It is happening again. Martin Scorsese made a movie that’s longer than 120 minutes, and the world lost its mind. No one’s opinions on movies matter more to everyone than Scorsese’s. Whether telling people he’s de-aged De Niro, Jesus Christ had a last temptation, or Marvel movies aren’t real cinema, Scorsese’s hold over the cinema is unmatched. But every few years, he blesses us with a new film, and the year leading up to its release is all about runtime.
Runtimes are always weirdly breaking news in the movie world, as if the length of Oppenheimer tells you that much about the movie. Scorsese made headlines with the runtime of his upcoming $200 million historical epic Killers Of The Flower Moon, which clocks in at an astonishing three hours and 26 minutes—though before the official time was released, some reports stated it was closer to four hours. That’s three minutes shorter than The Irishman and 26 minutes longer than The Wolf Of Wall Street. What will people think? Probably that Martin Scorsese has a new movie out.
As Scorsese puts it, making long movies is a risk (heck, making short movies is a risk) because people supposedly won’t see them, which is only accurate if you ignore the successes. Nevertheless, in a recent interview with Deadline, he makes a compelling argument for enriching one’s life through art.
“The risk is there, showing in a theater in the first place,” Scorsese said. “But the risk for this subject matter, and then for running time. It’s a commitment. I know I could sit down and watch a film for three or four hours in a theater, or certainly five or six hours at home. Now, come on. I say to the audience out there, if there is an audience for this kind of thing, ‘Make a commitment. Your life might be enriched.’ This is a different kind of picture; I really think it is. Well, I’ve given it to you, so hey, commit to going to a theater to see this.’”
“Spending the evening, or the afternoon with this picture, with this story, with these people, with this world that reflects on the world we are in today, more so than we might realize.”
The long movie debate is a seemingly endless conversation. But today, we imagine a sea of moviegoers who no longer have patience for a three-and-half-hour movie in between bingeing Succession or the latest 90-Day Fiancé: The Other Way. People hate giving up their shows, and they have TikToks to watch, a strawman probably believes, especially when you consider three of the highest-grossing movies ever were longer than three hours—and that’s before getting into the Gone With The Wind of it all.
With much less aggression and far more compassion, Scorsese echoes James Cameron’s comments about his “agonizingly long three hour” Avatar: The Way Of Water. “I don’t want anybody whining about length when they sit and binge-watch [television] for eight hours,” Cameron said. “I can almost write this part of the review. ‘The agonizingly long three-hour movie…’ It’s like, give me a fucking break. I’ve watched my kids sit and do five one-hour episodes in a row.”
It feels like the complaints about movie length come from people who either don’t like movies or are more concerned about how many times Avengers: Endgame can realistically play on a single screen in a single day, which probably shouldn’t be a concern for non-theater owners. But, ultimately, do people dislike long movies and love short ones? That’s a tricky question to answer. Roger Ebert, quoted in every article like this, probably came the closest when he wrote, “No good movie is too long, and no bad movie is short enough.” That seems like a good place to end it. We wouldn’t want this going on too long. What is this, a Martin Scorsese movie?