Saturday, 28 July 2007

what's wrong with long films?

I've lost track of the number of times I've heard, whether it's in reviews or on people's lips, complaints relating to the latest blockbuster than run something along the lines of "But did it really have to be so long?".

I must confess I find myself somewhat baffled by these comments. Surely, when it comes to these entertainment spectacles, the longer I am entertained, the better. If a film can give me three and a half hours of entertainment for my money, then that is better than if it gives me ninety minutes. It's like walking up to a greasy beach-side kiosk and complaining that your 50c buys you an enormous tub of chips, rather than the microscopic little bag you expected.

There's also the fact that you can just do more in three hours than you can do in one-and-a-half. The modern kind of fantasy/adventure blockbuster (Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Pirates of the Caribbean, etc., but also Star Wars, the Indiana Jones films, and so on) are, on their most basic level, about escaping into a fantastical and wonderful world inhabited by larger-than-life characters and anchored by simple but resonant mythic narratives. For this kind of thing, ninety minutes simply isn't enough to create a coherent sense of the world and feel at home in it. This is why blockbusters have been getting longer and longer, or spilling over into trilogies or even longer series.

If I want a movie to end, then it's probably because I'm not enjoying it, in which case, the length of the movie is not in itself a problem, but becomes one due to the film's other issues. Of course, I cannot deny that some films feel padded out and could benefit from a shorter running time. But when I hear people saying, for instance, that Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End had no right to take up three hours of their time because it's nothing more than a rollercoaster pirate yarn, then I have to throw up my hands in sheer incomprehension. Why the hell did you go to watch it at all if you didn't want it taking up your time?

5 comments:

Lara said...

How could three and a half hours of pirates in asian garb and giant sea monsters be too long? :-)

Of course Josmar might disagree...

Daniel Vella said...

My point exactly...

magnum said...

Well, Pringles are all fine and tasty when you first open the tub, but by the time you reach the bottom, you start feeling a little bit sick of over flavoured potato product...

Same thing with movies. That's especially true with, say, Peter Jackson's style of overindulgent cinema (both King Kong and the Lord of the Rings movies felt overlong), or even the last Pirates movie at times. But then it depends on the film itself... you can have a 20 minute short that feels like the director's cut of Das Boot.

Daniel Vella said...

It all depends on the film, really. There are films I would happily sit through if they were ten hours long (I've never tried to watch the LotR films in a row, but I'm pretty sure I'd have a great time). There are other films I'm sick of after an hour. It's not something you can pin down...

Robert said...

Exactly

it all depends on the film.

shoot i thinking im going to be commenting on every blog entry.

you've hear dof compulsive liars - well im a compulsive replier