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.)
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