Self-deception is my superpower. Since childhood, I’ve diligently nurtured dreams of swooping gracefully between skyscrapers, dressed in skin-tight red and blue spandex like Peter Parker.
The fantasy is real this morning as I furiously flail my limbs at a giant video screen, magically shooting webs from my wrists at malfunctioning spider robots at the newly opened Avengers Campus in Disneyland Paris.
My spider senses should be tingling. Instead, the lactic acid burns unforgivingly in my upper arms and the sweat slackens my furrowed brow. With great power comes great exhaustion.
Part video game and part interactive dark ride, Spider-Man WEB Adventure is a centerpiece of the Marvel-themed expansion to Walt Disney Studios Park, which exists outside of the Marvel Cinematic Universe timeline.
The high-tech attraction recreates the highly competitive gameplay of the 4D Toy Story Mania shooting game in Florida and California, using specially designed technology, which scans arm movements and movements 60 times per second to allow riders to sling nets with precision on three frenetic show stages.
Our four-strong team is captained by six-and-a-half-year-old Fred (the half is terribly important at that age), whose armor of choice is a reversible sequin Spider-Man T-shirt.
We rack up a respectable 803,100 points, just shy of 10th on the daily leaderboard, by focusing on malfunctioning gold Spider-Bots (worth 6,000 points each) and yellow levers and buttons that activate on-screen effects, including a variety of wall-mounted lasers to scythe through the wings of a hijacked Quinjet.
A full-scale replica of the Avengers’ turbine-fan powered aircraft sits atop a cantilevered landing platform next to the country’s other major attraction – the Avengers Assemble: Flight Force high-speed roller coaster.
Claiming a height of 120cm, this shiny reinvention of the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Avec Aerosmith – which closed in September 2019 – retains a zero-to-57mph launch acceleration in less than three seconds, and a track layout with two dizzying inversions and a corkscrew.
The bilingual preshow features the first Avenger sound animatronic figure in a Disney park – a realistic Iron Man with 33 fluid movements – and footage of Brie Larson as Captain Marvel.
Their scripted interactions outline a daring mission to draw deadly Kree warheads off planet Earth using hypersonic vehicles equipped with transponders. The turbocharged narrative matches Avengers: Quantum Encounter in the Worlds Of Marvel’s signature restaurant aboard the newly launched Disney Wish cruise ship.
Projected scenes of the two heroes neutralizing missiles wrap around the roller coaster as it passes through the darkness. The addition of a sparkling starry sky to wrap the ride, recreating a design flourish of Guardians Of The Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind in Florida, would deepen the galactic immersion.
Exclusive to the Paris campus, Tony Stark’s artificial intelligence FRIDAY (Female Replacement Intelligent Digital Assistant Youth) is visually rendered as a pulsating LED light show on the roller coaster show building’s curved facade.
In soothing Irish tones, FRIDAY welcomes recruits to the country and audibly warns of security threats.
Energized by my gung-ho web-slinging, I recharge in the PYM Kitchen, named after the physicist Doctor Hank Pym, who developed the Ant-Man program and pioneered the science of expanding and contracting matter.
Supersized engineering informs the impeccably themed buffet restaurant, which requires table reservations via the Disneyland Paris mobile app.
Entering through a quantum core tunnel, I find mini cheeseburgers and slices of a monstrous pretzel filled with sliced meat and salad to accompany miniature fruit jellies served in glass cups. Salt, pepper, olive oil and vinegar lie in test tubes with corks on tables, tended by servers in lab coats.
Nearby, a fast-casual Stark Factory restaurant honors Thor with a signature caramel and milk chocolate dessert (The Thunder Cake!) in a prop dining room dominated by a full-scale Hulkbuster, built by Tony Stark to counter Bruce Banner’s rampage. alter ego.
Turn right to devour pasta and pizza near SHIELD co-founder Peggy Carter’s lovingly recreated desk.
A striking gateway portal near the land’s entrance draws orderly queues for a photo opportunity with Ant-Man, the Wasp and (occasionally) Groot. This “heroic encounter” mimics character meet and greets throughout the rest of the resort.
The mobile app allows guests to book appointments with Spider-Man, Iron Man or Captain Marvel in the frosted glass fitness center (unfortunately, no walk-ups are allowed).
The chosen hero chats one-on-one with a recruit and strikes iconic poses before 27 cameras hidden in the walls of the antechamber create the first dynamic freeze-frame video sequence in a Disney Park, available for download via PhotoPass.
Designated opportunities to interact with Marvel icons punctuate the organic and immersive storytelling. Heroes materialize without fanfare throughout the day and playfully ad-lib with stunned guests.
Doctor Strange looks resplendent swathed in his red levitation cloak as flaxen-haired Thor and adoptive brother Loki ignite pockets of delirium, the former seeking recruits eager to brandish his mighty hammer, Mjölnir.
A sleek Avengers Deployment Vehicle designed by Tony Stark, echoing the futuristic aesthetic of the Quinjet, quickly deploys heroes including Iron Man, Captain America and Black Widow around campus, creating selfie opportunities with eager social media-savvy recruits.
The polished four-wheeler is exclusive to Paris and sustainably powered by Vibranium mined in Black Panther’s landlocked homeland of Wakanda.
Okoye, the head of Wakanda’s armed forces, and two members of the Black Panther’s female bodyguards, the Dora Milaje, emerge from beneath the Quinjet to Xhosa-language pouts and the bombastic tribal beats of composer Ludwig Göransson’s orchestral soundtrack.
The trio lead a boisterous 12-minute session to train the next generation to swing spears with snarling intent. The same performance space across from Stark Factory hosts lovebirds Star-Lord and Gamora for a humorous dance-along to Redbone’s rock song Come And Get Your Love and ABC by The Jackson 5.
With so much activity and character interaction at ground level, Disney’s creative wizards, known as Imagineers, look to the rooftops as split levels for breathlessly choreographed stunt shows.
Taskmaster and masked henchmen attempt to steal a vibranium canister and face stiff resistance from Black Widow and Black Panther, filled with bilingual dialogue and well-timed pyrotechnics. Spider-Man also demonstrates his gymnastic prowess throughout the day.
Excitingly, Avengers Campus is an ever-evolving playground. As the Marvel Cinematic Universe of movies, TV shows and tie-in comics expands, new heroes will patrol the land.
Several hours can comfortably pass on campus while you enjoy the attractions, shows and dining options. For accommodation, Disney’s Hotel New York – The Art Of Marvel is a super-powerful four-star oasis located a Thor’s hammer throw from the parks.
Three life-size Iron Man suits in the grand lobby tease one of the largest publicly visible collections of Marvel art in the world, including backlit comic panels, storyboards, original sketches and 50 pieces exclusive to Paris.
Hotel guests can pre-book a heroic encounter with a member of the Marvel fold in the Super Hero Station on the first floor (Black Widow launched a charm offensive during my post-breakfast visit). Eight themed selfie spots include Peter Parker’s upside-down bedroom that creates the illusion of hanging from the ceiling.
As I crouch beneath a wooden bunk bed and a desk strewn with teenage ephemera, and strike a web-slinging pose I’ve practiced since childhood, I’m reminded that in the Marvel multiverse, anything is possible.
Even an athletically challenged late-forties man-child incarnation of Spider-Man. Self-deception is happiness.
How to plan your trip
Walt Disney Travel Company International (disneyholidays.co.uk/disneyland-paris/; 0800 169 0737) offers a two-night/three-day stay at Disney’s Hotel New York – The Art of Marvel, including return Eurostar travel from London St. Pancras to Disneyland Paris (Marne-la-Vallée/Chessy), from £2,248 for two adults and two children sharing a Superior room, including park tickets. Price based on departure date 13 February 2023, subject to availability.