For those out of the know, New York city has just added an exhibit that teases the intrigue of nerds the world ’round. Based primarily around Marvel’s most recent movies, the AVENGERS S.T.A.T.I.O.N. at Discovery Times Square is meant to be an interactive learning experience on the history of the Marvel universe and the science behind its most impressive superheroes. While the list of collaborators is very impressive, including NASA itself, the Science & Entertainment Exchange and Neuroverse, Marvel’s Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N will leave visitors impressed but at the same time underwhelmed.
I know it sounds contradictory, but there are parts of this exhibit that are done really well, and some parts well….not so much. The premise of this experience is pretty neat to start with. You’re a newly recruited S.H.E.I.L.D. agent, and your task for the evening is to learn as much about the Avengers as you explore. The theatrics begin with you being led into an all white room and your introduction from a fellow S.H.I.E.L.D. agent begins. Off the bat you are given a keycard that will act as your personal badge and something you continuously use as you interact with different parts of this show. Unfortunately this immersion ends shortly after entering and most employees are not in agent attire. Your badge also doesn’t mean much by the end except for retrieving photos secretly snapped of you having fun and as a nice keepsake.
Each section is split into its respective super with the beginning sometimes containing film props and costumes. This in and of itself is pretty cool, but I wish they had a Captain America shield prop you could physically handle and feel the real weight of. The one thing missing from the entire exhibit was Thor’s hammer, which is replaced by a hologram. It was…okay, but they really needed to have a pedestal, with an impossible to lift replica reminiscent of sword in the stone. It would absolutely make my life after trying with all my might to lift the hammer and throwing out my back in the process to have some puny unworthy child meander over and lazily lift the thing above his head and swiftly bring it back down over mine as I sit limping over said pedestal.
Actually, I can see why they probably left out Thor’s Hammer.
Interactivity is what splits the whole thing in half. On one side you’ve got Captain America’s physical prowess test where you pit your speed, strength and reflex time against Cap himself. Most of this worked the way I’m sure they planned, but I seemed to be having trouble with one of the touch screens on the reflex test. I swear to god I hit every one of those Chitauri bastards and you’re damn straight I head-shotted Loki. On the other side, however, you have The Incredible Hulk’s portion of the exhibit which really didn’t pull me in. It’s mostly reading scientific facts, and who wants to do that? Just kidding, I’m sure some lonely bastard out there does.
One part of the Hulk’s section is examining the difference between the human brain and his brain after transformation. I think this would have been better served combining it with the large LCD display of the Hulk they had considering it doesn’t move or react when standing in front of it. Someone should be narrating the effects as he jumps and hurls things around. Even better would be a seemingly innocent Bruce Banner luring you in for conversation only for him to suddenly transform and scare the daylights out of that little brat who hit me over the head with Thor’s Hammer. However, it was fairly interesting being able to see how you stack up in size compared to the Goliath. The standout to this section is the Tesseract/Selvig Device which rumbles and distorts all of the monitors in the room when activated.
The thing that disappointed me the most was the giant interactive display in Thor’s room. This is where they really tried to meld science with the Marvel universe and it kind of falls flat. It had such potential upon first looking at it and really had me giddy like a school girl. Unfortunately the touch controls to the display were so god awful it felt like I was using a Touchtunes karaoke machine circa 1998. After using mobile devices with flawless touch capabilities for years, this presentation felt like a blast from the past, certainly not futuristic technology. They really need to partner with the developers of the Sky Guide app to refine this mapping of the stars segment.
This is some Star Trek shit…minus the awesome.
Fortunately the Iron Man room was by far the most impressive in terms of interactivity. Using motion sensors you get to control—yes, control—the hands of Iron Man’s suit. It’s limited in flexibility and there’s no shooting of beams, but it was so worth seeing the look on my girlfriend’s face when I called her over and Iron Man is giving her the one finger salute. Part of this exhibit also virtually applies his suit to you which you then control and fly around for a short time. Nothing like doing a Michael Jackson crotch grab while wearing the most sophisticated piece of technology ever invented. Tony Stark would be proud. One thing that could have really set this exhibit apart and totally made up for any flaws would be something along the lines of Oculus Rift. I can only imagine putting on Iron Man’s helmet and seeing through his eyes even if I couldn’t interact with anything. This needs to be implemented ASAP, Discover Times Square.
All in all, it’s a fun ride that might last about an hour. I want more props of historical “top secret” documents I can lay my hands on. I would also like the experience of being a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent to be a little more in character. Maybe at the end of the tunnel there’s a test you can take to prove how much you’ve learned from the exhibit. If you do really well you can achieve rank, and get to proudly show this off with a S.H.I.E.L.D. patch as reward. The final let down of the whole trip is when you exit through the gift shop. It’s here you can purchase any pictures, but what really got me is the lack of stuff I wanted to buy. Sure, there are a couple posters and it’s littered with T-shirts, but most of them are very poorly designed. Like old Hot Topic screen print of Hulk on a red T-shirt poor. I’ve honestly seen better Marvel shirts at Kohls and more superhero figurines at Barnes and Noble. This just can’t be.
I wouldn’t recommend making a trip to New York specifically for this exhibit (kind of like we did) but if you happen to be in the area it’s worth fitting in between museums. Discovery Times Square’s AVENGERS S.T.A.T.I.O.N is no Worlds Fair, but I think with some time and refining this exhibit really could be worth driving half a day to go see.
Discovery Times Square’s AVENGERS S.T.A.T.I.O.N. runs through Jan. 5, 2015 in New York. Adult tickets are $27. Check out the official website for more information.