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Arts and Entertainment

Only You Can Save the World in "Transformers: The Ride - 3D"

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When the call is issued for Americans of good conscience to join with the Autobots in defending our planet against the evil forces of Megatron...where will you be?

If you have any idea what we're talking about here, there's a good chance you're already standing in line for Universal Studios' new 3D Transformers ride, which officially opened to the public this morning at 7:30 a.m. But even without access to a six-year-old nephew who can clue you in to the difference between Optimus Prime and a Decepticon, this is one theme park experience that will likely blow you away.

Occupying the lower level space in the park where the "Backdraft" pyrotechnics show used to reside, "Transformers: The Ride - 3D" creates the effect of immersing us as participants rather than simple spectators in a new "Transformers" movie. From the hallways leading up to the ride, where training videos address us as "recruits" enlisted for the upcoming apocalyptic battle, to the concluding exit applause we receive from the ride's staffers for (spoiler alert) successfully saving the world, our sensory impression is that we are directly in the line of rapid projectile fire the whole time.

And what a sensory impression it is! Riding 12 people to an "EVAC" vehicle along 2000 feet of roller coaster track, armed only with a pair of 3D glasses each, we encounter a total of 14 super-high-definition screens over the course of our 4-minute journey. Some of these screens are as large as 60 feet tall. Each screen depicts the perspective of a first-person participant engaged in the action of the ongoing battle. As it shifts from one position to another, the real speed and direction of the vehicle's actual movement becomes indistinguishable from the motion effects simulated on the panoramic flight simulator images whizzing by from all angles. (This is most unsettling when our car plunges from the top of a skyscraper toward the street below.) Accompanying sound cues are also augmented by tactile water, wind, heat and smoke effects that sync with the ride's relentless trajectory of visual events.

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Though its narrative plot details are a bit murky for the uninitiated, the mind-boggling cinematic spectacle of Universal's new Transformers ride creates enough kinetic momentum to provide a sustained thrill that should keep you wobbly even several minutes after you've returned to solid ground. What more can you ask for from a ride than that?

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