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Avengers Assemble For The Ultimate Marvel Marathon

Longbox Graveyard #47

You have to grow old, but you don’t have to grow up.

Actually, you do.

Even fifty-year-old guys who write comics blogs can’t hold real life entirely at bay. I have a career, and kids. Aches and pains and the usual worries. (Some unusual worries, too.) For all that I indulge myself with Longbox Graveyard I’m actually a pretty sober, normal adult. Not that I like it much. I’d rather be twelve again. Or nineteen. I’d settle for forty!

There’s real value in turning back the hands of time for a night or a day. Dim the lights. Face the mirrors to the wall. Recover some boyish enthusiasm for lost geek loves. That impulse is a big part of this blog — reading comics from thirty-five years ago helps recapture a bit of what it felt like to be thirty-five years younger.

If I were twelve again I’d be all in for the Ultimate Marvel Marathon.

(And let’s pause here and consider the absurdity of calling these things “marathons” in the first place. That the pinnacle of Olympic sport has become the term for sitting on your ass for an entire day watching movies is beyond bizarre.)

Still …

Five of my favorite superhero movies, in a day-long sitting, followed by a midnight debut of The Avengers! Seventeen hours in a movie theater, ninety minutes in the car each way getting there, a day off work to do it and another day off to recover. Great for a twelve-year-old, not-so-great if you’re half a century old.

So I found a couple twelve-year-olds and went anyway.

Jack & Erin, resident twelve-year olds

And I was not alone. There were plenty of adults interested in this particular childish pursuit …

Rory, Sarge, & Tyson, in Real 3D

… a whole theater-full of them, in fact. Hundreds and hundreds of theaters around the world, packed to the rafters, just a fraction opting for the whole Marvel Marathon but plenty more eating all the Avengers they could get, to the tune of about a gazillion dollars in worldwide box office.

a largely-full house for the 11:30 AM start of the marathon

I don’t need a lot of excuse to act like a child, but I still wouldn’t have attended this crazy thing if my friend and occasional Longbox Graveyard collaborator Chris Ulm hadn’t insisted, roping in a big gang of us to play hookey. It was Ulm’s birthday, and he needed to defy time even more than I did.

As fate would have it, several of our number were caught on film in the promotional video AMC Theaters did for the event. Zip to the :20 second mark and you’ll see The Ulm explaining how fast he got his tickets to the event, followed by Dave Olbrich (aka The DWO, comics personality and author of Funny Book Fanatic) making his own enthusiastic claims. Then, at 1:20, you’ll see the Dwo’s lovely daughter, Maggie, identifying her favorite Avenger.

The Ulm brought his daughter, too, and having Erin and Jack there reminded me of when I really WAS twelve years old, and went to the Planets of the Apes marathon with my old man.

It’s been almost forty years since that Ape day with my dad, and I still remember it; hopefully Jack will remember our Marvel day just as long. And it was a fine day. For all that I dreaded the length and the logistics of the thing, the event itself was smooth and energizing and even refreshing. There was more legroom at the Downtown Disney 12 than in my own house, and the theater staff was friendly and indulgent and encouraging of a festival mood. The theater was mostly full of Marvel fans who cheered for the right stuff at the right times, and didn’t step on too many of the laugh lines in Avengers. The comfort of the theater, the clarity of the image and the sound, the circulation in the auditorium all helped power me through the marathon — I didn’t feel my first fatigue until Thor (the fourth movie of the day), and while I was yawning a good bit during the midnight showing of Avengers, I was still pumped up and ready for that particular picture. There’s nowhere else I’d rather have been when those opening credits rolled.

I was surprised how well those first five films held up. I’ve seen them all, multiple times, but they were fresh and still entertaining on the big screen.

Iron Man is still the best of the Marvel movies, anchored by a pitch-perfect performance from Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark. Downey has the rare quality of being able to walk through a scene while still seeming a part of the movie — his indifferent otherworldliness perfectly communicates that here is a man who has enough power and wealth to do anything he pleases. The effects are strong and of all the Marvel movies, the Iron Man experience has the strongest element of wish fulfillment — unlike the lost gods, tortured scientists, and earnest patriots of later films, there’s no one who wouldn’t want to be Tony Stark, bad ticker and all.

Aside from an off-hand reference to MySpace, the movie has aged well. The movie isn’t perfect — Jeff Bridges is very good as Obidiah Stane, but his battlesuited superpowered alter-ego is instantly forgettable, and while Gwyennth Paltrow is cute, there isn’t a straight man alive who thinks she’s hot. That Tony would pick her as “the one” with all those other women falling at his feet strains credulity more than creating an armored battlesuit in an Afghan cave. By hooking up with Paltrow’s Pepper Potts, Tony Stark marries his mother — which kind of fits with the Oedipal vibe of the picture, but I don’t grant the filmmakers that kind of insight.

Incredible Hulk was a little dour, about what I remembered, and Iron Man 2 was let down by a middle act in which Iron Man essentially goes missing from his own movie. Thor and Captain America retain strong appeal, and not just because they are my favorite Marvel heroes — like Iron Man, these pictures benefit from a strong narrative arc that onboards the audience for a thrill ride origin tale as full of meaningful character transformation as they are filled with superheroic action.

It was in the onboarding that I felt Avengers stumbled a bit, and not only because I was getting foggy after more than a dozen hours watching these crazy movies. The opening of the movie — with a lot of B-characters flapping their arms as a S.H.I.E.L.D. base is overrun — felt hollow and for a moment I thought … uh oh, is Avengers going to be another one of those empty summer effects spectaculars? But the movie eventually finds its footing, and while I found the first two acts more a collection of clever scenes than a movie, it all comes together in a third act that might be the finest action movie I’ve ever seen. It’s like a Transformers movie where you actually care about the characters, and I mean that as much higher praise than it sounds.

There were a few bits I didn’t like, particularly the handling of Agent Coulson, who felt an especially close presence for those of us attending the Marathon, given that he introduced each movie of the day with a little interstitial S.H.I.E.L.D. briefing …

… and I think I would have found the picture overlong, even if I didn’t start it after midnight. But on balance, I still loved the film, especially Mark Ruffalo’s understated Hulk, and Tom Hiddleston as the scenery-chewing Loki.

3:00 AM, Marathon Complete!

Sitting in the dark all day with one of my kids and some of my closest friends was an unexpectedly emotional experience. I feel like we went on a shared journey, and the day after the event, I felt not only exhausted but also emotionally let down. Real life paled compared to that four-color filmic realm! It really was unexpected fun to plug into a billion dollars worth of superhero entertainment in a single day — to set aside all mundane concerns and fully drink in the realization that I live in a world where the question isn’t if The Avengers will be a successful movie, or even if it will exist at all, but if it will be more successful than the Spider-Man and Batman pictures coming out the same summer! For comics fans, it is Revenge of the Nerds, indeed!

I daresay that … I’d even do it again! (Maybe).

Some statistics from the day:

  • Time my alarm went off: 6:45 AM Thursday
  • Time my head hit the pillow back at home: 4:45 AM Friday
  • Estimated production budget for all six films: $1 Billion USD
  • Cost of tickets for Jack & I: $80 USD
  • 150 miles roundtrip to the movies and back
  • 12 hours 23 minutes total runtime for the six movies
  • 17 total hours in the theater itself
  • 2 buckets of popcorn consumed, 1 big diet soda, and 2 hot dogs downed (actually I had good discipline here, and the theater was cool with the healthy snacks I packed)

Everyone reading this blog should see Avengers immediately (or see it a second time, if you’ve already gone). And everyone reading this blog should seriously consider attending a Marvel Movie Marathon if it ever comes around again. It will wreck your back, disrupt your sleep, and cost you time at work, but it’s a small price to pay for being twelve years old again … if just for a too-quick twelve hours and twenty-three minutes!

NEXT WEDNESDAY: #48 Super-Diva Team-Up

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About Longbox Graveyard

Revelations and retro-reviews from a world where it is always 1978. There's a new blog every odd Wednesday at www.longboxgraveyard.com!

Posted on May 9, 2012, in Other Media and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 23 Comments.

  1. Wow, this sounds like a blast! I’m jealous. Unfortunately, I don’t know when I’ll be able to go see it. I wish my kid wasn’t only 8 months old so I’d have an excuse to go.

    Also, I’m glad to see this movie is doing so well at the box office, since all four of last year’s comic book films did somewhat poorly. It’s nice to see my favorite movie genre rebound strong this summer!

    • Avengers could wind up as the biggest movie of all time. Crazy.

      I well remember missing out on movies when my own kids were infants. Our go-to solution (aside from home video) was the Drive-In, but those were vanishing even in the late 1990s when my boys were babies. It was a cool alternative, though — put the kid in the car seat, keep them happy while not being too concerned if they made noise, plus … double features! The drive-in theater in San Luis Obispo, California kept us sane for a little while.

  2. Dave Olbrich

    What a great review of the day. My experience mirrors yours in many ways. I’m still working on my post.

    One quick nerdy correction: It was Jeff Bridges who played the villain in IRON MAN, not Jeff Daniels.

    The Marvel Movie Marathon seems like a good dream. Almost like it didn’t happen. An event so far from my routine that it almost doesn’t seem real. Physically and emotionally drained afterword.

    Great to spend the day with Maggie and all my friends. So glad we got involved in the craziness.

    • Thanks for the correction, Dave, I have edited the post. And let me know when your own article is up and I’ll link to you here.

      It was an unexpectedly empowering day, wasn’t it? Maybe we need to work less and play more.

  3. Wow, small world (no Disney pun intended)…my daughter and I were also at the all day Downtown Disney AMC marathon. I looked for us in the audience picture but did not see us – we were in theatre 13, do you remember which one you were in?

    A great day and the perfect crowd to see all of the movies.

    • Thanks for reading and commenting, Gary. I hope you’ll subscribe to the blog and become a regular.

      We were in Theater 10. Talking to the staff at the theater, they originally planned to have just one theater, but then expanded to four to accommodate the crowds. They sold at least 1200 tickets for the Marathon!

      Glad to hear the vibe in Theater 13 matched that in Theater 10. It did feel like I was at a private movie showing with two hundred of my closest friends.

  4. Horace Austin

    You drove 180 minutes to get to and from the theater?

    Dedication, my man! You a PMM! Permanent Marvelite Maximus!

    • I was more like an AATWMZ by the end of it (Asleep At The Wheel Marvel Zombie).

      When the event was announced, the closest theater for us was the Downtown Disney 12. We bought our seats immediately and it wasn’t long before the event sold out. To meet demand, AMC added more theaters, including a pair closer to us in San Diego, but we were locked into Anaheim by that point. It ended up being for the best, as the venue was terrific — probably the best theater I’ve been in short of the ArcLight in Los Angeles — plus the staff and the crowd added the perfect vibe. It was a tremendous day, very glad I did this.

  5. Ahh, that sounds like a great day. It’s hard to guess at what kids will remember as they age. My dad and I only went to two – short – marathons: one was three Marx Brothers movies (including Duck Soup and Horse Feathers) and the other was a pile of Buster Keaton shorts. But we went to the movies together often (I never had that weird “can’t be seen with my parent in public” thing) – and I fondly remember most of them.

    Downey’s performances as Stark are amazing – he gives the movies real personality and it really helps distinguish them from DC’s efforts. The Marvel movies feel like “comic book movies” whereas the DC ones seem dark and humorless.

  6. When we were kids of course there was no home video, so aside from Three Stooges or Laurel & Hardy on Saturday mornings, if you wanted to see classics, those theater revivals were the only option. It sounds like our fathers were alike in wanting to communicate their love of film to their sons — it was through my dad that I absorbed the great war movies and science fiction movies of the past, and now I’m doing something similar with my own boys.

    Couch-bound movie viewings are fine (I just watched Jurassic Park with Jack the other night), but the ceremonial value of going into a theater to watch a whole pile of movies all at once can’t be underestimated. In a way, if you can hit a pause button, it’s doesn’t count. I take the kids to see classics on the big screen when the opportunity arises (we’ve seen 2001 and Citizen Kane in recent months) … but that opportunity doesn’t arise all that often.

  7. That. Sounded. Awesome. Love that you guys all went…so cool.

    • Would love for you to have been a part of it, Brent. The Ulm was talking about you the other day, said you reminded him of Hawkeye (the cranky original, not the Bourne-lite of the movie).

      • Yesss! If I can’t be a (Canadian) Wolverine (from Canada), then cranky, classic Hawkeye works well!

        • I think the picture could have benefited from a crankier Hawkeye, but the screen was already pretty crowded with conflict. I’m re-reading classic Avengers and Hawkeye is the guy who really drives the internal conflict, poking his finger in Cap’s chest and jawing with Hank Pym all the time. The sniping really helps drive the book.

          I suspect Renner’s character owed more to the Ultimates version of Hawkeye and Roy Thomas’ hotheaded archer.

          Just saw the film again with Jack — nice to catch the details that eluded me at 2:00 AM. My opinion has improved somewhat, but I’d still slot it behind Iron Man, Thor, and Cap in the Marvel movie hierarchy. But now it’s at the bottom of the top tier instead of the top of the bottom tier. Will look forward to meaty extras on the home release. And very much looking forward to Thanos in the sequel — big geek choice there, but it looks like they’re ready to own it.

          • Cranky Hawkeye has made a comeback in the Secret Avengers of late (also a run with Captain America) which is pretty cool. It’s nice that he’s kind of the relatively human (arguably) hero mixed in with the superheros – his perspective is always contrasting, sometimes quite humourously. Agree with your assessment of Renner’s character too – he was pretty chill although, after seeing Renner in Hurt Locker, MI: Ghost Protocol and Avengers (and looking at the upcoming Bourne movie), I’m starting to wonder if he’s going to play anybody who talks much.
            I’d like to see The Avengers again – I managed to weasel an opening weekend viewing but, like you said, lots of details to catch up on. Must admit to being well underwhelmed by the Chitauri – pretty generic stormtroopers in all. Loved Loki! It’s at the top of my Marvel list though – Iron Man’s spectacularly poor climax really soured the sweetness of that flick for me :)

            • Agree that Iron Man is let down by a lackluster ending, but the performances and character arc of the first two acts forgive many sins. And I liked Renner in his role, just hoped for more of a hotheaded Hawkeye, which may yet come — the character spends half his screen time in mind controlled/bad guy mode, which actually works as a nod to the comics, as Hawkeye was originally introduced (briefly) as a villain. Plenty of room yet to develop that character in the sequels that will surely follow.

              As I recall you saw The Matrix about a billion times in the theater so you’ve no excuse not to see the Avengers assemble again, report to the multiplex ASAP or leave your Nerd Credentials with Agent Hill on the way out.

  8. Well I guess we were three theatres and 3,000 miles apart. I saw the movie at AMC Downtown Disney theatre 13 in Orlando! I did not realize you were on west coast when I posted and just assumed it was the theatre in Orlando.

    I am new to the blog but enjoying it!

    • It’s an easy mistake to make, actually. When Sarge decided to pile on and join us for the Marathon he placed his order through the website, and only later realized he’d booked a ticket for Orlando when the rest of us were going to Anaheim. He had to jump on the phone to get it sorted out, and the rest of us gave him no limit of grief for the mistake.

      You and I may have been 3000 miles apart but Marvel fans everywhere were united in spirit on that day. What a great time.

  9. The whole event sounds like a blast! ❤❤❤❤❤ the 3-D glasses and peace signs, baby. 😉 Sweet! 😃

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