'Avengers: Damage Control' muscles into world of virtual reality
Posted October 16, 2019 5:58 p.m. EDT
CNN — If you've ever dreamed about putting on armor and fighting alongside the Avengers, your day has come -- but for a fee.
"Avengers: Damage Control" is the latest virtual-reality experience at The Void locations, following previous exercises devoted to other Disney-owned properties "Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire" and "Ralph Breaks VR," derived from the "Wreck-It Ralph" movies.
"Damage Control" is distinguished by a few factors, the first being that it's the longest VR experience that Disney and its development arm at ILMxLAB, Lucasfilm's immersive entertainment unit, have as yet undertaken. The adventure runs 18-20 minutes -- almost twice as long as "Ralph Breaks VR" -- depending on how long the participants take to walk, and fight, their way through it.
Telling a story set after the events in "Avengers: Endgame," players in VR headsets and backpacks are introduced to the encounter by the Black Panther's sister Shuri (Letitia Wright), who, in the story, has devised suits based on her brother's uniform combined with Iron Man's tech from Stark Industries. Those small groups are then dispatched to fight off a threat -- using Iron Man-like blasts to shoot down enemies -- which is augmented by a variety of haptic effects, including wind, heat and smell. (The faint whiff of popcorn, for example, which given the moment, is a nice touch.)
"Fans wanted to have a longer experience," Shereif Fattouh, senior producer at ILMxLAB, explained at a demonstration of the "Damage Control" program. Without disclosing a budget, he added that there were "no holds barred in delivering on the fantasy."
Beyond the video featuring Wright, several actors in the Marvel universe -- including Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly -- lent their voices to the project.
Virtual reality remains expensive relative to movie-going -- prices vary, but tickets run close to $40 at the Void location in Anaheim, near Disneyland -- and the suggestion is for children age 10 and up.
Still, the technical wizards continue to improve and refine the technology, from more elaborate storytelling to immersive imagery that offers fans the "wish-fulfillment," as they designers put it, of getting a taste of what it would be like to don Iron Man's suit, or at least a version of it.
For those weaned on the characters, said ILMxLAB experience designer Ian Bowie, once the backpack and headset are strapped on, "You get to live it."
"Avengers: Damage Control" will begin playing at The Void locations on Oct. 18.