Long films, my poor bottom, and the running time code

I’m 40 in a few weeks, so I guess that makes me middle-aged, and with that comes the added weight of middle-age spread, thus increasing the pressure on my poor derriere when I have to sit through overlong movies.

I seem to have endured more of these in the last 12 months than in any other year, and the main offenders are:

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN – 136 minutes: Would have been a fine 110 minute movie, but you had to bog it down with all sorts of sequel bait, didn’t you?!

THE HUNGER GAMES – 142 minutes: My kids loved it, but then they don’t have to get up at 5 AM for a pee every day.

SKYFALL – 143 minutes: Actually a cracking film, and the Bond films have a habit of breaking the 2hr mark with their over-complex plotting – there’s a list of their running times here – but next time, let’s knock it back to 120 minutes, eh? As we’ve already established, my bladder isn’t what it used to be.

THE AVENGERS – 143 minutes: So, over 12 hours of backstory movies wasn’t enough? To be fair, in the UK this was called AVENGERS ASSEMBLE, so we were forewarned that there would be some assembly. It’s a bit like calling another movie THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN HAVE TO GATHER BEFORE ANYTHING INTERESTING HAPPENS (incidentally THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN is arguably the better film and runs for 127 minutes).

THE MASTER – 144 minutes: Absolutely spellbinding performances lost in a meandering collections of vignettes that eventually get bored with themselves and end up as celluloid rattling in the projector.

DARK KNIGHT RISES – 165 minutes: That’s nearly three bloody hours! About a bloke who dresses up as a bat! Don’t get me wrong, I love these films, but let’s not forget that this is about a comic book character. Do we really need all those scenes about the Wayne Company Board and shareholders and the scenes with the mayor that think they’re straight out of The Wire? We have to wait 45 minutes before we even see any Bat action. You wouldn’t get away with that in a comic book.

DJANGO UNCHAINED – 165 MINUTES: Spaghetti Westerns have a long tradition of being too long, but bullfighting and fox hunting are also painful, drawn-out exercises in ‘tradition’, so let’s bring the torture to an end now.

THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY – 169 MINUTES: Crikey, where do I start with this one? There’s an entire musical scene about washing up. If they could cut Tom Bombadil from THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING, surely they could have started by cutting the washing up shanty and going on from there?

I was going to add PROMETHEUS to this list, but it only runs for 124 minutes. I guess it just felt longer (ooh, you bitch, Mark!).

I recently watched LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, which, in its longest version, runs for 227 minutes. It’s an utterly compelling film, wrapped around one of the best film performances of the 20th century, so it earns its running time, and you know what…? They have to decency to provide an interval! You even get it on the Blu-Ray: music plays over a dark screen for a few minutes. Back in the day, cinemagoers would buy choc ices from vendors in the aisles…

The mind plays tricks, but in my memory I'm sure they all looked like Kelly Brook.
The mind plays tricks, but in my memory I’m sure they all looked like Kelly Brook.

… I checked my email and did a few stretching exercises.

As this rant has gone on long enough, I think it’s only fair that I provide you, fair reader, with an interval of your own. She here’s the Overture from LAWRENCE (yes, the film is so long it has it’s own overture). Go stretch your legs for 4 minutes 38 seconds…

Better…? Welcome back.

So, how about reviewing the running times for the worst offending genres from now on? A RUNNING TIME CODE that all film makers should adhere to:

HISTORICAL EPICS: Okay, these should maybe run to 3 hours, as they have to cover a lot of ground. You have the childhood incident/murder/beheading that inspires the historical character to change the world, scenes of bearded men talking about honour and duty, lashings of battle scenes, and a romance that historians will insist never actually happened.

SCI-FI ADVENTURE/COMIC BOOK MOVIES: 110 minutes. Two hours tops! These are not THE SORROW AND THE PITY, these are fluff. Enjoyable fluff, yes. The stuff we all get excited about, definitely! But when did 144 minutes become the average running time for these? Cut the angst and get on with the story!

COMEDIES – 90 minutes, no exceptions, and I’m looking at you Judd Apatow! Those improvised scenes you shot with your pals may have seemed funny at the time, but they add nothing to the story. Their rightful place is on the DVD extras, not in the main body of the film. I’m looking forward to THIS IS 40 (can’t imagine why, it somehow strikes a chord with me), but does it really need to be 134 minutes long?

ANIMATED – 90 minutes. Think of the poor animators’ RSI!

BOOK ADAPTATIONS – 120 minutes. If I want the boring bits, I’ll read the book.

Any other suggestions…?

PS. Should anything I ever write exceed these rules, then feel free to slap me in the face with a leather glove and demand satisfaction.

Published by


Author, screenwriter, and co-founder of the Bestseller Experiment podcast.

7 thoughts on “Long films, my poor bottom, and the running time code”

  1. It would probably be better in a cinema. With a DVD, the temptation to say ‘I’ve had enough, let’s turn it off’ is always there. This was one of the very few films I’ve ever been tempted to give up on halfway through.


  2. … Avatar. Three hours, and deserved it. Actually, Cameron’s one of the few who has earned the right to a long running time. His films don’t FEEL long. Not to me, anyway.


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