Since Comic-Con can’t come soon enough, we can be satisfied for now by The Marvel Experience, the “hyper-reality tour” that takes you inside the world of Marvel, currently open at the Del Mar Fairgrounds in San Diego. It has been extended until Sunday, March 1st. Tickets are still available on The Marvel Experience web site.
In short, the Experience is a fun and engaging event that is geared for younger fans. However, several of our (adult) team enjoyed it, and we’re only young at heart. If you don’t read any further, our main recommendation is to stay as long as you want in the main dome — the Recruit Training Center — as all other segments are timed video components. The event is quite immersive: Once you arrive, everything is themed to S.H.I.E.L.D. and Marvel characters and comics. Additionally, the staff are all wearing S.H.I.E.L.D. clothing and always refer to you as recruits, helping you to really feel like you’ve stepped into the Marvel world.
The winding attraction takes you — as a new S.H.I.E.L.D Recruit — through seven sections of interactive or 3-D experiences, with the main dome set aside for your “training.”
Upon entering the Experience courtyard, you are directed to video stands where you create your S.H.I.E.L.D. ID card and become a recruit. At this point you have to make the key decision of determining what species you want to be, with choices like Human, Superhuman, Unknown, Alien… You know, the usual. Make sure to enter your email address and have it take your photo as the ID card image is emailed to you. You can also purchase your actual ID card at the end of the event. Should you not want to bother with creating an ID, or the line is too long, then skip this step and head right to the line for the first dome.
Before we continue, below you’ll find our recount of the attraction, including videos. We do highly recommend you AVOID all spoilers for the event until you have a chance to attend yourself, as the surprise on what to expect in each dome is half the fun!
The first two domes are introductory video messages from Captain America and Tony Stark, with appearances by other Marvel heroes such as Spider-Man, Wolverine, and The Vision. After you arrive in the main dome — the Recruit Training Center — you are free to move around and do whichever training stations you want. We highly recommend the Holo-Blaster Training and the Avengers Encounter. While geared towards younger fans, the center control console where you collect digital pieces based on their color, and assist in building the Adaptoid Cyberskeleton, is actually quite entertaining! You never know what you’ll find among the debris.
Everything is themed, down to the tables in the Energy Cafe area, where you can “recharge” and buy food and drinks. A small section near the cafe features “classified documents” that are over-sized comic reproductions. There are multiple video touchscreens where you can view origins and comic art of all the featured characters. You’ll also find a section with props from Marvel heroes and villains, such as Hobgoblin’s bombs, Thor’s hammer, and Loki’s staff. Some of these look like reproductions from the movies, but most are comic-based, brought into the 3D world.
Throughout the experience, the animations are very much based on the comics: Ultimate Marvel especially, with a little MCU. There are no live-action videos or characters, and everything looks to have been created solely for the Experience. Featured are several Marvel characters we have yet to see on-screen (She-Hulk fans take note!). Points if you can name the Avengers character who is giving you instructions on the center console. Our main baddies involved with the Experience include Red Skull, familiar from Captain America: The First Avenger, with the addition of Madame Hydra and MODOK.
Spend as much time as you need in the Recruit Training Center. Once you head into the Quinjet you won’t be able to come back. Passing through the Transfer Dome, we reach the Simularium, and its 360-degree 3-D experience. As you watch the story play out on the dome above, you come to realize that all the stations in the recruit training have in fact led to a larger story, and that the Dome itself may be in danger from Hydra. The Similarium was a favorite of ours as you get to watch the action play out all around you.
After exiting the Simularium, we reach the Transport Corridor (complete with a Spidey-hosted safety video, rudely interrupted by Red Skull), and into the transport carrier and Star Tours-style ride aboard a Quinjet. Our final showdown with Hydra takes place here, while bringing in the Super Adaptoid Cyberskeleton from the Training Center that we helped build. We come to regret that, but of course, in the end, the Avengers save the day.
The final stop is the Marvel Shop, filled with a vast array of clothing and collectibles. You’ll also be able to purchase your S.H.I.E.L.D. ID or group photo here as well. We spent some time looking around and a couple of us purchased a pack of character charms to add to the rubber bracelet we received upon entering the first dome, but there’s sure to be something for every taste.
Check out our video of the Experience (warning: spoilers for the event):
Did you attend The Marvel Experience? Let us know what you thought in the comments.