Friday Flix: Long Time Coming
It was about two years ago when I was suffering through the last terrible hour of “Transformers 2” in the theater that I thought about instituting a new law. That law would be no comedy over 90 minutes and no drama/action movie over 120 minutes. That way I could be spared from having to sit through terrible 2 1/2-3 hour movies like “Transformers 2,” the Pirates of the Caribbean ones, and so forth. Plus the added benefit that when these are on regular TV we don’t have them taking up 4 hours of air time with commercials.
You might be wondering why I have a different scale for comedies than action movies/dramas. It’s because I think most comedies are better if they’re short, so that the premise doesn’t wear out its welcome. Over two hours of Adam Sandler falling in love with a golden retriever (or whatever lame new project he’s working on) and I’d probably climb to the roof of the theater and throw myself off.
For a good action movie you might need a few more minutes to wrap everything up with some cool explosions and such. And with a drama, especially a historical one, you might need more time for stupid waltzes, bowing, curtseying, and such nonsense and then get to the end where the main character is old and bitter or old and not bitter or whatever.
But essentially my dream would be very, very few movies over two hours. In my world you’d have to justify any running time longer than that. For example if you’re doing an epic saga like “Lord of the Rings” or “The Godfather.” Otherwise, cut some more fat (which in Transformers 2 was pretty much everything) to get it down under two hours.
Maybe with rising ticket prices some people might want longer movies, but I don’t. I want to get in, enjoy 2-2 1/2 hours total of air conditioning, and then get on with the other things I have to do. I don’t want to make a whole day of it! Because really if the movie is 2 1/2 hours itself, then after you factor in buying the ticket, getting concessions, using the bathroom, commercials, previews, and then leaving you could be there for 3 1/2 hours! If not longer. Come on, there are football games that don’t take that long!
And while I’m talking about length, what I hate now is this trend to split movies into two parts so the studio can make more money. It seems ridiculous that they could fit all six previous Potter books and all three previous Twilight books into one movie apiece but now all of the sudden they need two parts for the end? Come on, that’s just a pure cash grab. Not just on theater tickets, but then you get the dummies who buy Part 1 on DVD before Part 2 comes out, even though you know after Part 2 comes out there will be a combined edition with better special features. I was trying to explain this one day to someone and she refused to realize that buying Part 1 of the last Potter film was pure exploitation.
On Facebook I asked about “The Hobbit” because I had read the book 20 years ago and so I knew it wasn’t THAT long that they need two movies. Someone said they’re adding in some other stuff, which to me just sounds like padding. If you want to pad the movie so it’s longer, do that on the Director’s Ultimate Mega Special Edition DVD, not in the theater. I for one have better things to do with my money than fork over $20-$40 of it for filler.
Does any of this relate to writing? Well, depending on the genre you may want to keep things shorter. Like if you’re doing kids or YA and you aren’t JK Rowling then you don’t want to write 200,000 words. You don’t have the credibility yet to take advantage of your nonexistent audience in that way.
BTW, as an addition to this entry, I was watching the special edition of “Aliens” a couple weeks ago and James Cameron was lamenting that the studio demanded he cut his movie from 2 1/2 hours to 2 hours. Wow, remember when 2 1/2 hours was actually too long for movies? Incidentally, the special version is a little bit better. It introduces how the colonists find the aliens and fixes something Ebert complained about, which was Ripley not seeming to care about everyone she knew being dead after she returns to Earth after 57 years; in the special edition there’s a scene where Burke brings her some info about her daughter who died while Ripley was gone. So in that case the added time was worth it to add a bit more depth to the characters.
Monday is a Holiday Story Excerpt for Independence Day. Also, belated Canada Day…