So yesterday I had the opportunity to go to the Marvel Experience with 9 of my nearest and dearest. For those who aren't familiar with it, the Marvel Experience is an interactive immersion into the Marvel cinematic/comics universe. The company's website boasts "3 acres of fun" and a "must see event" of "hyper-reality". Tickets are approximately $30 per person with no variation for children or seniors. You can, however, upgrade to their VIP package for an additional $60. (That's right, triple the standard price.) VIPs don't have to wait in lines, can enjoy the onsite lounge and get a little bit of merch at the end. Parking was an additional $10/vehicle, but that might be due to our specific location and not controlled by the Marvel Experience itself. Our group of 10 went for the basic entry fee with no bells and whistles. We even managed to squeeze our entire party into one large vehicle. (We're squishy and cuddle well.)
What follows is my personal experience of the Marvel Experience. Some parts might be seen as negative and as TME has removed any and all negative feedback from their social media pages, I'm taking to my own space to tell you about it. Meet me after the jump.
The whole thing is set up in the middle of the Arizona desert. Outside, people queue up in rows based on your entry time and stare at shipping containers painted with SHIELD logos and the various insignia of certain super heroes. (In the picture to the right, we were outside of the perimeter set up by the shipping crates.) We were scheduled for an 11:30 time slot and arrived at that time. We waited until 11:50 to be told we could move from our staging area and into the lot.
Once through the archway of shipping containers, we had to be given "super power bracelets" that would "track our progress through the event". Well, when we got in, there were three lines of people getting bracelets and our line controller ran out. So we stood there waiting for bracelets before moving to another line to enter the first tent (marked "queuing area" on the diagram above.)
Now, along the walls were signs that urged people to log in and create their SHIELD recruit avatar and sync up. Apparently the bracelets would allow people to do this. However, these areas along the walls were boarded up. This leads me to believe there would/should have been touch screens to facilitate such a thing, but it was not up and running. No worries, right? We here in Phoenix, Arizona are the guinea pigs as this is a brand new venture for Marvel. Some things aren't going to be up and running, there are always glitches.
So, the line snaked into a large pavillion where we were greeted with video messages from Jocasta, introducing us--the new SHIELD recruits--to some of Earth's mightiest heroes. There were two places at either end of the tent where you could get your picture taken in front of a green screen, presumably to purchase later. We got our picture taken, but I didn't see the end result. We spent another 5 or 10 minutes waiting to shuffle through a single revolving door to the next area (the first dome).
Inside the first dome, Jocasta told us to expect a video briefing from Director Fury. This same message repeated itself for another 5 minutes while more people were funneled into the small dome. Shortly after noon, Director Fury notified us of a threat (droids that could mimic the powers of the Hulk, Iron Man and their buddies). Video-game-esque versions of Iron Man, She-Hulk and Maria Hill joined in to fill us in on what we new recruits could expect. After the briefing, we were shunted through a small antechamber and into the first real area of the Marvel Experience. (Note: it was probably 12:15 by this point.)
This is the largest dome and contains several things. First off is the entry way. A perimeter was formed to section this area from the rest, and it included touch screen monitors that would introduce you to certain heroes and some of the more popular baddies. Also, there were display cases of prop replicas. Thor's Hammer, Cap's shield, Loki's scepter (which was ALL wrong proportionally), and Bullseye's favorite projectiles (including a pencil. Seriously.) Stuff like that. In the center of the room was a tube containing one of the droids we were supposed to be hunting. Touch screen tables speared out from its hub and had a small game on it. Most of the tables worked, but not all of them at the same time.
Just beyond the "wall" was a cafe serving hot dogs, chips, soft drinks... your typical amusement park fare (and just as overpriced). This was, however, the only place to sit down we'd found since getting out of the car.
Anyway, after roaming this room, we moved into the next area, the "Training" area. This is by far the biggest room (and biggest draw) on the site. It included several attractions:
- Spider-Man Climbing wall: imagine a conveyor belt with rock-climbing nubs all over it, now make it vertical, and put your kid on it. There were supposed to be 2 of them, but only 1 of the walls was operational. It looked like it would be best for people under 18 (or a certain height/weight ratio).
- Black Widow Agility Course: a shipping container with laser webs (think of the movie Entrapment) that you had to maneuver your way through. A camera inside showed your progress to people in line outside. We couldn't find the end of the line for this attraction. It appeared to be roped off with no way to join the queue.
- Fly With Iron Man: Basically it looked like a Kinect or Wii game where your movements controlled an on-screen avatar flying through the air and shooting targets. Lines were hella long.
- Hulk Out: Similar to the Iron Man experience, only with more stomping and punching.
- Avengers Encounter: One of our friends did this and we knew it because this attraction was projected onto the wall. She stood in a certain place and struck a certain pose to "summon" an Avenger who would appear on-screen and run through a few fighting stances "next to" her. She ended up getting backhanded by The Hulk.
- A Shooting Gallery: The line for this one was astronomical and seemed to bleed into the lines for every other attraction. We couldn't see the attraction itself let alone get in line for it.
Signs everywhere stated that our power bracelets would buzz when we needed to move on in order to make sure the room didn't get overburdened with people. Guess what wasn't working. The power bracelets. This room was ridiculously crowded. The lines were too long and (as I said above) seemed to bleed into one another, making this area incredibly difficult to navigate.
Our group split off to do things here, but most of us did nothing due to the lines and inaccessibility. (Also, several of our crew do not do well with crowds, and therefore needed to go sit in the cafe.)
By the time we left through the QuinJet for the next area, we'd been at the Marvel Experience for 1 hour and had done very little that didn't involve standing in a line.
As you move to the next area (through the Quin Jet), you are told to give up your power bracelet. You can't go back into this dome, so make sure you have done everything you want to do before proceeding. Anyway, you're boxed into another queue area and given 3D glasses and a rubber bracelet that you get to keep with a bunch of sigils (SHIELD logo, and hero insignia) to put on it. After waiting, you get another quick video message and enter a new dome.
This dome is the "simularium". A 3D movie plays along the roof and walls. You stand and watch it. You're told not to sit down unless you have motion sickness problems. This part was okay. It was like watching a Disney Infinity game cut scene. My main problem with it was that no matter where I stood in the dome, I couldn't see very well. I kept getting Wolverine's junk in my face. That's not the "immersive experience" I'd been looking for. It's also very loud (like any movie), so if you're with someone who doesn't do well with loud noises, consider headphones or ear plugs.
After this dome, you are ushered to yet another waiting area where you see yet another video. This time with cheesy Disney animatronic interaction. You funnel through yet another revolving door and move into a movie theater. I liked this part because it was the first time I'd gotten to sit down.
Anyway, the first row of seats are reserved for people who are pregnant, with small children or who get motion sickness easily. The rest of the 10 rows are interactive, moving seats. The theater is supposed to be our QuinJet whisking us up to the Helicarrier, and we are soon set upon by Hydra's forces. So the seats move as you juke and dodge or get hit by giant robot hands.
At the end of the video, Earth's mightiest just aren't enough. They need YOU. You're told that if your bracelet lights up, you need to raise your hands and help Iron Man fend off the Red Skull. Well, by this point, we've turned in the only bracelet capable of doing anything other than becoming a dust collector. So, I couldn't help out. But we won anyway.
When we "landed safely", we were funneled into the final area: the gift shop.
Some stuff there was okay, but all of it was overpriced.
We walked out at 2:30pm and frankly, I feel like I hadn't done anything but stand in line.
If you're planning on going to the Marvel Experience, be prepared to do a lot of waiting in various lines. That's the majority of your time there. Also, you want to consider handicapped access. As far as I could see the attractions in the "Training" area did not accommodate anyone in a wheelchair. MAYBE the Iron Man and Hulk areas would, but I don't know that they were calibrated for people in a chair. Also? REVOLVING DOORS! SERIOUSLY!?
So, TL;dr version....
Overall, the concept is decent, but the execution is poor. The lines are ridiculous, even though the staggered entry times are supposed to deal with that. And while I can appreciate that glitches happen with new theme parks and such, we are figuring it all out for them for full price. And those glitches were many. Staff didn't really seem to know what they were doing, and SHIELD's well-oiled machine was in dire need of a tune-up.
With the simple (and trite) storyline and animated characters, I can see where small children would enjoy it.
The problem is that this is not being branded or marketed to children. It's being thrust at all Marvel fans. Sadly, it doesn't offer something for everybody. Instead, the only hyper-real experience I had was nearly elbowing someone in the throat because the quarters were rather cramped, and watching what amounted to video game cut scenes without the joy of holding the controller.
As a Marvel fangirl, I was disappointed.
Your mileage may vary.