23 February 2000 | ajbezark
An unprecedented combination of 3-D film and theme park ride technology.
"The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man" is the holy grail of theme park rides. It's what every designer in the industry aspires to create: a complete, seamless storytelling experience that completely overwhelms the audience.
Located at Universal's Islands of Adventure in Orlando, "Spider-Man" combines a traditional ride-thru adventure, motion base simulator technology (ala Disney's "Star Tours"), physical 3-D scenery, and eye-popping 3-D film. It's a masterful blending of design, spectacle and technology. Even the most sophisticated techno-geek will be hard pressed to know where reality leaves off and computer-generated fantasy begins.
We begin by entering the "Daily Bugle," the New York newspaper where Spider-Man works in his "day job" as photographer Peter Parker. The Bugle's publisher, J. Jonah Jameson, is a hot-tempered blowhard who thinks Spider-Man is a menace to the city. As we advance through the queue toward the ride, we pass through the Bugle's editorial offices (which consist of normal office furniture painted to look like comic book art). Along the way, we learn (through a series of Saturday Morning-style animated videos) that a group of super-villains called the "Sinister Syndicate" have developed a powerful anti-gravity ray gun... and they've stolen the Statue of Liberty! The Syndicate's leader, Doctor Octopus, demands the city surrender or we'll never see Lady Liberty again.
Jameson doesn't particularly care about the Statue of Liberty... but he REALLY wants this story. Since his staff are all out of the office, he's turning to us. We're going to ride in "The Scoop," a high-powered, fully-automated newsgathering vehicle. We're issued a pair of "night vision goggles" (our 3-D glasses), given a few quick (and very funny) instructions on how to board the vehicle... and we're off!
As soon as we're aboard the Scoop, the REAL excitement begins. We ride through a deserted alley, turn a corner... and there's Spider-Man himself! The web-crawler swings forward and "lands" on the front of our vehicle, warns us to stay out of harm's way, and swings off to battle the Sinister Syndicate.
Now mind you: this has never, EVER been done before. The vehicle is real, the alley foreground is real... but Spider-Man and the New York skyline behind him are a computer-generated 3-D film. Universal has mastered the difficult mechanics of 3-D perspective so it truly looks as though Spidey is riding on our front bumper. The film screens are carefully hidden in the film sets so the two merge perfectly. As the story progresses, we discover the Syndicate's underground lair, and the villains give chase. Each scene pits us against a new super-villain (selected for their 3-D characteristics). Doc Octopus attacks us with a long blowtorch arm, and we feel the hot flames on our faces. Hydro-Man dukes it out with Spidey, and we get splashed with water. The Hobgoblin throws a pumpkin bomb at Spider-Man, and it explodes just overhead.
But we're just getting started.
As the action reaches its peak, Doc Ock turns the anti-gravity ray on us... and we levitate high over the Manhattan skyline! (The "real" skyscrapers descend as the film image rises, giving an uncanny sense of ascent... even though we never really leave the ground.) Now Spidey has to fight the baddies AND save us. When the anti-grav effect wears off, we plunge four hundred feet "down" toward the pavement below. HELLLLPPP!!! SPIDER-MAN!!! SAAAVE USSSSS!!!!
Sorry. Got carried away there.
Enough words. The only way to really understand this astounding experience is to ride it yourself. "The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man" is not only worth a two-hour wait in line: it's worth the price of admission to Islands of Adventure PLUS the airfare to Orlando.