Vin Deisel's car-racing, truck-heisting, once-and-future-con character Dominic Toretto sets up his latest caper in Furious 7 with the cringe-inducing quip, “This time it ain’t just about being fast.” And at Universal Studios Hollywood's newest addition to its 50-year-old studio tour, it really, uh, ain't — Fast and Furious: Supercharged is more about feeling like you're going fast. And in a test ride this past weekend, ahead of a June 24 opening, it felt pretty speedy and rather fierce.
If you haven't yet had the pleasure, Universal's studio tram tour is a cut-above version of your average tourist-centric, hokey "gee-shucks, movies get made here!" type of L.A. experiences. Narrated by a charming, dad-joke-spouting tour guide and buttressed by some clever videos starring Jimmy Fallon (who, oddly enough, takes no character breaks to laugh at himself), it is a 45-minute ride through theme park theatrics and active backlot filming. Though the real, live, napping Teamsters we saw can't really compete with the outdoor shark and dinosaur spectacles that are part of the experience, or the two immersive, indoor 3-D sections — the first of which is a 2008 updated King Kong experience.
Inside King Kong's skull island, 3-D glasses in place, we were harangued and attacked by dinosaurs, sprayed with water and dragged around by the big guy himself. One tram didn't make it out, as it plummeted to the bottom of the 3-D jungle in 3-D flames. Guess those guys ... blah blah blah ... there's a lawyer joke in there somewhere.
The tour's second 3-D experience was, of course, a little more faster and a little more furious-er. After not-so-subtle hints in earlier parts of the tour ("Hey look, guys, it's a black Dodge Charger! What could that be about?"), the segment came toward the end, in a full ham-and-cheese crescendo. The in-tram monitors featured some of the original cast members, including Diesel, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson and Luke Evans, and the tram got caught up in a game of "Hey guys, can you help us protect this witness?" Little did we know, protecting that witness meant entering a 50,000-square-foot, garage-looking building and locking into a hydraulic-motion ride surrounded by a 360-degree screen. As with Kong, we were jostled and sprayed with water and flames and all that. Unlike Kong, we got to feel part of an iconic Fast and Furious high-speed chase through the less iconic parts of Los Angeles..
Once things started to peak, photography became kind of impossible, but we can assure you, shit got real-not-real. That witness got protected, damn it. Cars got airborne. Vin Diesel got airborne.
Much like each of the seven installments in the multibillion-dollar franchise, the ride's success relied on the mugging charm of its stars and the technical wizardry of its technical wizards to accomplish the feeling of being dragged along into the kind of impossible chase where half-ton cars can fly and a person does not shatter his kneecaps after landing a 150-foot jump. Even if we can't really remember the brief story (Who was that witness again? Why were we tasked with protecting him? Which one is the bad guy here?) it did exactly what it needed to do. We traffic-addled Angelenos even felt a specific joy in a simulated 120 mph hell-bent cruise up the 405.
So, while it's just a small piece of Universal's five-year plan to revitalize its theme park, we suppose it does, in fact, take "crazy to a whole 'nother level." Ah, what the heck — ride or die.
Correction: Universal has informed us that they've updated the ride's opening day to June 24.
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