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Why Must Superhero Movies Be Supersized?

July 6, 2017

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If you’re heading out to see Spider-Man: Homecoming, don’t expect to be coming home anytime soon: The film runs 135 minutes. Amazingly, movies based on comic books — inherently slim stories — seem to be growing in length with each passing year. I decided to track the running times of the major Marvel and DC flicks over the last half-century to see if they’re really getting longer, or if I’m just getting less patient in my advancing age. It doesn’t help that most of these blockbusters expect you to sit through the endless end credits to see the usually underwhelming “bonus” scenes.

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Batman: The Movie (1966): 104 minutes

Superman: The Movie (1978): 143 minutes

Superman II (1980): 127 minutes

Superman III (1983): 125 minutes

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987): 90 minutes

God bless Adam West, whose not-so-Dark Knight film was as blissfully brief as his Bat-trunks. Christopher Reeve’s Man of Steel flicks got shorter with time, but not better; the second one was best. Kneel to Zod!

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Batman (1989): 126 minutes

Batman Returns (1992): 126 minutes

At least Tim Burton was remarkably consistent.

Batman Forever (1995): 122 minutes

Batman and Robin (1997): 125 minutes.

Joel Schumacher’s nipple-happy takes on Bruce Wayne and the Boy Wonder didn’t run forever; they just felt that way.

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X-Men (2000): 104 minutes

X2: X-Men United (2003): 133 minutes

X-Men: The Last Stand (2006): 104 minutes

Bryan Singer’s mutants suffered sophomore bloat, and The Last Stand proved a misnomer, as it was followed by X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009; 107 minutes); X-Men: First Class (2011; 132 minutes); The Wolverine (2013; 126 minutes); X-Men: Days of Future Past (2015; 131 minutes); X-Men: Apocalypse (2016; 144 minutes); and Logan (2017; 137 minutes).

 

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Spider-Man (2002): 121 minutes

Spider-Man 2 (2004): 127 minutes

Spider-Man 3 (2007): 139 minutes

Sam Raimi’s movies grew like a radioactive spider, but the more wasn’t the merrier. Like the original Superman films, this series peaked with No. 2.

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Daredevil (2003): 104 minutes

Hulk (2003): 137 minutes

The Punisher (2004): 124 minutes

The Incredible Hulk (2008): 112 minutes

As for these less-than-Marvelous movies, it didn’t matter if they dared to be devilish or were directed by Oscar winner Ang Lee  — they were all punishingly bad.

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Supergirl (1984): 124 minutes

Catwoman (2004): 104 minutes

Elektra (2005): 97 minutes

Wonder Woman (2017): 141 minutes

It wasn’t until this year that a Gal earned the right to make a superhero movie as supersized as the guys.

DARK KNIGHT RISES

Batman Begins (2005): 140 minutes

The Dark Knight (2008): 152 minutes

The Dark Knight Rises (2012): 165 minutes

Christopher Nolan’s trio of Caped Crusader flicks became increasingly long days’ journeys into Dark Knights.

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Fantastic Four (2005): 104 minutes

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007): 92 minutes

Fantastic Four (2015): 100 minutes

Even with a quartet of crimefighters, the Fantastic Four movies have never been as elastic as Dr. Reed Richards. Unfortunately, they also haven’t been very fantastic.

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Ghost Rider (2007): 110 minutes

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2011): 95 minutes

Jonah Hex (2010): 81 minutes

Doctor Strange (2016): 110 minutes

After the initial success of Ghost Rider, supernatural superhero movies seemed cursed, no matter how severely they were chopped. Only Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange broke the hex by returning to the original’s running time.

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Iron Man (2008): 126 minutes

Iron Man 2 (2010): 125 minutes

Iron Man 3 (2013): 130 minutes

Like fat-to-fit-to-fat director Jon Favreau, his Tony Stark trilogy has contracted and expanded over time.

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Superman Returns (2006): 154 minutes

Watchmen (2009): 163 minutes

Man of Steel (2013): 143 minutes

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016): 151 minutes

Zack Snyder followed in Bryan Singer’s oversize footsteps, and the upcoming Justice League is rumored to run an unprecedented 170 minutes. Maybe that’s because Joss Whedon is finishing the film. He hasn’t exactly shown that brevity is the soul of wit with The Avengers (2012; 143 minutes) and Avengers: Age of Ultron (2014; 141 minutes).

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Thor (2011): 113 minutes

Thor: The Dark World (2013): 112 minutes

Unlike the Norse god’s mane, Chris Hemsworth’s movies have been cut relatively short. It remains to be seen how long the upcoming three-quel Thor: Ragnarok will be.

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Captain America: The First Avenger (2011): 124 minutes

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014): 136 minutes

Captain America: Civil War (2016): 147 minutes

Even Chris Evans’ Cap’n couldn’t shield his movies from lengthening exponentially.

 

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The Amazing Spider-Man (2012): 126 minutes

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014): 142 minutes

Andrew Garfield’s run as the wall-crawler spun Spidey-senselessly out of control.

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Green Lantern (2011): 114 minutes

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014): 122 minutes

Ant-Man (2015): 117 minutes

Deadpool (2016): 108 minutes

Suicide Squad (2016): 123 minutes

Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 (2017): 132 minutes

Ryan Reynolds forgot to put the comic in comic-book movie with Green Lantern but breathed new life into the genre with Deadpool. Not all lighthearted superhero (or villain) films are so light on their feet,  as the Joke(r) was on viewers with Suicide Squad. And Chris Pratt’s Star Lord couldn’t guard against the second Guardians from running well over two hours, a feat aptly achieved by Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man.

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The only question now seems to be: When will a superhero movie top the three-hour mark? A clue may lie in the title of next May’s Avengers: Infinity War. ‘Nuff said.

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