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Binge-watching a television series is one thing, but have you tried staying up for 28+ hours watching every Marvel movie made so far, concluding with the premiere of Avengers: Age of Ultron? Didn’t think so.
When I first heard Chris Hardwick announce at WonderCon that Nerdist was teaming up with Marvel to produce a 28-hour Marvel movie marathon at the El Capitan Theatre, ending with the debut of Avengers: Age of Ultron, I thought anyone who planned on attending was clearly insane. And then I was sent to cover the event by people I’ve never met for IHEARTCOMIX. These strangers wanted to pay for my ticket, no questions asked, and “Stranger Danger” flashed brightly in my head. And yet, I went anyway. I had no clue what I was in for.
I’ve seen the horrors of war at comic conventions—the bad cosplay, being packed together with those who don’t practice basic personal hygiene, cringing when fans ask celebrities awkward questions at live Q&A’s. Thankfully, the movie marathon was nothing of the sort. We were allowed to bring backpacks and spare clothing, as well as outside food and beverages so I made sure to pack the essentials.
My satchel included a large bottle of Evian to keep hydrated, an assortment of Cliff Bars in case they only had movie theater food available, and three bottles of 5-Hour Energys to keep awake. According to the label, you shouldn’t consume more than two 5-Hours a day, but I don’t like being told how to live my life from a tiny bottle of caffeine. I just happened to choose not to consume the last bottle.
I arrived at the El Capitan Theatre an hour before the doors opened, and already the line to get in was more than halfway down the block. Fans from all walks of life waited patiently, some in Marvel-themed pajamas, others in costume. I wore a pair of my comfy Levi’s since I knew I’d be sitting down for more than 28-hours, and brought a lightweight hoodie in case the AC was on full-blast throughout. An assortment of Christian newspaper paperboys paraded up and down the line, offering attendees something to read before entering the cinematic chapel and worshiping fictional gods. “My fictional god can beat up your fictional god! He has a hammer!” retorted one fan, much to the amusement of everyone in line. A homeless Spider-Man posed atop an electrical box, posing for pictures, while an amateur painter set-up shop nearby on the sidewalk displaying his wares. After waiting for 30-40 minutes, we were finally let inside.
Everyone received a lanyard with a plastic card listing all 11 movies, with a space to be hole-punched. If you got all 11 movies punched, you were entered into a contest to possibly win a pair of tickets to the upcoming Ant-Man premiere. There were other perks as well, for in-between movies every punch got you something new; Nerdist sunglasses, an exclusive Thor comic book, trading cards, and most importantly, food. Of the 400 people who attended, 375 got all 11 holes punched, including yours truly.
Before the marathon began, Chris Hardwick and Kevin Feige came out onstage to thank everyone in attendance for taking time away from work/school/families to marathon every Marvel movie with a theater full of strangers. Then they brought out Stan Lee and Jon Favreau to help introduce Iron Man, aka punch #1. Hardwick joked that they’d have an even longer marathon in another 5 years if this one was successful, and I think Nerdist/Marvel have their work cut out for them.
The first movie, Iron Man, was such a massive hit with the theater. Everyone in attendance cheered, clapped, and laughed at all the right spots, sharing this sense of unity and comradery with everyone around them. I forgot that while watching these films on DVD or television can be enjoyable, they were really meant for the theater. Every explosion, gun shot, and punch was amplified, making it almost impossible to doze-off towards the early hours of the morning.
It was amusing to watch the rest of the theater go from excited and alert, to slowly slouching down into their seats into the early hours of the morning during Iron Man 2 and Thor while trying to catch a few minutes of sleep. We were allotted 20-30 minute breaks between movies to get our cards punched, stretch our legs, and get a bite to eat, and we were encouraged to wander around the theater and explore its rich history.
Wherever there was a couch, there was a body in a coma, bundled up with layers of blankets. The seats in the El Capitan were comfortable, yet confining. The armrests didn’t go up, so whatever space you had sitting down was all you had, hence why some sought out the couches. I kind of felt bad for drawing penises on their faces, but when the opportunity strikes, one must take it.
I tried my best to do a few half-assed exercises during the breaks, including running up the stairs and stretching. Overhearing discussions about favorite moments from the movie we just saw flooded the bathroom when standing in line at the urinals, and the smell of popcorn and urine triggered my PTSD when I worked a brief stint at a movie theater years ago (fun trivia: women’s bathrooms are always messier than men’s).
When the first Avengers film was about to start, we were almost at the halfway point of the marathon. Clark Gregg came out on stage and brought donuts for the crowd, there was a cereal bar in the lobby featuring all Kellogg’s brands and pitchers of cow nectar, and someone did calculations for the exact moment we would be halfway in: when Hawkeye shoots an arrow at the Helicarrier turbine. Avengers definitely reignited the spark of excitement in the audience, for it was a brand new day, and 12 hours came and went in the blink of an eye.
One thing I definitely noticed re-watching the movies on the big screen was some were better than others. The Incredible Hulk definitely stuck out from the rest like a sore thumb; it was darker, had less humor in it. Then again, it’s the only “bad” Marvel movie of the 11, so one flop every 11 movies isn’t a bad batting average for a studio. Shirtless Tim Roth will forever haunt my nightmares.
Glass bottles would occasionally be heard clinking on the floor, letting the rest of the audience in on the secret that hard alcohol had been snuck into the party. What kind of drinking game were these people playing? It couldn’t have been “take a shot every time Stan Lee or Clark Gregg comes on screen,” otherwise bodies would be dropping by the time Captain America debuted.
By the time we were into sequel territory with Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the anticipation had been building. Only Guardians of the Galaxy stood in our way, and then the sweet embrace of Avengers: Age of Ultron. Personally, Guardians was my favorite to watch of all 11 movies, for the comedy, sci-fi action and soundtrack throughout are the pinnacle of awesomeness.
Food was provided during a few of breaks, and while it wasn’t the healthiest, we scarfed it down without hesitation. Subway sandwiches, Rice Krispies Treats, Cheezits, and Chick-fil-a were some of the delicacies, and could probably already be found in the living spaces of many the attendees. And while I’m anti-Chick-fil-a because of their religious and political leanings, a hot sandwich after an entire day of Cliff Bars and 5-Hour Energys was as if God came in my mouth. I couldn’t help but swallow every drop of his load.
Before we could get to the grand finale, the entire theater was ushered outside to wait in the cold. They were cleaning out the theater and confiscating cellphones to make sure no early copies of the movie ended up online. Oh, and the movie was going to be in 3D. After watching every other movie in 2D, the 3D messed me up a bit.
Age of Ultron was even more action-packed than the first Avengers film, and it felt like the audience was laughing or cheering for one reason or another every chance they got. It was a surreal experience, for while I’ve attended several midnight showings of movies in the past, the 375 Marvel fanatics in this crowd went the distance and relished a movie we got to see a week before anyone else. Director Joss Whedon’s presence could be felt in every scene, and fans can definitely expect to see the movie 2-3 more times when it comes out next week, it’s that good. Lots of great reveals and surprises, including Whedon’s trademark surprise death. While the marathon was fun, I should have watched Age of Ultron after being fully rested. I noticed myself getting a bit disoriented throughout, disappointed that I couldn’t enjoy it at 100%.
I don’t know how I made it home in one piece, but apparently I did without any real memory of doing so. Exhausted, I crashed face first into my pillow and proceeded to sleep for the next 15 hours, spending the rest of my Wednesday in a sleep-deprived haze. In the end, was it worth it? Of course it was. Excelsior!
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