How long is too long? Early in his career Quentin Tarantino marvelled at people who could sit through a three or four-hour football game every week but would complain about a two-and-a-half hour movie. Which makes sense, although Tarantino's films feel much shorter than they are. Django Unchained, last year's best flick, runs 165 minutes and easily entranced audiences the entire time.
Unfortunately, it seems like other (lesser) filmmakers are pushing the length of their films a bit as well, for better or for worse. It could be that sleeping/eating/working/living next to a couple hundred wireless devices has stunted our attention spans but I reckon it's also easier to fake talent or hide mistakes in overly complicated movies.
The Wolverine, opening this week at the Village 8, is 136 minutes and it lags. Or perhaps it's just that in his sixth cinematic appearance since 2001 the Wolverine — a good-hearted guy with an indestructible adamantium-laced skeleton and mutant self-healing powers — is not as intriguing as he used to be.
Regardless, this time Wolverine is roaming around the forest pissed off (just like an actual wolverine) when a young Japanese ninjette arrives and lures him to Japan. There, an old friend thrusts Wolverine into a very normal-feeling noir-ish thriller full of conspiracy and murder sprinkled with supercharged slice-and-dice heroics, cut with emotional torment.
Most of The Wolverine watches like a standard hero-in-exotic-land crime drama (think Bond) except the hero is a super-powered ass kicker. And despite underwhelming action sequences the other parts of the film feel kind of fun and new. Then a very comic-booky supervillanesse sashays in with heavy cartoon elements that don't really mesh with the set-up and it goes downhill from there.
Hugh Jackman does all right in the lead role but director James Mangold (Walk the Line, Knight and Day) doesn't bring his sharpest sword to the shootout. There are a lot of underdeveloped characters, uninspiring action set pieces and Mangold doesn't really utilize his exotic setting beyond the neon-world Tokyo Chris Claremont and Frank Miller imagined in the 1982 comic book source material.
And yeah, it's long. Or is it just me? A quick bit of data-mining (the future of journalism) shows that long movies have been around forever — 1974's The Godfather was 200 minutes and Chinatown was 130. In the '80s, Conan was 129 minutes, Platoon was 120 and Ghandi was 191. Even comedies and kid's flicks like Ferris Bueller's Day Off and E.T. came in at 103 and 115 respectively. The 1990s saw no change: Shawshank Redemption was 142 minutes and Pulp Fiction flew by in 154. Even Forest Gump took 142 minutes to run off with his stolen Oscar. The longest version of The Lord of the Rings takes over 12 hours to watch! So who's to say? The good long movies seem fine and the bad longs ones don't. How's that for insight?
Movie trailers, on the other hand, are definitely way too long. According to AVclub.com theatre owners are banding together to beg studios to keep trailers under two minutes because they're sick of dealing with all the complaints from the public.
So are movies getting longer? Are they too long? I put the question to my only Hollywood source — a director/actress/model/documentarian/BMX freak who lives in L.A. with a leather jacket and painted toenails that dip into film, fashion and rock'n'roll. She's the only Hollywood source I've got but she's pretty tapped in so I asked: are movies to long?
"It's pretty much the same as with anything," she replied via text. "It's not the length that matters, it's the girth.