7 movies over the course of 19 hours, starting at 2 a.m. and culminating with the premiere of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. Sounds like fun, right? Based on the horrifying looks I received from people when I informed them I was going to the Star Wars movie marathon at the Marcus Majestic Theatre, perhaps not. But these cinematic endurance tests are one of the staples of my movie diet, so I knew once tickets were available that I was going to push my sanity and butt to the limit. Do or do not.
1:10 a.m.: Auspicious beginning to the evening’s festivities. Freeway closures prevent me from getting to the theater early and I have to take side streets, leaving me afraid I’ll have to make due with a subpar seat. But we all know fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, etc. etc. so let’s let this play out.
1:50 a.m.: I manage to get my seat – front row, center. This is a worst case scenario situation as I’m not a ‘front of the theater’ guy, so this could prove to be my personal Heart of Darkness by about 6 a.m. On the brighter side, it’s one of the Marcus Majestic’s smallest side theaters, so the view isn’t oppressively overwhelming.
1:52 a.m.: I packed only the essentials – notebook, mints, deodorant and a downy coat that can double as both a blanket and a pillow. For sustenance, I will rely on the land — aka concessions, which are purported to be open all night.
1:55 a.m.: The theater manager comes in to get everyone fired up, and, more importantly, inform us that the bar will begin serving alcohol at 7 a.m. This may prove particularly important, given we’re starting with the prequel trilogy.
1:59 a.m.: The crowd is amped up, swinging around toy light sabers and whooping and hollering when the screen turns on, the 20th Century Fox fanfare begins and John Williams’ iconic score kicks in. I’m already having fun. This was a good idea.
2:00 a.m.: STAR WARS EPISODE 1 – THE PHANTOM MENACE
2:10 a.m.: This was a bad idea.
2:50 a.m.: “Deesa very bad!” says Star Wars’ pariah Jar Jar Binks right before he steps into a pile of alien poop. I know how he feels.
4:20 a.m.: A round of perfunctory applause greets the end credits as giant CGI fish man holds up a giant CGI orb of swirling light so a giant CGI crowd can applaud that giant CGI peace has been restored.
4:31 a.m.: I’m emotionally shaken by how truly terrible The Phantom Menace is. I’ll need allies to make it through the next 17-plus hours. I acquire a giant-sized Pepsi and give the keys over to caffeine.
4:35 a.m.: Striking up genial conversation with those around me, everyone seems excited to be here (including the two pre-teens here with their parents in my row).
4:42 a.m.: Right before the next film starts, it hits me. Food options that are predominantly fried multiplied by an extremely small theater being shared for the better of the day equals a field of gastrointestinal landmines. Stay tuned.
4:44 a.m.: The crowd is already punchy, shrieking in horror when the picture takes a minute to boot up leaving us in darkness as the fanfare kicks in.
4:45 a.m.: STAR WARS EPISODE II – ATTACK OF THE CLONES
5:30 a.m.: While the action in this film is conceptually better (there’s a car/foot chase that at least makes an effort), we’re still spending the majority of our runtime listening to various characters make complaints re: politics and bureaucracy, all being delivered with the conviction one would expect from a billionaire filmmaking working without oversight.
5:45 a.m.: “Something terrible has happened.” – Yoda. You’re telling me.
6:45 a.m.: I turn around during Attack of the Clones’ rousing finale to see the crowd rocking a firm 25/75 awake-to-asleep split. It appears they’re voting with their consciousness.
7:15 a.m.: The texts I’m sending my wife between movies are beginning to take on the dimensions of a Ken Burns documentary. “My darling – It’s now hour six. Spirits remain high although supplies are low. I remain faithfully yours – Tom.”
7:30 a.m.: STAR WARS EPISODE III – REVENGE OF THE SITH
7:31 a.m.: For the second straight film the picture doesn’t appear right away. I begin to suspect a vengeful theater staff may be trolling us.
8:50 a.m.: Loud, persistent snoring can be heard as the onscreen battle for Anakin Skywalker’s soul is waged.
9:15 a.m.: Stockholm syndrome might be kicking in, but this is certainly the least terrible of the prequel movies. Granted, they’re all edited and lit like garbage filled with wooden performances and perfunctory plotting (especially weird, given all he had to do was set up the pins he had already knocked down previously). I cackle along with the audience at Ian McDermid’s deliciously committed performance as the evil Senator-turned-Emperor Palpatine.
9:45 a.m.: The way the crowd reacts after each of these films ended (‘’Three down! Whoo!”) make it feel like we’re all undertaking these prequels as a form of ascetic punishment before we allow ourselves to hope Star Wars is about to become good again.
10:00 a.m.: My eyes ache and the theater has become a swirling vortex of farts, but I’m still having fun.
10:15 a.m.: I pick up the Marcus Theater’s cocktail special, dubbed ‘The Force: – VINIQ, raspberry schnapps, sweet & sour mix, fresh mint, all garnished with a lemon. It both looks and tastes like something Samantha from Sex and the City would order if she were to appear in a Star Wars crossover. I like it.
10:30 a.m. STAR WARS EPISODE IV – A NEW HOPE
10:31 a.m.: Make that three movies in a row where the opening minute is not projected. The audience has become openly hostile, and if we can figure out a way to weaponize plastic toy replicas, Marcus Theaters may have a mutiny on their hands.
11:00 a.m.: This is like wading into an oasis after an eight hour desert sojourn – Lucas is speaking in an entirely different cinematic language in this original trilogy, valuing character development and using clean, uncluttered shot compositions.
11:25 a.m.: The scene transitions here are like the chapter cliffhangers in a pulp novel, whereas the previous three movies had transitions that felt like chapter breaks in a poorly written regency romance.
11:30 a.m.: The crowd is attentive, leaning forward and emotionally invested in a way that hadn’t been at any point earlier.
11:40 a.m.: I perfectly time my first (and only, it turns out) mid-film bathroom break to miss out on the special edition scene of Han Solo and Jabba the Hutt meeting.
11:50 a.m.: I’ve discovered a posture game-changer – lifting the armrest slightly and balancing it atop my crossed leg. Heretofore unseen comfort.
12:45 p.m.: Right as the film wraps up, there’s a large drink spille behind me. I had already moved my backpack onto the seat next to me; the force is strong in this one.
12:55 p.m.: Overheard as I walk back from the bathroom between films: “That was a slow one.” Weep for humanity.
1:00 p.m. STAR WARS EPISODE V – THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
1:01 p.m.: The opening title crawl is finally made visible this time around, catastrophe avoided.
1:02 p.m.: I notice a disturbance in the force – a couple has taken the seats of a trio who had been here since the beginning.
1:15 p.m.: Balance has been restored to the force – a theater employee came in and had them move so the original owners can take their rightful place.
2:00 p.m.: The deliberate pacing of these movies make them feel like Bergman pictures compared to the spastic prequels.
2:15 p.m.: To support that claim, Empire is featuring the most audience snoring of any movie so far.
3:45 p.m.: During movie trivia, I win two free tickets for knowing the first chronological appearance of Boba Fett in the Star Wars movies. Easy, yes, but Tom knowbas Boba.
4:00 p.m.: There’s a growing line outside of people that may be waiting for their seats for later showings of The Force Awakens, but from the looks of it they may also just be The Revenant cosplayers.
4:15 p.m. STAR WARS EPISODE VI – RETURN OF THE JEDI
4:45 p.m.: Big ups to the guy who spent 60 bucks to watch the prequel trilogy and sleep through the originals in the row behind me.
5:20 p.m.: Admiral Ackbar’s (a squid-faced space pilot) “It’s a trap” line gets the biggest applause break of the night.
6:10 p.m.: Sorry Mr. Lucas, but Yub Nub was better.
6:30 p.m.: A between movies self-smell check proves inconclusive. I’m in the muck, as they say.
6:40 p.m.: Good vibes abound! The aforementioned seat thief returns to apologize to the three young men.
6:50 p.m.: Groups of well-adjusted women attending the Sisters screening next door to ours give pityingly looks to our exhausted, splayed out humanity and I check my phone to make sure I didn’t time travel back to high school.
6:58 p.m.: There’s been a low-level energy building since 2 a.m., as this collective has slowly been reminding themselves of the movie universe they loved so much as a kid (and have passed on to their kids, based on the audience split) and have now reached a fevered peak to our excitement, giddily counting down the minutes until an entirely new Star Wars movie plays out in front of us.
6:59 p.m.: The lights dim. That familiar title card comes on: “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….” A brief pause. Then the audience loses their minds in a joyous eruption as we begin to cross the finish line.