Iron Man has always been a larger-than-life character, most recently when portrayed by Robert Downey Jr. on the silver screen.
For visitors to the ‘Marvel Studios: Ten Years of Heroes’ exhibition that runs from June 9-September 30 at Singapore’s ArtScience Museum, the Iron Man on display is larger than life in a more literal manner – built of fibreglass and metal and posed in mid-stride, it stands five metres tall, weighs 500kg, and took a team of 10 people a full day to set-up, a superhuman feat in itself.
The show, which has its world premiere in the Lion City, marks 10 years and 19 films released by Marvel Studios and is an interactive presentation on the multi-layered genre that is the Marvel superhero.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) debuted in 2008 with Iron Man, and its various characters and plot lines have since interconnected to come together in this year’s smash hit, Avengers: Infinity War, with a global box-office take of more than US$2 billion (at press time). The exhibition celebrates that journey in an entertaining, interactive fashion, unwinding through a 1,500-sqm basement gallery space.
Born from a partnership between Disney, Beast Kingdom (the Taiwan-headquartered licensee for Marvel), Singapore-based display company SPACElogic, and the ArtScience Museum, the exhibition brings visitors into alternate universes through creative set design, life-size (or larger) models, state-of-the-art visual technology, and booming audio.
“With three movies released in 2018, this is the year of Marvel for us,” says Amit Malhotra, country head, The Walt Disney Company Singapore and Malaysia (Disney owns Marvel Entertainment). “Marvel is now a dynamic global entertainment brand, connecting with fans in unique ways and across multiple platforms.”
Guests of the show will enter Wakanda, the world of Black Panther, pose with a replica of Thor’s hammer, and have Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy mimic their dance moves. Displays curated by the museum will demystify and expand on the science, technology, art and cultural storytelling that underpins each film.
“The MCU brings science to life through art,” says Honor Harger, executive director of the ArtScience Museum. “We are asking you to step inside the world of stories on the screen. You are not meeting the characters, but travelling in their world through technology.”
While most gallery-goers are Marvel fans, the show also draws newbies yearning for a novel experience, one centred around a brand that has quickly become a global icon.
“The exhibition presents a unique opportunity for Marvel fans to relive the journey through the MCU,” says Gregory Chia, executive director at SPACElogic. “For visitors who aren’t Marvel fans, this will be a good opportunity for them to ‘catch-up’ on what they have missed.”
The exhibition is laid out as a meandering passageway through separate zones, each corresponding to a different film or hero. An assortment of methods link the various themes of each film, from technology to replicas, art pieces to music. Tall, black partition walls and the smart use of sound ensure every zone feels distinct.
The Marvel movies, both as individual cinematographic works and as an oeuvre, have a loyal following and it was key for the exhibition to recreate the imagery and iconography of each movie and character as authentically as possible.
Beast Kingdom, as one of only a handful of Marvel licensees in the world, was an obvious choice for the supply of the hardware, display pieces and gift items.
The use of technology is critical, to elevate Marvel from comics and a series of movies to something more tangible, an invaluable outreach for the brand. “We want people to walk into the movies,” says KK Yang, president of Beast Kingdom. “This creates an emotional connection between the intellectual property and the audience.”
In the section on Dr. Strange, for instance, visitors can look at a screen that acts as a portal and be taken to Marina Bay; passers-by at the corresponding point on the bay can look into the exhibition, redefining the rules of space and location.
The gateway to the Thor exhibit recreates the Bifrost bridge; mapping on glass panels is used to showcase various Iron Man suits; and projections of ants and an oversized console at Hank Pym’s lab bring you into the Lilliputian world of Ant-Man. The Captain America exhibit includes 3D hologram images sharing the stories of the first Avenger’s shield designs.
The immersive effect makes visitors feel as though they are in each movie, a scintillating injection of fantasy — which we all need in our lives — through smart, transformational storytelling and technology.