When most people celebrate Valentines Day it involves flowers and being taken out for a nice dinner. In our house it involves my wonderful husband taking me to visit the Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. in London. My husband knows me well! I had been seeing ads for this on FaceBook for months and dropping hints to Ewan that I wanted to go and, being the romantic soul that he is, he chose Valentines Day for the trip.
The Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. is a high tech, interactive exhibition located in the ExCel Center. The warehouse type building has been transformed into an Avengers Training Center and I could not have been more excited. Besides the fact that it was Valentines Day, Ewan chose to get tickets for the middle of the day, in the middle of the week because all of the kids would be in school. Next week is half term break for them and British school kids are like a pack of wild animals with posh accents, so he made the right call.
We arrived in plenty of time to take some pictures outside (shout out to London Transport for the smooth journey from North London to East London) and for me to work myself into a frenzy of excitement. By the time we got in line to enter the exhibition I was bouncing around like one of those aforementioned British school kids. The Agent at the door (they’re all Special Agents, which makes it all the more fun) seemed concerned and asked if I was scared. Ewan explained that I was simply over excited because I love the Avengers. Meanwhile, I was chanting ‘Team Cap! Team Cap! Team Cap!’
I was able to calm myself down enough to ask if I might speak to the manager, as I knew I would be writing this article for all of you lovely people. The manager and attraction consultant, Filipe Carvalho, quickly arrived and after a brief chat sent us off into the exhibit, promising to meet us again after to answer any questions. And so, having done my scholarly duty for the moment, I was more than ready to get to the good stuff.
An Agent invited us into a screen filled room and informed us that Special Agent Maria Hill would be debriefing us before our training began and almost immediately the screens lit and Agent Hill appeared. She explained that in recent years the Earth had been visited by some friendly and some not-so-friendly beings. There had been massive destruction and our planet was under constant threat. The only thing that stood between mankind and certain destruction was a group of remarkable people called the Avengers (I may have squealed in excitement at this point). Agent Hill went on to tell us that they needed help and we were here to train to assist the Avengers in their task.
Our host Agent then explained that this training facility had been funded and built by Tony Stark and that Mr. Stark, being Mr. Stark, had demanded that he be the first thing new Agents would see. The wall behind our host suddenly slid open and there, on a plinth, was Iron Man in all his glory. Beyond stood every single generation of Tony Starks Iron Man suit, all the way from the Mark I to Mark XLVIII, including the giant Mark XLIV, all behind glass and looking ready to go. On a screen was the entire history of Tony Stark, Stark Industries and Iron Man. There was Tony’s original arc reactor and off to one side was something really exciting, the Iron Man flight simulator.
Well I don’t think I need to tell you that I immediately joined the line to try out the flight simulator. I stood before a large screen and was treated to the sight of myself being suited up as Iron Man, or rather Iron Woman. After a short period of learning how the suit worked I was put into, no flung into, a giant battle with Ultron’s minions. I’m proud to say that I did a pretty good job.
The next section of the exhibit was centered around Dr. Bruce Banner and the Hulk. Again there was the full bio, an example of just how big the Hulk is as well as Dr. Banners lab. Several screens showed an interactive MRI image of Dr. Banner’s brain as he transfers into the Hulk. While I am a fan of Banner/Hulk, I have to admit that I rushed through this section a bit because I could see that the next section was the one that I’d been waiting for.
I’m not gonna lie, I love Captain America. Not because he’s American but because he was the little guy that just wanted to do good. I love Cap because he follows his heart and not a big government agenda. I love Cap because he stands for all that is good. Those of you that have read my previous articles know that my greatest ambition is to have a Captain America shield of my very own (I’m still waiting for someone to get word to Chris Evans. Surely he’ll be sympathetic to my cause…)
And so, after giving the Hulk section the briefest of tours I guiltily rushed into the Captain America section and was instantly drawn to the perfect shield in the glass case. I spent several minutes fogging up the glass with my nose pressed to it before I asked Ewan to hand me the glass cutter. He cleared his throat and told me that he’d forgotten to order it from Amazon like I’d requested. Drat. Foiled again. I had no choice but to take photos with another shield that was bolted to a stand that was bolted to the floor (I checked. It’s like they knew I was coming.)
Another fun photo opportunity was the Harley Davidson motorcycle from The First Avenger, which we both took turns on. There was a strength test that Ewan did very well on (he now thinks he’s Captain Britain!), as well as the full bio and Captain America suit, again from The First Avenger and after one more wistful look at the shield we moved onto the Black Panther section.
I was surprised at how small the Black Panther section was considering that it’s won awards and has been nominated for and will hopefully win an Oscar. Attraction consultant Filipe Carvalho explained to me later that the Black Panther was a recent addition and that they were still building it up. With that in mind, the Black Panther section was well done, consisting of a full bio, Black Panther helmet and a wonderful sample of the Heart-Shaped Herb that gives the Black Panther his powers.
With that we moved on to Loki. I mean Thor, really I do. Thor is the hero after all. This section was filled with bios of both Thor and Loki, as well as Thor’s suit and helmet and hammer, Mjolnir. Mjolnir was placed on a stand and people were encouraged to try to lift it. We took several pictures of each of us trying to lift the hammer but the room was too dim even with the flash on our cameras. But suddenly all of the screens in the circular room flashed and changed into flying across the Bifrost, which lit the room to an amazing extent and Ewan was able to capture an image of me pulling on Mjolnir for all I was worth.
The next section was dedicated to other Avengers and I was focused on seeing Vision across the room when Ewan pointed to my feet and said something to the effect of ‘Oh, look at that.’ I looked down and may have screamed like a little girl and jumped backwards because there, at my feet, were a ton of swarming ants. It only took me a moment to realize that this was actually a really cool special effect of ants forming into arrows pointing to Ant-Man, but Ewan thought it was hilarious. Clearly he’s never experienced the horror of stepping barefooted on a nest of fire ants while playing in the back yard as a child. I threatened to order a bucket of fire ants from online and drop them on his head while he’s sleeping if he didn’t stop laughing and brushed my self off while I tried to regain my composure.
This section was larger than the others because it included Ant-Man, Hawkeye, Black Widow, War Machine, The Falcon and Vision. As well as the full bios, there were suits for each Avenger and Hawkeye’s bow and quiver and Black Widow’s ‘Widow’s Bite’. One thing that I found particularly interesting was the casket/chamber that both Ultron and Vision used to create their respective bodies.
The final section was dedicated to the baddies of the Marvel universe. There was a large display of the Infinity Stones and full explanation of each, with their various origins and powers. There were full scale models of the Chitauri, with their weapons and a bio of their involvement with the Avengers. A life sized model of Malekith, ruler of the Dark Elves of Svartalfheim, as well as Dark Elf masks. And of course there was, larger than life, Thanos, the biggest big baddie. This entire section wrapped up what was happening in the Marvel Universe without giving anything away, which is an important thing to nerds worldwide.
The Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. experience ended with 6 recruits being taken into a room and being separated into different teams (i.e. Team Cap, Team Hawkeye, ect.), given a handset and with instructions from Friday we all simulated a fight (and beat the pants off of) Ultron. Maria Hill once again came on the screen and congratulated us on completing our training and asking us to be on the look out for a call from S.H.I.E.L.D.
And with that we were released into the gift shop which, alas, contained no Captain America shields. As promised, the manager/attraction consultant was waiting to answer questions for this article. One of my major questions was: Where were Spider-man, Scarlet Witch, Doctor Strange and The Guardians of the Galaxy? His answer was that this is a traveling and evolving exhibit and they are constantly adding new details. This exhibit has had runs in several places, including Australia and Sweden. This is the first time that the Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. has been to the UK and is due to move on at the end of March. There is, however, a chance that the installation will be extended due to its overwhelming success in London. Let’s hope so!
For my American friends that won’t have the chance to visit London any time soon, fear not! There is a permanent Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. located at Treasure Island in Las Vegas. Both the Las Vegas and the Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. currently located in London are presented by wonderful bunch of folks called the MJR Group. The one in London is a Victor Hill exhibition; the one in Las Vegas is at the Treasure Island hotel, and is a permanent installation. So, if you were looking for an excuse for a trip to London or Las Vegas, here you go!
The Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. was a fantastic experience, and while I can see this as being something that kids will really get a kick out of, it was heart warming to see adults getting just as excited as I was about being there. The amount of thought and work that went into this exhibit was clear from beginning to end and I was happy to congratulate Manager/attraction consultant Felipe Carvalho on a job very well done. This gentleman deserves a pay raise, as do all of the Agents working the exhibit. Each and every one was knowledgeable and ready to assist, always with a smile.
I think the only thing left to say is this:
Sidney Fraser is an American transplanted to a new life in London, where she explores fannish and geeky places, events and creations, which she relates in the continuing True and Proper Adventures of Sidney Fraser.