Marvel at GOMA

It must be hard to be a museum or an art gallery curator these days. Between the things we cover on this site – movies, streaming, normal TV, gaming and all these fantastical pop culture events – the interest in finer culture has waned. The high-brow nuances of classical work go over most people’s head, including my own. It’s easier and more interesting to watch The Avengers.

To counter this the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) has put together something genuinely exciting. It’s a collection of costumes, props, production stills, set pieces and more from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It tickled my interest but I didn’t make the dive until a friend asked me along. It was wrong to hesitate.

It’s not a collection of junk just thrown into a room. Every room feels like a new experience. It begins with a mass collection of ancient comics showcasing the first appearances of the biggest names in the Marvel world, which would easily be worth thousands of dollars each. Then it spotlights a new film in each room – The Avengers first, then the Captain America series, the Guardians of the GalaxyDoctor StrangeAnt-Man, Thor, Hulk and finally Iron Man.

It’s completely immersive. For instance, for the Captain America room, there were the five various suits throughout the movies, a few shields, his and Agent Carter‘s SSR uniforms, newspaper props, both the motorbike from the First Avenger and the motorbike HYDRA agents were pursuing him on, the original trash can lid shield Steve Rogers used to defend himself pre-transformation, prosthetic for the Red Skull, uniforms of Red Skull and the Winter Soldier (while Black Widow and Nick Fury were highlighted with The Avengers), the full Howling Commandos exhibit showcased in the Winter Soldier, hundreds of pieces of concept art, countless weapons and more. The scenes that accompanied each items played proudly behind each set piece to remind visitors where each piece came from.

These massive collections mean it’s impossible to skim through each room. It takes time to see it all.

The exhibitor is also clearly a fan, adding little details that made the whole experience better. What’s trippier than Doctor Strange? Doctor Strange, projected onto a series of slanted mirrors. The whacky film became whackier and it was very cool. Ant-Man‘s suit was behind a giant keyhole, because he’s tiny – get it?

The Thor exhibit was also a highlight. The entire throne room of Asgard was transplanted into Brisbane, populated by a dozen costumed mannequins. Mjolnir was close enough to touch (but sadly, though understandably, we were not allowed). A tiny recreation of Heimdell’s post greeted the exit.

After the Iron Man exhibit – which contained the Hulkbuster, a suit from each movie, the Formula 1 car from Iron Man 2 and a tribute to Ben Kingley’s Mandarin – it all felt like it was time to wind up. Interactive computing and colouring in were on offer for the kids and a mildly interesting doco on VFX ran nearby for the parents. Screenings of old Marvel flicks played across the hall. And a green screen was erected to superimpose families onto their favourite poster for free, which was a really cute addition, leading to many recreations of the whacky Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 poster.

Then we turned the corner and were greeted with something new. Something I’d never seen before. As we went through I told my friend where each piece fit into the universe. But here I was stumped, so I read the title card: Model of Sakaar. It certainly rang a bell. I examined the odd miniature and thought it may have been the base Yondu, Rocket and Groot blow up in the second Guardians of the Galaxy, only it looked nothing like it. Then it clicked – Sakaar is where Thor ends up in Thor: Ragnarok. 

In this exhibit fans are treated to a few precious glimpses of the future Marvel flick, which was filmed mostly down on the Gold Coast. The giant helmet and hammer the Hulk sports in the final moments of the trailer are in pride of place alongside the axe rumoured to replace Mjolnir. It was the thing that tipped it over the edge and made Marvel at GOMA something worth remembering. But there was still one trick left up their sleeve. Alongside all the other Thor: Ragnarok items was a dinosaur head as big as my lounge room that had been repurposed into a bed. It’s probably the Hulk’s bed on Sakaar. But it’s something never seen in the trailers and not mentioned online til this point, so that is very exciting.

And a shoutout to the fans – ages as young as six months and as old as sixty – that flocked to GOMA on opening weekend. The ones in costume deserve special props. It is the largest pre-sale event GOMA has ever had. Stats aren’t out for the opening weekend yet but the curators are deservedly optimistic.

Marvel: Creating the Cinematic Universe is on now at Queensland’s Gallery of Modern Art.

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