Becoming Xavier In The X-Men: Days Of Future Past Oculus Rift

One of the stars of Comic-Con was Oculus Rift technology, used to live inside virtual movie reality. Our favorite was X-Men...

X-Men: Days Of Future Past Review

Of all the popular things to do at San Diego Comic-Con this year, one of them had to undoubtedly be the opportunity to use virtual reality. Back like Jeff Fahey on the telephone, VR and “Oculus Rift” technology was bringing Comic-Con goers into a variety of worlds and pop culture fantasies, be they Pacific Rim, Sleepy Hollow, or Into the Storm. Yet, as a lifelong fan of X-Men whose enjoyment of the characters was rejuvenated by this summer’s shockingly good X-Men: Days of Future Past, the one with the most immediate and visceral appeal easily was the Cerebro VR experience that was placed in two locations—one 60-second iteration outside Petco Park and another three-minute version on the convention floor. Either experience offered the same virtual reality: Live the dream of Charles Xavier by tracking down mutants like an omnipotent telekinetic ubermensch whose whims and benevolence controls the fate of humanity!

And I wasn’t alone in seeking on this new venture. A “Cerebro Technician” was on hand to helpfully let dozens of people at a time know that the event had closed from allowing new exhibitors into the experience. When I asked her how often they sell out of tickets for the Oculus Rift presentation, she said “about one minute after we open.” Running from 10am to 7pm every day of Comic-Con (though it ended at 5pm on Sunday), the VR adventure never lacked for players wanting to enter the mind of Charles Xavier.

To enter it, one must sit in a parked silver wheelchair (seen in the below picture) that would do Bryan Singer and Patrick Stewart proud. Once the actual headgear goes on though, the real fun starts…beginning with Patrick Stewart!

Yes, Sir Patrick was on hand to offer his vocals that led me through three minutes of pure fanboy wish fulfillment. And while the entire piece is heavily modeled on the X-Men films—which the exterior of helpfully reminds viewers of with a promotional trailer for the X-Men: Days of Future Past Blu-ray/DVD (Wolverine and Storm kiss in a deleted scene!)—the actual presentation pulls from all over the multiple mediums of the X-Men legacy.

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This is demonstrated efficiently when the virtual reality that is created around Stewart’s soothing voice includes images that are informed by the comics only. In fact, one of the most surreal visuals is to see Famke Janssen’s head, as Dr. Jean Grey, on top of the body of comic book Phoenix—before transforming into Dark Phoenix. Conversely, when Cerebro summons up images of Wolverine, it is wholly and obviously that of Hugh Jackman.

But that is not why we’re here. Nor is it to stop Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique from doing something nefarious that will “change the course of history,” which is both the plot of the movie and the Oculus Rift. No, the real point is to live inside Xavier’s shoes for a few minutes, and it creates that illusion with joy.

Offering a complete 360-degree experience, one is forced to look around, up and down, at the world the are inhabiting, which looks like a total CGI realization of the 1973 Cerebro room from X-Men: Days of Future Past, complete with buttons on the command module. The user is even given the ability to move around the floating Cerebro platform of the movies by pushing Xavier’s joystick-controlled wheelchair with the actual joystick on the presentation’s chair.

This is where the reality line blurs wonderfully. Because the user is sitting in a wheelchair at a Cerebro command station, doing the same in the Oculus Rift creates a sense of trippy hallucination, because when one looks left or right, there are the classic Cerebro walls. But when one looks down, instead of seeing their own legs, it is the CGI approximation of Patrick Stewart’s. This becomes explicitly dizzying when a bad trip in mutant-hunting through Cerebro (caused by Phoenix, of course) results in an out-of-body experience, leaving Charles’ mind floating above its restive cranium.

All of this experience is highlighted by well-used musical cues from the X-Men movies. Henry Jackman’s submarine rattling Magneto March from X-Men: First Class envelopes the user when Phoenix or Wolverine are causing Xavier’s mind to wander, and the more serenely peaceful Cerebro theme from John Ottman’s X2 score underlies the overall blissfulness of the rest of the attraction.

Ultimately, this far more a ride than a game. You are trapped in the confines of Xavier’s body (or eventually tethered consciousness) to watch the red lights around the globe turn into familiar mutants of page, screen, or both. Finding J.Law’s Mystique requires as much participation from the user as sitting in a darkened movie theater. Nevertheless, this is a wild experience that is undoubtedly a convincing demo for Virtual Reality adventures to come.

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It may have been just three minutes, but for three minutes I thought that I had the mental powers to destroy er, save the world. Isn’t that why everyone comes to Comic-Con?

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