AP: JKrengel and I headed out to Burbank last Thursday to experience one of those nerd moments the Star Wars generation would have us believe were all gone. AMC Theaters hosted a daylong, six movie marathon of Marvel Studio’s recent slate of comic book films (Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, and Captain America) all leading up to a midnight screening of The Avengers, a not-so-risky, experimental, first in movie franchise history. Over fourteen hours-with only half hour breaks in between- we sat in a geek-packed theatre preparing for Joss Whedon’s mega-movie. I came to this day with curiousty of seeing how and if the movies would end up telling a complete story. The day was long and the crowd was intense. Here are our impressions from throughout the day:
JK: We strolled into the theater at 11am with the understanding that we were running a little late (the event was starting in 30 minutes). Normally, I wouldn’t be too concerned about getting to a movie a half hour ahead of time, but – oh man – did we underestimate the Marvel fandom. A line wrapped around the entrance of the theater. Some were casually dressed in Captain America t-shirts, others, painted Hulk green and shirtless, screamed as they stood in line, while others walked with an air of ironic dignity in their Thor capes and winged helmets. However, it wasn’t until we got to our seats that we realized how unprepared we actually were. Seated in the 3rd row, we slowly realized that we would be delegated to 2 of the worst seats in the house for the next 14 hours.
Iron Man – 11:30 am
AP: A great start to the day and a solid film, Iron Man sets itself apart by being one comic book story where the alter ego is actually interesting too. Downey has great chemistry with Terrance Howard and with his voice-command pal, Jarvis (dryly voiced by Paul Bettany). When Agent Coleson and Nick Fury are first introduced, the crowd goes wild. Each scene of theirs throughout the day is a reminder to us about our midnight treat.
JK: Like everyone in the theater, I had seen this movie a thousand times before and it was great to see it on the big screen again. The sound was turned up to a booming volume that actually made our seats rock and the audience cheered and laughed at every joke and Avengers wink. They loved it and it was contagious. My favorite moment happened at the end of the film, just before Tony Stark reveals his secret identity to a room of journalists. The eager lad sitting next to me exclaimed, “I am Iron Man” a moment before he is echoed on screen. AlainP turned sharply in his chair and asked with dripping sarcasm, “Oh, have you seen this before?” The crowd erupted in cheers, as did I, finding another reason to relish in the moment of Iron Man’s playfully smug conclusion. My stomach started to growl so I rushed out to get a snack, missing the first special interlude (more on that later).
The Incredible Hulk – 2:00 pm
AP: I had an errand to run so I skipped this one. JKrengel stuck it out, poor bastard. I regret nothing.
JK: In comparison to Iron Man, the theater was alarmingly quiet. This made for a rather uncomfortable viewing experience. The crowd thinned out a bit as people saved their seats with jackets and Mjolnirs (Thor hammers), and left for lunch (or “errands”). The atmosphere had changed. The comically long romantic scenes between Edward Norton and Liv Tyler received quiet chuckles. An older couple to the right of me started a conversation, at what I’d call coffee house volume (they were screaming by movie theater standards). After ~5 minutes they were told to shut the f%^k up, which was both hilarious and disappointing. Their convo about Norton’s behind the scenes antics was kind of interesting. Still, the movie ended with booming applause as Robert Downy Jr stepped on the screen and hinted at a special “team being assembled.” Once again, I slipped out for fresh air and missed the special interlude (I’ll catch it at the end of the next film).
Iron Man 2 – 4:20 pm
AP: The first time I saw this movie, I thought I hated it. But a more respectful viewing amidst an increasingly lulled crowd of fanboys- myself included- made me appreciate it more. Don Cheadle, who took over the role of Rhodes, never quite captures the same chemistry that Howard with Downey. Iron Man 2’s problem is that they never really found anything for Sam Rockwell’s villain to do, they point the camera at him and hope he does something funny. It’s ok for Stark to have those moments but the antagonists should always be on a direct path of, you know, antagonizing. And the movie meanders too much, leaving you time to ponder the hilariously inconsistent physics of IM2 (People always get knocked/awaken in conjunction with the suit going on and offline, the suits can survive plummets to the earth but not too many punches from robots etc.) It’s like watching an old Power Rangers episode where the Zords react to punches like humans for some reason.
Oh and I hate Stan Lee cameos. All of them.
JK: Hunger and thirst became a bigger issue at this point. The concession lines took 15 minutes to navigate, which didn’t leave much time to get back to the theater. Alain and I had managed to sneak our way up into some 4th row, dead center seats. MUCH better. They only allotted us 20 minutes between movies, but I was quick this time and made it back to the theater for the special interlude. Before each movie, Agent Phil Coulson (Gregg Clark) introduced the significance of each Marvel character and their story. At first glance, it wasn’t anything too exciting. Yet again the audience erupted as he mentioned The Avengers, encouraging us to push through each film, hyping the crowd even more.
Thor – 7:10 pm
AP: This was my first time seeing Thor, and for a movie that just functionally served to set up Avengers, it was pretty enjoyable. It’s not a great movie but much like Iron Man they found satisfying comedic moments from its lead and supporting players. Chris Hemsworth is a great comedic force and his grandiose-fish-out-of-water performance is sharply self-aware. Favorite or worst line in the movie: “DO NOT MISTAKE MY APPETITE FOR APATHY!” And I finally got to meet Loki (whose name is not mentioned for the first half hour, for some reason) who I knew would be The Avengers foe. I was hoping to leave Thor with a feeling of “oh shit, this guy is dangerous,” but I ended up leaving with more of a, “Loki’s just kind of a sad character,” which nowadays can often make for a good bad guy. Oh and again with the Power Rangers: someone decided to put Goldar in this movie.
JK: Delirium and a sugar rush start to take their toll. 8 hours sitting in a relatively snug seat in the third row will do strange things to a man. AlainP starts taking pictures of the people around us and my unnaturally high sense of justice urges me to block his shots. I’m not sure what sort of horrors I felt I was saving these people from. In any case, my distorted view of the world somehow made this viewing experience better. I was better prepared to accept the faults of this film for my second viewing. Natalie Portman’s instant love for the man she repeatedly hits with her car was fun, the warriors three seemed even more ridiculous this go around (which made them hilarious) and let’s not forget the other Power Rangers villain here, Victor Ooze:
Captain America – 9:25 pm
AP: Oh Captain, my Captain. I wanted to like this movie so much this time. The combination of the 1940’s setting and Roger’s journey of becoming a beacon of American “rah-rah” and wartime hope could have made this a standout Marvel film. Plus, the idea and execution of Chris Evan’s CGI transformation from shrimp to, well, Chris Evans is great. BUT then the movie happens and its your run-of-the-mill origin story. Every five minutes a scene makes you go “huh?” I’d love to list all the nonsense clogging this story but limit myself to this being the first America vs. Germany WWII movie I’ve seen without a single Nazi. And maybe how none of the soldiers seem to have had any training whatsoever and just run into rooms in Red Rover lines blasting away like drunk Rambos.
JK: During the final cut scene of this film, Nick Fury meets the Captain for the first time. At the same time, a team of AMC employees walks to the front of the theater dressed as The Avengers. The man dressed as Nick Fury relishes in the moment, raising his arms to the sky as his on screen counterpart – the real Sammy J – says, “At ease soldier!” The crowd practically rises to it’s feet in anticipation of the final film as a teaser for The Avengers rips across the screen. Oh yeah, we’re ready.
The Avengers – 12:01 am
AP: The thought of being sleepy or too groggy for this movie was eating away at me all day. I even tried to take a nap during Captain America with no success. But the adrenaline kicked in hard as the crowd shrieked for the opening moments of The Avengers.
It. Did. Not. Disappoint.
Right off the bat we see the far reaching and grand scale of the threat leveled against Earth and why this group of misfit, lone superheroes are needed to assemble into something more to stop it. Joss Whedon finds an arc and purpose for each of his heroes and unveils that rare summer blockbuster that manages to avoid talking down to it’s audience. The script is intelligent, adult and powerfully hilarious beyond everything I had hoped for. And Mark Ruffalo gives far-and-away the best Bruce Banner performance I’ve ever seen. For the first time you see the self-battle of a man who might explode any moment as truly comical. Banner fidgets and disengages in conversations like a Friend of Bill at a cocaine party using every ounce of his willpower to not take the bait.
There were moments of the film that the whole crowd seemed in such ecstasy of laughter and awe that all we could do is clap, because our howls just didn’t seem to do it justice. And when the story is this satisfying, the filmmakers give themselves license to let loose the full fury of a 200 million dollar movie’s eye candy and you’ll willingly take in every moment. The pandemonium of the battle scenes rival that of any Transformers flick.
PLUS you don’t feel like punching yourself in the genitals for giving Michael Bay your cash. How I would’ve reacted if I just saw this movie, I don’t know but after an entire day of watching these heroes find themselves, and then rediscovering themselves as a single family unit under Papa Joss – I found myself undeniably, unwaveringly on their side. Avengers delivers until the very, very last moments and JKrengel and I left the theater dizzy from the day’s spectacle, culminating in the sheer magnitude 10 awesomeness that was The Avengers.
JK: AlainP summed it up perfectly. I can’t imagine a better viewing experience than our Ultimate Marvel Marathon. We literally bounced in our seats throughout the entire film. When the credits finally started to roll we turned to each other and rambled off our favorite moments. There were a lot of line repetitions, “did you see that reference?” high fives, “can you believe Joss added that?” and sheer fanboy appreciation for what we had just witnessed. When we finally took a breath the credits had ended and director Joss Whedon granted us one final prize. I suppose learned experience should have taught us to expect this easter egg, this afikomen.
I wont ruin it for those who haven’t seen the movie yet, but it floored the entire theater! So, do yourself a favor and stay in your seat until the lights come up. And if you ever get the chance to attend a movie marathon, be smart: get there early, bring snacks, and plan accordingly. A little preparation can go a long way. But nothing could have prepared us for this gem of a movie experience – Worth it.