Last week Darlene and I had the opportunity to check out The Marvel Experience at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. It’s on tour across the U.S. and will be here locally through Sunday, March 1.
It’s a self-contained, interactive attraction — sort of like a miniature theme park meets video game meets hands-on museum… and a gigantic house ad for Marvel’s movie and TV properties.
The gist is that Nick Fury, Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Samuel L. Jackson-style, not David Hasselhoff-style) needs help to battle the crime organization Hydra. So we “new recruits” are issued I.D. cards and sent through a crash-course basic training regimen.
“Recruits” are ushered into one of many connected domes. Within, we receive our training (flying in Iron Man’s armor, running a laser maze designed for the Black Widow, shooting at various Hydra adaptoid robots, Spider-Man wall-climbing, etc.) via interactive video games (think first-person shooters or Dance Dance Revolution-style arcade gaming) or hands-on equipment. Joining the aforementioned Marvel characters, Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Wolverine, Black Panther, Iron Fist, Vision and She-Hulk are prominently featured on video screens at each exhibit and instruct “recruits” on what tasks to complete.
Afterward, we’re led to a 360° 3D simularium which does a very good job of putting you within a video game. The plot thickens, Hydra makes their move. From there, you board an Avengers Quinjet to help the Avengers tackle a gigantic Hydra menace. This would be via a Star Tours-type VR ride and is considered the grand finale. From there you exit via the gift shop and you’ve just spent a good two hours of escapism.
My take on it is that the 10-year-old me would have had a complete blast. It’s clearly aimed at small fry and there’s enough there to keep parents and older Marvel fans entertained. But make no mistake: this is absolutely geared toward youngsters. The jokes and dialogue are corny, the interactivity of the main Recruit Training Center will keeps kids occupied and excited, and the Quinjet ride will hit them with plenty of shock and awe.
As a critique, Darlene and I were disappointed there weren’t more female characters represented in the interactivity dome. When it came time to Customize a Costume or try your skill at one of the exhibits, there was only one female choice (Black Widow) for the girls. Now, S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Maria Hill, sentient robot Jocasta (seen above) and Bruce Banner’s fun-loving cousin She-Hulk were also seen here and there on video screens, but that was about it. Research shows that girls make up about half of the comics-reading population. Marvel/Disney needs to be more inclusive in the future.
I also think the Marvel Experience could have been improved with the occasional cosplayer — in total character — dropping in to check out the “recruits” and give them some face-to-face encouragement (not to mention photo ops). I don’t think it would have been that big a deal to have a random Nick Fury, Hawkeye, Black Panther or She-Hulk walk among the crowd on occasion. When Universal Studios (Los Angeles) had its Marvel attractions and restaurant in the late 1990s, you could talk with Captain America, Spider-Man, Wolverine or Storm… and I think that went a long way to keeping the adults entertained while the younger set would gush and geek out. (Full disclosure: I gushed and geeked out when Captain America deputized my friend Burns and me as Avengers back in 1998. And I was pushing 30.)
Official info for The Marvel Experience here.
Disclaimer: I was invited to check out The Marvel Experience. My tickets were complimentary and I was not compensated for this review. All opinions are my own. A-doy.