And there came a day, a day unlike any other, when Earth’s mightiest heroes and heroines found themselves united against a common threat. On that day, the Avengers were born—to fight the foes no single super hero could withstand!
Yesterday in select cities nationwide, thousands of people were treated to a back-to-back marathon screening of all six Marvel Studios films. From Iron Man all the way to the midnight premiere of The Avengers, this epic, butt-busting extravaganza was sold as THE best way to celebrate the arrival of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
The roster of films was impressive, but the time commitment was daunting. For true Marvel movie fans was this celebration a good thing? Is the act of subjecting yourself to hours upon hours watching these films worthwhile? Does it diminish the quality or enhance the context when you watch them all back-to-back?
These were all questions I had to ask myself before settling in on my seventeen hour quest through the Marvel Movie-verse, and they were all questions that were answered quite emphatically by about the fifth hour.
Before we go any further, I will NOT be spoiling The Avengers in this review of the day. There are a billion in-depth reviews of the Avengers out there and this will not be one of them. I will share my reaction to the film, but for those worried about spoilers, so long as you have seen all the other movies you will find nothing bad in here.
We arrived at the movie theater at about 9:30 am for the 11:30 start of the adventure. The time spent standing in line seemed a small price to pay for perfect seats, and it paid off. We were lucky enough to snag the comfortable railed seats you often see above a handicapped section. This allows for kicking your legs up in comfort and easy access to your seat so you didn’t have to shimmy across a bunch of people.
I won’t go into the specifics on which theater I saw this at, mostly because it is not important, but also because they kinda screwed the pooch on the organization of the day and I don’t want to get bogged down on that. It shouldn’t be representative of most people’s experience and is not terribly relevant to the day.
Suffice to say I was at an AMC and they attempted to do trivia contests in-between each show. It was almost a comedy in and of itself to watch these poor employees who clearly were not comic aficionados try to ask questions to this geek heavy crowd. The whole thing was another poor attempt on the theater’s part, but the effort was appreciated and I ended up winning an Thor/Black Widow standee that I have no idea what to do with.
I was well prepared for the day, my bag was filled with all manner of “healthier” snacks than the theater would offer, plus my ace in the hole: A bottle of Fireball cinnamon whiskey, which sounds much worse than it really is.
Basically it is a delicious little sipping drink that taste like Hot Tamales, a perfect companion for a long movie theater haul. In addition, one in our party had a cooler with sandwiches in the car and the theater was kind enough to offer free refills on drinks and popcorn so we were 100% set. Let the Marathon begin!
The film that started it all, and the one I had seen about a billion times before. It is a fantastic movie, and still holds up very well. What became the most interesting thing for me during this viewing was watching it as if it were a seed. So much was unknown about what Marvel Studios could achieve when Iron Man came out, and so much of the Marvel Movie-verse’s DNA has its roots as far deep as this film.
I also took a surprise note to the music in the movie. As a film score buff I remember being disappointed with the Iron Man score. For some reason I found myself really liking it all of a sudden, maybe it was the experience with the crowd, maybe it was the first small cup of Fireball, but one thing was certain for me. This day was going to enhances these films in much more subtle and exciting ways than I was prepared for.
THE INCREDIBLE HULK
This was the movie that could have felt the most out-of-place, the one that might be considered the only real miss so far for Marvel Studios. I always thought The Incredible Hulk was an improvement over its predecessor in a lot of ways. Except of course the casting, I love Live Tyler but she is 1/10th the Betty Ross Jennifer Connolly was.
This was the first time I was viewing the film directly in context with the other Marvel Movie-verse films, and I really missed on all the connective tissue The Incredible Hulk had before. All of the universe building hints and suggestions really become alive when watching the film in context. It was here that I started to get the feeling like I was reading a novel or watching an excellent TV series, because this movie started to feel a lot like those early chapters/episodes that slog a bit but are important because of how they pay off later.
IRON MAN 2
I had a theory going into this marathon day. Iron Man 2, a film many consider to be structurally weak, is in fact much better in the context of the entire series. I see Iron Man 2 as a pivot point for the whole six movie collection. It was here that we went from a nebulous shared universe to a focused over-arching story that was leading to The Avengers. As a stand alone that pivot point becomes harder to digest because there is very little pay off from most of the business of the movie.
I am very excited to say that the theory holds water, I did sense that Iron Man 2 played a lot better in this context. I almost don’t know if I ever want to watch it as a stand alone again. I think the best thing for anyone to do would be to splice it up with Thor and The Incredible Hulk and make a super movie to take all of their places.
Intermission time! At this point we got about 45 minutes to recoup. This also marked the beginning of the 3D portion of the marathon. One of the cool giveaways for the event was limited edition 3D glasses modeled after specific Avengers. I should say cool in theory because I was disappointed with my set. I choose the Iron Man glasses because I though they looked coolest, but something about them made it difficult to watch. I don’t know if it was my specific set or the design as a whole, but they got to smudgy to easily and were hard to clean, I had to go grab a normal set for the rest of the films and kept bouncing back and forth between glasses the rest of the day.
I recalled Thor very favorably in my mind. It was a fun film that very adeptly managed to bring a sense of magic and wonder to an otherwise very scientific world. Upon this marathon viewing it became so much more purly entertaining than I ever remember it being. Thor is a character that has been manifested in a near perfect way. I can’t imagine anyone else doing a better job than Chris Hemsworth, and the rest of the cast was spot on as well.
I always knew I was a fan of the Warriors Three, and Idris Elba is fantastic as always, but for some reason upon this viewing I really feel in love with Sif. A lady warrior who is bad ass, and up to this point put all other female characters in this whole series to shame. It was also interesting to watch Stellan Skarsgaard in this movie knowing he would play a rather important role in The Avengers upcoming.
CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER
It was at this point that it was all starting to come together. During Cap’s triumphant return from his daring rescue of the captured soldiers of the 107th a huge and uncontrollable smile came across my face. It was finally dawning on me that I was in the midst of watching something that shouldn’t exist. An honest to goodness, big budget comic book movie event. We were seeing Red Skull battle Captain America in a big budget blockbuster film that was leading to a freaking Avengers movie! The smile wouldn’t leave my face for the rest of the night.
I am starting to think Captain America is the best single film of this series. It plays better with each viewing and is a perfect rousing, fun adventure film. Also one of the few complaints I have about the movie, the fact that most of the action once Cap truly becomes Cap happens in montage, is severely lessened by watching this film in context with all the others. I might be over analyzing this one a bit, but it is almost like most of Caps exploits are just as distant in our minds as they are in everyone else’s in the present. All we remember about most of his battles are the money shots perfect for trading cards, just like the gushing Agent Coulson…
Which brings me to the finale, the reason we were all here. This movie was years in coming and as a whole the audience has been together for 14.5 strait hours waiting for this moment. The anticipation was tangible in that theater. We were ready, more ready than you could possibly be for the first comic book event film in the history of both storied industries.
The film did not disappoint, in fact it somehow managed to exceed expectations. The movie is a thrill ride, a non-stop roller coaster of familiar characters, places and themes. Watching The Avengers right after all the other Marvel movies sheds so much light on just how much they have been setting up since Nick Fury showed up in Iron Man 2. This was immediately a cohesive universe and with no time needed to establish that, the movie soared from the very beginning.
There was something magical about witnessing this movie for the first time like this. An unrepeatable feeling of discovery mixed with glee at every little nano connection to the 5 previous films, all magnified because we were just there. This was an amazing day capped off by an amazing film.
The Ultimate Marvel Movie Marathon was long, daunting and probably crazy. It was also one of the greatest experiences I have ever had in a movie theater. The shared community of a theater experience multiplied to the biggest extreme you can fathom, and the movies were alright too.
Oh and please do yourself a favor. If you read this far and have not seen The Avengers yet… go now! It is one of those films that should be seen with an opening weekend crowd, you will not be disappointed.