When I came out of Secret Cinema's Guardians Of The Galaxy experience in a daze on Thursday night, I looked up at London's Wembley Stadium to see the words "Queen Elizabeth II 1952-2002". I wondered why they were still putting up Platinum Jubilee messages. It took a little longer till I realised she has died several hours ago. But to be fair, I was on a different planet entirely.
The Secret Cinema's Guardians Of The Galaxy Experience has a very different audience to the Doctor Who Time Fracture event that recently obsessed my life, even though they shared much in common. That was an event for fans, for families, for curious public. Guardians Of The Galaxy is for gangs, for mates, for stag and hen parties, for clubbers, bunches of twenty-somethings who are finding something to do as a collective, before they hit the clubs tonight. But they all know their Marvel, they have grown up with it in the cinemas after all, and they are going to freak out when Star-Lord suddenly appears with Groot on his shoulder, or Rocket start sending video messages.
Time Fracture had a slow lead-up to a parallel line of stories to explore, but Secret Cinema's Guardians Of The Galaxy drops you in it from the get-go. The briefest of briefings sees you dropped on the planet of Contraxia, given the task of getting to Knowhere as part of your clan of Ravagers (basically the school house system) and take part in stories, games, events, quests, all around the station, gaining you Galactic credits that see your clan's success reflected on the big board.
If you are in the right place at the right time, you'll get to see Drax – an alien with no concept of what a metaphor is – cope with a spot of palm reading as he attends Zewditu's session. Quill and Gamora have a dance off. Yondu takes on everyone. And everything suddenly gets rather Footloose. I became a big fan of watching the spats between traders, the relationshio between Ravagers, Knuckles and Ratchet and trying to get information about the future of Earth frm The Collector, who seemed to be channelling Peter Serafinowicz in the role.
A good tip is… bring stiff to the show you can trade. CDs and action figures are highly prized and you can trade back and forth between the trading ports, the hagglers in the crowd – and also get favours, information, passes into other secret stories taking place around the station. Want to see the Collector's collection? You'll have to get past a stuttering guard and bribe him for entrance. Taking part in the competitions in the wrestling ring against others, will not only win your clan points, but also sees to picked for added attention to take part in the stories going on around you. Simply following some of the more outrageous characters often sees you heading to a story of their own. There's a lot going on, there are codes to learn and use, messages to receive and items to find around the industrial complex. And if it gets too much, jump back to Contraxia for food and drink, and head to the dance lounge.
It also culminates in a WWE-style event with familiar Guardians characters and others from the experience, a final battle with the Collector and, because this is Guardians Of The Galaxy, a singalong. It creates a complete bubble of an experience for a few hours, and then shows you Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol 2 in a cinema screening, with lighting strips across the cinema reflecting the image on the screen. And when you come out, you'll discover the Queen has died. Or maybe that was just me.
There are two levels to play, the standard version but also a premium version which not only gives you better cinema seats, but also sees game characters pay you little more attention, as a "Heavy Metaller" and you get exclusive stories just for yourself. Or, you know, just hang around with others with the big pink badges and get dragged along in their wake.
It's a great evening out, especially with your mates, as it creates and rewards camaraderie far more than other similar experiences. And from the crowds I attended with, it seems the word is getting out. Tickets can be bought here.