Ambition and Run-Times: A Quick Rant


Since having a child, my wife and I rarely get to see movies in the theaters, so when the opportunity arises, we’re very excited. However, things have to align just so to make our evenings stress free. Basically we like to leave AFTER Henry has gone down to sleep (around 8:00), which means the movie needs to start after 8:30. 9:15 is the sweet spot, but we can do a 10:00pm show.

HOWEVER, having a child means we’re generally exhausted all the time, so the later the screening, the less likely we may see it, because we may fall asleep and be lame-wads.

So the things that go into our consideration in seeing a movie are: Screening Time and Length of Movie.

With that being said — despite there being a number of good-looking movies out there that I really want to see — we may end up just seeing “The Guilt Trip” for the simple fact that it’s one of the few movies out there under 2 hours. Hell, it’s one of the few movies under 2 hours 20 minutes. 

This ties into my feeling that this was a weirdly ambitious season for movies. And not just the Oscar bait, such as “Lincoln.” Geek culture was not immune. Think about it:

“The Avengers” tied together many establishing movies into a geek fever dream, juggled many big characters, and mostly worked. Runtime: 143 minutes.

“The Dark Knight Rises” attempted to be “A Tale of Two Gotham Cities,” concluding a very popular trilogy, introducing and dispensing of many new characters, taking weird vocal choices for a character not widely known who never really shows his full face (Bane). Runtime: 165 minutes.

“Prometheus” wanted to deal with no less than the creation of mankind, being a prequel for a very popular movie series and brining back that series’ original director. Runtime: 124.

“Skyfall” is being heralded as one of the best Bond films ever. Having not seen it, I can’t go too far, but Bond did parachute out of a plane with no less than the Queen of England at the Olympics, so I’d imagine the movie will be pretty ambitious. Runtime 143.

“Django Unchained” I also haven’t seen (yet; I hope). It’s a Tarantino movie, so it’s probably got some ambition to it. You should hope so with this runtime: 165 minutes.

“The Hobbit: The Unexpected Journey.” The prequel to the most decorated, geek-approved movie trilogy in recent years. Also being the first part of a new trilogy (…) and being shot in 48fps. Runtime: 168 freakin’ minutes. THREE MORE MINUTES THAN “Django.” And it’s only part one! That’s a quick* bitchy moment to explain why I will not be watching these movies.

I don’t know what happened to bring about this longer-running-time, ambitious streak in movies. Maybe it’s rising ticket prices — people don’t want to pay $12 for something that’s “only” 90 minutes long — or maybe it’s aligned with the 3-D movement. Whatever the reason, it can’t be a total coincidence that they happened in the same year.

*And here’s a longer one: I’m not a huge Tolkein fan. I enjoyed the LOTR movies, and I’ve read “The Hobbit.” It seems like they’re trying to make “The Hobbit” into a story as epic as the LOTR movies, and I kind of understand that. But I also understand (I think) that the elegance of the original story is that it’s secretly a set-up for LOTR hidden within a rather light story. It’s a fun adventure that just happens to include this one little moment where Bilbo discovers a magic ring. Giving the set-up so much weight as three 3-hour movies provides only serves to rob the subtextual power of the original book’s meaning, to say nothing of its poetry as a storytelling device.

Couple this with the way Jackson directed the “King Kong” remake — to bring all the subtext to the absolute, overblown forefront — and you can see how such a thing would happen.


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