In the era of epic blockbusters, it seems that films just keep getting longer and longer. But how did we get here? From the days of 97-minute productions to the recent Avengers: Endgame’s whopping 182-minute runtime, let’s explore the evolution of blockbuster films and the factors that have influenced their increasing length.
The Rise of the Epic
Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, once said, “No amount of money ever bought a second of time.” In Avengers: Endgame, this sentiment rings true, as the film boasts both endless time and an extravagant budget. From its humble beginnings in 1990’s Captain America to the grand culmination of Marvel Studios’ 22-film saga, the transformation of blockbusters has been nothing short of extraordinary.
A Matter of Substance
As a film critic, I can confidently say that Avengers: Endgame feels satisfyingly finite. Its three-hour duration may seem daunting, but every minute is well-spent. However, I feel compelled to remind you, dear reader, that those three hours only account for a mere 0.0003 years of your existence.
Comparatively, it’s shorter than The Dark Knight Rises, Titanic, and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Yet, the perception of longer movies as more entertaining has been ingrained in our minds for decades, just like the idea that hardcover books are more valuable than paperbacks.
An Expanse of Time
As a young cinephile, I often associated length with substance. I recall eagerly calling my local multiplex, ensuring Jurassic Park’s 130-minute duration, relieved that it met the criteria of a “proper” film. Movies running under two hours were permissible but raised suspicions of being subpar. Longer films were deemed more quantifiably entertaining, like a physics equation.
In those days, my girlfriend’s mom would kick me out by 11 p.m., unless the movie we were watching was still playing. This led us to explore the expansive world of films like Doctor Zhivago, thankful that the Russian Revolution took 193 minutes to unfold. It gave us extra time together, even if we didn’t quite comprehend the storyline or the ending.
The Marvel Effect
In recent times, even Marvel movies have followed suit and expanded their runtimes. The average duration of Marvel’s Phase One films was 124 minutes, with The Avengers clocking in at 143 minutes. In Phase Two, the average rose to 127 minutes. Now, in Phase Three, it has reached an average of 136 minutes. Only Ant-Man manages to keep it succinct, though barely.
This trend isn’t limited to Marvel alone. Longevity has become the norm across various blockbuster franchises. The longest film in the James Bond series, Spectre, clocks in at 148 minutes, while Star Wars: The Last Jedi lasts 152 minutes. Even the Fast & Furious movies have swelled in length, coinciding with Dwayne Johnson’s inclusion in the cast.
The Changing Landscape
So, why are movies getting longer? One major factor is the changing landscape of movie theaters. With more screens available today than in the past, the pressure to keep films short has diminished. Single-screen theaters have dwindled, and exhibition windows have shrunk, allowing for longer films and more screenings.
Additionally, the rise of streaming platforms has altered our perception of time. Television episodes can now range from minutes to hours, with no fixed rules. The options for entertainment have become format-agnostic, allowing for more flexibility and experimentation.
While Avengers: Endgame may mark the peak of expanding runtimes, it is unlikely that such lengthy films will become the norm. These monumental timeframes will likely remain exceptions. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, released in 2003 with a runtime of 201 minutes, broke records as both the top-grossing film of that year and the winner of the Best Picture award.
In this day and age, where time is a precious commodity, it’s a daunting task to commit to a movie that lasts over three hours. However, as the film industry continues to evolve, we can expect blockbusters to find a balance between captivating storytelling and respecting the constraints of our busy lives.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to enjoy a shorter yet equally captivating film experience. But before I go, if you want to explore more about the captivating world of film, feel free to visit Capturing Fantasy.
Note: This article has been adapted and enhanced, retaining the essence of the original content while adding fresh insights and a conversational tone.