Marvel’s Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. is the new interactive experience from the folks at Marvel, situated just outside the doors of the ExCel London; and it is a bit of a curious beast.
Put simply, it is a multimedia exhibition of Marvel superheroes, framed as if you were a new recruit to the S.T.A.T.I.O.N. (Science Training and Tactical Intelligence Operative Network) project. The staff take you in, walk you through a video briefing by Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), one of the SHIELD agents from the movies, and then the new recruits are set loose to learn all they can about the Avengers.
The event is broken up into different zones, each dealing with a different Avenger. Iron Man, Captain America and Black Panther, Hulk, Thor and Loki all get individual or shared zones that have large screens showing snippets of lore and story, clips from the movies and other flavour text to make you feel as if you really are standing inside some sort of laboratory or training room.
There are various props from the films on display, from the iconic vibranium shield and Black Panther’s helmet, to Hawkeye’s bow to Ant Man’s costume. Alongside those are more interactive elements, there is a grip tester to compare your strength to that of the various Avengers, a reflex game about quickly shooting enemies, a motion-controlled Iron Man game and various consoles to play with that show interesting facts and snippets of information about the world of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
While the above all get zones to themselves, or share with one other character, the rest of the Avengers are all lumped into an “everybody else” section that includes Falcon, Hawkeye, Black Widow, Vision, Ant-Man and Wasp, which is a little annoying. Even now, despite being in the films since the beginning, Black Widow is still relegated to an “and also starring” role as Marvel still have not given her a movie of her own, despite fans repeatedly requesting it. Hopefully the upcoming Captain Marvel movie will help prove that a female superhero film will make the studio money and will further encourage Marvel to stop sandbagging on the production.
One curious decision was to relegate Thanos and the other villains to a single section of their own along with the Infinity Stones. Despite his presence looming very large in the movies, there are no actual Thanos props on display, presumably because he’s a CGI character? There is just a large screen with his face and two smaller screens providing additional information about him. The rest of that section is taken up by props, weapons and lore about the Chitauri and the Dark Elves, with the smashed remains of Ultron taking pride of place in a crimson-lit cabinet of their own near the end.
On exiting the event, the “recruits” are given a small tag relating to one of the Avengers and then stand in front of screens to take part in an arcade shooting gallery where they fight off Ultron and his robots before finally being ushered through into the obligatory gift shop at the end of the experience.
There are two major criticisms that could be levelled at this event. The first is that its target audience is a little unclear. The lore and character displays are certainly interesting, but a hardcore fan will know most if not all of it already. They will likely want to see the props; and while there are some, most of the event is focused on the multimedia aspect.
The second is the price. That ties into the first criticism. An adult ticket to this event is £25 plus a £3 fee. For a family of two adults and, say, a five-year-old child, that’s 2x£28 + £15.68 + £20 (for parking at the ExCel), and then on top of that comes food, drink, merchandise, etc. This would easily run a family of three over £100 and that’s where the confusion comes in. Is this targeted at the hardcore fan who would be willing to pay this amount of money? If so, there’s a lack of solid content for that sort of person. While it is very shiny, there’s very little new to be found. There are props on display, but the emphasis is definitely on the shiny interactive and video content.
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Is it, instead, targeted at fans of the movies, looking to bring kids in for a fun, exciting experience that will help cement them as fans? It certainly seems to be, with plenty of things for children to run around and look at, prod and poke and play with. In that case, the high cost of entry may well dissuade some people from attending.
Marvel’s Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. is certainly an entertaining experience, but one that seems geared more towards a more casual fan who may be put off by the high cost. It is worth the time, but is it worth the money? That’s a more difficult judgement to make.