Are movies getting just too long?
How does one judge when a movie has more than run its course? What is the length filmmakers can expect maintain the audiences’ attention? Simple questions for some who believe very few movies have the skill to run past two hours. While others believe a movie shouldn’t have time constraints. The latest film to challenge audience’s atttention spans is David Fincher’s Zodiac, which clocks in at 160 minutes and opened second this past weekend. A lot of insiders believe that the movie’s long-play cut into its profits.
I don’t believe that a long movie stops an interested viewer from purchasing a ticket, but it may sway those on the fence. Then again the majority of moviegoers normally come with a film in mind and don’t make spontaneous decisions at the ticket counter. I think that a lot of what hindered the Zodiac was its subject matter and the climate of the current movie landscape. People no longer want well-thoughtout and intriguing films but instead want some fluff with a few laughs and a forgettable plot. If anyone needs evidence of this, all you have to do is look at the number one movies this year, Stomp the Yard, Epic Movie, The Messengers, Norbit, Ghost Rider and, of course, Wild Hogs. All these examples of a recycled plot with a flashy trailer, seriously Stomp the Yard is nothing more than You Got Served with an even worst title and, Epic Movie, I still can’t believe that movie made nearly $20 million dollars its opening weekend. I mean, come on, my bowel movements are much more interesting than anything that could have been shown in those 90-minutes.
The Zodiac wasn’t the typical serial killer. The murders weren’t overtly gruesome and the killer was never caught. Serial killers that attract audiences are a bit more showy such as Hannibal Lector or the killer from Se7en. The approach Fincher took with this film was completely different from any other entry in the genre, in that we never saw the killer and the story unfolded from the viewpoint of the three men involved. There were no assumptions about the case or the man who terrorized the San Francisco area, instead we were given just facts. I know this does sound bad, but to the majority of people they want more. The main reason, Zodiac runs so long is simple: it gives the viewers so much background surrounding this infamous case, so that as soon as one walk out of the multiplex they are an immediate Zodiac expert. This something we should reward a movie for doing, because the vast majority of times I walk out of a theater with more questions than answers.
There are films that have gone to balance critical acclaim, stellar box office performance and an lengthy play time, but the examples are few and far between with in recent memory only The Lord of the Rings trilogy and Titanic being able to pull this off. Meanwhile many other acclaimed but lenghy films have been meet with indifference at box office, recently with David Lynch’s Inland Empire and Peter Jackson’s King Kong.
I honestly don’t believe it is the lenght of movies which kill its box office potential, but the current trend we are trapped where movies are seen merely as a mindlessly enjoyable way to spend a night. Until this and other aspects change, Zodiac and other films daring to keep audiences in their seats for longer than two hours we continue to face a steep uphill battle.