If you live or work in London the chances are that you will have seen posters which look somewhat similar to this
as you've been negotiating the Tube.
Maybe you've even wondered what exactly it is?
Well, this past Saturday the kind people at Madame Tussauds invited me down to London to take a peak at this, their new 4D Marvel themed attraction.
So let me explain...
Marvel Super Heroes 4D is a mixture of what Tussauds does best (i.e. lifelike, to scale, wax models of characters and celebrities) and the current resurgence of 3D cinema. The theming is well done, part S.H.I.E.L.D. lab - part gallery of covers, mixing Classic Marvel characters in with their movie counterparts.
So, for example, you get Robert Downey Jr as Iron Man, Hugh Jackman as Wolverine and Samuel L Jackson as Nick Fury...
The entrance will (I say 'will' because the attraction is not yet open to the public - and we were let in through the back door) peel off directly from the rest of the Tussauds tour, leading you around The Hulk's gigantic legs and into a S.H.I.E.L.D. themed attraction area - complete with screens in the walls, rotating 'secret files' style bios of the characters in a given area.
Oh. And yes, like I say, the Hulk IS to scale...
He truly is HUGE! and incredibly (Pun probably intended) well sculpted. I've always felt that in other media to date the sheer size of The Hulk has been somewhat undersold, compared to his in-panel counterpart (Although the recent Hulk movies have pretty much gotten in right).
And, of course, it really wouldn't be Tussauds without the opportunity to take some daft photos...
Which I maybe enjoyed just a little TOO much...
Yeah. Maybe more than a little...
There's a number of props to aid you in you photographic tomfoolery - from Wolverine's claws or standing on ceiling with Spider-man, to a viewing glass designed to make you look like The Hulk and a stand up landscape which allows you to fake up flying around Westminster and Big Ben - as any ageing Captain Britain fan has surely ALWAYS wanted to do...
(Be proud of me. I resisted that one...)
But the main focus of all this is to lead you through to the 4D experience itself.
And I bet a few of you are asking exactly what makes it 4D, right now? Well, anybody who has experienced attractions like MuppetVision 3D at MGM Studios or Stitch's Great Escape! at Disneyworld in Florida will be in some way familiar with the principle. Marvel Super Heroes 4D has been built into the former site of the London Planetarium. Which means the screen itself is 360 dome above the auditorium - a perfect canvas for this kind of film. The 3D movie itself (Glasses supplied) is displayed principally to the front of the auditorium, but with extra images flashing up around the sides of the dome, at key points in the film. These take the form of bits of SHIELD technical data, and flashes of the targeting system from Iron Man's armour.
As you sit down in your seat, the SHIELD Mainframe instructs you to turn off your Mobile Phones lest you 'Make The Hulk ANGRY,' but what makes this show 4D is that IN that seat they've fitted with a few... extras.
Such as spray units to create the sensation of water splashing up at head height, and compressed air blasts around you legs to convey movement around you under faded lights. Pressure units mounted in the back of your chair poke your back at certain intervals, and the floor beneath you actively rumbles and shakes - all at specific points during the performance, to match up with what you're seeing on screen.
And it works pretty well, too. I've experienced a few of these kind of rides over the past few years, and I have to say that the combination of elements here strikes a really good balance. It was also, for fanboy sake, nice to hear several approved voices from Marvel's animated features and videogames providing voice talent here. It really helps to maintain a proper consistency.
I will be honest with you, though, I really didn't know what to expect from this, when I went along on Saturday. I tend to be a little bit sceptical when it compes to Marvel tie-ins in other media. But I'm happy to say that this is one attraction that really get things right. A balance of old and new, movie and animation.
We did spot a stray Jessica Alba, as Sue Storm of the Fantastic Four, who seemed a little out of place (The female character used in the movie sequence is actually Ms Marvel), but otherwise the effort made in getting the theming right is spot on, and has plenty potential for Tussauds to add to the exhibit as time goes on. Probably as more and more Marvel movies are rolled out. Maybe the addition of a Liv Tyler Betty Ross, a Scarlett Johanssen Black Widow, a Chris Evans Captain America, or a... whatsisname... Um... the guy from Home and Away (EDIT: It's Chris Hemsworth) THOR!
I also appreciated the very deliberate decision to set the 4D sequence itself in London, which I was lucky enough to get a chance to discuss with some of the Tussauds guys after the Q & A session. Rather than simply port over an out of place American setting. They told me it was a very deliberate choice, and one they fought hard for. I can tell you that there is a narrative reason for it, and it it really grounds it as a part of a British attraction and as part of Tussauds itself pretty seamlessly. Great work.
I'd always recommend Madame Tussauds as a place in London you should visit at least once anyway, regardless of your age, but put simply if you've got a kid who's into Marvel then they will love this! As an adult you'll be able to appreciate the 4D show's mechanics and (Of course) the daft photos opps are a must. But for the insane fanboys, who might be reluctant, one very interesting point did come up in the Q & A session on Saturday, which might be of interest to you...
A question was raised as to whether, during the development of creating the 4D movie, the creators had been given any access to designs for upcoming Marvel Movies, which might currently be in production.
The answer was a little diplomatic, as you might expect. We were told that the primary focus was always intended to be on the 'Classic Marvel' characters for the 4D movie. But, that said, there might be some possible similarities between the intended look of a certain floating vessel and its likeness seen towards the end of the 4D movie...
So, you never know... :D
For those of you interested in seeing this experience I believe that tickets for Marvel Super Heroes 4D were intended to go on sale on Sunday 30th May. But you can find more details HERE.
You can also find the attraction's microsite HERE.
There's also this trailer, showing (Obviously in this case 2D) clips from the movie sequence.
And if you do go and see it look out for the obligatory Stan Lee cameo. Can you spot it? :D
A big Thanks to Richard Orr, Joshua Wexler, Paula Barrett and the other guys at Tussauds for inviting us along, and also for giving me permission to post the photos above.
It was great fun, and I wish you all the best for when the doors open to the public.