"Whatever it takes" seems to be the motto of Avengers: Endgame. For The Russo Brothers, Avengers 4 is taking three hours to tell its story. Apparently the theatrical runtime is three hours and two minutes. No one is complaining about the length -- which isn't even that long -- but it's interesting that the Russos have been sticking to almost exactly three hours for a long time now.
Even though we’ve shot a lot of footage between now and then, we’ve swapped things out and the water keeps rising to the same level because the story’s so dense. We have so many characters that we’re working with again that require that kind of run time. My brother and I are really committed to emotional stakes, and emotion requires story real estate. When you have a sprawling plot with a lot of characters and emotional stakes, it requires time to breathe emotionally. On the scale, you’re just going to wind up at a certain run time. We’ve been really hard on the film. We don’t like excessive run times; it’s just very difficult wrapping up 10 years of storytelling.
Not every film needs three hours to tell a story, but it's hard to imagine that would be an "excessive run time" in this case. Avengers: Endgame is, as he said, the culmination of 10 years of storytelling in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The movies up to this point even got their own fancy name -- The Infinity Saga.
Joe Russo noted that he and his brother Anthony come from a TV background where they had to edit story down into half-hour segments. He said they even called it "the Russo path" to whittle the script down till it was so dense you'd miss half the jokes and have to watch the episode again. That was intentional. He said they used a somewhat similar approach with their Marvel films:
We try to create a density in storytelling that makes them feel compulsive, irrespective of the length. We’re very rigorous about storytelling points, and we spend months in the edit room twisting and turning the narrative a bunch of different ways until we think we’ve unlocked the best one. We’re vigilant about using test audiences to tell us whether we’re on the right track or we’re making bad decisions. With Endgame, it had one of the most incredible audience responses in Marvel history. Irrespective of the length, it’s been consistently embraced by the test audiences.
Test audiences can be tricky, but it's never a bad sign to hear that audiences are embracing your movie with an incredible response -- no matter the length. It's not exactly shocking to hear, since the MCU has such a strong track record, and the Russos in particular within the MCU have delivered standout films. But it's still good to hear that those lucky early test audiences weren't so rocked by the different tone and shocking events that they turned against the movie. Then again, it's not like Joe Russo would report back with any negative responses.
Avengers: Infinity War did not have a happy ending, but fans still embraced that movie too. Infinity War's runtime was around 2 hours 40 minutes. It made $2,048,359,754 around the world. As we just noted the other day, Avengers: Endgame could have a worldwide opening weekend above $800 million -- which would be a new record by a lot -- thanks to the addition of China getting it a couple of days before the U.S.
It doesn't seem like the extra length will hurt Avengers: Endgame in any way. If anything, fans will probably leave the theater wishing it was even longer -- especially if we do indeed say goodbye to several beloved characters.