The Big Picture

The Marvels has a runtime of 106 minutes, making it the shortest film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, showcasing a departure from recent lengthy entries. This shorter runtime aligns with director Nia DaCosta’s vision of a light-hearted and comedic film, as comedies often benefit from brevity to enhance their comedic hooks. The Marvels‘ shorter runtime also sets it apart from other superhero movies that strive for epic scale, offering something new and contrasting the default norms of the genre.

The internet loves to break down every tiny intricacy of upcoming blockbusters. No wonder, then, that the news that The Marvels would run for 106 minutes has gripped the imagination of the internet. After all, this runtime makes The Marvels the shortest project ever in the history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s not just significantly shorter than the first Captain Marvel, but it’s also way behind every other feature-length entry in this franchise, particularly recent lengthy entries like Eternals and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Recent Marvel Studios films have been all about excess, but The Marvels is apparently going to be about delivering more compact-sized entertainment.

It’s impossible to truly tell if this runtime is a “good” or “bad” thing regarding The Marvels until one actually sees the finished film. Still, the very existence of a 106-minute Marvel Studios property in 2023 does deliver some interesting factoids and offers a glimpse into what kind of movie writer/director Nia DaCosta wants to deliver with her first foray into blockbuster entertainment. In other words, maybe there’s value to be found in nitpicking the larger value of a potentially unimportant, but likely very critical, element of The Marvels.

Image via Marvel Studios 

In describing The Marvels, DaCosta has constantly emphasized that this movie is supposed to be a wacky motion picture. The very concept of Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel, Monica Rambeau, and Kamala Khan switching places anytime they use their powers is a notion rooted in the world of Freaky Friday rather than Watchmen, so it makes sense that DaCosta would be angling to make this project something that thrives on a light-hearted atmosphere. After all, comedies are the genre that often benefits the most from ultra-brief runtimes. It’s difficult to think of many American comedies that are greatly enhanced by running for over 110 minutes and comedies that exceed the 120-minute mark are often exercises in torture.

Laugh-oriented features often have very simply hooky premises that are good for some laughs but can’t sustain the lengthy runtimes of, say, Killers of the Flower Moon. That’s perfectly fine, not every movie needs to be three hours to justify its place as quality cinema. Plus, many lead performances in comedy movies that are amusing for 75 minutes would wear out their welcome after 150 minutes. If you thought Adam Sandler’s voice in Little Nicky was already excruciating to sit through, just imagine if you had to hear that voice for four hours! More often than not, the runtimes of comedies just benefit from taking a cue from the old axiom of “brevity is the soul of the wit.”

Meanwhile, DaCosta has also spoken openly about wanting The Marvels to deliver something new compared to other superhero movies. That desire would neatly intersect with this 106-minute runtime, which is a sharp contrast to projects like The Flash, Black Adam, and Eternals, among many others, that all surpassed well over two hours. Many modern individual superhero titles harness a desire to live up to the scale and scope of massive box office hits like Avengers: Endgame. This means these projects carry an “epic” scale that entails a lengthy runtime that can be stuffed full of action sequences and cameos. If DaCosta wanted to provide an immediate stark contrast to the default norms of superhero cinema in 2023, then making sure The Marvels is a succinct exercise would be one surefire way to do that.

Let’s get into the nitty-gritty of nerdery regarding The Marvels and its runtime. Specifically, let’s examine how its runtime compares to the lengths of other Marvel Cinematic Universe titles. Among the 32 Marvel Studios movies preceding The Marvels, only seven (Ant-Man and the Wasp, Thor: Love and Thunder, Ant-Man, Thor, Doctor Strange, The Incredible Hulk, and Thor: The Dark World) ran for under two hours. The shortest of these, The Dark World, ran for 112 minutes. Lest we forget, The Marvels will likely have a significant number of end credits, so the length of the actual feature is almost certainly well below 100 minutes.

Needless to say, The Marvels is at odds with the longer Marvel Studios entries, all of which are some of the more recent installments in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Only four Marvel Studios entities (Avengers: Endgame, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Eternals, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3) have runtimes of 150 minutes or more and they were all released in or after April 2019. Since that month, other MCU titles have also opted for lengthy runtimes, with both Black Widow and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings in 2021 featuring runtimes that narrowly exceeded 130 minutes. After proving it could release a lucrative superhero movie with a super-sized runtime with Avengers: Endgame, Marvel Studios has frequently gone back to the well of extensively expansive superhero cinema. Case in point: every post-Endgame movie save for Thor: Love and Thunder has had a runtime exceeding 120 minutes…until The Marvels of course.

‘X-Men: The Last Stand’ and ‘Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance’ Were Even Shorter Than ‘The Marvels’

Image via Columbia Pictures Coorporation

Though modern Marvel Studios movies have regularly employed lengthy runtimes, the 106-minute length of The Marvels wouldn’t have been out of place in the world of early 2000s comic book adaptations cinema. The 2005 Fantastic Fourmovie also ran for 106 minutes, X-Men: The Last Stand went on for only 104 minutes, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance revved up its engine for just 96 minutes, and Men in Black II carried an 88-minute runtime (though it felt like it went on for six years). Audience and studio expectations for these kinds of titles at the dawn of the 21st century, the idea of splurging on such an expansive runtime for these productions was something only employed for Batman movies and Spider-Man 3. A runtime that sticks out like a sore thumb in 2022 would’ve been just another average Tuesday for superhero movie fans in 2006.

Many online have tried to extrapolate larger ideas about the overall quality of The Marvels from its runtime, whether the 106-minute runtime is an indicator of it being a disaster in the making or a stealthy brief masterpiece. However, it’s impossible to generate any sort of thought process about the quality of The Marvels just from its runtime, as one would have to experience the actual film before generating an opinion on how the feature works as a piece of entertainment. What the ultra-brief runtime of The Marvels does reflect, though, is the creative ambitions of writer/director Nia DaCosta as well as how runtimes for superhero films have evolved over the years. If nothing else, examining the runtime of The Marvels allows one to appreciate the past and present status quo of this subgenre.

The Marvels

Carol Danvers gets her powers entangled with those of Kamala Khan and Monica Rambeau, forcing them to work together to save the universe.

 ‘The Marvels’ has an unusually short runtime, setting it apart from MCU and modern superhero movies.  Read More