Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N.: Agents Rothman and Lopez Reporting
Yesterday Taran and I checked out the latest exhibition at Discovery Times Square — The Marvel’s Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N., which opened May 23 and runs through January 4, 2015. We take our Avengers pretty seriously, so we went prepared for our photo ops. Well, some more than others. I went with a simple outfit that ended up being a cross between Simmons and Skye from the TV show. Taran went more traditional with a blazer ensemble and pulled off a great Agent Colson. Both of us had our super-cool S.H.I.E.L.D. badges ready to flash.
We’ve gone to a lot of the events at Discovery, and each tends to be wonderful in its own way. This one was absolutely distinctive and smart. The conceit positions patrons as probationary agents who are training to work at S.T.A.T.I.O.N., including profile rooms of each of the four main Avengers and collective costume and prop displays for other familiar characters. The look and feel of the build was immersive, authentic to the franchise and gloriously high-tech feeling — establishing the perfect vibe. One of the most clever parts of the experience is using a personalized ID card (for which each attendee registers before entering the exhibition) to log into various interactive stations.
Like all of Discovery’s offerings, S.T.A.T.I.O.N. is chock full of amazing things to see, read, and do. However, literally every time I’ve gotten to the end of one of the museum’s exhibitions, I’ve found myself surprised by their missed opportunities. In the scheme of things — Harry Potter, Pompeii, CSI, Titanic, The Art of the Brick — S.T.A.T.I.O.N. — actually falls the furthest from its true potential. Here are five ways it could have been even more kickass than it was:
1. Give us fair warning!
Immediately after ID registration, we were shuffled into a green screen room. We were given no context, no clue that it was coming, and no time to actually plan a decent pose. It was 3-2-1 snap and that was it. We’ll get back to this.
2. Challenge us!
After being recruited, we were sent to a video room that gave us some overview information about the Avengers as individuals, and informed that there might be a quiz. There never was… unless you count the staff randomly selecting a few kids to answer questions, earning them a star sticker for the back of their temporary ID cards. Maybe they could have had Test Your Knowledge stations to assess how much we were picking up from the display descriptions. The displays for the props and costumes could have been interactive to test our knowledge about their roles in the Marvel universe. Heck, they had our individual information from registration, including email; they could have been sending us our interactive station results or pop quizzes throughout the experience. Anything to keep the spirit of the theme — that we’re recruits training for active S.T.A.T.I.O.N. duty — alive would have been welcome.
3. Be consistent!
Clearly Hawkeye doesn’t warrant significant space in the scheme of things, but if you’re going to dedicate an entire room to each of the big four, then the quality of the experience should be even in each. For Thor we mapped the stars to Asgard. For the Hulk we tested a fake fingerprint and watch the transformation of Bruce Banner’s brain when he gets angry. And that’s cool, but the Captain America and Iron Man rooms were far more engaging.
First we endured physical testing to gauge our results against Cap’s. Naturally I’m not as strong as “The First Avenger.” My hand-to-eye coordination is comparatively lacking, of course. It was humbling as it put into perspective just how amazing Captain America is as a superhero. But, maybe bear in mind next time that public scales and women aren’t a good mix. Telling us Captain America weighs 250 lbs. is no consolation when your own bright red weight appears 6-10 lbs. higher than you know for a fact it is. Err in the side of making the ladies feel better about themselves, folks!
The Iron Man room was hands-down the best-realized of them all as we went inside the suit, so to speak. In one corner we learned to use the neurological targeting in the helmet, and came to understand just how intense it is to concentrate on hitting enemies, let alone doing it while flying among so many other things. And the best station by far was the flight simulator, where we were virtually suited up then moved around in costume, testing our repulser beam and ultimately flying around. A series of clicks during all of this resulted in a great series of photos popping up on the scene. We’ll get back to this.
4. Make it feel like more than a wait!
Interactive stations, particularly for Captain America and Iron Man, had significant waits during which we had nothing to do but look at the back of other people’s heads. Seeing these lines in the next room created a sense of urgency to rush through the in-between displays of costumes and WWII-era Captain America propaganda, the Tesseract light show, etc. It might have made sense to set things up so that while we queued for the interactive stuff, we could entertain ourselves by exploring the non-interactive elements.
5. Follow through!
Don’t get me wrong, I love a traditional museum, and just going through and learning stuff is a reward in itself. But this was an interactive experience, and the premise was that we were recruits being tested to join S.T.A.T.I.O.N. And yet, nothing ever came of the activities. There was no final score or performance analysis, no comparison to existing Avengers, no graduation to active duty or job placement. Nothing more than a temporary digital score board in the Captain America room. The experience ends with an opportunity to buy that opening green screen photo. And so here we were, at the end, looking at our lame split-second pose, asked to choose a stock Avengers background and offered a series of increasingly pricey packages. For five bucks we could upgrade our temporary ID to have our photo on it. And here I was, psyched to see whether I had what it takes to be a true S.T.A.T.I.O.N. agent and ready to throw down any amount of money for that flight simulation picture. Nope, nuthin’.
Which brings us full circle to my first point. That ill-timed green-screen photo. Turns out the entire exhibition has a no photos policy. Like I said, we went costumed and gung-ho, but there was no way for us to show the world our excitement about this exhibition. Were there image licensing constraints? Probably. So perhaps they could have set up a few photo-specific stations inside. Ultimately, we salvaged our own experience, bought a couple of t-shirts and posed at the entrance with the promotional poster. But we would have loved to show our friends so much more. Your patrons are your best marketing tools, Discovery; let us use our social media to do your marketing for you!