|Featuring all of your favorite heroes...and The Vision|
For a particular poignant point on pretense, see this ad for the event's showing in my area:
Here's the truth. The Marvel Experience is essentially a technologically powered revival of the circus, with a Marvel paint job, except worse. That's a loaded statement; I understand. Circuses have a seedy reputation, of being bad for their animal performers, not even very good for their human performers, forcing a life of cramped quarters and restlessness, pawning suckers out of money at side attractions, scaring more children than they entertain with their clowns. They've been losing ground to television, and now the Internet, and for many it's good riddance to bad rubbish. Still, the kid in me loves his memories of when the Carson and Barnes Circus came to my crummy little podunk (that I lived in then) and made it a little less crummy. The moment felt particularly unreal because the circus set up right on our Elementary School's soccer field, which meant that in Physical Education class, we jogged our usual laps around the unusual big top, then relished going back to our campus at night for the big show.
The Marvel Experience briefly revived those experiences with the over-the-top way it stoked our fandom at the gates, but when we got into its modernized version of the big top (it's a bunch of white dome structures), it soon dawned how empty it felt. Ultimately, it was a collection of quaint-but-cheesy sets, serviceable-but-short films, really terrible video games and live actors, and a mediocre 3-D film and motion simulator ride.
A particularly odious thing about this attraction's pretense is that it mandated crowds be delayed from entering at a normal pace, so more pep talks could be delivered, either by employees (who were, in my judgement, more likely to have been locally contracted proles than a troupe traveling with the show) or characters in videos. This kept us stopping where we were, first outside, and then in a lobby where we watched some videos...and then in another lobby where we watched some more videos.
|The two lobbies are marked in the lower-right quadrant of the map.|
The first video we watched was by Captain America, the second by Iron Man (with Pepper Potts coming in to snark it up), the third a collaboration between a generic female reporter, a thinly veiled expy of Stan Lee played by Stan Lee, and J. Jonah Jameson, and the fourth by the whole Avengers team, plus a feminine robot hostess who may or may not be original to this event, and who was, but-for no visible nipples or camel toe, essentially naked.
|The "Recruit Staging Area" was beautifully-lit by color-changing spotlights, for absolutely no reason.|
|Captain America talks up the weaklings.|
|Is "Megan Fox the New York Reporter" the new TMNT film's main contribution to pop-culture?|
|"Hi there; Virginerds! I'm hear to make you not regret spending your money on this! (No promises.)"|
|The "Shield Mobile Command Center" was full of glowing machines that didn't do anything.|
|Well, this is neat, but what the Hell is it?!|
|Is that sky? Is this supposed to be the Helicarrier we're on?|
|There were both outhouses and a trailer of regular, flush toilets, like this one here.|
|I actually own a book collecting these. "Blablabla transistors bla!"|
|Cox made an interactive exhibit of sifting virtual Adaptoid parts out of virtual dirt and reassembling them. Weird.|
|Hey; I think I've seen these at Toys 'R Us!|
|Sometime between last Thor movie and now, I guess they developed walls that could hold up Mjolnir.|
|Pictured: Not vibranium.|
|Marvel villains are a metrosexual lot.|
|Nick Fury's |
|If you're disappointed you can't see any gameplay, don't be. It sucked.|
I don't have a picture of that one, but speaking of somewhat physically exerting tasks, there was also a booth where you could wall-climb like Spider-Man...except not really. It was two standard rock-climbing conveyor belts, plus one that had a ladder instead, and a screen up above showing a video of Spider-Man monitoring your progress--maybe. I did it, and it was fun enough, but that's not really how Spider-Man does it, at all--he doesn't need to grab outcroppings; he just sticks to things.
One other "video game" was available to play in the "Recruit Training Center"; this was a lightgun game in a theater where people all got a gun and shot at Super Adaptoids on a screen. I put "video game" in quotes there, because save for the numeric designations of our guns appearing on the screen when we aimed and fired, I don't think there was any actual effect on the outcome, although they did tally up scores afterward, somehow.
After that, I actually stood in line for the Avengers Encounter segment I had photographed a lot while standing in line for other things, which means I finally got photos with myself in the action.
|Black Widow kicks me in the face.|
|Now Hulk punches me in the face. This was the highlight of my evening here.|
Having done all of the things in the central dome, I went into what was supposed to be a Quinnjet, but they did a terrible job at it. The thing had no floors of its own; merely walls separating its interior from the rest of the dome. In this was one more really bad video game, entitled "Villain Tracking", where you watched videos describing villains, after which you touched an interactive world map with "threats" displayed, and after clicking them, you'd decide how much of a force you would need to dispatch to take care of them, and then read the results. That's it; that was the whole game.
|Are you sure this thing is aerodynamic?|
|These stills are from a video with Maria Hill describing Red Skull. By the way, Nazis are never mentioned.|
|The "cockpit" was just a picture behind a window.|
The video ended with Skull's goons shooting at what was supposed to be the place we were, and jamming the door out, after which Hulk leapt into action onscreen to yank it open, and we then saw a cute practical effect of his big green hand receding into a curtained nook besides the door. Through that door was the "Transport Hangar", ostensibly a sort of mini-helicarrier embedded in the domes, in reality a mediocre motion simulator ride. The ride's footage was supposed to depict the event itself, as seen from the outside, but there was one problem; the surroundings of the event simply didn't match. Ahead to the right in the video were a bunch of generic tall buildings, which simply don't exist in Del Mar; also the region seemed to be a desert, while Del Mar consists of many flood plains; hence the name. A bunch of stuff flies across the screen, and then the villains board a massive mech and attack. After the heroes swarm over it, they request people's help, asking them to hold up their hands wearing the bracelets received in the "Transfer Dome", which supposedly caused a bunch of laser beams to hit the big mech on screen, and blew it apart.
There. That was the whole "We help save the world" bit the whole event was building towards. Wow.
After that was the "S.H.I.E.L.D. Shop", with a generic inspirational Stan Lee plaque, a quite limited selection of merchandise, a spot for people who actually wanted to to buy their own S.H.I.E.L.D. IDs, and very unconvincing fake incarceration pods for Red Skull, Madame Hyrdra and MODOK.
|"Well then; onto the next endorsement!"|
It's sad, because the idea itself isn't without merit. If they were more interested in noting their competition and finding out the sort of themed attractions that actually appeal to people, they could've made an experience as good as its concept, but here they just got too ambitious, and tried to do too much for too many in too little space and too little time with too little money, to do any of it right. It's my hope that since Disney now owns Marvel, eventually we will get something better, preferably a sedentary Marvel theme park that's bigger, better, and broader (in its demographics). For now, though, The Marvel Experience is a waste of time and money. In fact, whatever the Marvel experience really is, it's not this.