The Marvel Experience

Last week I heard about this event that was coming to Phoenix – The Marvel Experience. As much of a geek as I am, I was surprised that it was the first time I had heard about it. Apparently, Phoenix is only the first stop on a U.S. tour that the event is on. It sounded like something unique and interesting, so I requested a media pass to the event to be able to check it out and write about it. I thought they could use a little more publicity, since this was the first I’d heard about it. I got two media passes, so I invited Ricky to tag along so he could do his own review of it on his blog as well.

When buying a ticket for it on Ticketmaster, the ticket times are staggered, and you can buy one for an entry time of any half hour during the hours they are open. Our media passes were for any time on Sunday, so we picked them up at will call and just got in line. The outside setup was pretty impressive, and after parking and getting in line, it almost immediately reminded me of standing in line at an amusement park ride, particularly the Outer Limits ride at Kings Island in Ohio, which I’ve been on countless times.

The initial line wasn’t too painful, and we were ushered into an area where we were given a wristband with a piece of plastic on the top that was supposed to track our progress. (There were places set up to register our wristbands, but they weren’t working. I’d tried to find some reviews of the Experience ahead of time, and read some things that said this was because they were out in the sun, but I don’t know that for sure.)

After getting our wristband, we were ushered into a tent with TV screens and posters of Marvel superheroes. We got our picture taken in front of a green screen at the beginning of our wait in line. Again, comparing this to an amusement park ride, the line wasn’t too bad, maybe a half hour or so. But this was also the third time we’d had to wait in line so far (to get in, to get a wristband, and now to enter the next tent).

Once we made it through this line, we watched a video instructing us what the story was about and then moving along into the next tent (this tent may have been one of the several domes, but I didn’t notice for sure) which was the “Training Academy”. This part would probably be good mostly for children, with informational screens and mini-games you could play. From what I could tell, the major attractions were the rock-climbing wall and the maze. But Ricky and I skipped those, because – go figure – there was a line for each of them and we didn’t feel like waiting again. You could move on from the Training Academy whenever you chose to, but once you did, there was no way to go back in. Not a big deal to us, as we felt like these were mostly kids’ games anyway. So we moved right along.

After given a bit of instruction and some Marvel trivia from what seemed like the most enthusiastic staff member we encountered during the whole experience, we moved into what I believe was the largest dome. We watched as a fight scene unfolded around us and when it was over, we prepared to enter the transport, the next stage of the Experience.

This part was probably my favorite part of the whole thing. The setup was highly themed and again reminded me of the beginning of an amusement park ride, and actually, a pretty good one. I won’t spoil the ending or what happens in this stage, but to me, it’s definitely the best part of the whole experience.

At the end, you end up in a Marvel gift shop (again, not unlike the rides at Disney World or Universal Studios) with the opportunity to buy Marvel merchandise as well as purchase your photo that was taken earlier on in the Experience.

All in all, we thought that this was a pretty enjoyable way to spend an afternoon. It seemed a lot like kind of an extended version of an amusement park experience, with different stages that would suit both children and adults alike. I’d recommend it if you didn’t have to pay for several people/children to go, as the price ($27.50 for adults, plus Ticketmaster fees and $10 for parking) could potentially be a barrier in that case. Also, the fact that you have to wait in line multiple times could cause children to grow pretty tired and antsy (the ones in front of us certainly did) and also get old to adults as well. But if you’re looking for a fun and unique experience to spend a bit of cash on, especially if you’re a Marvel fan, I’d recommend the Marvel Experience as a good way to spend an afternoon in Phoenix. Check it out while it is here at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick through January 3.