Turning a movie into the latest theme park ride is perhaps one of the ultimate Hollywood back-slaps. Nothing expresses a lasting cinematic legacy quite like a three-hour queue and a novelty roller coaster carriage culminating in a 30-second nausea-inducing thrill ride sometimes amped up with glorious digital 3D. A lot of the time it’s just plain fun.
It seems there’s a gap in the market for more restrained cinema rides. Transformers: The Ride-3D recently opened at Universal Studios Hollywood and no doubt captures the in-your-face visual bombast of the Transformers films, while even the visceral horror of the Saw franchise has its own ride at Thorpe Park in the UK. But perhaps there’s room for a new generation of theme park rides that skew older by celebrating the movies that make us argue all the way home from the cinema and inspire us to furiously debate the big questions in life.
Prometheus would seem an ideal starting point. It arrived with massive fanfare and fuss, and faced enormous pressure to reach extraordinary levels of awesomeness rarely seen in contemporary sci-fi.
Marketing Guru will sit nervously in the Studio Boss’ palatial office and dim the lights as he prepares his presentation for the theme park attraction that could help define a new era in movie merchandising (**Spoilers Alert**):
“We’ll call it Prometheus: Quest for Meaning (IN 3D!)” he begins: “The public will ride in a mock-up simulator designed like the film’s personnel carrier and it’ll be surrounded by huge, 20-foot-high digital screens where the action will play out.
“As the ride starts we’ll find we’re in the Prometheus loading bay and Noomi Rapace will call on the video-com. She looks hassled and says she’s trapped in the alien base fighting one of the film’s nine-foot-tall Engineers. It’s all a bit confusing, but looks great, which, like the film, sets the tone for the rest of the ride. Rapace says there’s a screenwriter nearby who must be rescued. If we don’t get to him in time we won’t be able to rewrite the past and the film will be forever tainted by a nagging sense of disappointment.
“We descend from the loading bay onto the surface of the alien planet. Everything looks amazing in digital 3D as we race across this stunning alien landscape. We come across some minor supporting characters being eaten by weird oil aliens. One of them cries: ‘Do you even care I’m dying?? I had three lines in this movie before I got killed by something horrific and alien?! Do you even remember my NAME???’
“The personnel carrier crashes through the wall of the alien base, although the public are all feeling impatient now, despite the amazing visuals. Michael Fassbender runs alongside us and asks lots of questions about meeting our makers and what we’re prepared to do to unlock the meaning of life. He’s magnetic and the questions are ambitious, but he offers only a teasing shrug when someone on the ride screams at him for some answers.
“We find ourselves in the Engineer’s control room, which looks amazing with a huge swirling star map projected in digital 3D. Everyone on the ride gasps. We splash through weird alien goo and water is sprayed into the carrier in a bid to create some tension. Noomi Rapace is fighting the last Engineer, who looks like an albino bodybuilder and has absolutely no dialogue.
“Huddled in the corner by the hyper-sleep chamber is an animatronic screenwriter in a polo-neck sweater, jeans and Converse trainers. He’s hammering away at his Mac, trying desperately to rewrite history as the Engineer continues fighting Noomi Rapace. ‘So many questions!’ the writer wails as the Engineer glares angrily: ‘Who are the Engineers? Why don’t they have any dialogue? Why do all the characters here seem to lack basic common sense? Surely we can’t leave ALL the answers for the sequel? That just looks like we’re not too sure ourselves…!’
“Bored with Noomi Rapace, the Engineer turns his attention to the writer, but as we turn away in the personnel carrier his screams are muffled by a reminder to keep arms and legs inside the vehicle at all times.
“The ride speeds back towards Prometheus, but then everyone dies a Bizarre Movie Death because an enormous horseshoe-shaped spacecraft cartwheels across us and the ride can’t move sideways. After a moment of blackness everyone emerges back into the real world wistfully reassured by waiting staff that all our questions will be answered in four years with the sequel.”
Studio Boss considers the plan and shakes his head; maybe this is the wrong direction for the next generation of movie theme park rides. Or perhaps it needs something fresh, shining a light on someone truly unexpected. “Let’s give Mike Leigh a call,” he smiles: “Ask him whether he’d like to see Secrets & Lies expressed a little differently at Universal Studios…”