. It’s difficult, I think, to work in it. … It’s sort of like saying, ‘We all like sonnets, so let’s tell sonnets for 100 years, as many ways as we possibly can… I’m not sure that this next generation that is coming up is going to see two-hour narrative as the predominant form of storytelling for them.”

This is a really roundabout way of arguing that Twin Peaks: The Return is a movie, I guess.

I wasn’t aware that the two-hour runtime was such a limiting obstacle to storytelling, but in an era where showrunners are pretentiously calling their TV series “8-hour movies“, it’s easy to see why some filmmakers would think so. Still, longer doesn’t necessarily mean better, and often, superhero movies suffer more from glut than from a limited running time.

So can we expect each of the future Marvel movies to be three, four, five hours long? Not necessarily, Joe Russo said. The director argued that the MCU movies present a “new form of storytelling” in which each movie is a continuation of a larger universe-building story. This structure “exploits the two-hour narrative in a different way,” the director said. Russo is basically affirming what many critics have noted: movies — especially superhero movies — are becoming more like TV episodes, while TV is becoming more like long movies. Which is fine. Storytelling changes and evolves. But don’t go telling me that the two-hour movie is dead. In a year where the brilliantly condensed 89-minute You Were Never Really Here came out, the two-hour movie is far from extinct.

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