Michael Bay squashes rumors about Transformers: The Last Knight running time

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Just how long is the latest installment in the Transformers franchise? Director Michael Bay sets the record straight.

According to Heroic Hollywood, rumors have been circulating that Transformers: The Last Knight, the fifth entry in the ongoing series, was clocking in at a whopping 3 hours and 2 minutes -- just 19 minutes shorter than reigning genre champion The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (3 hours and 21 minutes in its original theatrical cut).

Now, that wouldn't be an entirely unrealistic scenario, given that each chapter of the Transformers franchise has crept upward in length. Back in 2007, Transformers ran a relatively slim 2 hours and 24 minutes; since then, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009) ran 2 hours and 30 minutes, while Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011) just beat that with a running time of 2 hours and 34 minutes. But 2014's Transformers: Age of Extinction exceeded the previous three at a hefty 2 hours and 45 minutes.

Nevertheless, 3-plus hours seems a lot for a movie about giant alien robots that turn into trucks, and Bay himself seems to agree:

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So not only is The Last Knight not 3 hours long, but the director says it's even shorter than the previous trio of sequels, which means that it could be closer in length to the lean and mean first movie -- a relief to those of us who are not necessarily fans, but probably also just fine with devoted followers as well.

This leads to an interesting question, however: How long is too long? Everyone's mileage varies according to the movie they're watching -- and how much they're invested in it -- but there seems to be a bit of bloat happening across the board. Even Wonder Woman, which has been almost universally praised by critics ahead of tomorrow's release, has taken a bit of criticism for its 2-hour-and-21-minute sit.

For quite some time, Marvel had kept all its movies to under the two-and-a-half-hour mark, with Avengers: Age of Ultron being famously shaved of several scenes in order to keep it to the same length as Wonder Woman. But Marvel went for the full 150 minutes with Captain America: Civil War, and is likely to go even longer with Avengers: Infinity War to accommodate all 247 characters appearing in that film.

Civil War, however, breezed by for this viewer, unlike, say, the ponderous Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which felt every second of its 151-minute length (I'm not picking a fight here; you might have had the exact opposite experience, and fine if you did). I also found it hard to sit through any of The Hobbit, while the three chapters of The Lord of the Rings literally flew across the screen.

In the end, if the filmmaking is working, then it shouldn't really matter how long the movie is -- it will always feel like you could sit for more. The studios may think that a long running time justifies today's exorbitant ticket prices, and in some cases they're right. But is anyone reading this ready for a 3-hour Transformers movie? And to the larger point, are movies in general too long these days?