As I type these words, it’s 9 a.m. on April 23, 2019, and I’m about to embark on a sleep-deprived journey into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. At just three theaters in the country, AMC is hosting an insane 59-hour marathon of all 22 movies in the MCU, starting with Iron Man at 10 a.m. on April 23, up until the Avengers: Endgame, which concludes at 9 p.m. on Thursday. It’s $125 a ticket, but since that works out to about $5.60 a movie, it’s pretty much the bargain of the century. Either way, staying awake through this will be a feat as superheroic as any in the movies I’m about to sit through.
As I head to AMC Lincoln Square in NYC, this is my stated goal: I will not sleep through any movie. I want to stay awake for everything, including all of Marvel’s lesser “2” movies (Thor 2, Iron Man 2, Avengers 2) and all of the post-credits scenes. To accomplish this, I’ve consulted with “The Sleep Doctor” Michael Breus, author of The Power of When: Discover Your Chronotype, to determine the best methods to stay awake and what I might experience during this period (for the record, he said I might hallucinate).
So, here I go. No sleeping. Whatever it takes.
Tuesday, 9:57 a.m. (T-minus 3 minutes)
Rules are laid out for the crowd, including “No sleeping in the aisles.” Good rule!
Tuesday, 11:08 a.m. (1 hour, 8 minutes)
The first Stan Lee cameo receives excitement from the crowd, which I estimate to be about 90 percent male.
Tuesday, 12:05 p.m. (2 hours, 5 minutes)
Just noticed a guy wearing a plastic light-up Infinity Gauntlet, so I plan on keeping my distance. Iron Man has concluded and so far, there is no detectable odor in the theater (just so you know, I’ll be tracking this throughout to give everyone the full experience — after all, it’s a theater full of 342 sweaty nerds, myself included, so I figure things will get pretty ripe after a while).
By the way, Robert Downey Jr. changes his clothes 38 times in this movie. The sleep doc advised me that to make it through the whole marathon, I should make a game out of each film, so I’m counting how often the main hero changes. By doing this, Breus assures me I’ll be more engaged and more able to make it. The Incredible Hulk is up next. Pretty sure the green guy changes his clothes less than Tony Stark.
Tuesday, 12:20 p.m. (2 hours, 20 minutes)
The Incredible Hulk begins, about a third of the seats are now empty. Do people really hate this movie that much?
Tuesday, 12:34 p.m. (2 hours, 34 minutes)
Stan Lee’s second cameo (he drinks Hulk’s blood from a soda bottle). As for me, I’m eating something for the first time; just a handful of almonds. I was told by Breus to go straight keto as carbs will put me to sleep. Despite being told by AMC that no outside food was allowed, I called bullshit on that and packed food for the next three days. Fuck Thanos, carbs are the Avengers’ true enemy.
Tuesday, 2:05 p.m. (4 hours, 5 minutes)
Hulk is over. No smell. He changes like 33 times in the movie — I didn’t think about how often his clothes are torn to shreds. Meanwhile, there are already about four people asleep. They are weak.
Tuesday, 2:30 p.m. (4 hours, 30 minutes)
Iron Man 2 begins with the same number of empty seats.
Tuesday, 6:10 p.m. (8 hours, 10 minutes)
I can’t help but notice Thor’s continuously hard nipples. Also, had my first yawn just a second ago. Time for my first cup of coffee (I snuck in a jug of cold brew in my backpack). This is actually my first coffee in more than a week, as Breus said that by getting off coffee for seven to ten days beforehand will lower my tolerance and give the caffeine a greater impact when I do have it. He advised that once I start drinking coffee to have small amounts regularly, but to refrain from chugging it, as then I risk getting the shits.
Tuesday, 6:30 p.m. (8 hours, 30 minutes)
Loki dies for the first time as some guy two aisles away snores obnoxiously.
Tuesday, 6:44 p.m. (8 hours, 44 minutes)
There are about six to eight people asleep, including one guy with sleep apnea. We actually get to have an extended break now, so I’m going outside to get some sunlight, as Breus said that I should always try to get 15 minutes of light between each film as this will stop the melatonin flow in my head and stave off sleep. When it comes to the middle-of-the-night breaks, he told me to literally go into the men’s room and stare into the lights for a few minutes. It may sound unpleasant, but I’ve had much more unpleasant times in Manhattan men’s rooms, so this should be easy. Honestly, had I thought it out, I would have skipped that coffee and napped now, as I was told catnaps will help too, but now I’m a bit wired. Hope this doesn’t haunt me later.
Tuesday, 7:30 p.m. (9 hours, 30 minutes)
Went to go sit down next to an outlet to charge my phone, but I decided against it when the dude already sitting there began to determinedly pick his nose.
Tuesday, 7:50 p.m. (9 hours, 50 minutes)
A dude is asleep on the floor in front of the screen. Technically he’s not violating the “no sleeping in the aisles” rule. Quite clever of him.
Tuesday, 10:29 p.m. (12 hours, 29 minutes)
In the lobby after Cap and before The Avengers, I found a dude doing push-ups and a woman who I thought was asleep but is in fact doing yoga stretches. I’m just pacing in circles on my phone. Despite my low activity level, I’m starting to feel a little chafe going on. Definitely going to have to change clothes after Avengers.
Tuesday, 10:35 p.m. (12 hours, 35 minutes)
Avengers begins to a nearly full house. No smell. All is well.
Tuesday, 11:17 p.m. (13 hours, 17 minutes)
Starting to feel a little dip. My third yawn of the event strikes, so I’m going for my second cup of coffee. Worry not, I will make it. Cap and Iron Man meet for the first time — let the dick-measuring contest begin.
Wednesday, 12:06 a.m. (14 hours, 3 minutes)
That fucker two aisles over is snoring hard, and through the Harry Dean Stanton cameo, too. Shameful.
Wednesday, 12:50 a.m. (14 hours, 50 minutes)
Care to guess which Avenger changes his clothes the most? (It’s Iron Man, of course). Time to change my own clothes as I’m getting a bit sweaty. I hope my fellow nerds planned ahead as well as I did.
Wednesday, 1:03 a.m. (15 hours, 3 minutes)
All benches in the lobby are now napping areas.The theater may still be fresh-smelling, but the men’s room is getting rough, with piss on the floor and clogged toilets. A guy nearby exclaims, “Yo, I can’t feel my ass, bro,” then grabs his buttocks.
Wednesday, 1:15 a.m. (15 hours, 15 minutes)
Iron Man 3 begins to a half-empty theater.
Wednesday, 2:06 a.m. (16 hours, 6 minutes)
Downed my first 5-Hour ENERGY. The movie is starting to feel super long, and it isn’t just because of the substandard villain. I packed a case of 12 of these things in case of emergency, and I’m dipping into it way earlier than I had planned. The first doubts are entering my mind…
Wednesday, 3:23 a.m. (17 hours, 23 minutes)
Iron Man 3 ends. I had forgotten it was a Christmas movie! I mean, it’s Shane Black, so of course it is, but still. I would say there are about 20 to 30 people sleeping now. Several are on the floor by the back of the theater, some in the lobby. I’m feeling okay sleep-wise, but my eyelids are feeling a bit heavy. The last movie seems less clear to me than the others, but I didn’t sleep at all, I just felt a little muddled. But maybe that’s the movie a bit, too.
I spend a solid two minutes of this break literally staring into a light in the men’s room, as per doctor’s orders. I will need all the help I can get to make it through Thor: The Dark World.
Wednesday, 4:29 a.m. (18 hours, 29 minutes)
The guy next to me had been going strong for the whole marathon, but when Thor 2 starts he settled in for a nap. Now he’s awoken in a coughing fit during the agonizingly long funeral scene for Thor’s mother. Lovely. As of now I’d say 60 percent of the seats are empty, and more than half of those that remain are asleep. There’s at least 10 snorers in here, maybe more.
Wednesday, 4:34 a.m. (18 hours, 29 minutes)
Guy next to me is making strange honking sounds after falling back asleep.
Wednesday, 5 a.m. (19 hours)
As Loki dies yet again, I’m starting to doze hard. Definitely spending more effort to stay awake than I am watching the movie.
Wednesday, 5:33 a.m. (19 hours, 33 minutes)
Break between Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I’ve got to recoup as this is my very favorite MCU film. The lobby is basically a ghost town now: No push-ups or yoga, just a dozen or so floor-sleepers and the rest are zombies who are barely speaking, myself included. I head outside for fresh air and to stare into streetlights, trying to be careful not to be late for the next one as my perception of time seems way off.
Wednesday, 5:50 a.m. (19 hours, 50 minutes)
As Cap 2 starts, there are a handful more seats full and much of the crowd awakens and rallies when it begins. There are still a couple of snorers, but way less. I down my second 5-Hour ENERGY.
Wednesday, 6:36 a.m. (20 hours, 36 minutes)
Forty-five minutes into Cap 2, right at that totally badass elevator fight scene and I’ve fully caught my second wind. I feel awesome. At least, I think it’s my second wind, but it could be the energy drink kicking in. Breus said it may be hard to tell the difference, but that a caffeine kick might seem more jittery. Curious why we get a second wind at all, I had asked Breus earlier, who explained that it’s because the brain doesn’t understand why we’re still awake, so it goes into fight-or-flight mode, believing there’s a possible threat. My brain is right. There is a threat, and its name is H.Y.D.R.A — wait, I mean S.L.E.E.P.
Wednesday, 10 a.m. (24 hours)
Twenty-four hours baby! Right at “We are Groot” in Guardians of the Galaxy. The floor’s gotten sticky now, but there’s no smell and I’m not battling any sleepiness. Just 36 hours to go.
Wednesday, 10:15 a.m., (24 hours, 15 minutes)
Start of an extended break of two hours, going to try to nap. I didn’t plan to open it, but I’m using my new blanket that came in the goodie bag I got at the door.
Wednesday, 11:40 a.m. (25 hours, 40 minutes)
Got some sleep. Hard to say exactly how much, but I was able to dip out a little bit in my seat. Heading outside into the light to get as much as possible before Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Wednesday, 12:30 p.m. (26 hours, 30 minutes)
For Avengers 2, the theater is the most full it’s been since Iron Man. Aside from the very sticky floors, the pillows and all the backpacks, it seems like a pretty normal theater. There are only a handful of sleepers now and one very loud snorer.
Wednesday, 4:53 p.m. (30 hours, 53 minutes)
Ant-Man just wrapped. More than halfway through the whole thing now and I’ve only had one coffee since my nap. Holding pretty strong overall. Several of my theater mates are talking about blacking out unexpectedly, especially during Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s one of the strongest movies, so I’m guessing the awesome soundtrack just lulled them to sleep.
Wednesday, 5:15 p.m. (31 hours, 15 minutes)
Nearly a full house for Civil War, which makes sense considering pretty much everything from here on out stems from this movie.
Wednesday, 6:20 p.m. (32 hours, 20 minutes)
I unexpectedly black out for like 10 seconds. Scary shit. I down another 5-Hour ENERGY.
Wednesday, 7:37 p.m. (33 hours, 37 minutes)
As the credits roll for Civil War, I listen to people nearby debating what’s going to happen in Avengers: Endgame. Speaking of which, worry not, there will be no Endgame spoilers here… Unless Ant-Man ends up killing Thanos by entering his asshole. If that happens, I can’t promise I won’t spill the beans.
Wednesday, 9:48 p.m. (35 hours, 48 minutes)
Doctor Strange just ended and I had a really hard time getting through it. I even downed another 5-Hour ENERGY about an hour ago, and it didn’t seem to do much. I never fell asleep for more than a few seconds, but it was rough. I’m not the only one, either — there are a lot more empty seats around and at least a dozen or so people sleeping. Not the all-out snooze fest of last night yet, but it’s getting there. Heading outside for fresh air and to glare into street lights before Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. I don’t want to miss any of baby Groot, so I’ve got to get it together.
Wednesday, 10:07 p.m. (36 hours, 7 minutes)
Walking back into the theater, I’m seeing spots from glaring into the lights for so long. I’m sure I looked like a fucking lunatic outside doing that, but fortunately it’s New York City and no one gives a shit — even when I almost fall down the escalator.
Thursday, 12:20 a.m. (38 hours, 20 minutes)
Just finished Guardians 2 and I barely made it, nodded off probably a half dozen times, but never more than a couple of seconds. I even had another 5-Hour ENERGY an hour ago. It seems as though they no longer have an effect, and I’m starting to feel a little sick to my stomach. I just have to make it until about 5:30 a.m. — that’s when there’s another extended break so I can catch a nap. Problem is Spider-Man: Homecoming and Thor: Ragnarok are before the break, and they’re two of the best MCU movies. Must not sleep. Must not sleep.
It’s getting a little weird in the theater again — someone is sleeping under the bench now and another one on top. I’m going outside for a walk. Breus told me that the only things that will get me through this are “activity, caffeine and light” and since the light and caffeine aren’t cutting it, I’m going to lap the block a few times. Outside, some girl is screaming at what I presume to be her boyfriend about how she’s “been here for hours!” They’re both attending the marathon, so maybe the stress is getting to them. Sleep deprivation can make you crazy.
Thursday, 12:45 a.m. (38 hours, 45 minutes)
Had to step over about six different people laying on the floor in the back of the theater to get to my seat. There are also a handful laying out in the front of the theater too. The whole place is about half empty right now.
Thursday, 3 a.m. (41 hours)
Nodded off for like a second a half-dozen times during Spider-Man. I change my clothes, and once again, it’s zombie time in the lobby as barely anyone is talking to each other. I go for a walk around the block in a daze. It’s time for Thor: Ragnarok, a movie which I love.
Thursday, 5:30 a.m. (43 hours, 30 minutes)
Fell out a lot during Ragnarok. I never let myself doze or felt it coming on, it just seemed like I would blink and it would suddenly be five minutes later. I’m royally pissed about this because this movie is one of my absolute favorites, top five for sure. Fuck. I am not worthy.
Heading into the last extended break. Time for a nap.
Thursday, 6:42 a.m. (44 hours, 42 minutes)
Awake from a much-needed nap and I still feel like I want to sleep more, but I’m resisting the urge. Instead I’m going for a walk to get a cold brew and some keto-friendly eggs from Starbucks.
Thursday, 6:53 a.m. (44 hours, 53 minutes)
It’s pretty fucking cold out but I’m hoping the brisk walk will help wake me up a bit. I was really disoriented on the way here and forgot to look at the crosswalk signals more than once. Fucking line might cause me to miss the first few minutes of Black Panther. I am not happy.
Thursday, 9:02 a.m. (47 hours, 3 minutes)
Black Panther just ended and I’m doing alright. I’m surprised that half the seats are still empty. I’m guessing that the next one, Avengers: Infinity War, will be much more full. I notice that a lot of people are still sleeping in the lobby as I head outside for another brisk walk.
Thursday, 9:39 a.m. (47 hours, 39 minutes)
Loki dies again as Infinity War kicks off to a mostly full and awake theater.
Thursday, 11:22 a.m. (49 hours, 22 minutes)
For the record, I don’t blame Star Lord for what happens. Yeah, he got emotional there with Thanos, but Thor not going for the head is an equally huge blunder, as is Cap’s decision not to kill Vision and destroy the stone earlier. There’s plenty of blame to go around, and if Thanos did nothing wrong, certainly Star Lord shouldn’t be blamed either.
Thursday, 11:41 a.m. (49 hours, 41 minutes)
The snap! I’m also enjoying the last few minutes of Cap’s beard. It is glorious.
Thursday, 1:34 p.m. (51 hours, 34 minutes)
I down my first 5-Hour ENERGY in a while because I started to lose focus during Ant-Man and The Wasp, though that may be because I watch this one a lot with my daughter.
Thursday, 2:04 p.m. (52 hours, 4 minutes)
Much of the audience gasps and shouts during the Ant-Man and The Wasp mid-credits scene due to something that might link to Endgame. I won’t say what, but I think you’ll know it if you watch it.
Thursday, 2:20 p.m. (52 hours, 20 minutes)
I venture outside for a $3 chicken kabob. After two days of increasingly warm cold cuts and Starbucks ready-made eggs, it’s like gourmet dining.
Thursday, 3 p.m. (53 hours)
Take another energy shot during Captain Marvel. Taking no chances as I literally near the Endgame.
Thursday, 4:32 p.m. (54 hours, 32 minutes)
Captain Marvel is over, and I’m feeling strong and alert. In the lobby, a handful of press are here interviewing people about the experience and if they’ve showered in the past three days. One guy says he’s been cleaning himself up with Wet-Naps, though I wonder if he’s just saying that for TV. I buy some popcorn. Yes it’s carbs, but I reason that it will give me something to do with my hands if I eat slowly. Also, there was an overpriced collector’s bucket, so of course I needed it.
Thursday, 5 p.m. (55 hours)
The crowd is ecstatic and cheerful as the AMC commercial cues up, but things quickly turn bad when everyone realizes there are still trailers to sit through. There are enthusiastic boos until the movie starts, but fortunately, there are only three of them.
Thursday, 8:15 p.m. (58 hours, 15 minutes)
That’s it. Endgame is over and I slowly walk out of the theater with everyone else. There’s a wide mix of emotions going on: Some people are crying; others are excited; and others, like myself, are silent. Few people seem to linger though, as they get their last bit of swag — a poster and collector coin — and head out of the theater.
I won’t discuss Endgame here, but as for the whole marathon experience, I’ll say that neither my biggest fears nor my highest expectations were realized. There was no smell, thanks to AMC’s killer ventilation, and also no hallucinations. I did see a guy who was painted purple like Thanos walking in when I was leaving, but I’m fairly certain he was real. On the other hand, I will say that depriving yourself of sleep for three days is not the best way to get excited for a film, as your level of disorientation hardly lets you have a fresh, open mind.
There’s also the fact that the whole experience has made my entire body go into surrender mode. I’m super tired and disoriented — reading is difficult, let alone writing. It culminates on the way home: My body finally waves a white flag as I pull desperately into a New Jersey rest stop, where I find myself having to shit and throw up at the same time.
The doctor didn’t warn me about that one.