The recent trailer for Avengers: Damage Control has Ant-Man telling the audience to “Make good choices.”
If you’re already going through the experience, however—an immersive 4-D VR adventure that involves strapping on goggles and a backpack before galivanting around a physical stage full of sensory effects—the joke’s on Ant-Man: you’ve already made good choices by deciding to spend the time and money (18-20 minutes and $39.95, respectively) to suit up and enter the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Avengers: Damage Control is the third time ILMxLAB has used The VOID’s VR platform to create experiences that leverage Disney’s ever-growing swath of IP. The first two—Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire and Ralph Breaks VR—are also immersive and wholly satisfying experiences in their own right (especially the Star Wars one); Damage Control, however, was a year-and-a-half effort that resulted in a longer, more expansive, and more technologically sophisticated adventure.
Read on to learn more about the experience, including whether or not it’s part of MCU canon.
You’re an Avenger. And Like Some Avengers, You Have a Super Suit
The creative team’s fundamental driver for the project was to make guests feel like they’re part of the Avengers. Being an Avenger means having superpowers, of course, which led to the team developing supersuits that combine Wakandan and Stark Industries technology. The suits are a successful amalgamation of both, with guests able to shoot repulsor blasts out of their hands like Iron-Man and call up a Wakandan energy shield similar to the ones The Border Tribe used in combat. “The whole idea was that you’re the superhero,” Grant Anderson, Technical Producer of Damage Control, explains. “The critical thing for us is that you feel that the things that are happening [in the experience] are gesture-based…we understood that fantasy of having that Iron-Man pose.”
And the Iron-Man pose works amazingly well—the timing of when the blasts shoot is natural and intuitive, and it’s immensely satisfying to watch the bad guys fall because of your actions. Damage Control’s focus on gesture-based movements required the tech’s hand responsiveness to go up a notch from earlier ILMxLAB-The VOID experiences as well; those who’ve been a spy-disguised-as-a-stormtrooper in Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire, for example, may recall the somewhat clunky hands of the stormtrooper suits. In Damage Control, however, your hands are more articulated—you can move each finger independently—and respond faster to your real-life movements. There’s more to the suits, however, than just firepower and protection—at least one secret suit capability exists, although you’ll have to discover it for yourself (hint: the suits may or may not also have a flashlight, which can help you peer into dark corners if you’re so inclined).
A Not-Too-Spoilery Overview of What to Expect
Once you’re suited up, you enter a swath of different locations that you’ve been to before in the MCU films. I don’t want to get too spoilery here, but the story takes you to places large and small, and has you interact with several MCU characters including Ant-Man, Wasp and Doctor Strange (the three of whom were voiced by their actor counterparts: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly and Benedict Cumberbatch respectively).
Speaking of the characters, they all also sound like they’re supposed to, and not just because they got some of the actors to come in and read for the experience. The scripting here (written by Patrick Burleigh, a writing consultant on Ant-Man and the Wasp) rings true to how the characters speak and act in the movies. This includes the live-action video at the beginning of the journey, where Shuri (yes, the actual Shuri played by Letitia Wright) trains you how to use the suits before you go off to fight the big bad.
The Villain is Someone We’ve Seen Before…
The creative team debated whether to create a new big bad or bring back a villain from the MCU past, and ultimately decided on Ultron. That’s right, as the trailer revealed, Ultron is back, though he looks a bit different than when we last saw him in Avengers: Age of Ultron, where Vision destroys him (or so we thought).
“It’s fun bringing back the villains people love. It’s fun to bring them back in a new way,” Dave Bushore, VP of Franchise Creative & Marketing at Marvel Studios, explains. “There were ideas in Age of Ultron to make a mega Ultron…it was very much a part of, ‘Well if we’re going to bring him back, let’s do that thing we always talked about.’”
And Ultron is big. Very big, and also made from a bunch of junked Marvel vehicles we’ve seen in working order in previous movies. Again, without too many spoilers, the end of the experience has you craning your neck to see all of Ultron’s mishmashed body as you and your fellow Avengers get ready to fight him. And the battle against him is a satisfying one, with enough MCU pals showing up to make even the most crotchety Marvel fan’s heart soar.
Sounds Great and All, But is Damage Control Part of MCU Canon?
The short answer is kind of, but not really. “It’s about celebrating ten years of Marvel Studios films,” says Bushore. “It’s about being able to bring people to places inside of those ten years…that’s the fun of it—getting to say, ‘It happened to me.’ You get to step in the timeline for the first time; you get to say, I lived in the universe.”
And you do feel like you’ve lived in the MCU world, albeit for only 20 minutes or so. If you’re an MCU fan, it’s well worth doing. It’s even worth doing if you’re not that big of a Marvel fan but like immersive VR experiences that are gamified to boot—Shuri gives you your stats at the end of the adventure, including how many of Ultron’s drones you and your teammates (the experience can hold 2-4 guests per session) were able to shoot down.
So if you can afford it, give it a try. It’s worth having the Avengers assemble one more time, and the fact that you’re one of them is icing on the cake.
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