Transformers Ride Comes To Orlando

trans rideI had the chance to go to Orlando recently and made a stop at Universal Studios Orlando. The theme park’s newest attraction is Transformers: The Ride–3D, which opened on June 20th. This is the third incarnation of the ride, the first two being in the Universal Studios parks in Singapore and Hollywood. Our contributor GEO raved about this ride last year when it opened in Hollywood, so I was very excited to try it.

After standing in line for over an hour in the summer heat and finally riding it, I’ll have to say that Transformers: The Ride–3D was underwhelming.

Don’t get me wrong, the pre-show and the setup are topnotch. But I wasn’t into the ride; something kept nagging me about it for the rest of the morning. Later that day, I went to Islands Of Adventure nearby and once there I realized what was wrong with the Transformers ride. I saw the sign for Islands Of Adventure’s attraction The Amazing Adventures Of Spider-Man and it hit me. The Transformers ride is a near copy of the Spider-Man ride!

For anyone who hasn’t experienced the Spider-Man ride, you get into a vehicle and put on 3D glasses. Then the vehicle zips off and you witness Spider-Man in huge 3D screens fighting his enemies as the car zooms from one spot to another. The entire thing gives the impression that you’re part of the scenes. This was revolutionary back in 1999 when the park first opened, and it still is. It is incredible that none of the rides since then have copied it, until the Transformers did it.

evacI guess I would’ve enjoyed Transformers: The Ride–3D more if it didn’t copy many moments from the Spider-Man ride. One example is when the vehicle you’re on is supposedly freefalling and saved before hitting the ground.

Don’t ask about the story, the ride follows the style of those awful Michael Bay films in that it’s confusing, loud and too much is going onscreen. It had something to do with the evil Decepticon robots led by Megatron trying to get something called the Allspark for who knows what reason. My friends told me this doohickey was featured in the films and is the soul of the Transformers.

There are appearances by the good Autobots like Optimus Prime and Bumblebee who help out your vehicle, who is actually an Autobot called Evac. To be honest, aside from some audio and a few shots of CG hands in the screen in front of me, I could barely tell we were riding inside a robot. Evac didn’t have much of a personality, he wasn’t like Bumblebee for sure.

The ride is largely a tug of war between Evac and Megatron, as the Allspark keeps switching hands. In the meantime, there are lots of explosions, slow motion shots and machinery being crunched and twisted. Probably the best thing about this ride is that it didn’t feature Sam Witwicky (Shia LeBeouf)!

battle

Maybe Transformers: The Ride–3D might’ve left more of an impression if it was more original in its moves or had better special effects. It was obvious that CG was used in the scenes and I wonder how these effects will hold up in the future. I think they’ll probably look dated before long.

Tranformers fans should love the ride, but I liked Transformers: The Ride–3D better when it was a Spider-Man ride.

Annette DeForrester

 

The Must-Read Book For The Summer: Max Brook’s World War Z

 

world war z coverTrends come in cycles. Recently the popular culture has seen the return of an old and familiar staple, the zombie. The Hollywood ghouls started out in the spooky black and white classics of the 30s and 40s, but they were branded into the baby boomer consciousness via George Romero’s 1968 classic Night of the Living Dead. To be fair, they’ve never been away much since, thanks to Living Dead‘s various sequels, semi-sequels, and remakes. But in 2002 British film wunderkind Danny Boyle gave the genre a shot of adrenalin with 28 Days Later, about a deadly virus ravaging London and turning survivors into hyperkinetic, psychotic killers. For zombie fans, the die was cast.

In 2003 writer Max Brooks – son of Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft – wrote The Zombie Survival Guide (TZSG), a tongue-in-cheek “how-to” on surviving a zombie onslaught as society breaks down. TZSG was a New York Times best –seller thanks to its dark humor and occasional light tone. The book’s characteristics, however, did not mask the fact that underneath the surface it contained some very useful survival information, and it’s easy to see that Brooks did his research. His work must have fuelled a thirst somewhere, because a month later Image Comics began publishing Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead (now a hit TV series on the AMC cable network), describing the adventures of survivors of a zombie apocalypse.  The undead were officially back in style.

Not to be outdone, Brooks took zombies one step further and in 2006 came out with World War Z (WWZ), describing the entire history of a massive, deadly zombie onslaught – a war, basically between humans and the undead (“Z” for zombie, if you haven’t yet figured that out). The zombies are the same as those in TZSG, making the book a follow-up of sorts.  According to Brooks, zombies are humans re-animated by an incurable disease, spread by a zombie bite or having open pores exposed to zombie tissue. Taking a page from Romero’s model, they are slow, brainless creatures completely devoid of intelligence, whose sole instinct is to eat live flesh. They are incapable of tiring, cannot drown, and can only be killed by a blow to the head.

Other than that, WWZ is very different in style and tone than its slim predecessor. Patterned in structure after Studs Terkel’s classic oral history of WW2, The Good War, WWZ is not one story per se like Kirkman’s comic but rather a series of individual accounts telling the story from the initial sudden outbreak to mankind’s victory and the sad, weary aftermath.  The book’s narrator (in whose voice Brooks writes), a member of the (fictional) United Nations Post War Committee, is commissioned to interview survivors from mankind’s war against zombies.  Like a twisted travelogue, Brooks shuttles around the world, as survivors running the gamut from military, clergy, health services, government officials, security, and ultimately the average citizen describe their experience and the ghastly horrors they witnessed.

In a chilling opener, the story begins quickly but methodically. In a remote, rural province in China, a young boy goes diving for sunken booty with his father. His father is pulled down by something unknown and the boy escapes but is nipped on the heel.  The poor infected lad becomes “patient zero”, infecting others and kickstarting the zombie pandemic. Once the infection goes beyond the village, it acts as an out-of-whack Rube Goldberg contraption, setting in motion a chain of events that will change the world.  Infected Chinese refugees begin streaming across the border into Central Asia. Others fly out to Europe, bringing the infection to the continent. The Chinese government feverishly tries to halt the spread and invents a military crisis involving Taiwan to mask their armed build up and activities.  Only after hitting the poor South African ghetto townships does the world begin to take notice, calling it the “African Rabies”.  Israel is one of the first to respond, imposing a national quarantine, granting entry only to uninfected Jews and Palestinians, and calling out the Israel Defense Forces for border security.

Through the illegal organ trade, the infection reaches Brazil and once in Mundus Novus it begins to wreak havoc.  Zombies rip through an unprepared United States, as corruption, government incompetence, and overconfidence result in some heavy bungling and widespread deaths. Millions all over the world begin fleeing their homes for safety, as the “Great Panic” begins. At a major, decisive battle in Yonkers, New York, American soldiers fight a massive and frightening wave of undead as if they were fighting living soldiers. Using inappropriate techniques against an undead army – such as attempting to “demoralize them” – they fail miserably and the American forces are brutally defeated on live TV. Other countries encounter similar disastrous results and world civilization as we know it begins to crumble. Continue reading

Top 10 Sci-Fi Theme Park Rides & Attractions

star quea

The highlight of any visit to a theme park for sci-fi fans are the sci-fi based rides and attractions. Whether derived from popular movies and TV shows or original creations, these rides and attractions feature top-notch effects and thrills and bring these fantastic worlds to life.

There has been some exciting developments regarding theme park attractions; notably Disney’s acquisition of the Star Wars franchise. Rumors are rampant that there will be a major expansion devoted to Star Wars in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Meanwhile Universal Studios is celebrating their latest sci-fi attraction, Transformers The Ride–3D.

It may be thrilling to contemplate tomorrow’s attractions, but many memorable rides have stood the test of t10000time despite featuring outdated technology. What made them classics were how well they were executed or captured the mood of a film or TV show. This list celebrates past and current rides and attractions that fire up the imagination.

Please note, rollercoaster rides were left off the list because frankly, theming most rollercoaster rides are a waste. When riding those vomit rides, riders are zipping by so fast and hard on the tracks that no one can properly view or admire the rides’ sci-fi trappings.

10. Borg Invasion 4D (Star Trek: The Experience): This attraction was basically a 3D movie but wrapped around it was an interactive storyline where guests visited a Starbase that came under a Borg attack. Guests were then “evacuated” by Starfleet personnel into an escape shuttle, which was the movie itself.

dinosaur

9. Dinosaur (Disney’s Animal Kingdom): Originally called Countdown To Extinction, the ride’s name was changed to its current title when the film Dinosaur came out in 2000. The premise is that a time-traveling jeep goes back in time to rescue an iguanodon, while the vehicle must avoid audio-animatronic dinosaurs, meteors and other dazzling effects. The herky-jerky ride is pretty rough but the sudden chaotic moves add to the excitement and suspense.

8. The Timekeeper (Magic Kingdom): The attraction was one of those Circlevision 360 movies Disney has all over Epcot’s World Showcase where standing audiences have a film played all around them. The Timekeeper was an android (voiced by Robin Williams) who transports the audience, Jules Verne and H.G. Wells throughout time. The finale that takes place in a futuristic Paris was simply stunning and immersed guests into a futuristic world.

mspace7. Mission: Space (Epcot): According to some astronauts, this ride does a great job of recreating a rocket launch. Centrifugal forces do a number on riders enclosed in narrow, claustrophobic stations that simulate a spaceship being launched and escaping Earth’s gravity.  Riders play specific parts as team members on their way to Mars. Mission: Space is so rough that a milder version of the ride had to be introduced.

6. Horizons (EPCOT Center): This long-gone pavilion at EPCOT horizonsCenter was a nifty dark ride that showed how early visionaries viewed our future (with nods to A Voyage To The Moon). The latter part of the ride showcased families living in futuristic environments like onboard a space station. The finale allowed riders to choose from three different future environments (desert, ocean and outer space) to explore.

5. Back To The Future: The Ride (Universal Studios): Possibly the greatest old-style simulator ride of all time before innovations like 3D were added to these types of rides. Visitors at Doc Brown’s (Christopher Lloyd) Institute of Future Technology had to ride a modified time-traveling DeLorean to chase down another DeLorean driven by Biff Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson). Huge IMAX screens and especially rough rides added to the illusion that the vehicles were time-traveling to different eras.

4. Terminator 2 3D: Battle Across Time (Universal Studios Florida): The 3D effects in this attraction still hold up today and the pre-show presentation is fun to watch. What is interesting is that it is the final time that director James Cameron worked with the stars from Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong and Robert Patrick.  In the attraction, a Cyberdyne Systems demonstration of their new primitive T-70 robots are interrupted by Sarah and John Connor, as well as the T-1000. Fortunately, the heroic T-800 Terminator comes to the rescue as the attraction seamlessly blends live-action and 3D effects.

spider ride3. The Amazing Adventures Of Spider-Man (Islands Of Adventure): This ride uses different technologies (3D, pyro effects, simulators, etc.) to create one of the most exciting rides ever. Riders board a news vehicle and encounter Spider-Man as he battles Doctor Octopus, Hobgoblin, Electro and others throughout New York City.  Riders are literally thrown into the dizzying, aerobatic action when Doctor Octopus uses an anti-gravity rifle to elevate the ride vehicle over skyscrapers, as he and his cohorts battle Spider-Man. It’s all a  wondrous blending of different effects that throws riders into the action. The way Spidey lands on the vehicle is still thrilling after multiple rides. The Spider-Man ride recently underwent an HD upgrade that adds even more eye-popping depth to the experience.

2. Star Tours: The Adventures Continue (Disney’s Hollywood Studios/Disneyland): This update of the vader 3doriginal Star Tours keeps the simulator ride refreshing by offering several different scenarios. The premise is largely the same, riders visit the Star Tours station and board a Starspeeder vehicle. This time, the droid C-3P0 accidently becomes the pilot of the vehicle that captures the interest of imperial forces, who are looking for a Rebel spy onboard the vehicle. Sometimes Darth Vader himself tries to seize the vessel using the Force The Starspeeder narrowly escapes and takes off to safely deliver the Rebel spy through random locations. They range from the ice planet Hoth to the desert planet Tatooine. Another bonus is that the ride is in 3D, but Star Tours: The Adventures Continue is so great that it doesn’t need the gimmick.

1. Klingon Encounter (Star Trek: The Experience): It really is a star trek expshame that Star Trek: The Experience closed because not all fans were able to go to Las Vegas to experience the Klingon Encounter ride/attraction. Guests were seemingly transported onboard the Enterprise D as it comes under attack by rogue Klingons. Thanks to the faithfully recreated details of the ship, including the bridge, guests were made to feel as if they were actually onboard Captain Picard’s ship. The actors who interacted with guests as Enterprise officers helped sell this illusion, as well as the shuttle ride that concluded the attraction. No other ride or attraction went to this level to immerse a guest and make him or her feel as if they’re part of the storyline. Paramount or CBS should really try to bring this encounter back somehow–but they should pick someplace more compatible instead of Vegas.

Honorable Mentions: The original Star Tours (Disneyland), Body Wars (EPCOT Center), The ExtarTERRORestrial Alien buzzEncounter (Magic Kingdom), E.T. Adventure (Universal Studios), Jurassic Park: The Ride (Universal Studios Hollywood), Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin (Magic Kingdom), Transformers The Ride–3D (Universal Studios Hollywood), Honey, I Shrunk The Audience! (Epcot), and Men In Black: Alien Attack (Universal Studios Florida)

José Soto

Which Are Worse, Superman III & IV Or The Schumacher Batman Movies?

 

drunk supes and clark batman forever

The title says it all. While many comic book fans are salivating over the upcoming Man Of Steel movie, many of them want to forget not just Superman Returns but those horrendously awful Superman sequels from the ’80s, Superman III and Superman IV: The Quest For Peace.

On the flip side of that notion there are the Batman movies. Sure Christopher Nolan singlehandedly reinvented and salvaged the Bat franchise with his own take of Batman, but the sting of Joel Schumacher’s version of Batman in the ’90s is still felt.

Altogether these flicks nearly derailed each franchise and forced years-long moratoriums where no new Superman or Batman movies were available. With the Superman train wrecks it took nearly twenty years until a new Superman movie came out. But Superman Returns was a huge letdown and brought upon another drought of Superman flicks until this year. Batman recovered much quicker, his sabbatical from the movies only lasted seven years and his comeback flick Batman Begins set fandom on fire, culminating with The Dark Knight.

Still the nagging question remains, which of those films are worse? Let’s take a look, and start with Superman.

drunk supes

Super Duds

Before Superman III, Superman was riding high in popularity. Superman II was a huge success in the movies with its action-packed story about Kryptonian supervillains coming to Earth and Superman having to confront them. The end of the movie promised a Superman III, which excited many people. Unfortunately, the second sequel was doomed from the start. See, Richard Donner, who deserves credit for his masterful work on Superman and parts of Superman II had no input in the third Superman movie. Executive producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind had a feud with Donner and even fired him during production of Superman II. They turned to their buddy Richard Lester to complete that movie.

Now that they were running the show completely without Donner, they proceeded to ruin Superman by turning Superman III a comedy. It wouldn’t be as bad as it sounded if the movie was funny. Quite the opposite, it was moronic and embarrassing to watch. How bad was it? I put it on a few weeks ago when it was on cable to watch with my seven-year-old nephew. After a few minutes (right around that stupid scene where the traffic light figurines fight with each other), he told me to change the channel because “Superman III is dumb!”

supes gus gormanWhat is hard to believe is that there are actually defenders of this film who hail its dumb comedic bits, including Richard Pryor’s casting! Talk about misfires! Superman III heralded the downfall of Pryor’s reputation in the movies. Once the guy was seen as a comedic genius and had several hit movies under his belt. Then the poor comedian made a comment in a talk show about how he loved Superman II. Fate turned out to be cruel because the filmmakers behind the Superman films got wind of this comment and decided to put him in Superman III. It was a ballsy move, but it didn’t work. Pryor was known for his racy humor, which had to be toned down for the kid-friendly Superman film and instead he became a bumbling, unfunny buffoon in the movie. His character wasn’t much of a villain, just a misguided dupe forced to help an evil tycoon (Robert Vaughn), and of course, he helps Superman in the end. Ho hum.

Superman (and actor Christopher Reeve) took a break and didn’t appear again until the abysmal Superman IV: The Quest For Peace. By this time, the Salkinds washed their hands of the Man of Steel and sold him off to the schlocky film studio Cannon Films, famous for the zero-quality Chuck Norris and Charles Bronson action flicks.

The fourth film, the new filmmakers promised, was supposed to be bigger and better. Instead, the budget for it was severely slashed leaving an extremely cheesy mess. But the worst part was the script where Reeve supposedly had input on. Lord almighty. Superman gets rid of all the nuclear weapons without thinking of the consequences. But the movie doesn’t even cover that or have any serious discussions superman 4about that idea. The only thing that happens is that Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) schemes with some generals and creates a sort of Superman clone called Nuclear Man (Mark Pillow). The two superhumans fight and talk in space(!) and Superman pushes the moon to create a solar eclipse to defeat him. It was strictly for kids. Alright I’m stopping. Let’s just say this wasn’t one of Superman’s better films and as much as people like to riff on director Bryan Singer for Superman Returns, at least that movie didn’t have gross scientific inaccuracies.

Continue reading

Matt Smith Leaving Doctor Who

who and tardisWell, it has just been confirmed, Matt Smith, the Eleventh Doctor in the long-running Doctor Who TV show, will be leaving the program later this year. His final appearances will be in the 50th anniversary special and the annual Doctor Who Christmas special.

Matt Smith’s departure is a real surprise to many Who fans that have come to love his goofy portrayal of the distaff time-traveling alien. He injected wild energy and enthusiasm into his role as the last Time Lord. His tenure was marked by some behind-the-scene readjustments as Steven Moffat took over as the showrunner for Doctor Who. When asked in an interview about Smith leaving Doctor Who, Moffat could only praise him, saying “The Doctor can be clown and hero – often at the same time – and Matt rose to both challenges magnificently. And even better than that, given the pressures of this extraordinary show, he is one of the nicest and hardest-working people I have ever had the privilege of knowing.”

amy pond and dr

After some growing pains, the show seemed to find its voice and won over many fans, this one included, who looked forward to seeing Smith’s rapid-fire line deliveries and antics. I really liked how he and the show connected with American culture like him donning a cowboy hat and having episodes solidly based in the U.S. Many of the Eleventh Doctor’s episodes stood out like “The Doctor’s Wife” and “The Bells Of Saint John”. Some of the stories weren’t that great but that wasn’t Smith’s fault and he had some memorable Companions like Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) and now with Clara Oswald (Jenna-Louise Coleman), who is staying with the show.

who and claraWhile some of us may be saddened by Smith leaving the role of the iconic Time Lord, the ever-changing nature of the role itself will open up new opportunities for someone else. For anyone who’s not up on Doctor Who lore, the Doctor is an alien that has the ability to change his appearance whenever he is close to dying. This neat plot trick was developed way back in the ’60s when the first actor to play the Doctor (William Hartnell) left the program. It’s really convenient that the character is an alien since the regeneration has allowed new and interesting interpretations of the Time Lord.

As to who (pun intended) will replace Matt Smith, well casting agents are probably busy right now pestering Steven Moffat for auditioning their clients. Rumors are already going wild with the idea of a woman to take over the role to Damien Lewis to even David Tennant (the Tenth Doctor–now that would be a bizarre twist!).

who and daleks

It’s doubtful that anyone can copy Smith’s irascible and eccentric interpretation, nor should it be done. The replacement should be given the chance to add his (or her) own spin to this legendary sci-fi hero. That’s the beauty of Doctor Who.

Annette DeForrester