Movies - Longer than they used to be... [03/12/02]

It seems that the epic movie genre has made it's triumphant return. While many of us may have been too young to recall the days when long movies, such as Lawrence of Arabia, Gone With the Wind and Ben Hur, we do recall a number of movies that have been recently re-released with missing footage from their original theatrical debuts. This leads me to wonder why they didn't come out with all of the footage originally. What makes the edited footage worth showing later on.

It appears that during the date 70's, 80's and even the early 90's, a number of studio executives decided that the American viewer had a short attention span, so many movies were trimmed to hit the theatres at or around the two-hour mark. Very few films (Dances With Wolves) managed to retain their length without substantial editing. We only now realize how widespread this is by taking a look at how many films are being re-released in either the theatre or on DVD with the edited footage.

While the studios alone were not to totally blame, you can't help but wonder how much film was left unshown due to decisions made higher up. Take the film Legend for example. While it was a fairly decent hit, well over an hour of the movie was cut because the studio felt it made the movie too long. In my opinion, I think the film could have been better and that extra hour would have helped deepen the story. Aliens even came out later with twenty more minutes which I felt gave the story a little more flavor.

Other films, including Star Wars and even E.T. The Extraterrestrial have come out with footage missing from the original, whether that decision be the directors or the studios. This is not to say that the practice is over. Recent films like the X-Men and even Queen of the Damned were trimmed for the theatre, leaving both films feeling rather short and even a bit thin story-wise.

Thanks to epic films like Braveheart, it seems that the studios are feeling a little more lax about the length of films. In recent years, the number of films being released that were over the two hour mark jumped, and most of them were long for good reasons - epic stories that are fully realized. Of course, there have been some long movies that were just too long for their own good, but you have to take the bad with the good.

It seems that the one thing that is still missing from lengthy epics recently is the Intermission - the 10-15 minute break in long movies so that viewers could run out, get more food from the concession stand or use the facilities so they wouldn't miss any part of the film. I believe that this courtesy has just gone by the wayside, partially because of the lapse in long features for some time. Also, it may be a byproduct of producers not wanting to cause a break in the flow of the film for the sake of an intermission. And I can understand their reasons behind this. Building up character depth and story tension takes effort and putting a break in the film forces film makers to potentially start over after the intermission, sometimes even defeating the efforts of the first half of the film.

I guess the point I'm try to make is that film makers should be allowed to make movies as long or as short as they deem necessary. I'd hate to see a film trimmed down to make it to the theatres only to have it come out on DVD/VHS with the scenes that were cut from it for theatrical release. Our attention-spans aren't as short as people think. Give us the film you wanted to make.

- - Kinderfeld

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