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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Watching the credits roll. And roll.

Posted By on Thu, Jan 31, 2008 at 8:14 PM

click to enlarge spartans.jpg

(Image courtesy 20th Century Fox)

Whenever I see a movie, particularly a Hollywood movie, I watch the closing credits through to the bitter end -- the "bitter end" usually being the official MPAA rating logo before the lights come back up. I learned my lesson when I bailed on X-Men: The Last Stand about halfway through the closing credits, only to learn after the fact that there was a little "stinger" scene after they were finished. Frequently after the credits you might catch a final joke, a hint of a sequel or, with horror films, one last scare. The 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead uses the closing credits to such frightening effect, they actually make the whole movie better.

It can be disappointing to sit through at least five minutes of scrolling names for no payoff except seeing an unusual moniker. It's getting more annoying, however, because some movie credits are dragging on longer than ever. Partly it's a matter of having more people involved in films with lots of computer-generated effects (I've seen names in such films roll by in three columns). Partly it's because, as this article suggests, some films choose to recognize more professions involved with the production.

Sometimes, though, it seems like a gambit to give a short movie a longer running time. I don't have hard evidence to back this up, but all my movie-going friends and acquaintances believe the same thing. Sometimes movies that are "officially" less than 90 minutes seem to have extralong, leisurely credit sequences, to make the official running time at least an hour and a half. Perhaps the studios are operating on a nebulous, more-perceived-value-for-money kind of thing, as if they'll be less likely to spend $10 on a ticket if they notice a short running time when looking up the film online. One of the first times I noticed this was at the end of the awful, blessedly forgotten Debra Messing comedy The Wedding Date.

In a review of Meet the Spartans, the latest crime against humanity parody film by the creators of Epic Movie, Slate.com describes the phenomenon in that film's weirdly protracted credit sequence:

Various news sources have declared that Meet the Spartans has a running time of 84 minutes. Some online reviews peg the actual running time at 68 minutes. I went to a 5:30 p.m. screening. After previews, the movie began some time between 5:44 and 5:47. The closing credits started at 6:47. After a cast-performed rendition of "I Will Survive" (note: this was a reprise of an earlier performance) staged on the American Idol set (note: not the real American Idol set), the credits ran over a black screen. Perhaps two minutes later, the credits gave way to scenes that weren't strong enough to make the first 60 minutes, including Spider-Man removing Donald Trump's toupee. After about five minutes of these deleted scenes, the credits started again. They moved at about 10 lines per minute. And, considering the movie is about an hour long and probably took about six hours to make, they included a surprising amount of names; I'm guessing 8,000. By the time the credits had been slow-rolling for several minutes, the other 15 people in the theater had gone home. As the credits continued, I put on my headphones and listened to some music. At 7:09, more than 20 minutes after the credits began, I was rewarded by the aforementioned five-second, fake-Stallone-as-Britney bit. The lights went up and I left, shaken and depressed.

This doesn't just happen with bad movies, either. Cloverfield has an official running time of 84 minutes, but the credits are at least seven minutes long – you can use an audio clip of Michael Giacchino’s closing-credit musical theme “Roar!” as an indication. Without it, Cloverfield is just over one hour and 15 minutes. Incidentally, at Cloverfield's credits' end, you can hear some blares of static and a barely audible bit of dialogue (I actually couldn't hear it), but it may not be worth the wait.

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