It’s a big week for Marvel and its cinematic universe. A second ‘Captain Marvel’ trailer has been released to much hype, with the first trailer for ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ and the much sought after Avengers 4 trailer (and potential title reveal) finally being unveiled in the coming days. The Marvel Cinematic Universe where we stand in 2018 is an entertainment juggernaut, with millions of people embracing and holding close the characters and storylines involved. As one such person who loves this franchise, upon seeing the immersive experience ‘Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N’ was opening its doors at London’s ExCel centre, I jumped at the chance to book tickets, and went along with a quiet excitement at what might be contained within. But is this something worth attending, or just something made to capitalise on fandom? I went along to find out…
First of all, what is ‘Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N’? Well, S.T.A.T.I.O.N. stands for Science Training and Tactical Intelligence Operative Network, and it’s billed as a place where “guests will step inside the popular films and become part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe storyline.” It’s an immersive experience, meaning as well as getting to see costumes and props form the movies, there are also some activities you can take part in to give you a taste of what it’s like to be one of the Avengers yourself. But more on that later.
I’ll start with the storyline of the experience. Yourself and whoever else is in your group are at the S.T.A.T.I.O.N to receive training, led by Cobie Smulders’ Maria Hill, in order to become a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. It’s obviously a very loose storyline, only really dealt with in the introductory room and the finale room. Throughout your experience, there will be several stewards who are in character as S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives themselves, which adds to the vibe of it all and is a nice touch. Your progression through the experience will take you through the labs of both Tony Stark and Bruce Banner, the former of which gives you the opportunity to ‘suit up’ in Hulkbuster armour and take on a legion of Ultron’s sentries. This was a fun idea, in reality it amounts to you thrusting your hands, much as Iron Man would, at a screen with a camera tracking your movements, but if you allow yourself to get swept up into it, it is definitely a fun moment.
Later in the experience, you’ll pass through exhibits devoted to Captain America, Black Panther, Thor and more, most of which give you small opportunities to put yourself into the shoes of your favourite heroes. You can sit on Cap’s Harley Davidson from ‘The First Avenger’, you can attempt to lift Mjolnir (Thor’s hammer), and one of my favourite touches saw ants projected onto the floor forming arrows towards Ant-Man’s suit. However, all this would lead me to my only real negative about the experience – the interactivity.
Now, I do think it’s fair to call this an interactive experience. There’s a good handful of small things you can take part in, with a big team activity serving as the finale, which I won’t spoil here. However, I do think, for price of admission (which for me was £25 before fees), it wouldn’t hurt to have a little more bang for your buck. It’s great to see one of the actual shields that Captain America has used in the films and get an up-close glimpse of several of Iron Man’s suits, but the immersion mostly amounted to small little moments that lasted 10 seconds or so and in reality, didn’t add a huge amount to my enjoyment. My favourite was a strength test which tested the strength of your grip, and compared it to the strength of various Avengers. But as cool as this was, it was really only 10 seconds of attempting to grip something as hard as you could. Perhaps some more scripted moments with the stewards would be a smart move?
After the final room, you of course arrive at the gift shop. I was excited to see what was on offer, but upon arriving in the shop, we were told that due to a missed delivery, there was unfortunately not a lot available that day. It’s disappointing, but it’s not something I can really hold against the experience itself, I was just unlucky on the day. Of the bare stock on offer, I did see some Black Panther helmets, several notebooks and stickers and a green screen photo opportunity, which now that I’m thinking back to it didn’t seem to be working. Most impressive of all though were some exclusive ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ posters which were very reasonably priced, but alas, they weren’t in stock. I’ll remain gutted about that for some time
So, what did I think of ‘Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N.’ on the whole? I enjoyed my time in the experience. It was a quiet day, with only around 10 other people seeming to be in the experience alongside my group, which did mean everything was visible and we could take part in all the activities without waiting. The website itself says the experience will take about 70 minutes, but on a quiet day like mine was, I was in and out in just under 45 minutes whilst doing and reading practically everything. Going in, my main concern was that the S.T.A.T.I.O.N. would be aimed more towards children, and whilst I do think kids will get a lot more out of it than a group of adults, I think there’s something for every Marvel fan here. If you’re a fan of the movies, I would definitely recommend it. I’d say probably make a day of the trip to London though, rather than go along solely for this.
By Matt Dobbie