A friend of mine said that she was keen to see the new Blade Runner movie, but then she suggested that she couldn’t. When I asked why, her answer both made me laugh, and surprised me. She said that she didn’t have time to watch a movie that is almost three hours long. I can’t say that I blame her. I felt the same way about a two-hour movie that I watched yesterday. But does that make her lazy? Or just busy? Are we a society of people who are too impatient to sit through a three-hour movie? Or should filmmakers be kinder to our attention spans?
Matthew Kressel, a science fiction author, suggests that filmmakers are kind to our attention spans. He states “a lot of today’s Hollywood films don’t have a lot of patience. They sort of expect the audience to get bored really quickly, so they’re like ‘we’ve got to have an explosion every 10 minutes.'” And is that true? Certainly not in the case of Blade Runner 2049. It runs at a slow pace, and this is proving to be a challenge for many viewers.
This is why the movie hasn’t attracted an audience that goes much farther beyond fans of the original. Much like its predecessor, it’s a box office disappointment. But the film itself has polarized fans – either they think its the most brilliant film of the year or they’re calling it a pompous, heavy-handed, three-hour slow burn. So which is it?
Perhaps part of the problem is with millennials. No, I’m not trying to put down that generation as I am in the top end of that group. But millennials tend to get bored easily, so it makes sense that they wouldn’t want to sit through a three-hour movie. My reasoning for not wanting to spend that much time in a movie is that I have things to do. For me, a movie is a treat. Something to value and treasure. Something that lets me take my mind off of my responsibilities. Which is ironic, as that’s the reason I don’t do it more often. Responsibilities.
Another reason that it might not be doing well is that it has a lot to “unpack”. I like to enjoy a film for what it is sometimes – a distraction. I don’t necessarily want to have to think about intricacies of storyline and characters. Don’t get me wrong, I love when a movie challenges my brain. But I get enough of that in the real world, so I appreciate when a film doesn’t require me to do the same. If a movie is too complex, I’m likely to skip it until I’m in a place where I know I’m going to be able to process it properly.
Getting back to the laziness factor – is that the problem? It sounds like that the only people who are seeing the film are sci-fi fans and people who were fans of the original. It will definitely be a hit with those demographics. But what about everyone else? I think it’s going to be a hard sell getting people to a three-hour movie if they’re not a fan of the genre or haven’t seen the original movie.