Bigger is not always necessarily better, at least when it comes to the runtimes of films. As Roger Ebert once pithily observed “No good movie is too long and no bad movie is short enough.”
And it sounds as if that may be something that J. J. Abrams is taking to heart with the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens. In an interview with Vanity Fair, Abrams’ Force awakens co-screener Lawrence Kasdan stated that the runtime of the film is something that the director is keeping a careful eye on.
This new movie, first of all, it’s turning out really great. J.J. directed it so beautifully, and it’s so exhilarating and everything. It’s a big movie. It’s full of wonderful stuff, incident and character stuff and jokes and effects. One of the things that we always refocus on from the get-go was that it not be one of these very long, bloated blockbusters. A lot of very entertaining movies lately are too long. In the last 20 minutes, you think, why isn’t this over? We didn’t want to make a movie like that. I mean, we were really aiming to have it be—when it’s over you’ll say, ‘I wish there’s more.’ Or, ‘Wait, is it over?’ Because how rarely you get that feeling nowadays, and I think we’re headed there. But it means that there will be constant critical looking at it from now to the end, saying, ‘Do we need this? Do we need that? Is it better if this comes out, even though we love it?’ Killing your darlings.
Interestingly enough, with the exception of the very first installment, all Star Wars films have run over two hours, more than what many would consider the average length for a film. Bringing in The Force Awakens at just around the two hour mark sort of makes the film an outlier more than the rule for the franchise.
But it is nice that Abrams is taking a serious look at the run time for the film. One criticism being leveled at summer blockbusters is that their increasingly long run times, with an emphasis on bigger and bigger action set pieces, have made them feel bloated. Some critics complained of just feeling exhausted by the end of The Avengers: Age Of Ultron from the sheer amount of spectacle that director Joss Whedon crammed into that film.
With Abrams looking to possibly scale back the runtime of The Force Awakens, he may be heeding the old showbusiness maxim of always leave them wanting more. And with Lucasfilm/Disney planning on annual releases from the Star Wars franchise for the forseeable future, fans shouldn’t have long to wait for that next serving.