SALT LAKE CITY — Whatever it takes.
The trailers for “Avengers: Endgame” have preached that phrase for months. Whatever it takes. The Avengers must do whatever it takes to reverse the decimating snap by Thanos in “Infinity War.” That’s their mission, their charge, their goal.
I used the phrase over the last three days for the 61 1/2-hour, 22-movie Marvel movie marathon hosted by the Megaplex Theatres.
And I survived.
I didn’t do it alone. I spent hours upon hours tweeting about my experiences using the hashtag #HerbScribnerEndgame. And an audience appeared. People willed me on. People celebrated my tweets. The community and excitement were buzzing on social media, willing me to survive. I’ll never forget the ways people helped me through. This is as much their marathon as it was mine.
I met a mother and daughter who were camping out in the front rows. They told me they were setting alarms for “Thor: Ragnarok.” In a tragic twist of fate, they slept through it.
I met a man named Jakob Jensen, director of health communication and technology at the University of Utah. He said he was going around meeting people at the event. When I met him on Tuesday morning, he wore a T-shirt and faded jeans. By Thursday night, on the cusp of “Endgame,” he was dressed in cosplay for superhero Doctor Strange, who is played by Benedict Cumberbatch in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
“I wanted to see who goes to a movie marathon,” he said.
Jensen split his time between work and the movie marathon. But he told me it was worth the experience to be in the theater for such an extended amount of time.
Caffeinated soda kept me buzzing. I lost count of the soda I drank. The motion of eating popcorn kept me awake. Five buckets in 60 hours will do that. I had conversations with Megaplex Theatres employees, a fellow reporter on the scene, and random patrons. One boy was there as a birthday gift from his mother.
The event came at a cost, of course. My pores are dripping with butter. My lips are desert-dry from salt. I have a canker sore on my lip from the salt. The hoodies and sweatpants I wore smell like feet and soda.
Thankfully, the Megaplex Theatres were well-prepared. I spoke with Jeff Whipple, the spokesman for the theater, who told me the theater chain had a full “battle plan” prepared to take care of the theaters where we lived for more than two days. Once we were all out of the theater, he sent two teams in to clean them. Wash the floors, sweep up the popcorn and air out the rooms. Indeed, as I left, the doors to the theater were wide open from the outside, letting the fresh air of the day filter its way inside.
But in the end, I experienced something that harkens back to the days of early human history, and yet is present in our lives in these superhero films. I found a community. I spent time with a lively group of 100 or so people. We cheered for our heroes. We rolled our eyes in dismay at the hours ahead. We sighed and exclaimed in pain that we were watching “Thor” at 2 a.m.
And the marathon gave me everything I wanted. “Avengers: Endgame” became the best version of itself that it could be. Seeing all of these Marvel Cinematic Universe films back to back — all 22 of them — gave us a complete story. Sure, there were Easter eggs we caught in “Endgame” that many others might not. Each movie was fresh in our minds, after all. But we had a chance to see the wider themes — about how good triumphs over evil, how we never stop believing in role models, and how there’s always the next step forward. There’s always another journey. We just have to be willing to take the next step.
I spoke with Jensen, of the University of Utah, about the impact of the marathon. We agreed on two things — the Marvel Cinematic Universe is basically Tony Stark’s story. We open the series with him in “Iron Man” (2008) and end it with him in “Avengers: Endgame.”
We also agreed that the 22-movie marathon is something unlikely to be done again in our lifetime. It’s a cultural moment for 2019. And it comes in the same year that other cultural hallmarks like “Game of Thrones” and the “Star Wars” Skywalker saga come to an end.
“They’re both sort of the climax to an ongoing saga. I just thought, you know, let’s get in the spirit of 2019 and go all-in on this,” Jensen said.
Like Jensen, I feel like I went full 2019 for this event. I spent 61 1/2 hours inside a movie theater, eating buttery, fatty foods, sipping on (thankful diet) soda, lounging around. We didn’t shower. We barely brushed our teeth. It was filthy, it was raw, it was human.
We didn’t storm the beaches of Normandy like Steve Rogers' compatriots did in “Captain America.” But rarely were people on their smartphones. Rarely were people embroiled in the anger and turmoil of our modern society. We didn’t argue over politics, elections, major reports or fashion. We chatted about superheroes. We remarked about our culture. We celebrated what the marathon means to us.
We found a way to unite. Like the Avengers, we — a group of strangers — joined together for a common cause. And it’s something we’ll never forget.
Recovery will take some time. I’ve already showered. The songs from the “Avengers” films and trailers are still blaring in my brain. I don’t know when my mouth will heal from the scars left by popcorn salt, butter and soda. The sleep debt is severely in the red. And I still haven’t fully processed the “Endgame,” which will require a rewatch and a return to what was, briefly, a home away from home.
But in time the scars will heal, the tiredness will fade, the desire to return will push me back for another viewing. But one thing that won’t wash away? The beautiful memories of the marathon and the sense of optimism, community and light I found inside the dark, smelly and sticky movie theater during the marathon.
Updated power rankings:
Going into the film, I wrote a full breakdown of my rankings for the 21 films that existed. Well, after seeing the film, here are my new rankings:
- "Iron Man" (93%)
- "Avengers: Infinity War" (85%)
- “Avengers: Endgame” (96%)
- "Black Panther" (97%)
- "Captain America: Civil War" (91%)
- "Thor: Ragnarok" (92%)
- "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" (84%)
- "Guardians of the Galaxy" (91%)
- "Captain America: The First Avenger" (80%)
- "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" (90%)
- "Marvel's The Avengers" (92%)
- "Captain Marvel" (78%)
- "Ant-Man and the Wasp"(88%)
- "Thor" (77%)
- "Iron Man 2" (73%)
- "Doctor Strange" (89%)
- "Ant-Man" (82%)
- "Avengers: Age of Ultron" (75%)
- "Spider-Man: Homecoming" (92%)
- "Thor: The Dark World" (67%)
- "Iron Man 3" (79%)
- "The Incredible Hulk"(67%)
Some thoughts: I made some changes to these rankings for a few different reasons. For one, I never realized how bad “Iron Man 2” and “Thor” were when I saw them originally. “Thor” was super slow, and “Iron Man 2” was clinky and all over the place. It just wasn’t great.
Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) elevated in my eyes. She was in so many movies. She kicked butt in all of them, and she did so many fun things throughout.
Movies like “Black Panther,” “Captain America: Civil War,” and “Iron Man” didn’t really change. Those were still among my favorite films. “Infinity War” was just as good as I remember it being, too. And “Endgame,” now, fits in pretty well toward the top. If it’ll change remains the question.