One common complaint leveled at modern Hollywood big-budget movies is that they have become too long and stretched out to unnecessary lengths in order to accommodate elaborate action setpieces that may not serve the storyline but increase the so-called “bang for your buck”. This is believed to be associated with the rising cost of 3D multiplex movie theater attendance, among other factors. Superhero/comic book movies are sometimes considered the worst offenders, with even the more compelling action sequence taken to task for going on one or two beats too long.
However, there is one particular upcoming blockbuster that might not face that criticism. That would be Doctor Strange, a film that is now confirmed as being among the shortest films released as part of Marvel Studios’ lucrative Marvel Cinematic Universe to date.
According to the British Board of Film Classification’s official website, Doctor Strange has a comparatively brisk runtime of 114 minutes, or just under 2 hours. This would make it the second shortest MCU movie after Thor: The Dark World and The Incredible Hulk (each of which have a 112 minute runtime). For comparison, last year’s Ant-Man – generally considered to be among the breeziest MCU films to date – ran 3 minutes longer.
While lengthy “roadshow” epics featuring full-scale intermissions and overtures were at one point the lifeblood of the Hollywood blockbuster scene, from the mid-1970s onward most mainstream films produced in the United States were generally expected to fit into a running time of no more than 2 hours. Theater owners increasingly began to prefer runtimes even closer to 90 minutes, in order to maximize the number of showtimes in a day. However, in recent years the trend for blockbusters has seen them embrace plus-sized running times – be they superhero movies, Pirates of the Caribbean films, or anything Peter Jackson has made in the past decade.
The bulk of Marvel films, for example, run at least 2 hours or more in length, with Captain America: Civil War recently set a franchise “high” record with a plus-sized running time of 2 hours and 26 minutes. That’s hardly surprising, though, for a film that features appearances by almost the entire MCU’s worth of central Earth-bound superheroes – and it still fell short of this year’s Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice at 151 minutes or the intimidating 164 minute runtime of The Dark Knight Rises in 2012.
What this information means (if anything) about the quality of the film remains to be seen. Sometimes a shorter running time is an indication that the storyline was not considered exciting enough to play out at anything beyond a rapid-fire pace, though in such cases the running time is usually much shorter than this (for example, the infamous Fantastic Four reboot released in 2015 only ran 100 minutes long) It’s entirely plausible that this was the sought-after length of the film to begin with, as most of Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson’s films have been average in length.
Doctor Strange opens November 4, 2016; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – May 5, 2017; Spider-Man: Homecoming – July 7, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017; Black Panther – February 16, 2018; Avengers: Infinity War – May 4, 2018; Ant-Man and the Wasp – July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel– March 8, 2019; Untitled Avengers – May 3, 2019; and as-yet-untitled Marvel movies on July 12, 2019, and on May 1, July 10, and November 6 in 2020.