Is a blockbuster superhero epic better if it's longer and more packed with stuff, or shorter and more to the point? Marvel Studios may be about to find out.
Following Marvel's showstopping Hall H presentation on Saturday night at Comic-Con -- which featured trailers and footage from Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther, Ant-Man and the Wasp, and Avengers: Infinity War -- some of the filmmakers stuck around backstage to talk about what had just been shown.
Speaking with Collider, Avengers: Infinity War co-director Joe Russo revealed something that might not come as much of a surprise -- that the epic superhero team-up against galactic bad guy Thanos could end up being Marvel's longest outing to date:
“The current cut is over two and a half (hours)... Most of it’s a movie you could show, but there’s still a lot of work left to be done, I still have a couple of scenes that we haven’t finished from Avengers 3 that I’m shooting in the next few months with my brother, and it’s certainly gonna be a film that lives in the two and a half hour, two and a half hour-plus range.”
Captain America: Civil War, also directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, currently holds the title of longest Marvel movie to date with a runtime of two hours and 27 minutes. That film elegantly wove a number of characters into a relatively complex storyline, but Infinity War is upping the stakes for both the amount of heroes appearing in the film and potentially the twists and turns of its plot. As Russo put it:
"I mean it’s a culmination event. We’ve gotta take 10 years of storytelling in this Marvel narrative experiment that’s been going on since Iron Man, and we have to take all these disparate tones, disparate themes, motivations, and we have to pull them together in a unified narrative and write the final chapters of the book. There’s no way you could do that with all these characters in under that running length.”
I would guess that Infinity War will end up somewhere around the two-hour-and-40-minute mark, and Russo hinted that Avengers 4 will likely end up in the same ballpark. They do have almost 10 months to tinker with the first one more, but don't be surprised if the scope of the project guarantees a long sit in the theater next May.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the scale, Thor: Ragnarok director Taika Waititi told Collider that his movie -- which looks awesome in the latest trailer -- is shaping up to be Marvel's briefest adventure so far:
“The cut right now, I reckon it’s about 100 minutes. It’s not gonna be a very, very long film. I think that stories are better when you leave them wanting more, and this film moves at a clip, it’s got stuff happening all the time. I think people are still gonna feel exhausted by the end, they’ve been on this big journey and stuff, so I don’t think we need the film to be three hours.”
The shortest movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to date has been 2008's The Incredible Hulk, which clocked in at one hour and 52 minutes. Since then, the rest have all been around two hours or more, so a movie that runs just one hour and 40 minutes (plus another six minutes or so for end credits) is going to feel especially compact.
But that's not necessarily a bad thing. There's been a lot of talk in recent years about the length of franchise movies creeping upward, with the Transformers films or the Pirates of the Caribbean series (both of which have had installments that have neared three hours in length) trotted out as examples of movies that simply don't need to be that long. On the other hand, no one really complained about Civil War or, say, The Dark Knight (which hit the two-and-a-half-hour mark), because the movies were so damn good.
So Thor: Ragnarok, which seems to have a lighter tone that could benefit from a shorter length, may be just as satisfying at 100 minutes as Avengers: Infinity War hopefully is at 160 or 170 minutes. It's all about the story the filmmakers are telling, and if they've got it right then the movies will sweep you up and hold your attention no matter how long they are.
Thor: Ragnarok is up next, on November 3, 2017. Will you be surprised if the movie is relatively short, or are you looking forward to a break from tentpoles that eat up hours at a time?