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Middle-Earth Madness: Surviving a Nine-Hour Hobbit Movie Marathon

Middle-Earth Madness: Surviving a Nine-Hour Hobbit Movie Marathon:

I am a nerd. A big, shiny, glow-in-the-dark nerd. I am a professional nerd, in that I get paid, occasionally, to indulge my nerdier tendencies. (And when I say nerdier tendencies, it’s a bit like Asa Akira talking about “exotic” sex — my baseline for normal is far beyond the norm.) In the days of my youth, I was an athletic soul but today, in my dotage, I have become an endurance sitter. I roll hard for a movie marathon. So when word of AMC’s Day of Hobbit Goodness — An Unexpected Journey, The Desolation of Smaug and Battle of the Five Armies, all in a row on Dec. 15, two days before the third film’s release — hit my ears, I signed up. Because of course I did. I’m that guy.

I’m a nerd. One who, apparently, doesn’t care for his ass all that much, given the amount of time I spent on it the other day.

Here is the record of my day spent in a movie theater watching all of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit movies in a row. For such things, there must be a record. And there will be SPOILERS — so steer clear if that’s a thing that offends.


9:15am. Breakfast. Half an apple.

10:00am. Second breakfast. The other half of an apple.

11:00am. Elevenses. Yogurt. Yes, I am spending the day eating like a Hobbit. And they eat a lot. Seven meals. And if you want to eat like that without having a coronary — and don’t plan on climbing a mountain, Doom, Lonely or otherwise — you’ve got to be prudent.

12:22pm. I get to the theater. There is a dude in a kilt standing outside on the phone, talking excitedly to someone he’d like the world to believe is his girlfriend, debating which commemorative poster he should take home. It’s gonna be that kind of day. (I got a Gandalf poster.)

12:31pm. Safely in my seat, I recline my automated leather seat-womb, and press the button to flag down the waiter. Yes, this is one of AMC’s dine-in theaters. Because if I’m gonna sit in a chair for nine hours, I want that chair to caress my ass like sexy red-leather Baymax and I want people to bring me food and beer like tomorrow is a rumor.

12:32pm. Lunch. Chipotle chicken and bacon sandwich. Time to stop fucking around. Before the lights go down, I look around at my fellow travelers. There are a lot of ponytails and hoodies.

Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield

Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield

12:33pm. An Unexpected Journey. Maybe I am the last person to notice, but amongst the endless dish-washing scenes and ridiculous amounts of hero-shots of head dwarf in charge Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) — seriously, every time you see this wee tough bastard, it’s a dramatic up-shot with the moon framing his head like a damned halo — I couldn’t help but be aware of a parallel between dwarves and Jews. Booted from their homeland generations ago; left to wander the world, scrambling for survival; with the hope of retaking their ancestral home the only thing that sustains them. More on that later.

2:10pm. I’ve nodded off. Elves and wizards are talking about some shit. I dunno.

3:00pm. These fucking eagles. If you don’t remember, in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, when Gandalf (Ian McKellen) is imprisoned atop Saruman’s tower, he sends a moth to fetch a giant eagle to fly him to safety. (Yes, I’m aware that I’m a grown man typing this.) Then, as Frodo and Sam are about to die in a lava floe on the face of Mount Doom, the eagles come in and fly them to safety. Which has long begged the question: If Gandalf had access to Eagle Uber, why wouldn’t he call them at the beginning of the story and just fly Frodo and the Ring to Mount Doom? Either the eagles are dicks or Gandalf is a dick — but someone here is a dick. In the first Hobbit flick, the eagles rescue the dwarven expedition, who’ve climbed into a tree to escape some angry orcs. Never mind the awesome tactical masterstroke of climbing into a tree at the edge of a cliff — well done, Gandalf. What’s next, Magic Patton, start a fire while you’re stuck in a tree? (He does, indeed, start a fire while stuck in a tree.) Why the eagles don’t just fly the dwarves to the Lonely Mountain is, again, a prime example of avian dickishness.

3:15pm. An Unexpected Journey ends. A couple of sad ushers attempt to host a trivia contest. “Can anyone name all of the dwarves in Thorin’s company?” So much bitch-please side-eye.

Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel

Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel

3:30pm. The Desolation of Smaug. We spend a lot of time with a lot of people in this one: Elves (led by Lee Pace’s preening Thranduil, Evangeline Lilly’s dwarf-chasing Tauriel, and Orlando Bloom’s shiny Legolas), the men of Laketown (Lee Evans’ Aragorn-lite Bard chief among them), orcs, wizards and dragons (the titular Smaug, voiced with basso absurdo by Benedict Cumberbatch). And here is where the bloat of expanding one book into three movies begins to be felt. Everything goes on for longer than it should and the narrative gets a bit flabby. Also: Thorin Oakenshield is an asshole. All the time. Makes every wrong decision, treats his loyal bannermen like shit, and the occasional “Good job, Bilbo” is drowned out by his monstrous ego.

5:10pm. Second nap. The Hobbit is talking to a dragon about…whatever. Might as well be sub-prime mortgages for all I care. I came here for desolation, damnit.

6:30pm. I can’t feel my ass. I think my coccyx wandered off in search of a Jason Statham flick.

6:40pm. Smaug is over. Three hours left. My time is getting short.

6:55pm. Last intermission. The theater has taken on a stench of fried food and couch sweat. Like a fog bank of mozzarella stick farts and lite-beer burps has hitched a ride on a truck full of popcorn.

6:58pm. Dinner. Mozzarella sticks and lite beer.

7:05pm. Onscreen introduction to The Battle of the Five Armies by director Peter Jackson, standing outside Bilbo’s house. He congratulates us for being among the first to see the film before anyone else in the world — aside from the cast, the crew, their families, hundreds of members of the press, millions of people overseas. But we feel special! We did not marinate in our own juices for nothing! Peter Jackson loves us! Then he goes away and we get a movie.

One of five armies

One of five armies

7:10pm. The Battle of the Five Armies. Okay, here’s the problem. Thorin Oakenshield is, as previously established, an asshole. And his character’s journey is to, eventually, not be an asshole. He gets there, in the last 40 minutes of a nine-hour saga, but it’s too little too late. Martin Freeman does noble work as Bilbo, but that character’s journey — from a comfy shut-in to someone who would kill to save his friends — is completed in An Unexpected Dishwashing Party. Both of our main characters are static and one of them is an unrepentant douchebag. A greedy one at that — which is where the ugly part of the dwarf-Jew analogy comes into play. As posited here, by both Tolkien and Jackson, the best of the dwarves comes to value gold and jewels above all else. He forsakes his friends, his kin, his word to hoard as much loot for himself as possible. They call it “dragon madness” in the film, but it’s ugly and obvious.

There is, indeed, a battle between five armies but — unlike the Siege of Helm’s Deep in The Two Towers or the Assaults on Gondor and the Black Gate in Return of the King — this display of CG prowess evokes no emotional response because we, the audience, are not invested in whether anyone lives or dies. Will Thorin be able to defend the Lonely Mountain against those who want his gold, even though it’s abundantly clear that if he just shared it like he promised, there’d never be a war? Can Bard save the scattered humans of Laketown, who were kind of dickish to the dwarves when they first encountered them? Should Thranduil stand and fight with the Laketowners, even though he’s a stand-offish fop who is in it for himself?

Should any of the people we don’t care about do things that are out of their pre-established character so the film can resolve itself?

8:55pm. Doesn’t matter, because the fucking eagles show up again. Tolkien’s eagles are, perhaps, the worst deus ex machina in all of pop culture. I just can’t with these friggin’ birds.

The Eagles (and two guys who should

The Eagles (and two guys who should’ve hitched a ride)

9:30pm. And it’s over. Plot threads are tied off. Nods to events in The Lord of the Rings are given. Characters are dead, as is my phone. I pry myself from the giant, reclining, red-leather catcher’s mitt I’ve been sitting in and head home, spent. For all my complaining, I’m glad I did it. Sometimes, you want to ingest a massive slab of culture all at once. If done right, a movie marathon will batter down your calloused, grown-up resistance, leaving you a bit more willing to suspend disbelief and roll with the punches drunk on childlike euphoria and lite beer. You should try it. At least once.

9:40pm. Supper. A stale protein bar. That’s my seven meals. I finish what I start. And I don’t vomit.


Marc Bernardin is the Deputy Editor of Playboy.com. When it is time, he will retire from this plane and go into the West, to the Gray Havens with the rest of my kin. But not this day.

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