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For me, there’s no better experience than an immersive one; especially when it has a geeky theme to it. So it will come as no surprise to you that I was bubbling with anticipation when I was invited along to the press launch event of Marvel's Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N at the ExCeL.
The Captain America section, which included a personal file on Steve Rogers and of course that glorious suit from Winter Solider.
To be honest, nearly any time I’m heading towards the ExCeL, I start getting excited. That might seem a little weird to some, but I guess it’s because it feels like my nerdy, spiritual home, after attending numerous Comic Cons over the last year. Funnily enough, the simulation event is not actually IN the ExCeL, but rather parked just outside the East entrance, like a towering mobile building full of mystery.
I had high hopes for this evening, as the event had already achieved hugely successful runs across the globe. These included stints in New York, Seoul, Paris, Singapore, Beijing, Taipei and Las Vegas, where a permanent exhibition is actually housed - a little nod to any US-based readers lurking around here!
It's safe to say that it did not disappoint.
It’s hard to summarise this event in a simple sentence because it encompasses so much. It’s a hybrid of an exhibition, a VR simulation and an immersive experience packaged together to create a fan extravaganza like no other. They even utilise science and technology by NASA (yes, you heard that right, bloody NASA!) to detail the real research that goes into these films. If you’re a STEM student, you could even count going here as research.
...Maybe. I take no blame if your teacher pulls you up on that.
When you enter, you’re immediately greeted by a video clip of Maria Hill (they even got Cobie Smulders to record a segment!), who instantly casts you in the role of a S.T.A.T.I.O.N agent - S.T.A.T.I.O.N. being an acronym for 'Science Training and Tactical Intelligence Operative Network', of course. Once the sequence is complete, the doors open and you’re let loose into the maze of Marvel. I nearly didn’t make it through the first room, because I almost died of excitement when I saw what greeted me.
The Iron Man Engineering Bay. Marvel, can I please have a suit of my own? I'd be pretty happy flying to work everyday
Seeing Tony Stark’s suits up close was really something to behold, I tell you. Everyone in there was fighting for a selfie with the Mark V. But who could blame them? After I’d stopped gawking over all the spellbinding suits, I went on to experience what was probably the best VR part of the whole event. That’s right. I got to control my own Iron Man suit.
On a screen of course. But same difference, right?
In all seriousness, this was such a fun simulation for me, especially being a gamer. You got to use your own hands as repulsors, shooting away bad guys and controlling your weapons. ALL without the aid of a headset or bodysuit. This was some next level tech, y’all. I was mad impressed. There are other mini-games throughout the whole experience to have a go at, but this was my personal favourite.
There were rooms dedicated to many key players from the Avengers; with Captain America, Hulk and Thor being some of the standouts. This London exhibition also has some brand new exclusive character sections never seen before, such as Thanos and Black Panther. Each room really embodied the character’s traits and personality, with little nods to well-known gags throughout the series.
I personally adored The Thor Observatory, especially because the screens in the room allowed you to study the universe and its current parameters using NASA’s EYE on the exoplanets program. It was like a mini Astonomy lesson! Mjölnir was also housed in this room, and the staff member actually asked me to try and pull the hammer from it’s position to test if I was worthy.
Naturally, I was then devastated to discover I wasn’t. Boo.
Moving on, some of the lighting and effects throughout really made the atmosphere come to life. A standout for me was the little ant projections, inspired of course by none other than Antman himself. I ran across the floor several times, watching them assemble. I’m really like a six year old at heart.
An Antman light show, with The Thor Observatory lurking in the background
For me though the real kick to this event was the lore. There was so much that there could be encyclopedias of it (Ravenclaws would have a field-day in there). Every character and item had a long and detailed entry, revealing minute details and backstories that are too granular to make it into the films. This was fan-service done right.
You'll also be pleased to hear that you aren't ushered along the event. You’re free to wander and explore at your leisure, to take as much or as little time as you need. So perhaps if you’re more fascinated with the games and props (or attending with smaller humans, AKA children), then you can whizz through and skip everything else.
If however you’re a hardcore nerd like myself, then there’s Easter eggs all over to explore. You’ll come out brimming with Avengers knowledge, and it sure beats scouring the internet for all this information from the darkness of your bedroom.
At the end of the experience, not only do you get to browse some fabulous Marvel schwag, but you also have the chance to partake in a very silly (and extremely fun) green screen photo op with the Avengers. I got a real kick out of watching everyone else strike their superhero pose. The lovely staff even offer to edit the photo for you at the end, which is a lovely personal touch!
This event really showcases the power of collaboration. You can see all the work that has gone into design, logistics and narrative to make your journey a memorable one. If you’re a Marvel nut, then this a must. The experience is available until the end of March next year, and you can book your tickets right here.
...Also, how about that new Avengers: End Game trailer huh?
A breakdown of all the Infinity Stones. Yes, I studied this in great detail, searching for Avengers 4 spoilers. No dice, unfortunately