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Six Flags goes for theme, atmosphere with Dark Knight Coaster

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Published: May 20, 2008 at 9:16 PM

The Dark Knight Coaster at Six Flags Great America debuted to the press this morning. Set in the "Gotham City Rail" station built into the park's old Theater Royal, the attractions begins with a detailed transit station queue, leading into a pre-ride show area, something new for Six Flags.

In the preshow, a news broadcast sets up a video press conference by Gotham's new district attorney, Harvey Dent (played, as in the upcoming "Dark Knight" film, by Aaron Eckhart). Dent shrugs off a question about Batman, before the Joker cuts into the feed. Dent’s campaign poster is transformed with the creepy smile drawn on by the Joker and its henchmen while the entire room lights up with words that say “Why so serious?” “Ha Ha Ha,” and “Give him a smile.” The preshow ends with Joker’s henchmen taking over the station and the words “What are you waiting for?”

There is short line after the preshow. Guests pass by a busted security area in which half of the monitors are shorted out and the others show the Joker’s henchmen running amok in the station.

After that, it's into the loading station. The coaster's cars seat four people, making the capacity of this ride up to 600 people an hour. The car also is shaped like a subway car and placed on a continuous system which only stops for a lap bar check. You need to enter and exit the ride while it is moving slowly. The car enters the subway system and is put into a very quick chain lift and the Joker’s laugh is heard and lights flash around you. You go through a part of the building which is lit by "Ha Ha"s, much like in the preshow. The car then turns a hairpin turn around a mannequin of Batman with lights flashing around it making it look like the figure is moving.

Most of the rest of the ride is a bunch of hairpin turns that go around set pieces. One of the more impressive effects is the holographic henchmen breaking through some billboards with mannequins on the top. When the corner is turned, other henchmen are setting fire to a Gotham office building. Batman appears one more time, but this time on the Bat Cycle, using the similar light effects from earlier in the ride. Then there is a few of “near misses” with an explosive truck before going into a series of drops which were sudden since they happen in the dark, but not very high drops. The ride pretty much ends after this and the car slowly enters the loading area which is where the ride began.

As a Wild Mouse coaster, the attraction is pretty tame with its concentration on turns rather than drops, but still relatively fun. However, the ride is pretty scary and intense due to the Joker’s scary laugh and the Joker’s gang which wear creepy clown masks. Also, this attraction is based more upon the serious and scary version of Batman rather than the campier Batman with Jack Nicholson, Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey. The effects were also very similar to Disney's Rock 'n Roller Coaster except for the Dark Knight’s effects do not seem to be synched with your roller coaster car, meaning that they happen randomly.

This could be considered, in some ways, a positive aspect because no two trips on the Dark Knight are the same. From going on the roller coaster more than once, I observed this with my second trip being the best. A little disappointing with the effects was there were not very good “scene” setups meaning you could see all the scenes at the beginning of the ride. Also, due to the hairpin turns, future scenes can be easily seen. More walls would do wonders on this attraction.

If children are not scared of the Joker or any of the effects, this roller coaster will be a good first coaster for the little kids that want to go on the “big kids” ride. However, I think there will be a want for the actual ride to be a more thrilling roller coaster. I foresee this as being the biggest complaint since Six Flags Great America is a park that prides itself on holding innovative and thrilling roller coasters.

But as the Joker says: Why so serious?

Readers' Opinions

From Robert Niles on May 20, 2008 at 10:13 PM
Thanks, Anthony, for your detailed report!
From Bradley Robertson on May 20, 2008 at 10:26 PM
From what I have seen from PR video and other peoples video it seems like a tame coaster, but a nice dark ride.

BTW Robert, when we post articles why doesn't our picture show up? I have one in my profile but it didn't show up in the article I posted earlier.

From James Rao on May 20, 2008 at 11:38 PM
It may just be a wild mouse, but I applaud the attempt at theming and will definitely go on this attraction if I ever make it to Gurnee.

Nice report, Anthony. Thanks!

From Anthony Murphy on May 21, 2008 at 6:36 AM
Thanks for all the good input.

This attraction is also at a couple of other Six Flags parks in the same way. This is actually kind of weird because Six Flags actually really doesn't have rides that are entirely copies of each other.

As you probably read, I was very mixed about this attraction with going more onto the negatives. Now don't get me wrong, it is a good first step if Six Flags wants to play with the big boys, but Rockin Roller Coaster and the Mummy have shown that even roller coasters can have a storyline. I guess I was just disappointed in the roller coaster aspect of it all.

From Robert Niles on May 21, 2008 at 8:37 AM
I just built the component for the front-page blog pictures, which requires that I run a script to go find, resize and copies everyone's pictures for use on the home page. I made mine by hand, and installed the default kokopelli for folks who don't have pictures, but haven't taken the last step yet, 'cause, well, I got a little busy with the rush of reviews to write and edit. Will be done by the end of the week, though.
From Joshua Counsil on May 21, 2008 at 1:40 PM
What a change for Six Flags.
Good report, Ant.
From Robert OGrosky on May 23, 2008 at 11:33 AM
And rather than being negative, i look at the ride as a positive for SFGAM. It is good that they are trying to theme a ride, and while not up to RNRC/Mummy standards, this is a wild mouse coaster, and for this typr of ride they did a good job, and from Im told there are plans to increase the effects with smoke etc that should come on line later in the year.
I think it is a fun ride that can be enjoyed by the whole family, and for a SF park it is a good start to theming rides, and what they have done w/X2, lets hope this trend doesnt end.
Now if they had spend 40-50 million rather than 7.5 million, then I would have been disappointed.
From Anthony Murphy on May 24, 2008 at 10:06 PM
You are very right Robert, I and everybody else should be more positive. SFGA is not Disney or Universal and they only spent 7.5 mil on it. However, the problem comes that this attraction is really not for the family. The Joker Preshow is very creepy and that laugh is quite scary to little kids. So I fear this will become empty due to the age that this attraction is aimed too, in my opinion, has been missed. I think it was a good use of the crumbling space and I hope it does well, but it was a bit anticlimatic, especially how it is being marketed. Also, not too many people also know what a Mouse Roller Coaster is so they would not be able to appreciate the actual structure. Actually, It might be good if it spun, but thats just my idea. Being such a Disney fan, I look to storyline and scene setup in attractions. Haunted Mansion is a great example of this scene setup.Unverisal does it very well with the Mummy, Spiderman, and yes even Battle for Atlantis (or whatever it is called). The Dark Knight did not do this, so thats why I was disappointed

Do not get me wrong, it was a fun day and the ride was nice enough and a nice change at SFGA, but the actual ride is nothing to get too excited about.

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