Want to become an official S.H.I.E.L.D. agent? Then you’re going to want to head to New York City starting May 30 to visit Discovery Times Square, where a new interactive exhibit allows visitors to not only join the elite organization, but to explore mind-blowing props from the Marvel movies, and the science behind them.
In advance of the opening, I had a chance to sneak a peek behind the scenes of the exhibit while it was still being built for a private tour. And what I saw was, for any fan of Marvel Studios, pretty stupendous.
The first thing you should know is that with only a few short days left until the official opening (and about 37 hours until the opening night party), crews were still working around the clock 24-hour long shifts to finish the one-of-a-kind exhibit. That meant I wasn’t able to experience the full power of the exhibit – most of the electronics in particular still needed to be hooked up – but it was still plenty cool.
Once everything is up and running, the tour starts off by getting your own personalized S.H.I.E.L.D. identification badge. You can scan your picture, enter some basic info, and you’re able to access both the exhibits at Discovery, and a webpage with more info and surprises at home.
From there, the exhibit allows 30 guests to enter at a time, every five or six minutes. My tour guide confided that beyond making an incredible exhibit, one of the large concerns was making it interactive to just the right amount, so they can turn over hundreds of guests every hour without facing over-crowding. Information, fun, and speed are a tricky combination to hit, but they’re clearly working literally overtime to make sure the experience engages all of those areas.
Once you are allowed to enter, you go to a small room completely covered with video screens, something that I was told is definitely the largest display in Discovery history, and possibly one of the biggest in the entire world.
The first surprise? Or surprise if we weren’t about to spoil it? You’re greeted by none other than Titus Welliver, who has played S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Felix Blake in both “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” and the Marvel One-Shot Item 47.
After a two minute intro, you enter another areas as official S.T.A.T.I.O.N. Agents. No, sorry “The Station Agent” fans, you won’t meet Peter Dinklage. He’s over at FOX, anyway. S.T.A.T.I.O.N. stands for Scientific Training and Tactical Intelligence Operative Network. Or to paraphrase Grant Ward, it sounds like someone really wanted to spell “station.”
Jokes aside, the name does have a practical purpose. The exhibit is there for entertainment purposes, but it also provides scientific explanations (wherever possible) along the journey, as well. Discovery worked with NASA, among other organizations, to figure out the cutting edge science that might make a Hulk possible, or what would happen if the Tesseract actually opened a black hole portal, like in “Avengers.”
And that’s what you’ll experience in the rest of the rooms. Like I mentioned, everything was still under construction, but you’ll get to see actual movie costumes from all of the Avengers, including Captain America, Thor, and even actual Iron Man armor used in the first film.
A particular thrill, even though all the costumes are under glass, was when one worker opened up the Cap costume case to fiddle with some pieces while I was standing next to her. She unbuckled the belt, cleaned out the gloves, and it was all the strength I could muster not to reach out and touch the costume.
Also exceedingly cool? There’s a Chitauri alien costume from “Avengers,” and a gigantic Chiaturi glider on display. But that isn’t even the biggest prop from the movie. Discovery has, for viewing, the Tesseract powered device from the film, a prop that I was told costs in excess of $300,000. So you break it, you buy it.
There’s plenty more in terms of props (want to see Loki’s scepter? They’ve got that), but the real draw is the interactive elements in the exhibit.
In the Captain America room, you’ll get to learn about the process of cryostasis, and watch how Cap’s body changes as he’s defrosted, pausing to look at the actual science behind the super-science. You can also test your strength against Captain America, and even your smarts.
The Hulk room will probably be the most exciting for fans (and possibly kids), as you’ll get to interact with a full-size, CGI, animated version of the Hulk. Poke the monster in one place, and you get to see him flex. Another, and he does his thunder clap move. Poke him in the wrong place, and he’ll punch the wall, causing the entire room to shake.
On the science side of things, you can find out what would happen to Bruce Banner’s brain if he changed into the Hulk, and explore an interesting idea that’s never been explored in the movies, or comics: what if the reason the Hulk is green is that he’s basically one giant festering bruise? Working on that premise, they show what happens to Bruce’s body if he started to bruise all over.
The Thor room seemed a little light when I was exploring it, though it will have a huge view-screen, and a hologram of the god’s hammer, Mjolnir. That wasn’t on at the moment, but when it is, attendees will be able to walk around the hammer 360 degrees, one of the most advanced and complicated holograms of its type.
The last room is, of course, devoted to the most popular Avenger: Iron Man. You can see Tony Stark’s original armor up close, and even walk over the actual arc reactor from the movie. But the two interactive elements are, again, probably the bigger draw.
Hooked up to a Microsoft Surface tablet is one of Iron Man’s gloves. Put your hand over the tablet, and the glove syncs up with your hand. Flex your hand, the glove does too. Point, and the glove points.
But that won’t be enough to make you say, “I am Iron Man.” No, that’s reserved for the actual Heads Up Display from the movie, which you can use. Discovery has built a flight simulator which includes the display Tony watches inside his helmet, plus other elements that make you feel like you’re Iron Man flying through the air.
…And then, of course, there’s the gift shop. Which normally we’d trash, but there’s so much cool Avengers stuff for the group, and individual heroes, that you’re definitely going to go away a few dollars lighter.
One last note about the exhibit: it’s set entirely during Marvel’s Phase One movies. So everything up to “Avengers” is fair game. Anyone looking for spoilers or hints to upcoming movies, or wondering why S.H.I.E.L.D. is still around post “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” worry not: the exhibit is all in continuity.
Oh, and I’m definitely going back once it’s officially opened. It’s just that cool.
Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. opens on May 30, and runs until January 5. For individual tickets and venue hours, visit www.DiscoveryTSX.com, call 1.866.9.TSXNYC (866-987-9692), or visit the Discovery Times Square Box Office.