Marvel Studios celebrates Ten Years of Heroes with a new exhibit at the ArtScience Museum, which showcases elements from all twenty movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Yes, twenty – including the latest feature film Ant-Man and the Wasp that will buzz into theatres next month. The exhibit is the result of a collaboration between Marvel’s parent company The Walt Disney Company and Taiwan pop culture giant Beast Kingdom, and organised by local exhibition specialists SPACElogic. But is it worth the admission fee if you’re a hardcore MCU fan?
The short answer is a disappointing no, and it’s only because the exhibition is less than the sum of its parts. Despite being inspired by one of the greatest pop culture phenomenons in the past decade, despite the combined forces of three renowned companies, despite being hosted by a Museum known for curating some truly transcendental exhibits, the Marvel Studios: Ten Years of Heroes exhibition simply fails to deliver.
The exhibit is divided into a total of ten sections, each with a specific theme. The first section starts off with the best of intentions, by showcasing animated posters of each MCU movie along with their release date, director and a short synopsis. But despite displays boasting of the MCU’s twenty movies, there are only nineteen displays, with Ant-Man and the Wasp conspicuously absent. I hope this is simply because the movie has yet to be released, and that the absent display will show up midway through the exhibition’s run, but it immediately begs the question why the exhibit needed to be opened now. We’ll return to this point later.
The second section is the largest and arguably the most impressive. Dedicated to Iron Man, the first display uses 3D projection mapping to showcase the many armours of Tony Stark over the past 10 years. It’s pretty clever, but the lack of interaction means that you move on quickly to the next.
There are screens featuring elements of the three Iron Man movies, but the piece de resistance has to be the 5 metre tall Iron Man statue. Very cool.
Unfortunately, none of the other sections comes close, and it’s pretty much all downhill from there.
The third section belongs to Captain America and it is the weakest in my opinion. Not only is it limited to a single display featuring three of the shields Steve Rogers has used – the description of the USO shield even referred to him as “Cappy”. Seriously. Who. Calls. Him. That!?!
The rest of Cap’s section is a static, not very detailed model of the Helicarrier – with the background video display arranged to make it seem like it was emerging from the water into the sky. No stretch of any imagination could make that look good.
The fourth section is Thor’s. There’s a cool antechamber with mirrors which is supposed to represent travelling via Bifrost, but the actual display is another minor disappointment. A lifesize Mjolnir display is hidden in a corner, but the handle out of reach of smaller children. Not that you could lift Mjolnir – no one is worthy enough after all – but it’s a nice photo op for the young at heart. The rest of the chamber has Beast Kingdom’s lifesize models of Thor and Hulk from Thor: Ragnarok which you would have already seen if you were at STGCC last year.
Oh, and before I forget, there is an Art and Science display in every section, curated by the ArtScience Museum. This serves as a tangent to the exhibit as a whole, and I definitely enjoyed learning something new from each of these pretty fascinating exhibits. I would definitely have liked to have seen more of them, so it was a pity that they felt like an afterthought, or as a begrudging concession to the exhibit’s host.
The few interactive displays include this one in the Doctor Strange section. The concept is actually really cool and clearly inspired by the movie. You can either “bend reality” or “create a portal”. The execution, on the other hand, falls flat. All “bend reality” does is allows you to create a kaleidoscope effect which you can control with hand movements, while “create a portal” cleverly gives you access to a camera within Marina Bay Sands.
Unfortunately, the effect is much less impressive when there’s no one on the other side at the point in time, and since you can’t control the camera, half the time you’d have nothing to see.
Sadly, this is symptomatic of the other two interactive displays. Great in concept but somewhat lacking in execution. One display allows you to dance with Baby Groot, which is a cool idea until you realise all he does is mirror you, so he’s only as good a dancer as you are. But the most confusing display has to be the one in the tenth and final section, where you’re supposed to be able to interact with your favourite superhero, but the entire sequence takes so long and the result is so underwhelming that you wonder if you did it right.
The exhibition ends with a big backdrop featuring many of the actors and directors who have made the first ten years of Marvel Studios possible. They’re life-sized, so you can pose in front of them and pretend you were a part of this incredible journey.
Finally, you get to buy a souvenir from the exhibition’s shop. This is a great chance to pick up one of Beast Kingdom’s many licensed products, though I would have preferred some designs to be exclusive to the exhibition.
And so the question remains, why choose to open the exhibit now? Was it simply to take advantage of the June school holidays so that children would drag their parents down for this? The fact that family packages are being sold seems evidence enough of their intent. But the exhibit is honestly not very child-friendly. The number of interactive stations are very limited and the few present probably won’t hold the attention of any kid for long. I imagine the narrow corridors and relative lack of lighting in most of the chambers would probably frustrate parents with younger ones.
Perhaps it was the limited space, but all in all the exhibition didn’t quite seem to nail the ambitious aspirations it clearly had. It’s a pity because Marvel Studios: Ten Years of Heroes truly had the potential to be so much more. But kudos to the ArtScience Museum for contributing what I thought was the most worthwhile part of the experience.
Marvel Studios: Ten Years of Heroes opens tomorrow. Tickets are $19 for adults, $14 for senior citizens (65 and above), students and children between 2 to 12 years of age. If you are a Singapore resident, tickets are $16 for adults, and $12 for senior citizens (65 and above), students and children between 2 to 12 years of age.
Family packages are also available – 2 kids and 2 adults for $54, or $45 if all 4 are Singapore residents.