Many, many moons ago I recall waiting with a bunch of my geeky and not-so-geeky high school pals in a never-ending line around the block for the highly-anticipated 12:01 showing of Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace. It was a showing at our local theater, before the days of stadium seating and online ticketing. I remember that the film held a certain magic in the hours before it started.
Energy was buzzing all around us. While waiting, my friends and I played poker, tossed a football, answered trivia from boys dressed as Jedi Knights, and talked about which starship would win in a battle. Anyone who goes to Comic-Con’s geekest panel of them all, “Starship Smackdown”, knows the Millennium Falcon has been taken out of the running for winning one too many times.
But, I digress. There was excitement, magic, and a new hope that this film would be great. Sadly, I was a bit disappointed. As were many others that day.
As I waited for my friend to arrive at the 12:01 Arclight Hollywood Dome showing of Iron Man 2, I recalled those days with a bit of nostalgia. As I looked around the theater, I realized the movie-going experience had evolved.
For those quick enough on the draw to buy tickets a month in advance, there was no waiting. As I sipped on a very dry martini with 3 olives at the bar (Pepper’s drink of choice), I gleefully spied a total of 6 other “Stark Expo ‘74” t-shirts. I actually got a high-five from one such wearer and I felt a touch of the same community I had felt in years prior.
But as I looked around some more, I realized that instead of geeks dressing up in Iron Man costumes, they instead disguised themselves as hipsters in embellished jeans. As I took my seat, front and center, I heard geeks trying with care not to divulge spoilers about the secret ending. Before I knew it, it was 12:01.
An Arclight usher appeared and all my hopes were dashed that the stars would arrive. But, no sooner had he started giving an introduction to the cinema experience, then did Mr. Robert Downey Jr. and Jon Favreau enter from the side and stand not 12ft away from me!
The entire Dome applauded, screamed, tweeted, and flashes went off in tandem. Only in LA, did the fans manage a sense of decorum. Very few left their seats, which could be attributed to Arclight’s deft marketing of a high-end experience. It’s an unsaid rule that Arclight attendees are supposed to be used to the movie star sightings and brush it off as normal.
It took everything I could muster to maintain the compulsory etiquette as I listened to Iron Man himself give an intro. Favreau said that after coming to the 12:01 for the first film, they had a fantastic opening weekend, so why not bring some luck to this one? I chose not to argue with his airtight logic.
When the usher announced the running time, Downey Jr. gave an audible groan, but most of the audience members were thrilled with the extra screen time. The super-powered duo left after 10 or so minutes, but the energy of the entire Dome remained electric.
I was already expecting the oft-used ploy of more-villains-more-tech-more-love interests, but I must say, despite the more-ness I was happily entertained. The movie may have been light on a moving plot and could have used a time trim but it made up for it in a world-building and character engaging film. If Marvel’s goal was to slowly build a world where superheroes team-up to fight baddies a la the Avengers, than they are well on their way.
This movie did what I consider to be most important to a comic-book based property- it got the character attitude and the world right. I could have used a few more lines coming from the fittingly named Scarlett, but besides that they did a stellar job when it came to character.
The VFX team did an excellent job of organically incorporating 3D computers into Tony’s workspace. I felt like I was fighting by War Machine’s side during the robot battles. Unlike Transformers 2, I could actually tell who the bad robots were. All in all, it was worthy of my popcorn, the elevated ticket price, and the few hours of sleep I lost.
At the end of the day there are pluses and minuses to how my 12:01 movie-going experience has changed. I don’t see near as many people in costume but I also don’t wait in line. I have fewer friends to go with because the sane ones don’t want to sleep at their desk the next day.
But, the select few who join me are welcomed by stars. Fortunately, the one thing that remains the same is the all-out raucous energy of midnight that can only be described in one word: marvelous.