Take a simulator ride, a 3-D movie (the good kind), and a roller coaster. Mash them together, and what do you get? The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man ride, a staple of Universal Studios: Islands of Adventure’s “Marvel Super Hero Island” area.
Previously, on “The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man” ride at Universal Studios: Islands of Adventure… The ride, which centers around Spider-Man’s battle with the Sinister Syndicate to save the Statue of Liberty, debuted in 1999, and at the time was revolutionary, combining a simulator, a 3-D movie (back when that was a good thing), and a roller coaster. Now, thirteen years later, the video elements have undergone major refurbishment and I went all the way to Orlando to get the scoop for Major Spoilers! (and, you know, to go on vacation).
IMMERSION, SOFTWARE VERSION 7.0
The ride begins as you don your 3-D glasses after entering the Daily Bugle’s revolutionary new “SCOOP” vehicle. You get a brief lecture from J. Jonah Jameson, during which you see the Spider Signal, and then Spider-Man jumps onto your car. If it were merely a simulator, you would likely feel the car move as Spidey lands. If it were merely a 3-D movie, you would likely be impressed with how it looks like Spider-Man is actually on your car. Because this ride incorporates both, it both feels AND looks like a super-hero has jumped onto your car and is waving his finger in your face, informing you that “this could be the most dangerous of my life, and yours!” as the Sinister Syndicate, consisting of Electro, Hydroman, Scream, Hobgoblin and the ringleader Doctor Octopus.
The most important part of a theme park ride of this sort in my opinion is its ability to convince you that you aren’t on a theme park ride. Having just completed a string of seven theme parks in seven days, doing most of the rides at each, I can attest that the immersion factor of Spider-Man is the highest; it feels like you’re legitimately in the New York of the Marvel universe. The only other ride that comes close is another Islands of Adventure ride, the “Forbidden Journey” ride in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter zone, though it suffers from its lack of 3-D. An honorable mention also goes out to the new Turtle Trek 3-D movie at Sea World, which utilizes a planetarium-esque 360 degree dome-screen to put you in the shell of a sea turtle.
SEE YOU IN THE NEXT DIMENSION
Speaking of the 3-D, I tend to be vocally against the crappy 3-D we get in most movies at the theater, but the 3-D at theme parks is an entirely different beast. And the updated 3-D of the Spider-Man ride is top of the line. I’d thought the graphics were wonderful when I rode it at the age of 13, but back then the CGI in the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movie was still incredible. The picture now is far more crisp, and after my first ride through I found myself closely watching the backgrounds, trying to pick out individual details that I’d never noticed before in my 40+ times riding it while I was in 6th and 7th grade.
IT’S BEYOND OUR COMPREHENSION
Scream really benefited from the graphical update. I honestly thought it was a female Carnage up until this trip, but after my first ride through the new version, I knew it had to be a different symbiote (I hadn’t actually heard of Scream, not being a huge reader of Marvel comics). To figure out who that character was, I turned to another part of the ride that had been updated – the waiting-in-line movie! To my recollection the movie shown to people in line before was just a briefing on the SCOOP vehicle that you ride in, and a brief discussion with J. Jonah Jameson. Now it’s a news report giving more backstory on the events of the ride, focusing on each member of the Sinister Syndicate and their part in the abduction of the Statue of Liberty. It was really well done, and had I not gotten the Universal Express Pass to skip the line it would’ve made waiting much more pleasant.
As I mentioned earlier, between the ages of 12 and 13 I rode Spider-Man somewhere in excess of 40 times (my family was living in Florida at the time, and we got annual passes. I rode it 20+ times in one day when my dad was out golfing and my mom and sister decided to go do the Seuss Landing portion of the park). For the vast majority of those 40+ rides, I was convinced that Hydro-Man shouted “You’re dead gonna die” at me during the portion where he and Electro were teamed up. Eventually I mentioned that to my folks, and my dad informed me that, A) that line made no sense, and B) the actual line was “You’re taking a dive,” which was much more fitting with the Hydro-Man character’s theme. Along with the graphics overhaul, they updated the speaker system for the ride, and I finally got a clearer hearing of Hydro-Man’s line (and it is in fact “you’re taking a dive”).
THE VERDICT: The third greatest audio/visual show of my lifetime
The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man has long been my favorite theme park ride of any sort, and, behind Avatar in 3-D and seeing Trans-Siberian Orchestra in concert, the third most amazing audio/visual show I’ve ever seen. It was always immersive, and this update has taken that to the next level, truly bringing the webhead into the 21st Century. Five stars for my favorite theme park attraction of all time.