Recently, we reported on the news that Justice League will run at a shocking-low low runtime of 121 minutes. This in stark contrast for most of the other DC films that have run well over two hours — and most closer to two-and-a-half hours — in length (with the exception of Suicide Squad, but let’s be real, no one’s really looking at that film as an example for anything).
Some fans (including us), expressed a bit of doubt that two hours is enough time for a film of this scope, and others on the site, and across the internet, were of the mind that the runtime didn’t matter, so long as the movie was good.
But here’s the deal. The runtime does matter, to at least some extent. Sure, it’s not the end-all factor of what makes a great film, but there is some validity to our concerns as fans upon hearing that runtime.
If you don’t think so, may I direct you to a film called Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
If you’ll recall, this film’s theatrical cut was two-and-a-half hours, and it was met with both critical and fan derision. They lambasted it for its scattered and sometimes incoherent narrative. Enter the Ultimate Cut, and all of a sudden, you hear many changing their tunes. While not everyone was convinced, the general consensus was that it was a superior film from its predecessor, as it allowed for aspects of the narrative to fully play out.
It helped paint character motivations in a way that were, at most, hinted at in the theatrical cut, and gave time for other characters like Clark Kent actually shine in a way that he never did. For someone like me, the Ultimate Cut — while running 30 minutes longer — somehow managed to feel like a much shorter film. And that’s because these extra layers of motivation helped me feel more invested in the overall story.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. “That’s not an example of a runtime resulting in a better movie, but a better told story resulting in a better move.” And you know what? You’re right. More does not always equal better. That is true. We can look at countless self-important 3-hour duds (hello Transformers 3). However, with a film like Justice League, one could argue that it’s a story worth a padded runtime.
You need look no further than the sheer number of characters in the flick. This isn’t a film with one lead. Heck, it’s not a film with two. We have here a film with at least three leads, and as many as six if you count all of the Justice League. And unlike, say, The Avengers, Justice League is a film where we’re not incredibly familiar with half of the main heroes. As such, we’ll need some extra time to get to know them, so that by the time the big fiery climax we’ve seen in the trailers comes to pass, we’ll care about them. If we somehow rush to that big finale with little more than an archetypal understanding of who they are, it’ll be nothing more than a mindless, boring action sequence.
Am I saying it’s impossible for the film to work as a two-hour piece? Not at all. It can definitely work if handled properly, but it does make it harder. Plus, at face value, given the subject matter and the track records directors responsible for the piece (Zack Snyder and Joss Whedon), a longer runtime isn’t necessarily something that would hurt. Every minute given to character development and interaction between the Justice League can only help to get us invested in the battle to come.
But what do you think? Do you agree with this assessment? Are you concerned about the 121 minute runtime? Let us know your thoughts down below!