[NOTE: This is NOT a spoiler thread for Age of Ultron. That will come later today.]
People are always trying to push the boundaries of nerddom. Whether you’re going for a gaming marathon, binge watching Daredevil on Netflix, or trying to collect every single Pokemon, there’s a group of fans can who, no matter what their love is, they want to be the very best. Hollywood certainly hasn’t been opposed to relishing in the attention of nerds and geeks the world around. It’s not unusual to see film screening turn extreme.
Other nerd culture websites have put on screenings a day in length, but as impressive as these butt-numbing events are, they still pale in comparison to the epic marathon that Disney, Marvel, AMC, and Regal cinemas have put forth for comic book fans, a marathon that I, as of this writing, am about to embark on. That’s right true believers, I, Jason Helton, am attending the Ultimate Marvel Movie Marathon. The challenge: 11 films, 27 hours, one sitting. Every single film in the non-Sony Marvel universe, from Iron Man, all the way to Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Ironically, the movie marathon is likely the same length of time that it would take for my fat ass to run an actual marathon, minus of course the time I would likely spend in the emergency room. But as much as this marathon involves primarily sitting on my ass, there is still training to be done.
I’ve been chatting back and forth on Twitter with my hosts at Regal Cinemas about the keys to surviving such a feat of nerddom, and have come up with three major factors: Bladder control, proper(ish) nutrition, and stretching.
Bladder control should be relatively simple. While I will have to stay well (hail) hydrated throughout the event, the key will be the final hours. I’ve seen every film in the Marvel Universe to date, so a random pee break shouldn’t interfere in my enjoyment of the festival. It’s a long haul game, though, and improper consumption of beverages starting with Captain America: The Winter Soldier could theoretically impair my enjoyment of Age of Ultron. An additional caveat is for $7.75, I can purchase a marathon souvenir cup that entitles me to unlimited beverages over the 27 hours. It’s a smart move, as I would no doubt be spending much more than that to stay hydrated throughout the event legally (I’ve decided not to smuggle in additional supplies), but I will have to use a certain measure of restraint.
Snacking will be difficult, both from a selection and a financial standpoint. While I’ve been told by a close and reliable source that people will be allowed to come and go as they please from the theater, my goal is to complete the marathon without leaving the theater property. I haven’t decided if that means there will be a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter waiting for me in the car, or if I will try to subsist on theater food alone for the duration of the marathon. That being said, popcorn will be my enemy, as the salt will kill my blood pressure and force me to drink more, and frankly, I’ve never tried the other, more substantial items on the Regal menu, which looks limited to fried fare designed to get the attention of my children.
Stretching is going to be the most serious key to completing the marathon. In the time I will spend in the theater, I could literally fly anywhere in the world. According to my incredibly smart and beautiful Physician Assistant of a wife (she contributed to this line of text), staying seated for that length of time is actually dangerous, as a condition called deep vein thrombosis could cause potentially deadly clotting. Combined with my two plus hour drive each way to the event, I will be sitting for the better part of thirty-two hours, the majority of which I will be exhausted. Standing up, stretching, walking about, and doing my best impression of Ash in Alien (the jogging in place, not the magazine+mouth routine) will decrease the potential for injury exponentially.
I’m sure with a week to research and prep, I’ll be totally ready for this marathon on the 29th.
I’m totally not ready for this marathon. While I’m typically a night owl, the plan was to get successive nights of eight hours plus of sleep, a little bit of exercise, and to abstain from all things Marvel (aside from the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. finale I expect to watch if the local networks comply). It was a good plan; one that I completely failed to execute properly.
Between a blazing sinus infection that made me look like a Clubber Lang punch recipient and the unrest in my hometown of Baltimore, I’ve gotten no rest whatsoever. The little exercise I’ve received has come from walking around my place of employment and chasing after my kids during my Mr. Mom duties of the weekend. No weights, no treadmill, no change from my normal, sedentary routine. As for just saying “No” to Marvel, that went out the window when a friend questioned my nerddom for not watching Daredevil. So here I sit at my desk, barely twenty-four hours away from the lights dimming in King of Prussia, and Tony Stark getting blown up.
Regardless of my breach of training regiment, I have much to do before departing tomorrow. Since I’m not sure what working conditions will be waiting for me at the theater, I’ve readopted the Boy Scout motto “Be prepared.” My Bag of Holding will contain a laptop, my iPad, a wireless keyboard, a pair of notebooks, pens, snacks for the drive, myriad chargers, batteries, and battery backups (and perhaps contraband alcohol).
I somehow managed to get a full 8 hours of sleep before setting out on the 105 mile drive up rural Rt 30 in Pennsylvania. It’s a nice change of scenery, replacing the chaos and gridlock of Baltimore for country stores, horse and buggies, and firehouses advertising “Meat Bingo”.
Arriving at the theater just outside of Philadelphia, I’m surprised to see the parking lot packed solid, with of all things, a shield-armed Quik Bunny guarding the entrance of the multiplex. Before walking in, I take in one last bit of sunlight and snap a pre-marathon selfie to compare at the end.
This place is packed, filled with men, women and surprisingly children of all shapes and sizes. While Regal has specifically set out rules that I won’t be getting any interviews with staff, I did get a few questions answered. The event is sold out in two theaters. Four hundred tickets have been sold, and it looks like the majority of the ticket holders are here. I collect my commemorative 3-D glasses and my Avengers collectible medallion, and start searching for a seat.
I’m flying solo for this event, which is a distinct advantage when it comes to seating. I have thankfully found an aisle seat mid-way up, which should make my life somewhat easier, though traffic will have me getting up multiple times throughout the next twenty-seven hours. I’ve gotten up about four times since sitting, and have already inadvertently kicked a fellow movie-goer’s loaded bucket of popcorn, sending about a fifth of its contents onto the floor. Thankfully, the mood is festive and forgiving, and I won’t be getting my ass kicked or running to the concession stand early for a $20 replacement bucket.
I will say, Im falling in love with these reclining seats, though I’m getting the feeling they will be contributing to the mass sleepiness I expect to hit in the next six hours or so. Andre from Black Nerd Comedy is our MC for the evening, and is starting to fire up the crowd, kicking off with a dig against DC, mentioning that they might be able to get a marathon of this magnitude going in a few years. We’re all Avengers tonight, apparently.
It’s very apparent that Iron Man was a film from a different era, and certainly shows its age right from the bat. References to MySpace, jokes about terrorists that seem almost insensitive nowadays, and so much more. Regardless, it’s a fan favorite and has elicited a ton of reactions right from the start.
For a second, I feel bad for Terrence Howard in his solitary outing as LTC Rhodes, but then I remember he’s in Empire now, making a buttload of money. I forget about all of this as soon as Phil Coulson shows up for the first time. The audience apparently agrees; Coulson gets more applause than Stark does at first appearance.
It’s official, at 8:03 p.m., I’ve witnessed the first real, mouth straining yawn from the guy across the aisle from me. I don’t honestly believe that anyone will be able to stay awake through this whole process.
Moviegoing courtesies are a little on the lax side. It’s certainly a more festive, friendly feel, but if it was my first time seeing any of these films (which it will be shortly), I would start to get annoyed. We’ve already had our first instance of a cell phone ringing. While I like the adjustable seats, if I had thought about it I would have started counting the number of times my seat has been kicked. Over the course of a 2 hour movie, I’m sure I’d be starting to look behind me, but I’m trying to remain cool. The question is, will I still feel this calm in 24 hours, or by the time Age of Ultron airs, will I always be angry?
Iron Man has ended and I’m taking a second for a dinner and bathroom break. The place is full of people in comic garb, but there are a distinct lack of costumed folk (except for the now absent Quik Rabbit). We do have some interesting outfits, including Captain America hockey jerseys and a rather convincing female Tony Stark lookalike.
I have made my first mistake of the evening: not purchasing the refillable Avengers mega-cup. They’ve sold out, much to the chagrin of some of the patrons, and instead I’ve purchased just a large soda to go along with my dinner.
The Incredible Hulk
Now for the first film I actually haven’t seen in its entirety. It’s obviously not as much of a fan favorite, though no one has left.
“You wouldn’t like me when I’m…hungry.” Hulk, eat a Snickers…you act like Edward Norton when you’re hungry.
So far I’m enjoying the movie, particularly the nods to the old TV series that I loved as a kid. I’m particularly liking the sad piano music, though I can’t really picture Liv Tyler as a super smart scientist. Jennifer Connelly played that role so much better. Every time I look at Liv, I think of her role in Jersey Girl. William Hurt is obviously here for the paycheck, chewing on more than cigars. He apparently has one volume: Yell
So The Incredible Hulk was ok. Not bad, but one of the weaker entries of the MCU, but it looks like the opinions are lower for Iron Man 2. People are talking about bowing out for this one and are retreating to cars or even home instead of watching Tony Stark’s second outing. Part of me wishes I could too, but I’m intrigued after reading Luke’s Age of Ultron review that compared it to Iron Man 2. I haven’t seen the film since it came out, so it should be a somewhat new experience for me as well. As for me, I’m hanging in there, though my eyelids are certainly heavier. This is going to be a much longer night than I thought.
Iron Man 2
Iron Man 2 kicks off much louder than the first, like it’s trying way too hard, but it’s not initially as bad as I remember. It’s obvious that a lot of companies were encouraged by the first film. Product placement is everywhere, with cameos from Elon Musk and many more. It’s almost nauseating…or maybe that’s the result of all the junk food I’ve eaten this evening.
Wow, this movie has Galactus-sized plot holes. It’s one big deus ex machina. So Tony knows not only how to drive a Formula 1 car, but he can actually keep up with professional drivers? So they kidnap Whiplash, put a bag over his head, fly drive him to some airport, but he magically has a toothpick in his mouth before he even gets to the spread Hammer has laid out for him? Did the fog-shit give him magical wood generating powers? I thought the only one in this film with that ability was Scarlett Johansson.
The feel of this movie is more Michael Bay than Jon Favreau. Slow motion walking with explosive backdrops feel more at home in Transformers than here. I hope this wasn’t what Luke was referring to in Age of Ultron.
Midway through and I have to get up to stretch. It looks like my wife has been texting me for a status report, so I’m going to walk into the lobby to call her back. There are people sleeping in the hallways of the theater; not many at this point, but a few are making themselves at home.
Iron Man 2 has ended, and it’s time to take a walk again. Everyone is tired, eyes are heavier and people are starting to break out blankets. The solidarity of nerddom is starting to come out though. I met recent med school graduate Samuel who flew in from Virginia Beach for the marathon and discussed strategies for when to sleep without missing the action. At this point, he’s planning on napping during our next film, Thor, but for now I’m going to try and sally forth. If any film could possibly render me unconscious, it’s Thor. Well, the prizes have been given away to a revitalized crowd, so the next film is about to start. Time to find my seat again.
I have mixed feelings going into Thor. For some reason I have a memory that it’s my least favorite film, but it’s also one of the funniest. That being said, I’m feeling the burn, and so are many others. The yawner across the aisle from me has gone to full blown snoring. He seems to regain consciousness occasionally, but when he does, it isn’t long before he starts to nod again.
Certain scenes still rile up the crowd. Coulson still gets cheers and applause when he arrives on scene, as did Barton’s brief interaction. The humor is certainly getting laughs, but it’s starting to become more subdued. I think I drifted out for about ten minutes towards the beginning, but now it’s more than just people feeling the drain. Phones across the theater have been switched to Ultra Power Save mode, though I somehow am still at just under 50% charge.
I, on the other hand, am a different story. Nausea is starting to settle in. Perhaps it’s from eating like a frat boy, but it’s more likely a combination of unhealthy eating and exhaustion. This is really starting to feel like a bad idea, and I’m starting to worry about my long drive home. As it stands, I have approximately 18 hours before I leave the theater, and up to 21 before I make it home. To quote Murtaugh, I’m getting too old for this shit.
My patience is starting to wear thin as well. The hecklers behind me seem incapable of both shutting up, or avoiding my seat with their knees. At 6′ 1″, I’m managing to avoid the nearly 100% reclined person in front of me, but the significantly shorter people behind are beating me more savagely than Hulk beats Asgardians. The heckling is just getting annoying, and has ensured that I will never behave that way. Perhaps it would help if they were actually funny, but they just aren’t.
I started to watch the breathing of the guy in front of me. Since we arrived, I haven’t seen him stand, and based on the four times I’ve had to piss, this guy must have a relative dimensional bladder. I’ve now watched a full work day full of movies, and have essentially two more full days to go. I’m going to grab something to eat; hopefully it’s more hunger gnawing at my stomach than any indicator of illness.
Captain America: The First Avenger
I think I’ve reached my limit. About forty-five minutes into our fifth film, I fell asleep. The last thing I remember is a newly Vita-radiant Cap chasing down a Hydra agent. The next thing I know, I’m getting tapped on the leg by a kid getting a soda, right as Bucky is about to do his swan dive. People are starting to get loopy now. I’ve now heard what I’m going to consider the worst exhaustion-induced quote of the day: “I’m no zoologist, but I’m pretty sure it’s early in the morning.”
I’m never going to make it, so it’s time to break out plan B.
The seat kicking and commenting are really starting to get to me; it’s impossible to get comfortable when you are constantly shifting, so the plan is to head towards the front of the theater, find an empty corner seat, and try to actually get some rest during The Avengers. It’s the film my kids like the most, so I’ve seen it more times than I can count, and as much as i like it, I don’t think I’ll be missing much. At this point, I feel like Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk were days ago. The nausea has subsided thanks to a little shut eye and pretzel bites, but I don’t know how long that and my money are going to last. Well, time to go scout out a new seat…wish me luck, and an empty seat behind me.
The plan was a good one, I found a seat in the front row and before Loki could escape with the Tesseract, I was out. The next thing I remember, Hulk was having a chat with Brett from Alien. The rest of the film went by in a daze, with large amounts of snoring heard throughout the theater. Stan Lee still gets large amounts of applause with every appearance, and the theater erupted with “Puny God,” so there are certainly more people awake than asleep.
Standing in the lobby, I see the place is much more alive. It looks like many people took power naps to get their second winds. Children have also reappeared, apparently having gone home at some point in the night, but ditching school today to catch the rest of the marathon. While education is monumentally important, the parents who brought their kids for this are badass.
It’s weird to think of this as the home stretch, but we’re halfway through this. I think my attention will still be a bit lacking during Iron Man 3, likely my least favorite film in the franchise, but once Thor: The Dark World pops up, I’m thinking I’ll be awake for the rest of the run. One thing’s for certain…I’m not doing this again, even for Star Wars. I did take a second to look outside at the sun, and freedom.
Iron Man 3
I made it about thirty minutes into this one before nodding off slightly. The entire film felt like a fugue dream state, with this bizarre mix of my own dreams and Marvel lore. I seem to remember Loki taunting me for some reason, even if he wasn’t in the film. Time is starting to run together. The second mini-nap has revitalized me though…I’m feeling surprisingly better. Time to get some liquid in me, some food perhaps, and settle back in. I’m going to take a walk through before Thor starts. According to my pedometer, I’ve managed only a fraction of my normal steps since I arrived.
In my short walk, I got to get a closer look at our theater’s Tony Stark, who likened the event to a convention, and indeed she’s right. The festive atmosphere, the camaraderie and such makes this almost exactly like some of the conventions I’ve attended. It’s starting to become fun again, and even though I’m still tired, the excitement of the crowd is invigorating.
Thor: The Dark World
It’s apparent that the crowd is much more rested and so am I. Thor: The Dark World had the least amount of snoring in the past ten hours. Of course, it helps that it’s such a good entry in the series. Twenty-four hours ago I was preparing to make the trip here, and now we’re down to three films left in our adventure. I’m pleasantly surprised at the behavior of the crowd and the crew running the show. There’s been no fights, no arguments, and aside from the typical movie theater annoyances, everyone’s been on their best behavior. Honestly, I expected some level of discourse, or at least a fist fight over the Kirby or Moebius Silver Surfer. One observation; is it me or does your average Dark Elf look like a Power Rangers throwaway monster?
The staff has been incredible. For the most part, they’ve been invisible, just running things seamlessly, deep fat frying food at all hours of the night, and leaving people alone. Want to crash on the floor? Go for it! Step into an unused theater to make a private phone call? Sure! They really are cool about the whole thing. I’m also amazed by the amount of energy Andre from Black Nerd Comedy has between films, asking trivia questions, handing out swag and pumping up the crowd. I swear, the guy must be mainlining 5-Hour Energy or something. Well, on with the show…time for Cap to show up again. Three films to go!
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Everyone is up and at-em with the start of The Winter Soldier, and the excitement is certainly building. The event has turned a corner and while I think everyone is ready for this to be over, they’re also having a good time.
I spent some time between films talking to other marathoners, and it’s still a positive event. There have been a few reports of Con-Funk, which was described as the unholy mating of BO and Beef Jerky. I will say that hygiene has been a big part of the event. People are changing shirts, brushing teeth, reapplying deodorant, and doing generally whatever they have to do to remain funk free. Granted we’ve only been here a day, but this could have gotten really funky, really quickly. As for me, while some of the signs of exhaustion have departed, I’m starting to get a little nervous. Two of my fingers on my left hand are twitching uncontrollably. Focusing on stopping the movement seems to work, but if I turn my attention back to the films, it isn’t long before the twitching starts again.
Two films to go, and the crowd in theater 7 is ready for some Guardians…the penultimate film is here.
Guardians of the Galaxy
The crowd has been building up, and the excitement is now on par with what we had during the first Iron Man. Everyone is having a hell of a good time; four-hundred of your closest friends watching a movie together. This is a hell of a lot of fun. Not much to say at this point, except that GOTG is easily one of the crowd favorites here tonight.
Now for a forty-minute break before the premiere everyone has been waiting for. There is no more sleeping, no more tired faces. The theater has split between the group staying to try and win one of the last batch of prizes, and the massive exodus looking to refill their drinks or get meals before Age of Ultron starts.
The facility is packed now; the film is premiering in IMAX at the same time as we get to see it, and so the lobby is overflowing. With fifteen minutes left before the credits roll, I’d be a fool to get in line now. I’ll have to make due with what’s left of my Cherry Coke. A quick preemptive run to the bathroom will prevent me from missing any of the film, and there’s no way I’m getting up once the lights go down.
I make it back in time for the last batch of giveaways, and break out my commemorative 3-D glasses. I apparently have lucked out and received a pair of green monstrosities based on the Hulk. I immediately get offers to purchase them from me, but doing so would get me in trouble with the kids at home. Personally, I hate them. They don’t fit right, make my eyes hurt, and give me a green unibrow. I would not be a good Hulk.
There’s a minor panic as the 3-d glasses don’t seem to work. Everyone is scrambling to grab glasses from a box at the back of the theater, but the management assures everyone that the commemorative glasses will work. Apparently the polarization screens haven’t finished lowering, but once they do, it’s smooth sailing. The previews are a mixed bag. There’s a resounding meh when the Fantastic Four shows up, but both Star Wars and Ant-Man cause the theater to break out in cheers. The Force Awakens looks spectacular in 3-D on the big screen, but that’s a discussion for another time. The lights are dimming, and it’s time for the big premier.
Avengers: Age of Ultron
The lights have risen, and the crowd is acting like they just won the Super Bowl. Cheers erupted more than once throughout the film; every character introduction was accompanied by applause, particularly Stan Lee’s most memorable cameo yet. I partially agree with Luke’s assessment of the film; Age of Ultron certainly suffers from the traps of a sequel, and is for the most part predictible. With a strong start and finish though, the film certainly wasn’t bad. Jeremy Renner was by far the standout character this time, likely to make up for the little amount of development he’s gotten in the MCU so far. Hemsworth has very little to do in the way character development, but his facial expressions alone during some key scenes are worth his paycheck. Spader stands out as well in an unexpected fashion, playing his character with more emotion and heart than some of the Avengers themselves.
Ultimately, it’s a fast food meal of a film, that fills you to the brim with superhero action, but you know you could do much better. That being said, I left more excited about the next entry in the Captain America series than Avengers: Infinity War. Based on the good word of Joss Whedon, after the mid-credit scene I decide to haul ass and get home, so I say my goodbyes and head for the car.
The drive isn’t particularly difficult, aside from my being exhausted and nearly turning one of Rocket’s distant cousins into roadkill, so I have two and a half hours to reflect on the events of the last two days. I had a great time, particularly chatting with the other marathon participants, but this is something I will never plan on doing again. In fact, I’ve already enlisted my wife into taking the munchkins to see Age of Ultron next week, so I don’t have to step foot in a theater. The exhaustion just took a certain measure of fun out of the films, and quite frankly, I spent more time fighting sleep than enjoying the entertainment. The festive environment however made it better, and it was in all a good time and unforgettable experience for all involved.
I’m home now, and the only things on my mind now are the bathroom, a shower to wash off any of my own con funk, brushing my teeth to get the taste of fried food out of my mouth, and some well deserved sleep. One thing is left though…while most marathon participants had broken out their medallions when they first arrived, I waited until I had earned it before opening it up. Time to feel like a champion.
Number of Films Watched: 11
Number of Hours: 27.5
Amount Spent on Snacks: $48.00
Number of Pee Breaks: 8
Number of Recorded Losses of Consciousness: 3
A special thanks goes out to Regal cinemas and their entire staff at the King of Prussia location. Their calm, collected manner made the event run smoother than Peter Quill slathered in jelly.
A fan of video games and science fiction from the moment he discovered his father's Atari 2600 and Star Wars, Jason Helton has been contributing to The Robot's Voice since 2011. Prior, he wrote for the UK's Den of Geek and was the producer and host of Iron Otaku Radio on XM's UPOP 29 channel. A die-hard fan of Battlestar Galactica (both old and new), Doctor Who, and pinball, you can follow him on Twitter @Razgriz1138.