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How hotly awaited is Avengers: Endgame? Well, it's the only film I can remember in recent memory where the unveiling of the running time has been a cultural event. That revelation happened this morning, as it was noted that the end of the arc now known as The Infinity Saga is going to run three hours and two minutes. But even in the hyping of that eventual revelation, there was a somewhat common thread that kept cropping up in commentary about the film's impending release: the demand for an intermission to run somewhere during the film. I think that's a bad idea.
While intermissions have been used for epic event movies in the past, and even most recently in The Hateful Eight's roadshow edition, it's a practice that isn't used too often. Quite frankly, the outcry for an intermission in Avengers: Endgame's theatrical exhibition is rather weird, and I don't think it's a requirement for enjoyment of the film. In fact, I firmly believe that to put a useless intermission in Avengers: Endgame is to ruin the experience of how the film will play out.
Let's jump back quickly to a film that will probably be cited quite often during this piece, which is Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight. Running at a brisk two hours and 48 minutes in its standard version, there was a 70mm “Roadshow” version that QT put out with a slightly longer running time of three hours and two minutes. Yes, that's exactly the same running time as Avengers: Endgame; however, there's a big difference between these two cases of exactly the same length – and it's all in the storytelling.
While The Hateful Eight runs the same length as the Marvel Cinematic Universe's big tentpole title, that film's use of an intermission was baked in from day one. The film was written in a style that sort of mimics a stage play, and even in how the overture and intermission are presented, it feels like a crucial part of the experience. You leave the story at the right moment, only to pick up at a time that feels like a natural place to pick back up after a short interval.
It's highly doubtful that the Russo Brothers, and their Avengers: Endgame writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, have written an intermission into the tale that will be told on the big screen this April. So including one randomly, without any particular story reason, just doesn't feel like a good idea. What it does feel like is an extended commercial break that would step on the pacing, and make the entire film feel disjointed. If an intermission was absolutely crucial to the enjoyment of Avengers: Endgame, it would have been better to hear about it sooner than a month before the film's release date.
Originally, intermissions were meant to give the theatrical projection equipment a break, either because the film was a truly epic in its length or because it was in the early days of 3D where twin film projectors were being used. While seeing something like Lawrence of Arabia, It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, or The Sound of Music in your local movie theater required a break in the extended action, it also helped that those films were of the proper length and structure in order to use an intermission to their advantage.
Then, as the intermission began to be removed from theatrical releases, films learned to get along without having to use them. The Godfather trilogy, and even The Lord of The Rings trilogy never ran with an intermission in their over three-hour running times; and those were films dense enough that they could possibly have used such a break. Yet, audiences were able to enjoy them without such an interruption, because they evolved with the disappearance of the practice.
Plus, the greatest argument against an intermission in Avengers: Endgame is rooted right in the very aspect where the demand for one started: its running time. Consider this: Avengers: Infinity War ran for 2 hours and 29 minutes when it hit theaters last May. As we learned today, Avengers: Endgame is clocking in at 3 hours and 2 minutes of emotional sobbing/ass-kicking action. Comparing the runtimes between the two films, that's only a 33 minutes increase in showtime that folks will need to be in their seats for. Right now, I don't feel that's nearly enough to warrant an intermission in this scenario.
Now if you were to run Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame back-to-back in a seamless, almost six-hour mega epic, that's a situation that most definitely would call for a break in the middle. In fact, you could probably run that event for the first week, and people would volunteer in a heartbeat to witness it. But Endgame as a solo film is an occasion that just doesn't require a short five-minute suspension of plot and action in order for the audience to either take a break or decompress from what they've seen. Again, unless the inclusion of an intermission is organically written into Avengers: Endgame's story, I don't believe throwing one in for the sake of having one isn't going to do the audience any favors.
We are currently in a culture that binge-watches shows and movies for hours on end without getting up, even while being in the comfort of our own homes and able to pause on demand. Also, moviegoers have gotten used to grand spectacles that run without intermissions, and at lengths longer or similar to what Avengers: Endgame will be approaching. So, the sudden demand for one into this latest Marvel Cinematic Universe product is rather surprising, and at least in my eyes, a frivolous demand.
But, of course, should the public raise enough of a demand for such a device's inclusion, it may possibly find its way into the film somehow. In which case, I politely suggest that the intermission be placed before any hypothetically gigantic 40-minute sequence where every Avenger runs Thanos into their own individual car of the collective pain train. If there's any moment that requires preparing one's body, soul, and snack supply for the show stopping action this film is promising, then that would undoubtedly be it.
Avengers:Endgame will do whatever it takes to close out The Infinity Saga on April 26th.
Does Avengers: Endgame Really Need An Intermission?