Back in the middle of March, I heard that AMC Theatres was planning a 31-hour long marathon of films from the Marvel Cinematic Universe leading up to the first public screening of “Avengers: Infinity War.” The event was only being held in two theaters, one at the AMC Disney Springs 24 in Orlando and another at the AMC Empire 25 in New York City. Being a New Yorker myself, I was compelled to take on the challenge. Between the years of 2011 and 2016, I attended AMC’s annual 24-Hour Best Picture Showcase five times so this wasn’t something unusual for me.
Not every MCU film was being shown at the marathon. Considering there are eighteen films total not including “Infinity War,” the event most likely would have lasted somewhere around 48 hours. Instead, the lineup included eleven of the previous films leaving out “Iron Man 2,” “Iron Man 3,” “Thor: The Dark World,” “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” “Ant-Man,” “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” and “Thor: Ragnarok.” In the days leading up to the main event, I did the extra homework and saw each of those films again at home. While the “Iron Man” and “Thor” sequels underwhelmed on rewatch, especially “Ragnarok” which didn’t hold up nearly as well as when I first reviewed it, “Winter Soldier,” “Ant-Man,” and “Guardians 2” all held up wonderfully.
I arrive at the theater about twenty minutes before the first movie was set to begin and notice a counter in front of the ticket taker with employees handing out lanyards that we had to wear at all times, a large poster in plastic wrap with every hero in the MCU, and a collectible silver coin with the Avengers emblem on it. So many fans came out to the marathon that the theater held it in two separate auditoriums. Everyone was getting settled in, preserving their energy for the films themselves. Unlike some of the marathons I attended for the Best Picture Showcase, there wasn’t anyone hosting the event, introducing each film before they started. Every film started exactly when they were scheduled and the breaks in between were strictly used for restroom breaks, grabbing concessions, stretching, or taking much needed naps.
1:30pm – Film #1: “Iron Man” (2008), dir. Jon Favreau
“The truth is . . . I am Iron Man.”
As soon as the Paramount and Marvel Studios logos appear on screen, the audience erupts with excitement, ready for the mayhem that was about to ensue. Revisiting “Iron Man” was a particularly special experience because it feels like a smaller, more intimate story which has become rare in the more recent films. Casting Robert Downey Jr. in the role of Tony Stark was a stroke of genius and seeing him inhabit this character when it all began ten years later is just as captivating as it was when seeing the film for the first time.
Another major highlight watching this again was seeing Terrence Howard as Rhodey. As much as I like Don Cheadle as an actor, Howard’s portrayal is far more interesting and entertaining to watch. It’s unfortunate that he didn’t get a chance to continue playing this role. The rest of the cast remains exceptional with Jeff Bridges bringing humanity to a role that wasn’t particularly well written.
It was a lot of fun getting the chance to see “Iron Man” on the big screen again with a room full of hardcore Marvel fans. The action scenes, while much smaller compared to what we’ve gotten in the subsequent films, remain thrilling to watch, the visual effects still hold up ten years later, and the introduction of Tony Stark is wonderful. It’s disappointing that the sequels couldn’t live up to this standard, but this is a near-perfect starting point for the MCU.
Biggest Audience Reaction: The Introduction of Agent Coulson
4:00pm – Film #2: “The Incredible Hulk” (2008), dir. Louis Letterier
“Don’t make me hungry. You won’t like me when I’m hungry.”
“The Incredible Hulk” is the abandoned family member of the MCU. I’m still unsure as to why this film was included in the schedule as opposed to films more important to the larger story like “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” or “Thor: Ragnarok.” Either way, this movie technically counts as part of the universe and even though Mark Ruffalo would eventually take over the role, this is still supposed to be the same character.
Edward Norton was a really good choice to play Bruce Banner. He does a solid job capturing the calm, cautious attitude he has whenever he’s not the Hulk and sells the scientist angle very well. It’s not quite up to par with what Ruffalo has been able to do with the character, but this was a good interpretation.
The problem is that the tone and style are so drastically different from the rest of the universe and doesn’t entirely work. It’s an incredibly dark, dramatic film that feels too serious and more draining than it is engaging. The action scenes are often dark and the visual effects are horribly outdated to the point that it becomes distracting to watch. There are a couple of moments sprinkled throughout were the tension works, but not quite enough to make for an enjoyable film and clearly a good amount of the audience felt the same as they rarely responded the entire film.
Biggest Audience Reaction: Stan Lee’s Cameo
6:15pm – Film #3: “Thor” (2011), dir. Kenneth Branagh
“Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor.”
When “Thor” was first coming out, the marketing looked absolutely atrocious. After such a strong start with “Iron Man,” the MCU was struggling to capture the same success with “The Incredible Hulk” being a flop and “Iron Man 2” being a clear step down from the first film. Here, it seemed like this whole experiment could have crashed and burned before even reaching the big team up. While I know that there aren’t too many big fans of this film, I personally damn near loved it.
Watching it again with the context of what’s to come and how much Thor has changed as a character by the time “Ragnarok” comes around, I find myself wishing that the franchise would go back to the Shakespearean approach Kenneth Branagh injected into it here. Asgard is such a beautifully realized location and the relationships between each of the Asgardians has a strong amount of depth.
Chris Hemsworth became an instant star with his terrific performance and of course this is where we were introduced to Tom Hiddleston’s Loki who is phenomenal here. Of course, the big detractor in this film is that the chemistry between Hemsworth and Natalie Portman is completely non-existent and really just feels like two beautiful people falling for each other because they’re beautiful. There’s no denying that.
In the end, Kenneth Branagh’s direction is some of the best in the entire MCU. The action sequences are extremely well choreographed, the cinematography is excellent, and the fish-out-of-water comedy when Thor is banished to Earth is a lot of fun to watch. I much prefer this comedic angle as opposed to what we ended up getting in “Ragnarok.” I may be alone on this one, but this is easily the best installment of the “Thor” trilogy.
Biggest Audience Reaction: Hawkeye’s Cameo
9:00pm – Film #4: “Captain America: The First Avenger” (2011), dir. Joe Johnston
“I can do this all day.”
After our first of two hour-long breaks scheduled for dinner, we jumped right back in to watch “Captain America: The First Avenger.” For the longest time, this film has ranked on the low end of the MCU. While it was an enjoyable watch, it didn’t feel like a standout entry. That being said, this is probably the movie that got the most ecstatic reactions out of the audience aside from “Infinity War.” It felt like everyone in the theater was enjoying the movie as if they were watching it for the first time.
It was fantastic seeing the positive attitude of Steve Rogers in this film considering how much the character has evolved over the years. One of the major factors of superhero films that has been sorely missing lately is a selflessness within the protagonist, focusing more on the safety of the people rather than defeating the bad guy. That’s one of the reasons why “Wonder Woman” worked so well last year. Seeing that quality in Chris Evans’ portrayal of Captain America, especially in the scene where he jumps on top of what he believes is a live grenade to protect the soldiers around him, made me grin from ear to ear.
Out of all the films I saw at the marathon, “The First Avenger” is by far the one that improved the most on a rewatch. The old fashioned style of the filmmaking reminiscent of an “Indiana Jones” film made for a thoroughly enjoyable, fun time. The supporting cast all do fine work, especially Haley Atwell who’s by far the best love interest in the MCU. I feel bad that I never fully appreciated how good this was until now. Definitely solidified Captain America as having easily the best trilogy of films out of the big three Avengers. Also, the Star Spangled Man scene is the greatest thing ever.
Biggest Audience Reaction: “I Can Do This All Day.”
11:30pm – Film #5: “The Avengers” (2012), dir Joss Whedon
“There was an idea, Stark knows this, called the Avengers Initiative. The idea was to bring together a group of remarkable people, see if they could become something more. See if they could work together when we needed them to to fight the battles that we never could.”
I still vividly remember lining up four hours early for a 10am IMAX 3D screening of “The Avengers” three weeks before the movie came out at the exact same theater I did this marathon. Even though not every film leading up to it was a huge success, the idea of seeing all these superheroes together in a movie for the first time was too exciting to pass up. I will never forget the intense energy in the room as we witnessed what remains as one of the all-time great blockbusters, right up there with the likes of “Star Wars,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” and “Jurassic Park.”
After having seen the film countless times over the past six years, more times than any other Marvel film, it was a pure joy getting to experience the thrills again on the big screen. Unfortunately for the first 20 minutes or so, the projection was messed up as it was playing the film in the wrong aspect ratio, cutting off the top and bottom of the image. Eventually, this error was fixed, but it sure wouldn’t be the last error to occur.
“The Avengers” is a top notch blockbuster from top to bottom. Even under the conditions of watching the film in the late hours of the night having just sat through four films in a row, Joss Whedon’s masterclass superhero extravaganza captivated the entire crowd. Every joke still landed perfectly, every action scene still amazes, Alan Silvestri’s score is still goosebump-inducing, and the chemistry between the actors is still a wonder to behold. It’s as good as Marvel gets.
Biggest Audience Reaction: “I’m Always Angry”/The Avengers Assemble
2:15am – Film #6: “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014), dir. James Gunn
“You said it yourself, bitch. We’re the Guardians of the Galaxy.”
After the crazy fun of “The Avengers,” it was clear that the audience was starting to get exhausted by the halfway point as a decent amount of people started falling asleep. Unfortunately, it was during what is one of the most energetic films in the franchise with “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Thankfully, I stayed up the entire time and had a blast seeing the origins of what have become my favorite characters in the MCU.
While it’s clear that there’s always been a focus on strong, lively personalities for the heroes in the Marvel movies, I don’t think any writer/director put as much love and care into fully fleshing out his main characters than James Gunn did with this series. He has clear passion and love for these oddball outsiders that oozes off the screen in every scene. All of the actors do an amazing job bringing life to each Guardian and work off each other perfectly.
“Guardians of the Galaxy” obviously works because of the entertaining action, hilarious dialogue, gorgeous visual style, and the awesomely awesome Awesome Mix Vol. 1, but it shines because there’s depth to the heroes. The Guardians feel like a family as they grow to care for one another which is a quality that I don’t even get out of the Avengers as a team. It’s unfortunate that this was scheduled so late in the night because this is easily one of the best films of the MCU.
Biggest Audience Reaction: Thanos Scene
4:30am – Film #7: “Avengers: Age of Ultron” (2015), dir. Joss Whedon
“Keep your friends rich and your enemies rich and wait to find out which is which.”
When I first saw “Avengers: Age of Ultron” on opening night, I remembered thinking that while it certainly didn’t live up to the first film, it was still a hell of a great time. I hadn’t seen it again since it had its initial theatrical run so I was curious to see how it would hold up on a rewatch. Sadly, it didn’t.
This sequel just isn’t anywhere near as cohesive as its predecessor. The first film was a relatively simple concept and executed it perfectly while not being overly concerned with setting up future installments. This time around, Joss Whedon was given the task of planting the seeds for “Civil War,” dropping hints for “Thor: Ragnarok,” setting up for “Infinity War,” introducing three new heroes with wild new abilities, all on top of taking our main heroes down a darker path. As a result, the film feels messy and on unstable ground.
All that being said, there’s still stuff to enjoy about “Age of Ultron.” The team still bounces off of each other extremely well, the action sequences for the most part are super entertaining with the main highlight being Hulk vs Iron Man, James Spader’s performance as Ultron is delightfully menacing even if the character is a bit underwritten, and Vision was an exciting new addition to the MCU. The audience seemed to be having a good time, but a lot of them took a big nap during the section taking place at Hawkeye’s home halfway through the film.
Biggest Audience Reaction: Opening Team Shot
7:15am – Film #8: “Captain America: Civil War” (2016), dir. Anthony and Joe Russo
“When you can do the things that I can, but you don’t, and then the bad things happen, they happen because of you.”
“Captain America: Civil War” is the Avengers sequel that I wish “Age of Ultron” was. The Russo Brothers continue their grounded approach to storytelling that they implemented into “Winter Soldier” and balance the arcs of each character perfectly. While it certainly feels like a Captain America film, they never lean too hard on his side of the argument for whether superheroes should be forced to follow government orders. Tony Stark’s side of the argument is so well realized and fits in line with his character’s arc so far.
The airport battle has become one of the most iconic action set pieces in the entire MCU cannon. The audience went nuts over nearly every major action beat or character interaction. It’s undeniably a difficult task to stage such a large scale action scene with so many characters and have it be easily digestible but the Russos did it perfectly. All of the action scenes are expertly crafted, especially the emotionally charged final battle of Tony vs Steve and Bucky.
Prior to seeing “Civil War,” I wasn’t a big fan of the idea of having the Russo Brothers stay on to direct the two-part “Avengers” finale because I believe if a director stays on the same franchise for too long, their creative juices can get stale. It wasn’t until after I watched this film that it became clear that these guys can do an amazing job at balancing the stories of multiple heroes up to the level that Joss Whedon was able to do prior to “Ultron.” An argument could be made that certain aspects of this film even surpass the first “Avengers.”
Biggest Audience Reaction: Giant-Man
10:00am – Film #9: “Doctor Strange” (2016), dir. Scott Derrickson
“Dormammu, I’ve come to bargain.”
It took nine films within around 21 hours straight for me to finally fall asleep. Several audience members had already cracked a couple films ago and that number only grew by this point. It’s unfortunate because I was sleeping in and out of “Doctor Strange” and ended up missing some of my favorite moments in the film such as the first time Strange is exposed to the mystic arts and the finale scene with Dormammu.
Benedict Cumberbatch brilliantly inhabits the character of Doctor Strange and the visual effects here are more stunning than anything that’s ever been done in the MCU, but there’s actually quite a bit of magic mumbo jumbo and the villain is severely underwhelming despite being played by the always great Mads Mikkelsen.
There really isn’t much more to be said here. There’s some fun scenes showcasing the powers of the Sorcerer Supreme, however it feels like it’s only scratching the surface of what he’s capable of. The use of humor in the film also goes a bit overboard and sometimes falls flat. It really seems like I got unlucky and slept during the wrong bits, but that’s what happens when I put myself through a crazy task like this.
Biggest Audience Reaction: Mid-Credits Scene
12:45pm – Film #10: “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (2017), dir. Jon Watts
“Hi, I’m Captain America. Here to talk to you about one of the most valuable traits a student or soldier can have. Patience. Sometimes, patience is the key to victory. Sometimes, it leads to very little, and it seems like it’s not worth it, and you wonder why you waited so long for something so disappointing… How many more of these?”
I remembered not entirely loving “Spider-Man: Homecoming” back when it first came out. I definitely had a great time watching it and it was awesome to finally go see a Spider-Man film in the theater and actually enjoy it, something that hadn’t happened since Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man 2.” However watching it again at the marathon was a lot more entertaining than I remembered. Tom Holland’s portrayal of the web-slinger is wonderful, perfectly capturing the difficult balance of being Peter Parker the high schooler and the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.
The action scenes are competent enough to enjoy watching even if there isn’t a particularly exciting visual style. That being said, Jon Watts puts most of the focus on the high school aspect as well as Peter learning the full capabilities of his powers and his Stark-powered suit. It makes for some immensely entertaining moments. He’s also paired with maybe the best Spider-Man foe aside from Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin. Michael Keaton has a strong narrative arc throughout the film as Adrian Tombs/The Vulture. The scene where he confronts Peter when dropping him off to the homecoming dance with his daughter is such a suspenseful moment and Keaton’s acting was top notch.
“Spider-Man: Homecoming” is just a really fun, light movie that recaptures the magic of the Spider-Man character that’s been sorely missing for over a decade. At this point in the marathon, the audience has calmed down considerably and has been strictly watching each film if they aren’t sleeping with the occasional cheer for a Stan Lee cameo or a specific reference.
Biggest Audience Reaction: Iron Spider Reveal
3:15pm – Film #11: “Black Panther” (2018), dir. Ryan Coogler
“Just bury me in the ocean with my ancestors that jumped from ships because they knew death was better than bondage.”
I already reviewed “Black Panther” when it first opened and my thoughts remain the same as they did back then so I won’t be going too much into this one. I’ll just say that it remains the most emotionally investing, expertly crafted film in the MCU and that Wakanda is one of the most immersive locations to be put into any film. It’s still my current pick as the best film of 2018 and I’m curious to see how long it will take for a film to beat it or if it will be beaten at all. The audience excitement really jumped back up with “Black Panther.” The amazing score was pumping up the entire theater and it was clear that T’Challa and the rest of Wakanda would be one of the things this crowd was most excited to see coming up in the film we’ve all been waiting for.
Biggest Audience Reaction: White Wolf
*Film still in theaters so the scene’s not available online in high quality*
Now before I jump into “Avengers: Infinity War,” AMC made the odd decision to screen the film in 3D despite not advertising this at all when the event was first announced. Many of the audience members were upset about this, understandably so because the experience of watching 11 films in a row for nearly 28 hours was incredibly draining for the eyes now only to be challenged even more at the home stretch by dropping off a box of 3D glasses in front of the auditorium right after “Black Panther” ends.
Still didn’t seem like a deal breaker as everyone was still hyped for the movie to start. There’s random bursts of cheering leading up to showtime. The gentleman next to me stands up and makes a request to the entire audience to stay silent for the inevitable Stan Lee cameo so we could properly hear his line of dialogue. People are prepared with their concessions except for me because I couldn’t stomach eating any more theater food.
6pm comes and the trailers begin. There’s only one problem: the 3D doesn’t work. The audience immediately goes into a panic and several people run out of the theater to tell an employee about the mistake, some even suggesting that they just turn off the 3D so that we could watch the film in the more comfortable way. A couple of trailers play and then we’re shown a featurette on the 10 year anniversary of the MCU that’s in 2D so some of us think that they listened and it’s all smooth sailing. Then the movie starts and surprise, surprise, the 3D still wasn’t fixed. I decide to run out and tell another employee, hoping that maybe they would restart the film when it was fixed, but unfortunately it was fixed by the time I walked back inside and I had missed the first minute of the movie. Oh well, at least when I went to see it again over the weekend, I got to see the tiny bit that I missed.
6:00pm – Film #12: “Avengers: Infinity War” (2018), dir. Anthony and Joe Russo
“Perfectly balanced as all things should be.”
*This section is completely spoiler-free.*
I honestly had no idea how to feel about “Avengers: Infinity War” the moment that the credits rolled. This is such an eventful blockbuster that’s packed from beginning to end with content that is a lot to process after one viewing, maybe even too much. It’s easily the most ambitious film Marvel has ever made with the highest stakes to date. The challenge that the Russo Brothers had of taking nearly twenty characters and giving them all enough material to work with seemed like an impossible task and while it’s not quite perfect, it’s as good as it possibly could be.
After six years of build up, Thanos has become the most intimidating villain in the MCU. Josh Brolin gives an amazing motion capture performance, beautifully bringing humanity and depth to the character. Thanos is not just a typical villain looking to take over the universe. He’s a being that in his heart feels to be burdened with the task of saving the universe through the most heinous of ways. He truly sees himself as the hero of this story and it makes him that much more compelling as an antagonist.
The audience reactions during this movie were some of the most intense I’ve ever witnessed in a movie theater. The jokes landed hard and the action scenes were all met with enthusiastic cheers, but most of all I’ve never heard so many gasps and screams watching a movie in my life. By the time the movie finished, the audience was left completely stunned. There are some shocking things that happen in this movie so I cannot recommend enough going to see this as blind as possible, as soon as possible, with the biggest crowd possible. You’re going to want to witness the insane reactions and take part in them yourself.
That’s as much as I want to say about “Avengers: Infinity War” without going into spoilers so I’ll just end with this: while it’s definitely not as good as the first “Avengers” or “Civil War,” this is a much better film than “Age of Ultron.” At two and a half hours, the Russo Brothers clearly needed every second of screentime to tell this story and probably could have used more to add more breathing room to fully process the events taking place. All that being said, this is a bold, captivating thrill ride that hardcore Marvel fans are going to love. It’s going to be a long year waiting for the next film, whatever it may be called.
Thank you for taking the time to read about my experience at the 31-Hour Marvel Marathon. If I were to rank the films of the MCU, it’d be something like this:
1. “The Avengers”
2. “Black Panther”
3. “Guardians of the Galaxy”
4. “Captain America: Civil War”
5. “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”
6. “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”
7. “Avengers: Infinity War”
8. “Iron Man”
9. “Captain America: The First Avenger”
12. “Spider-Man: Homecoming”
13. “Doctor Strange”
14. “Avengers: Age of Ultron”
15. “Thor: Ragnarok”
16. “The Incredible Hulk”
17. “Thor: The Dark World”
18. “Iron Man 2”
19. “Iron Man 3”
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Thanks for reading!