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We've been hearing for a while now that Endgame is not only going to surpass the 2-hour-and-29-minute length of its predecessor Avengers: Infinity War, but at a reported three hours and two minutes, it will be the longest theatrically released superhero movie to date (not counting the director's cuts of Watchmen and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which both blew past the 180-minute mark on home video).
Getting an audience to sit still for that amount of time is a challenge even in the best of circumstances, but in this case, directors Anthony and Joe Russo both acknowledge that the sheer size of the story they were telling — the conclusion to not just the chain of events started in Infinity War, but the entire 22-movie Marvel Cinematic Universe saga to date — requires the biggest playing field possible.
In an interview with Total Film, Anthony Russo says the brothers have not been tasked with keeping the film to a certain length: "Joe and I like very propulsive storytelling. We like to keep it tight and focused, and to give the audience a thrill ride. But this movie...you know, no one’s been pushing us to cut the film."
He adds that they always "suspected" the film would hit the 3-hour mark, explaining, "Again, the number of characters, the scope of the story, the fact that it was a conclusion. It’s just that everything lined up that it was going to be a difficult story to tell. Meaning that it would require a lot of screen time to tell it properly.”
Joe Russo tells Box Office Pro that the running time has never really changed since they delivered their first cut, noting, "My brother and I are really committed to emotional stakes, and emotion requires story real estate. When you have a sprawling plot with a lot of characters and emotional stakes, it requires time to breathe emotionally. On the scale, you’re just going to wind up at a certain run time. We’ve been really hard on the film. We don’t like excessive run times; it’s just very difficult wrapping up 10 years of storytelling."
It's that notion that this is not just the conclusion of the Infinity War arc but also an endpoint for the current configuration of the MCU that justifies the long sit for co-writer Christopher Markus, who tells Total Film, "You know, people have sat through 21 movies...I don’t think there’s anybody there who’s like, ‘OK, I’ve got to get out of there in 85 minutes, I want a nice, quick wrap-up.’ You’ve earned a long, satisfying, conclusion to the story you tell. So I don’t think there was anybody who wanted to trade it out for a speedy box-office. Even watching it, it doesn’t feel like a slog."
It's a secret of the movie business that theater owners don't like long movies because that limits the number of daily showings and the amount of tickets they can sell, which Markus alludes to above. But in the case of Avengers: Endgame, we suspect that even those guys want to see how this story plays out. And if the filmmakers say they need three hours and two minutes to conclude a tale that's been 11 years in the making, who are we to argue?
As for what the future of the MCU holds, Joe Russo -- who is taking a break, along with his sibling, from all things Marvel once Endgame is out -- said at an event in India (via The Playlist) that after the success of diversified characters like Black Panther and Captain Marvel, an LGBTQ superhero is coming to the MCU: "One hundred percent and you will see one very soon.”
Will that person be introduced in a movie like The Eternals as rumored? We'll find out soon...after recovering from the three epic hours of Avengers: Endgame.