Update: The Batman 2 is officially happening, here's what we know so far
These days movies seem to be getting longer and longer. In some cases, extended runtimes make sense, and in others they don’t. As much as I liked The Batman, it definitely falls into the latter category. Not because it’s bad, but because of its length and how the movie plays out.
I skipped out on seeing The Batman in theaters, precisely because of its length. I’d have to go through the theater, sit through all the obnoxious ads, and make sure I’m suitably dehydrated to try and make it through the nearly 3-hour runtime without needing a bathroom break. That’s all while finding the time to fit in a trip after work.
Now The Batman is available at home, on HBO Max and as a digital download, I finally got to watch Battinson take up the Dark Knight’s mantle. It was a good movie, I’m not going to lie, but it was still very long. So long, in fact, that I think it would have been better served as an HBO miniseries.
Before any cinema aficionados decide to crucify me, hear me out.
Every scene in The Batman feels necessary
One of the main things I noticed during The Batman is that none of the film feels superfluous. There’s no filler or padding, and every scene we actually see in the film manages to add something to the narrative. Even Avengers Endgame, which had to juggle an enormous cast and the conclusion of multiple decade-long story arcs couldn’t manage that.
In fact, everything after Tony Stark’s funeral, which begins setting up Phase 4 of the MCU, is an absolute slog. I was shocked to discover this sequence is only ten minutes long, but every time I watch Endgame it feels much longer. That wasn’t the case with The Batman, though I will admit that I have only watched it once so far..
The interesting thing about The Batman’s runtime is that a shorter cut of the movie did exist. It’s not clear how long it was, but Deadline reported that a shorter version of the movie didn’t test as well as the one we got.
It further shows that almost everything we saw in The Batman was necessary to make the film what it was. And as we saw with Justice League, making sure a movie has a more theater-friendly runtime isn’t always the best course of action.
But that doesn’t change the fact that releasing a movie that’s 3 hours long is really pushing it.
Splitting up a movie can work — look at the Snyder Cut
When Warner Bros announced that it was going to release Zack Znyder’s Justice League, aka The Snyder Cut, it was originally revealed that the movie would debut as a four-part miniseries. Because it was 4 hours long, which is long even by comic book movie standards
Potential legal trouble put a stop to that idea, though the movie itself was still split up into seven different chapters — which gave viewers the option to switch off appropriate points. Put simply, watching the Snyder Cut in full wasn’t so different from bingeing a TV show.
The Batman could have benefitted from a similar sort of treatment, splitting the movie up into two or three parts and letting the plot play out exactly as it does in the theatrical version. Minor editing to make the format work aside, it would make The Batman a much more tolerable watch.
Whether you need the bathroom, need to make dinner or pick up the kids from school, an episodic format gives you the perfect out. It might as well be a giant banner screaming “this is your out, go and take it”.
Sure, watching a movie at home means you can pause it whenever you like. But when’s the right place to stop? With a solid 3-hour runtime, and no obvious break points, you could easily disrupt the flow of the movie by stopping for something totally arbitrary — even if it’s just for a couple of minutes.
The episodic cut off also means you can pick up the story some other time, be it a few hours or a few days. Not to mention the fact that a staggered release can help build hype. You only need to look at how many shows Netflix is cancelling to start wondering whether the binge-watch release method is that effective.
Not everyone is going to agree with me when I say The Batman could have benefitted by being split up. Did it need to be 3 hours long? It sounds like making it shorter meant we might have had a worse movie. Comparing the theatrical version of Justice League to the Snyder Cut is the perfect example of how that can and did happen.
But 3 hours is still a big ask, especially for the very first installment in a franchise. Avengers: Endgame only got away with it because it had ten years of successful movies to build it up. The Batman might work in its final form, but there should have been a better way of getting it to the masses.
The miniseries format won’t please everyone, but it feels like it would have made a bunch more sense to do it that way.