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好莱坞创造力趋枯竭,全靠续集撑门面

Isaac Feldberg 2019年09月14日

今日好莱坞电影的续集,不仅影片内容与前作不同,而且时间也更长。

《小丑回魂2》本周在影院上映,讲述了7个儿时玩伴在其缅因州故乡与恶魔敌人周旋的惊悚故事。但对于一些观众来说,该影片中最恐怖的桥段与前作没有多大的关系。

在当今这个超级续集满天飞的时代,安德斯·穆斯切蒂提执导的2017年《小丑回魂》的续集时长达到了169分钟。(有意思的是,穆斯切蒂提在最近的采访中向记者透露,在电影公司介入之前,该影片的导演剪辑版甚至更长,达到了205分钟。)这个时长不亚于一场观影马拉松,对于这部商业性质的华纳影业惊悚片来说更是如此。

继史上票房最高的恐怖电影之后(不计通胀),《小丑回魂2》有望在首映斩获了1亿美元的票房。一些分析师预测,如果它实现或超过了这个目标,该影片的票房可能会超过其前作的7亿美元,成为今秋最热卖的大片之一,同时也将成为恐怖片类目中有史以来最赚钱的影片。

要实现这一目标,该影片扣人心弦的情节就得长于大多数恐怖电影和影业公司的大片。保尔·德加拉贝迪安说:“影片时长真正显示了《小丑回魂2》的严肃性。恐怖往往走的是紧凑路线。”但这一回,续集看起来像是一部权威作品。

《小丑回魂》的第一部还算简短,只有135分钟;但续集的时长多了足足半个小时,而且比经典的恐怖片《闪灵》(约146分钟)、《驱魔人》(133分钟)以及最近诸如翻拍电影《阴风阵阵》(153分钟)等“权威”恐怖电影还要长。这部电影也只不过比ABC上个世纪90年代的《小丑回魂》迷你剧192分钟的总时长短23分钟而已,然而该剧只讲了一半的故事。

但《小丑回魂2》的归来恰逢大片制作年,期间,影片时长的变长并非仅仅只是流行那么简单,同时还相当于一定程度的“事件型”电影制作。

长期以来,对于参加奖项评选的电影而言,不断增加的时长一直与内容相关,试想一下,有哪部史诗级“权威影片”能够在短短的90分钟内结束,而且在这个注重商业化的爆米花娱乐大行其道的今天,这一理念似乎也成为了其构造者的指导思想。

2019年:超级续集年

最为知名的一个案例莫过于迪士尼毫无限制的漫威电影宇宙巅峰之作《复仇者联盟:终局之战》。作为时长182分钟的影片,这部备受人们期待的大片为公司耗费了11年培养起来的铁杆粉丝们画上了句号,而观众们则对其崇拜有加。复联4如今是电影史上票房最高的电影,在全球吸金近28亿美元。

复联4可能是固定受众系列电影的终极案例,它是漫威电影宇宙时长最长的一部电影,即便比复联3长33分钟亦是无伤大雅。

复联4导演安东尼·罗素对Deadline说:“这部两小时的影片很好地讲述了100多年中发生的故事。但其拍摄是非常困难的 ……我不知道新一代影迷是否会愿意看这种以讲故事为主、时长两个小时的电影。”

作为对罗素理念的佐证,今年大多数人们期待的续集似乎基本上都有延长,以至于大片的续集或翻拍电影几乎没有低于两个小时的。德加拉贝迪安说:“我们陷入了一场影片时长竞赛,以至于当前如果你的电影时长低于两小时,业界都会感到震惊。”

在今年票房最高的电影中,仅有三部没有超过两个小时,但均为动画片。118分钟的《狮子王》并不能算紧凑,因为它比88分钟的原版多了整整半个小时。100分钟的《玩具总动员4》是该系列影片中最长的一部;《驯龙高手3:隐藏的世界》亦是如此,尽管较为紧凑,但依然达到了104分钟。

让我们看看《Hobbs & Shaw》,看清楚了,这是一部片长135分钟、充满了男性荷尔蒙和引擎轰鸣声的电影。这部环球影业《速度与激情》系列的衍生作品尽管只有其前作的两名主演参演,但也不妨碍其跻身超长电影队列。《Hobbs & Shaw》之前的4部电影平均时长133分钟,最长的达到了137分钟,但远远超过了《速度与激情》前四部电影平均106分钟的时长。该系列的转折点出现在2011年,《速度与激情》第五部选择了国际舞台背景(以及道恩·强森),而不是城市犯罪和街头赛车。

《疾速追杀3:全面开战》时长131分钟。该影片系列一开始讲述了一个简单的故事,一位男人誓要干掉一群杀害了其爱狗的人。随后拓宽至神秘的战争杀手,并搭配了文艺范的动作元素。疾速追杀3则成为了一个无线战争模式的“序幕”,这一点有字幕为证。然而,它的时长比第一部足足多了半个小时(比第二步长9分钟)。

《天使陷落》是杰拉德·巴特勒第三次出演纯美式谋杀案影片,不同于前作的是,其时长超过了2小时。尽管《黑衣人:全球追缉》没有威尔·史密斯和汤米·李琼斯助阵,但也比该影片的前作长了9分钟,达到了106分钟。

尽管今年的《哥斯拉2:怪兽之王》口味明显比2014年威武的《哥斯拉1》轻了不少,但续集也达到了132分钟,超出前作9分钟。(不可否认,这两部都短于98年139分钟的《哥斯拉》,而98年版便已经贴上了这个无可言喻的标签:“尺寸确实很重要”。)

112分钟长的《夏福特》既超越了理查德·朗德特里的原作(100分钟),也击败了萨缪尔·杰克逊的准翻拍/续集影片(99分钟)。即便原作考虑通胀因素,今年翻拍版的票房在三部当中也是垫底的存在。

即便是历史上以短小精悍著称的恐怖片(《小丑回魂》除外),也未能免俗,不过其时长的增长通常与其题材有关。《鬼娃回魂》翻拍版依然为90分钟;《鲨海47:猛鲨出笼》亦是如此,时长89分钟;《忌日快乐2》100分钟。

就续集时长而言,今年仅有几部影片短于前作。106分钟的游乐场惊悚片《安娜贝尔3:回家》便比110分钟的前作《安娜贝尔2:诞生》少了4分钟(不过,这两部电影都超过了99分钟的《安娜贝尔》)。福克斯电影“X战警”时代影评最差的一部电影《黑凤凰》时长114分钟,比前三部(《第一战》、《逆转未来》和《天启》)的合计平均时长少22分钟。

是什么导致了续集时长的变长?

电影公司,尤其是拍摄续集的时候,也会因不增加影片时长而面临着不小的压力。由于当前美国电影院的电影上映数量几乎是30年前的两倍,影院并不缺影片,而且从胶片向数字电影包的转变也让上映地在获取电影副本时更省力,也更省钱。数十年前,在那个胶片称雄、单荧幕影院主宰的时代,时长过长可能会导致每日电影放映场次的减少,继而影响电影公司最终利润。

当然,在当今的电影市场,像迪士尼和华纳这样的电影公司拥有足够的资金,在某个影院加映播放场次,甚至让电影再次回归影院,例如迪士尼的《复联4》,目的是为了提升票房。因此,电影公司无需再担心影片时长影响电影最终收益的问题。

尽管续集的时间在变长,但在好莱坞眼中,系列电影制作并非是时长正在迅速扩张的唯一领域。在超级续集崛起的同时,导演驱动型超大规模电影制作也呈卷土重来之势,好莱坞也正在豪赌那些具有突破性或有创意的天才导演,以确保观众能够不断地慷慨解囊。

加长影片并非仅限于电影续集

昆汀·塔伦蒂诺致敬1969年洛杉矶的血色情书《好莱坞往事》,是为数不多的能够在竞争激烈的暑期档票房中掀起轩然大波的原创电影,其时长达到了惊人的161分钟。据称,导演甚至在考虑将该电影剪辑成一部迷你电视剧。但这并非没有先例,塔伦蒂诺对《八恶人》就这样做过,他把2015年的这部修正主义西部片剪辑成了在Netflix播出的四集迷你剧。

暑期档上映的阿里·艾斯特执导的新异教徒悬疑片《仲夏节》可能是今年最令人期待的独立电影,这归功于其2018年恐怖片《遗传厄运》所获得的突破性成功。《仲夏节》的时长达到了147分钟,今年晚些时候又发布了该影片171分钟的导演剪辑版。

然而,最无畏的“导演电影”还在后面;马丁·斯科塞斯的《爱尔兰人》是这位具有传奇色彩的制片人为Netflix执导的一部具有深远影响的史诗级犯罪影片,其片长达210分钟,刷新了影片时长记录,而且有人也开始呼吁,好莱坞可以考虑在影片中穿插幕间休息。

德加拉贝迪安说:“糟糕的电影看起来是又臭又长。好电影再长也看不够。电影《曾经》本来还可以多拍15分钟,要是这样该多好。”

然而值得一提的是,加长版续集的大量涌现让人们忽略了“哪些电影真的需要更长的片长”这个问题。德加拉贝迪安说:“对于一部3个小时的漫威电影来说,以及对于《Hobbs & Shaw》这类时长较长的题材来说,它反映了一个现象——电影公司希望尽其所能,在每一部电影中塞入更多的内容。”

这一举措会导致故事膨胀的风险。德加拉贝迪安说:“如果故事并不好,加再多内容也好不到哪去,因此加长并不是好事。如果电影本身过于任性,那就必须给它画好界限。”

但加长做法有可能在一定程度上源于流媒体平台的颠覆性影响,这里既包括对好莱坞业务模式的影响,也涉及对娱乐形式本身的影响。Netflix、Hulu和Amazon Prime便是此类流媒体巨头,它们发起了短、长篇电视剧这类新模式,并辅以高度可塑的剧季长度以及不断变化的单集时长。订阅用户可以舒适地坐在家中,学着适应这类迄今为止从未体验过的娱乐模式,在一两次的小憩中消费数个小时的内容。

同时,好莱坞也在寻求效仿这一重要的娱乐形式,它在不断扩大其电影的观影时长,及其系列电影讲述的故事范围。将观众吸引至电影院,并运用大片的视觉效果和美学标准进行轰炸,一直是一个屡试不爽的方法;电影制作方也在不断地承诺要制作内容丰富、有血有肉的续集。

德加拉贝迪安表示:“当你观看这些超长电影时,你会发现这些精打细算的电影公司完全是在说一套,做一套。”他还说,这种拉长的片长应该作为铺垫,从而讲述更宏大的故事,而且但愿是更好的故事。

他说:“糟糕的电影看起来是又臭又长。好电影再长都看不够。数量并不总是能够代表质量,但如果两者皆有的话,可谓是皆大欢喜。”(财富中文网)

译者:冯丰

审校:夏林

It: Chapter Two floats into theaters this weekend, concluding the skin-crawling saga of seven childhood friends doing battle with a demonic entity in their Maine hometown. But for some viewers, the scariest thing won't have much to do with Pennywise the Clown.

In a year of super-sized sequels, Andy Muschietti's follow-up to 2017's It runs 169 minutes. (Amusingly, the film's director's cut, Muschietti told this reporter during a recent interview, was even longer at 205 minutes, before the studio got involved.) That's a marathon, especially for a film as commercially tipped as this Warner Bros. spooker.

Following the highest-grossing horror movie of all time (unadjusted for inflation), Chapter Two is on track for a $100 million opening. If it hits that mark—or surpasses it, as some analysts predict—it could pull in more than its predecessor's total $700 million haul and become one of the fall's biggest blockbusters—as well as the horror genre's biggest-ever money-maker.

But to do so, it will have to keep audiences enthralled for longer than the vast majority of both horror films and studio blockbusters. "The length really shows how much gravitas It has," said Paul Degarabedian, Comscore box-office analyst. "Horror is usually lean and mean." Instead, the film's built like a prestige drama.

The first It was a comparatively limber 135 minutes; this finale runs a full half hour longer, and is also longer than famously lengthy horror classics like The Shining (circa 146 minutes) and The Exorcist (133 minutes), as well as recent "prestige" horror titles like the Suspiria remake (153 minutes). It's also just 23 minutes shorter than the original 192-minute total runtime of ABC's '90s It miniseries—despite only telling half the story.

But Chapter Two arrives amid a particularly notable year for blockbuster filmmaking, in which longer runtimes are increasingly not only du jour but equated with a level of "event" moviemaking.

Sprawling length has long been conflated with substance when it comes to awards-bait films—name one historical-epic "prestige pic" that clocks in at a tight 90 minutes—and that same equation appears to be guiding the architects of today's more commercially minded popcorn pleasures.

2019: A Year of Supersized Sequels

Avengers: Endgame, Disney's no-holds-barred capstone to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is the most prominent example of this. With its 182-minute runtime, the wildly anticipated conclusion to an 11-year endeavor tested audiences, and they responded with complete adoration. Endgame now stands as the highest-grossing movie of all time, with a nearly $2.8 billion global take.

Possibly the ultimate example of a franchise boasting a built-in audience, Endgame didn't hurt for being 33 minutes longer than Infinity War, and the longest MCU entry by far.

“The two-hour film has had a great run over 100 years,” Endgame director Anthony Russo told Deadline. “But it’s become very difficult to work in… I’m not sure that the generation that’s coming up will see the two-hour film as the dominant form of storytelling.”

Bearing out Russo's theory, the year's most anticipated sequels appear to be getting longer almost across the board—to the point where it's almost unheard of for a major sequel or reboot to clock in under two hours. "We're in the middle of an arms' race in terms of the running times of movies," says Degarabedian. "Now, it's at the point where, if your movie is under two hours, it's shocking."

Out of the highest-grossing movies of this year, only three managed that feat, but all were animated. The Lion King, at 118 minutes, shouldn't be considered lean given that it's a full half hour longer than the 88-minute original. Toy Story 4, 100 minutes long, is the lengthiest of its franchise; ditto for How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, even at a svelte 104 minutes.

Look at Hobbs & Shaw—then continue looking at it, for 135 testosterone-soaking, engine-revving minutes. The sidequel to Universal's Fast & Furious series is among its most supersized entries, despite featuring only two members of the ensemble cast. The four films preceding it average 133 minutes, with the lengthiest drifting to 137 minutes. All are a far cry from the average 106-minute runtimes F&F's first four entries raced in with. That series' transitional point came in 2011, as Fast Five opted for international intrigue (and Dwayne Johnson) over inner-city crime and street racing.

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum runs 131 minutes. Its franchise started as the simple tale of one man on a mission to kill some dudes who killed his dog. It has since broadened into a mythic saga of assassins at war, replete with balletic action choreography. The third entry, Parabellum is an Infinity War-style "part one," as evidenced by the subtitle, but runs a full half-hour longer than the first movie (and nine minutes longer than the second).

Angel Has Fallen, a third installment of Gerard Butler playing out All-American murder fantasies, is over two hours long, unlike its predecessors. And Men in Black International, though missing Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, found another nine minutes to tack on top of the franchise's previous record, 106 minutes.

This year's Godzilla: King of the Monsters—despite a markedly lighter tone than 2014's stately Godzilla—packs on, at 132 minutes, an added nine minutes. (Admittedly, both are tighter than the impossibly 139-minute-long Godzilla movie from '98, which carried the all-telling tagline "Size does matter.")

Shaft, 112 minutes long, outlasts both Richard Roundtree's original (100 minutes) and Samuel L. Jackson's quasi-reboot/sequel (99 minutes). When the original's take is adjusted for inflation, this year's reboot also made the least of all three.

Even horror, historically the meanest and leanest of genres (unless your name is Pennywise), hasn't been immune, though its gains are relative to its genre. The Child's Play reboot is still a tight 90 minutes; ditto for 47 Meters Down: Uncaged at 89 minutes, and Happy Death Day 2 U, clocking in at 100 minutes.

In terms of sequels, only a few from this year shrunk compared to their predecessors. Annabelle Comes Home, a 106-minute funhouse attraction, knocked four minutes off the 110-minute Annabelle: Creation (though both exceed the 99-minute runtime attached to Annabelle). And Dark Phoenix, the worst-reviewed X-Men movie in Fox's "first class" era, clocked in at 114 minutes, 22 minutes below the average length of the previous three films (First Class, Days of Future Past, and Apocalypse) combined.

What Allows for Longer Sequels?

Studios, especially when it comes to sequels, have never been under less pressure to keep movies short. With almost double the amount of movie-theater screens in the United States as around 30 years ago, there's no dearth of screens to play on, and the changeover from film reels to DCPs makes it easier and cheaper to get copies of movies to where they're being shown. Decades ago, when film reigned supreme and single-screen theaters were more prominent, a massive runtime could limit the amount of times a movie could be shown a day, hurting a studio's ultimate bottom line.

Of course, in today's movie landscape, studios like Disney and Warner Bros. also have deep-enough pockets to add more showtimes at a given location and even bring movies back to theaters, as Disney did with Endgame, to bump up the box office. As a result, longer runtimes hurting a film's final gross is no longer as much of a consideration.

Though sequels are getting longer, franchise filmmaking isn't the only arena in which Hollywood is seeing runtimes rapidly expand. Coinciding with the rise of the super sequel, mega-sized auteur-driven cinema is also making a comeback, with Hollywood betting big on talents considered either groundbreaking or seminal to keep audiences invested.

Longer Movie Runtimes Aren't Just for Sequels

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Quentin Tarantino's lurid love letter to 1969 Los Angeles, was one of the few original movies to make a significant splash in the competitive summer box-office season, running a gargantuan 161 minutes. The director is even reportedly considered recutting it into a TV miniseries. It's not without precedent; Tarantino did the same for The Hateful Eight, retooling the 2015 revisionist Western into a four-episode miniseries for Netflix.

Midsommar, Ari Aster's new pagan-folk nightmare, went into the summer season as perhaps the most anticipated indie release of the year, owing to the breakthrough success of his 2018 blood-curdler Hereditary. The film stretched out to 147 minutes and a 171-minute director's cut was released later in the year.

The most audacious "director's movie," however, is still to come; Martin Scorsese's The Irishman, a sweeping crime epic the legendary filmmaker directed for Netflix, clocks in, as of this article's publication, at 210 minutes, taking long runtimes to the next level and renewing calls by some for the intermission to come back to Hollywood.

"A terrible movie can never be short," said Degarabedian. "And a great movie can never be too long. Once could have been 15 more minutes, and I would have been happy."

Still, the influx of scaled-up sequels in particular begs the question of which movies really warrant protracted runtimes. Added Degarabedian: "For a Marvel movie to be three hours long, for Hobbs & Shaw to be rather long for its genre, it's a reflection of studios wanting to pack as much as they can into every movie."

This can run the risk of bloating a story. "If it's not good," says Degarabedian. "It's more of something that's not good—and that's not good. If a movie gets too self-indulgent, a line has to be drawn somewhere."

But such an approach likely owes something to the disrupting influence streaming platforms have had, both on Hollywood business models and entertainment formats themselves. Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime are among the streaming giants pioneering new models of short- and longform TV storytelling, complete with highly malleable season lengths and shifting individual episode runtimes. Subscribers are learning to embrace these hitherto-unseen models of entertainment from the comfort of their homes, consuming hours of content in one to two sittings.

And Hollywood, seeking to program similarly momentous forms of entertainment, is expanding, in terms of both literal runtime and the scale of stories its franchises aim to tell. Seeking to get audiences out to theaters, playing up the visual effects and aesthetic scale of a blockbuster has been one tried-and-true approach; increasingly, the promise of a mightily substantive, meat-and-potatoes sequel is being made as well.

"It flies in the face of the idea bean-counters run studios when you get these super-long movies," notes Degarabedian, who says padded-out runtimes should be seen as an overture toward telling bigger, hopefully better stories.

"A terrible movie can never be short," he adds. "And a great movie can never be too long. Quality isn't always quantity, but when both are there, that's a win-win for everyone."

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