Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Movies being too long, vs movies being too short.

One common criticism of certain movies I'm not inclined to agree with is criticizing a movie for being too long.  It is my biggest disagreement with the film reviews of James Rolfe (The Angry Video Game Nerd formally known as the Angry Nintendo Nerd).

I like long movies, I like things fleshed out, I prefer adaptations that add (like Prince Caspian) to adaptations that remove.  Those are general rules though and there are exceptions, I do feel there are times when a movie can be longer then it's story justifies.  And I do think a over 4 hours is too much to be watched in one uninterrupted sitting.

But thing is I tend to lean towards being interested in the movies that justify longer lengths to begin with.

The reason studios want shorter movies, considering 90 minutes enough to qualify as feature length, making 2 hours about the average and rarely allowing any blockbuster with a high budget because of action, adventure, SciFi or Fantasy elements to near or pass the 3 hour mark, is purely financial.  They want movies shorter not because they think audiences will like them less but because a shorter movie can have more showings on the same screen.

But it seems simply that being the standard has conditioned audiences to think that's how it should be.  But Gone with the Wind, Sound of Music, Wizard of Oz, Mary Poppins, The Ten Commandments and Ben-Hur were long movies that audiences were willing to sit through.  Not to mention most of Shakespeare's plays were written to be 3-4 or even 5 hour experiences. But now prices to see movies have gone up while longer films have become less common.

To me if a movie's story doesn't justify 2 hours it doesn't justify the Big Screen, that should be a 2 part episode of a TV series or a made for TV/straight to DVD movie.

And it annoys me that Oscar Bait kinds of movies are allowed 3 hours far more often then Comic Book or Pulp inspired movies.  I feel it is the action and adventure that helps justify a longer length.  I'm more likely to be bored by a movie without that stuff going on forever.  None the less I like The Godfather films.

But to show that even I have standards, I will list the handful of examples where I felt a film was longer then it needed to be.

The Hobbit movies, mainly the second and third, the first was relatively fine.  LOTR was absolutely worthy of 3 three hour Theatrical films and 4 hour extended edition DVDs.  But The Hobbit is a very different kind of story, you can maybe justify splitting it in two films.  But this length issue overlaps with wanting it more like LOTR in tone also, The Hobbit is a simpler more fun and comical story.  It gets a little dark at a certain point, but it really stands out when that darkness happens.

Related to that, but I can't judge entirely since I haven't watched any of them.  But I feel like anytime a YA novel series last book gets split in two for the adaptation it is simply going to cause it to drag.  Whether it's Harry Potter, or Twilight Breaking Dawn, or The Hunger Games, or Divergent, though I don't recall if the Divergent films did that or not.

Also Peter Jackson's King Kong from 2005.  And again I have other issues besides the length, and overall I like it.  But such a simple story didn't need LOTR length.  Now I'm all for making it longer then the 1933 original film.  Most of what I'd remove is probably stuff from before we first see Kong, 40-50 minutes before we see him works, you do want to build that up, but over an hour is too much.  After that I'd cut the voice over quoting that really racist novel, and do what I could to trim the overblown T-Rex battle, 3 T-Rexes was overkill.

Once again, I'm forced to mention the existence of Superman Returns, I don't like being a hater.  A shorter length would hardly save this film, but it's notable that it is the only film that is under 3 hours that is still able to make me of all people think it was longer then it's story justified.

A Superman movie absolutely could justify being that long or longer, but not without an actual super powered villain for him to fight.  A remake (disguised as a sequel) of Superman The Movie doesn't need more screen time then the original, especially when it lacks the mini-movies about Krypton and Smallville.  It's also the biggest offender in my book in going on too long after it's climax.  It's justified for ROTK because it's the end of 3 movies not just one.  Batman Begins was a little shorter and it felt like more happened.  The Dark Knight was the same length and it's my favorite movie, it felt like a 5 act play, not 3 stretched out acts.

Last, let's discus a movie that I am on many levels conflicted towards.  Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice.

It's Ultimate Cut is 3 Hours, how do I feel about that?  For the DVD it's fine, like the LOTR extended versions or Watchmen, that extra stuff on the DVD versions aren't needed but they are fun.  For home viewing you can pause the movie to take a break, to use the restroom or eat something, or in this film's case watch funny YouTube videos to relieve the stress.  You can also skip scenes you personally don't like but that others might appreciate.

But theatrically, no.  A Batman/Superman crossover film absolutely could justify three hours in my opinion, if it had some levity and brightness and overall more variety in the emotions in evokes.  At one time I felt like The Dark Knight Returns would have needed 3 and a half hours, but upon watching how well it was done as two 70 minute animated films, I now feel it wouldn't need more time then The Dark Knight Rises even if you made a point to do more then those Cartoons combined did.

However what I would cut and keep for the theatrical version would be different.

As much as I love the Injustice like Future Vision and then immediately The Flash trying to tell Bruce something from the Future.  We don't need that, what it tells us about Bruce's motivations we more then got from seeing his experience at the beginning and what he says to Alfred.  So I'd cut that or at least trim it down to a 30 second montage.  Also when Diana opens the file Bruce sent her taken from Lex, I'd show the three logos, that's all the Justice League tease we needed, I'd save her watching the three videos for the DVD extended edition.

What isn't in the Theatrical version and that I'd still keep out is first the Steppinwolf scene, it looks cool but isn't needed, and only a subset of even nerds recognized the character.  And I'd keep Batman confronting Lex in Prison as it was theatrically, adding the reference to Arkham is cool for Nerds but wasn't needed.  That scene as it was theatrically gives us all the future movie threat set up we need.  And since she wound up not being a comics character, Jena Malone's scenes weren't needed, they just elaborated on Lois's story-line which was handled fine in the theatrical cut.

What the Theatrical Cut absolutely did need was the additional Screen-time and Dialogue for Clark Kent/Superman, the actual main character, especially his investigation of Batman.  It needed the elaboration on what happened in Africa at the beginning as much as I hate confirming that CIA agent to be Jimmy.  It needed showing that the branded criminals being killed in prison was orchestrated by KGBeast presumably on Lex's orders.  And it needed the additional stuff with the woman from Africa and the Senator, and her being killed.

I could go either way on the football game.

That hypothetical edit might still be longer then the theatrical cut we got, I'm unsure.  And it wouldn't save the film's joylessness problem.  But it would be a far better film.

But I ultimately feel like there are far more films that needed more time to flesh out their details, then there are films that dragged too much.  In general I feel if you want the film to end you're simply not enjoying it, and if you don't want it to you are enjoying it.

For some reason the first example of one to pop in my mind is usually The Haunting of Molly Hartley.  It's not exactly a film others would think of in terms of run-time debates at all.  But I really like the premise, it's an Omen like tale but with a young woman, and I enjoyed most of it as is.  I would end it's narrative sooner actually, the ending graduation and putting in her dad in the institution scenes I didn't need.  I wouldn't add anything to the first act or maybe even first half, but it does need more fleshing out and development before we reach the climactic sequence.

Batman Forever is a movie I like as is, but could be a much better film if you add all the DVD deleted scenes and re-arrange the first act so the sequence of events is more like in the novelizations.  I've heard there are Fan-Edits that have done this, I haven't gotten to view them yet because torrents are to complicated for me.  I wish there were streaming sites like pirated Anime has for Fan-Edits of Hollywood films with available deleted scenes and/or disputed length issues.

Superman IV The Quest for Peace could be similar, but not all it's deleted scenes are found and many lack needed polishing.  I also had an imaginary ideal edit of Superman II in my head once, which may be longer then either the Lester or Donner cut.  I'll need to watch them both again to fully remember what it was.  The deleted scenes that made neither cut were also a factor, though I wouldn't add all of em.

The movie version of the Les Miserables Musical is as it is in my top 10 movies of all time easily.  But the thing is I like everything added that wasn't in the original Musical, but lament that other stuff got removed because they still wanted the total run-time to be the same.

Every movie version of The Count of Monte-Cristo.  I think it's an uphill battle enough as is to try telling the story as a stand alone single movie rather then a more serialized format.  But every attempt becomes more pathetic then it needed to be by not allowing itself to go over 2 hours, while at the same time not skipping the Origin Story part.  If you are going to include the backstory, it should be a 3rd to a 4th of the story, not half of it.

My opinion of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of The Sith is interesting, it is overall by far the best of the Star Wars movies.  Yet it is also the only Prequel, in fact the only George Lucas produced Star Wars film, I have any real criticisms of at all.  Those issues mostly relate to it's handling of female characters.

Much of that could be fixed by adding not all of the deleted scenes, but just the origin of the Rebellion plot-line.  It gives Padme Amdiala, the female lead of the trilogy, something to do in the first half.  Same with Bail Organa so his becoming a main protagonist during the second half doesn't come out of nowhere.  And Mon Mothma being in the film would give it more female representation.  It would give context to when Padme tells Anakin about feeling like they might be on the wrong side.  And the last scene that also adds another Palpatine and Anakin scene has him plant the seed to distrust Padme giving more context to his getting paranoid and force choking her at the end.

Many old movies of the 30s and early 40s, like some Warner Gangster and Universal monster films, I feel are kept from true greatness only by lacking more time to flesh out their stories.

I could and might make a separate post on the issues many DC Animated movies have from being limited to 70 Minutes (Especially Year One).

I think there is a chance The Incredible Hulk could have been saved by adding some of it's deleted scenes.  Many including the suicide scene didn't even make the DVD special features, and I now think that is best left as a story he tells in The Avengers.  I really like the movie as it is.  But it particularly annoys me anytime a Superhero film is under two hours.

I'm sure I'll later think of more examples that I'll be mad at myself for not remembering now.

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