Why Watchmen should be 2 hours

Dr Manhattan from Watchmen
Dr Manhattan from Watchmen

Apparently there’s a petition out on the interwebs asking mean old Warner Brothers to keep the sanctity of Zack Snyder’s upcoming Watchmen movie in tact and allow a 3 hour cut to be released theatrically.

Watchmen is one of my favourite graphic novels of all time, it’s a fantastic read and it totally re-invented comics in the 1980’s.  It stands on its own as a piece of graphic fiction.  I’m really excited about the movie, it looks like Snyder really “gets” the concept, and has nailed the look.  So would I accept a 3 hour cut?

I say thee NAY!

There are two good reasons for this.

First, limiting the run time of a movie to 2 hours forces a director to not hold anything precious.  Often a director falls in love with his scenes and just can’t bear to part with them, if left to their own devices, directors will let a movie run too long.

Case in point is Donnie Darko.  The studio mandated version of the flick runs just over an hour and a half, it’s tight, and lets the audience make assumptions about a lot of stuff and it’s stronger for it.

The “director’s cut” is over 2 hours long, and has a ton of necessary exposition which just drags the whole experience out.

Even the Lord of the Rings extended editions have a ton of cuteness in them that is not needed.  The movies are perfectly serviceable as 2-3 hour extravaganzas.  The extra hour, while fun, adds colour but not content.

Secondly, and just as important, 2 hours is the perfect amount of time to be in a theatre give or take 15 minutes.  Add 15 minutes of previews/commercials and you’ve got 2.5 hours.  That’s comfortable.  Longer and you’re dragging the experience out.


I have to say that there are a TON of movies that would greatly benefit from being shorter.  See “The Phantom Edit” of the first Star Wars movie to see what happens when you take out 20 minutes from a totally mediocre movie.  Gangs of New York would be a fantastic 2 hour movie, but it’s an “okay” 3 hour movie.

The early buzz on one of my most anticipated movies of the year “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” is that it’s too long, and could really benefit from the editors knife, and kind of summarizes my feelings on why bigger isn’t necessarily better.

“The film starts out amazingly. The story itself won’t have any trouble reeling people in because Fincher is a great storyteller and the source material is top notch. However, I felt this film suffers from the same mistake Zodiac suffered from: things fell apart toward the end. The film is somewhere near three hours. By an hour and a half/forty five, the audience was getting restless. I could hear them squirming in their seats in front and behind me. The last hour is ultimately weighed down by a lot of repetition that has to do with the romance between Pitt and Blanchett. The film is truly great up until the final hour where things begin to feel muddled and unnecessary.”

So back to Watchmen. This is going to be a great flick, but I REALLY want it to be 2 hours in the theatre. Once it’s released on DVD, go with a “Special Extended Director’s Super-Cut” which can be 3+ hours and have every great scene ever invented. Not only will it be a cool experience, it will make the DVD a really special treat for people who have already seen the original. The movie is scheduled to come out in March, release the regular edition DVD in September, and then the special edition at Christmas…this stuff writes itself!

By Brian Garside

Brian is a digital experience expert, and part time internet superhero. He focuses on digital first design, digital strategies, content management, website usability, and user experience. He was part of the team behind BalanceDo, the co-founder of All New Comics, and the chief strategist at NorthIQ.


  1. You know…we blame the director, but isn’t it the editors job to cut crap? I honestly don’t know. But I was reading an interview with an editor (sorry, can’t remember the name because, well, he’s an editor) and he was talking that they clip a lot of useless stuff. If there is no increase/decrease in some way (emotional, physically, whatever) then it’s filler and the scene should be cut.

    I don’t know how redundancy would fit in there — but Prince Caspian was a good example. It was a good movie until they added one too many battle scenes. The movie felt 20 minutes too long.

    As for LOTR…on that one I disagree. I did not like the original Two Towers. It just felt like a ‘stuff happened’ movie. But then I saw the extended version and loved it. They add back character arcs, plot arcs…all the things that make a movie resonate with audiences.

    Now, the Two Towers is a bit of an aberration since the source material easily could’ve spawned two movies.

  2. Yeah, you’re right about the Two Towers. Return of the King and Fellowship though are perfectly fine without the extra stuff. I think the extended Fellowship is kind of fluffy, and while the Return of the King shows some of the other endings that the book had, I kind of feel that the movie should have ended when Sam chucked the ring into Mount Doom.

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