Saturday I was lucky enough to be a part of the press-preview for the Marvel Experience on it’s stop here in San Diego. Given the amount of hype that Marvel pushed towards the event at NYCC, I was curious to see what the execution would actually be like. Tickets start at $35 for adults, and $30 for children. There are also VIP packages that can cost more, which allow you to skip the line, and have access to a few other little perks, such as a private area with a bathroom, seats, and snacks.
Upon entering, you are directed to create a SHIELD account, which will make a little ‘ID’ you can buy at the store for a “nominal fee” ($12–definitely not nominal in my mind). While it’s fun to fill this out, with the way it’s set to take pictures anyone under 5’4’’ is going to struggle to get a clear photo. Which means most kids are going to have to be held up by their parents, or go without one. Not a huge deal, but definitely something I noticed. The account set up itself is actually pretty intensive, and I can see some people getting tired of it, especially young children, or the entire process backing up into a large line. It took my friend and I about 4 minutes to fill the thing out entirely.
After that, you are led through an area to take a picture on a green screen, where characters will be added in later. You can buy these pictures, of course, in the store later. While I think it is a fun souvenir, I couldn’t help but wish instead of characters being super-imposed onto a green screen, that there were actual characters to interact with, and take pictures with. In fact, much to my friend’s disappointment (and some others I heard talking), there are no people in costumes at all. You can’t actually meet Captain America, She-Hulk, or Thor, even the employees lacked a SHIELD uniform, save a SHIELD shirt that stated that they were “STAFF”. While I knew that going in, I am still slightly confused why they wouldn’t do that. As some lines can get long, having characters wandering and interacting with children would be an amazing ‘plus’ of this experience, and easily make the price worth it.
Then comes the actual experience. You are provided a ‘power band’ that I am… not quite sure the point is. From what I have read, originally they were to be tied to your SHIELD ID but none of us seemed to see that happen. It’s a neat little souvenir, at least. The first and second rooms are projection rooms, where you are provided information on your ‘mission’ as one of SHIELD’s new recruits. The computer graphics are impressive, and the voice acting/personalities of the characters you see (JARVIS, She-Hulk, Tony Stark, etc) is impressive. They definitely did their research and I found myself laughing more than a few times at Tony Stark and Spidey’s attitudes. Without giving much away, we are told that there is a new weapon developed by HYDRA that requires our help to defeat. After two short videos, we are sent into the next area.
The third room is the ‘training’; here you will find multiple interactive stations where people can pretend to be their favorite characters in various hands on events. The first involves trying to find pieces of an “adapton” -the weapons we are trying to defeat. After that, you are allowed into the giant dome, where you can pick and choose what you do at your leisure. There is a laser-shooting room (which I had a great deal of fun with!), a wall climbing station with Spider-man, two virtual stations where you can fly Iron Man or pretend to be the Hulk, and a laser maze with Black Widow. While all of them were a lot of fun–my friend and I also didn’t have to wait very long. Besides the ‘training sessions’ there is very little to do but eat at the small cafe. I’m not sure I would like waiting anything more than 20 minutes for any of the sessions. And when the experience is open to the public at large, I have no doubt that the wait times will push upwards of that for the majority of the sessions–the Black Widow maze in particular.
The dome itself is pretty loud as well; I can see it being entirely over stimulating for younger children, and due to weight restrictions, some kids will not be able to participate in everything.
After finishing training, you are ushered into the “second phase” of training, where you can assess villain threat levels, before heading into the quin-jet and virtual simulation area. Again, both of these include different videos. One is in ‘circle-vision’, and could cause motion sickness if you are prone to that. From there we are led into one final area–a theater for the motion ride. The production levels continue to be high, and save for a really cheesy ending (where we have to raise our hands in the air to ‘help’) I thought it was pretty good.
From there, though, we are done, and dumped into a gift shop. Most of the items here you can find at any convention or hot topic. They did have a good selection of Her Universe items, but at 3-5 dollars over the cost you would get directly from the website.
The entire experience took my friend and I 2 ½ hours. With the lines that I would imagine being involved on a weekend, I could see the time being pushed upwards of 4 hours–but with only about 90 minutes worth of actual interaction.
As a free experience, I had a great time. Even for 25$ I would probably have enjoyed myself. But considering that two people plus any children could push over $150… honestly, I don’t think it would be worth it. My friend and her husband felt disappointed that there weren’t any actual actors/costumed heroes, which could have pushed the worth of the experience up high.
For people who can’t make it to conventions, those added character interactions would have been great. But besides the interactive games in the third area, it genuinely is mostly movies that you stand and watch. While I am someone who spends a lot of time at conventions (and at SDCC in particular), I don’t think I could justify the cost of $35 on a ticket. There is a lot of promise in the concept and the experience itself, but as it exists now I just feel it is slightly over priced, especially considering most people will be bringing children, and kids’ tickets are only $5 cheaper compared to adults.
Bottom line? If you can get cheaper tickets through groupon/living social, I would say go for it. Even if you do end up paying full price, as long as you go into it with full knowledge of what happens as laid out in this review, I think you could have a good time.
It’s fun, but just not as good as it could be.