Sunday 21 December 2014

I survived The Hobbit marathon – and didn't even get a T-shirt

I have never run a marathon.

And as I approach my CPF drawdown age, it’s becoming more unlikely I will ever get to wear a 42.195km finisher T-shirt (unless I buy one on Ebay or Carousell).

So last week, I did the next best thing – I joined The Hobbit marathon.

And I don’t mean a marathon where very short people with pointy ears run in bare feet.

I mean an endurance test to watch director Peter Jackson’s entire The Hobbit movie trilogy in one evening to mark the release of the final movie of the series.

I know what you’re thinking - that sounds even more tortuous than an actual marathon. Yes, but you don’t get popcorn at an actual marathon.

But you’re right. I remember watching the first Hobbit movie in the cinema two years ago. It was so long and gruelling that it could be a marathon by itself.

And I saw it twice. Not content with just watching it in Imax 3D, I thought I would enjoy it more in HFR 3D. I did, but even then, I dozed off during the goblin chase sequence.

While I’m a fan of Jackson’s earlier Lord Of The Rings trilogy, the first two Hobbit movies have been less than precious.

So the prospect of sitting through three bloated Hobbit movies back to back to back was about as attractive as catching rats in Bukit Batok.

The first movie, An Unexpected Journey, is 169 minutes long. That’s over two and a half hours.

The second, The Desolation Of Smaug (not Smong), is another 161 minutes.

The final movie, The Battle Of The Five Armies, is a comparatively fleeting 144 minutes.

That’s a total of 474 minutes, which is seven hours and 54 minutes. Almost eight hours!

That’s probably also how long it would take me to complete a actual marathon, that is if I could make it to finish line.

But eight hours is a sprint compared to the 25-hour eight-movie Harry Potter ultra-marathon in 2011.

No, I wasn’t crazy enough to take part in that butt-numbathon. I may be “strange and warped”, according to one The New Paper on Sunday reader last week, but I’m not a masochist.

Or am I?

Hey, I have an idea. Instead of seats, the cinema could provide treadmills for the audience to run on while watching the movies. Now that’s a real movie marathon.

But I suppose that’s too much to expect for $46, the sum I paid for The Hobbit marathon.

It’s cheaper than a ticket to watch the Dim Sum Dollies.

And less than half the registration fee for the Standard Chartered Marathon, which was $96 and didn't include even one movie, much less three. Sure, for $96, you got a goodie bag and a running singlet (plus a finisher tee if you crossed the finish line).

But for The Hobbit marathon, you also get a Hobbit pin badge, a bento dinner, popcorn and a bottle of Coke (but no dim sum).

I guess that’s the main difference between an actual marathon and a movie marathon – at the end of the latter, you get fatter.

No, I didn’t eat The Hobbit pin badge.

When I booked the tickets online for me and my 15-year-old daughter a week before The Hobbit marathon, the only seats left in the 602-seat GVmax hall (with Dolby Atmos) were in the first three rows.

I could already feel my neck cramping up just imagining looking up at the screen for eight hours.

My daughter wanted to see The Battle Of The Five Armies as early possible and we thought sitting through the movie marathon was the only way.

It was not only after booking the tickets when I discovered there were sneak previews a week before the movie’s Thursday opening. Aiyah!

So on Wednesday, like a fellowship of two, my daughter and I set out for Vivocity, prepared for a long and arduous evening.

The first movie was supposed to start at 5pm. It didn’t.

There was a live contest to give away some posters. After that, we still had to sit through three ads and a couple of movie trailers.

And then An Unexpected Journey began.

I was surprised people still guffawed at the jokes in the movie like it was the first time they heard them. Even my daughter laughed despite having seen the movie twice before.

Once again, I dozed off during the goblin chase sequence.

When the credits rolled, the audience applauded. I wasn’t sure if they were applauding the movie or themselves for making through it.

I heard someone behind me say: “One down, five more hours to go.”

My daughter and I collected the bento dinner, which was rice with vegetables, a springroll and some meat resembling chicken, outside the movie hall and ate it at the 7-Eleven next door, where we bought a strawberry-kiwi Slurpee to help wash down the food.

Many others ate their dinner sitting on the floor in the Golden Village lobby.

The second movie was supposed to start at 8:40pm. It didn’t.

More posters were given away plus the three winners of the best costume contest were announced.

Then the audience were made to shout “Golden Village” twice for some video somebody was shooting.

After that, it was the same three ads and a different movie trailer.

And then The Desolation Of Smaug began.

I didn’t fall asleep at all, but now my daughter was yawning.

The credits rolled. More applause.

During the break, we walked around the darkened mall, which was a little eerie since all the shops were closed as it was past 11pm.

The third movie was supposed to start at midnight. You guessed it – it didn’t, even though there were no more posters giveaways or costume contest winners

We watched the same three ads for the third time and another movie trailer.

And then The Battle Of The Five Armies began.

This time, the audience cheered at the start the movie.

Finally! What we were all here for!

It was a good thing I had just watched the first two movies because otherwise I would’ve forgotten about a few plot points and minor characters, and be confused by the new movie.

But even though the audience cheered the loudest when the credits rolled for the last time that night, I think The Battle Of The Five Armies is the most frustrating of the three Hobbit movies.

Let’s just say it’s no Return Of The King.

At least when the first two Hobbit movies disappointed, you could tell yourself it would all pay off in the end. But when the last one is a letdown, you realise this is it. You may have just wasted eight hours of your life.

But I didn’t.

Even though the final movie may have literally been an epic fail, The Hobbit marathon was the most enjoyable time I’ve had in the cinema in a long while.

Partly because the fans in the audience made it so much fun, but mostly because I got to spend eight hours with one of my favourite people in the world, my daughter.

We’re already planning to watch The Hunger Games marathon next year.

If only they gave out finisher T-shirts for movie marathons.

- Published in The New Paper, 21 December 2014

CORRECTION: The Harry Potter movie marathoners got a T-shirt.