It was recently revealed that this summer’s Suicide Squad – the third installment of the DC Extended Universe – will allegedly run approximately 130 minutes with credits. That makes it considerably shorter than the other entries in this burgeoning franchise. Man of Steel clocked in at 143 minutes, while this spring’s Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice was 151 minutes. Even though director David Ayer is working with a large ensemble of well-known villains and antiheroes, he’s telling his story just a little over two hours.
These days, several tentpoles can run close to the 2.5 hour mark, particularly shared universe projects that have a lot of world-building to accomplish (in addition to delivering a solid narrative that stands on its own merits). With Suicide Squad running for just 130 minutes, there might be some worried that there isn’t enough screen time to flesh all the necessary aspects out. But as it turns out, the running time for Suicide Squad is actually quite comparable to other films of the genre, suggesting that Ayer will have ample opportunity to make a compelling tale.
A few DC films tend to be a little on the longer side of the spectrum; The Dark Knight is 152 minutes and The Dark Knight Rises runs for 165. Still, they appear to be the exception more than the rule. Comic book blockbusters being in the neighborhood of 2+ hours has been the norm for years. The longest installments of the Marvel Cinematic Universe are (unsurprisingly) Captain America: Civil War, The Avengers, and Avengers: Age of Ultron (all in excess of 140 minutes), but the rest of the films average out at 121.7 minutes. Just about all of them had to shoulder some of the load of continuing the franchise’s overarching storyline and turned out fine critically and commercially. Brevity is the soul of wit, after all.
Most of the X-Men films are rather economic in their runtime. The 2000 original, which also had to establish a world and team of characters, was only 104 minutes and helped usher in the modern superhero film. Eleven years later when X-Men: First Class looked to bring the property back with a new, younger cast of mutants, it accomplished its goals in just 132 minutes. Sam Raimi’s acclaimed first two Spider-Man movies were 121 minutes and 127 minutes, respectively. Two hours may not seem like a lot on the outset, but films can get through plenty in that amount of time, especially if the filmmakers are smart about the way they handle the material.
Some of the more disappointing superhero films can be long. Spider-Man 3 clocks in at 139 minutes and X-Men: Apocalypse is 144. That said, there doesn’t appear to be any correlation between film length and reception. X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a svelte 107 minutes and was panned by just about everyone. 1989’s Batman ran for 126 minutes, only a minute longer than franchise destroyer Batman & Robin. The original Superman was a bit long for its time at 143 minutes and earned widespread praise. It’s true that a shorter runtime limits the opportunities for superfluous scenes and subplots to derail a film, but there are far more important factors that determine a movie’s quality. Superman IV: The Quest for Peace is only an hour and a half.
Bottom line is that Suicide Squad is in line with how most comic book movies play. Through the genre’s long and storied history, there haven’t been many to eclipse the 2.5 hour mark and seemingly only extended editions go up to three. It’s always tricky to find the right balance when working with a collection of fan-favorite characters that are all deserving of satisfying arcs, but filmmakers have shown it is possible to achieve what they’ve set out to do relatively quickly. Ayer is a respected talent who has had success throughout his career. There’s no reason to doubt Suicide Squad won’t be another notch on his belt.
Suicide Squad opens in U.S. theaters on August 5, 2016, followed by Wonder Woman on June 2, 2017;Justice League on November 17, 2017; The Flash on March 16, 2018; Aquaman on July 27, 2018; an untitled DC Film on October 5, 2018; Shazam on April 5, 2019; Justice League Part Two on June 14, 2019; an untitled DC film on November 1, 2019; Cyborg on April 3, 2020; and Green Lantern Corps on July 24, 2020.