The Marvel Experience
In recent years, the name ‘Marvel’ inspires trust and draws fans everywhere, for it being synonymous with high-quality blockbusters. It has raised the bar were high for superheroes, year after year, as proven again last year with “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” and even catapulted obscured characters in the “Guardians of the Galaxy” to worldwide recognition. And ask anyone who attends Comic-Con; it’s consistently one of the most popular and packed panels.
The Marvel Experience took place in colossal domes. The first entry point was a memorable takeaway of the experience, where each visitor was asked to create a custom S.H.I.E.L.D “recruit” ID badge, complete with an individual photo. The badge was sent via e-mail as a souvenir. Anyone who felt uneasy and thought that this as a marketing ploy to get demographic information could simply put in random information (there’s even a ‘species’ line where we’re given options like human, superhuman, android, etc.). It’s harmless. I was impressed with how authentic the badge looked! (I would have posted it here had I not used my personal information) Enthusiastic staff, dressed in black S.H.I.E.L.D t-shirts, addressed every guest as “recruit” and handed individual Marvel bracelets as we went in. We were told that we would need it later.
Visitors were grouped in batches and let in as the first dome was filled to capacity. We watched some Marvel TV clips before moving on to the main domes. The next two domes had displays, such as weapons used by the Marvel superheroes (shield, sword, hammer, stingers, headband, and many more). Granted, they’re more like toys than real movie props exhibited at Comic-Con, but still interesting to view. There were also origin stories and information about those characters, including familiar characters in the Avengers (Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow, Thor, Hulk, Spider- Man) and other lesser known ones (She-Hulk, Iron Fist, Panther).
Interactive games were the bulk of the attractions, most notably, “training sessions” by our favorite superheroes. Iron Man’s flight. Black Widow’s laser maze course. Spider-Man’s moving rock walls (mainly for kids). Thor’s holoblaster (shooting). Hulk’s drone blasting. And Avenger’s holographic encounter. Other than Black Widow ‘s and Spider Man’s, the majority involves interacting with video screens to mimic those characters’ movements, targeting and obliterating their respective obstacles or enemies. Scores were tallied.
What I found most interesting was the Avengers one, where a distinct movement style would “summon” a certain Avenger and I’d see myself on the screen with said Avenger standing next to me or in a fighting mode. A salute gesture would bring forth Captain America, standing tall and ready to soar Iron Man, clasp arms Nick Fury, hulking out Hulk, fighting position Black Widow. The way the projection appeared truly looked like these superheroes were present among us. It’s quite neat.
Leaving this dome (no return privilege) and entering a replica model of Quinjet, the Avengers’ jet, took us to the “advanced” training session, a 360 degree, stereoscopic 3-D show in a simularium. We looked up and followed the superheroes breaking into Hydra headquarters and battling its army. There’s no sitting, but I found it fortunate to be standing at the back corner of the room where I was able to view the projection almost all around and get the most benefit. Like anything in an amusement park, it lasted only minutes and was just too short, unfortunately.
The last session was a simulation ride, with chairs that tilted, lifted, rocked and rumbled. During certain scenes, there was air blowing as an added effect. Each guest was asked to use the Marvel bracelet, an interactive part of the scenes, where we’re assisting the superheroes to defeat the enemy. The ride was very gentle that no seat belt was needed.
When I first heard of the Marvel Experience, the inner superhero kid in me was so excited and couldn’t wait until it arrived in San Diego. However, there were a lot of doubt with unfavorable reviews from a couple other cities where it was previously held. I tempered my expectations and decided to go anyway. As a Marvel fan, there’s no way that I would have missed it. In the end, it’s nothing compared to Universal Studios or Disneyland, but it was never meant to compete with either in the first place. And the absence of costumed characters or images of the stars from the movies didn’t dampen the experience.
Some activities may be what you’d consider cheesy, but they’re all in good fun. I spent a solid three hours, and if not because of the lines, I probably would have tried every activity. The verdict? I really enjoyed it for what it was!
Copyright (c) 2015. Nathalia Aryani
Nathalia Aryani is a film columnist and has a movie blog, The MovieMaven (sdmoviemaven.blogspot.com). Twitter: @the_moviemaven. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos by Nathalia Aryani.