Take a ride on Six Flags' Terminator Salvation: The Ride [With Video]
May 21, 2009, 7:48 PM ·
Can we change the future? That seems to be one of the dominant questions posed by the seriously-confused timeline of the Terminator films. Today at Magic Mountain, Six Flags debuted Terminator Salvation: The Ride, which might as well ask the question: Can one ride help change Six Flags' future, as well?
With Terminator Salvation, Magic Mountain offers a cheeky, self-referential attraction that, frankly, reminds me more of what I'd find in a Universal Studios theme park than anything Six Flags has offered in the past.
The queue starts in typical Six Flags fashion, with a back-and-forth queue on a concrete slab. But the queue soon moves inside the GCI wooden coaster's track, eventually leading into a - gasp!- themed preshow theater.
Like last year's Dark Knight Coaster from Six Flags (which did Magic Mountain did not install), Terminator Salvation's preshow features a cross-over appearance by stars from the film. Moon Bloodgood and rapper Common set up the story behind the ride: We're pinned down by "The Machines" that are fighting to exterminate the human race.
The twist? (And I'm gonna totally spoil this...) Common asks Bloodgood for her location, and she reports... "West of the 5, just north of Valencia."
That's right, she's trapped at Magic Mountain. The camera pulls back, and we see her outside the coaster, yards from where we stand. It's a post-apocalyptic, bomb-blasted Magic Mountain (the Terminator timeline merges with Fox-TV's 24?), ground zero in the war between man and machine.
For a theme park that aspires to family-friendliness by rising beyond a past too closely tied to offering simply the biggest and baddest twisted metal on the planet, the irony doesn't simply drip off the screen... it floods.
"Magic Mountain," Common exclaims, "that place has changed hands lots of times." Okay, I know he's supposed to be talking about the battle between the humans and the machines, but it's a great, self-deprecating corporate joke nevertheless.
Anyway, the machines are closing in, and the only way to get past them is... to ride the coaster train to safety. I fear that most riders will just enjoy the cool dark of the room, then keep talking with their buddies, drowning out the preshow narrative. That'd be a shame, because Terminator Salvation's preshow is the most cleverly ironic I've yet seen.
As for the ride itself, Terminator Salvation is much the same GCI model as the beloved Thunderhead at Dollywood. A 100-foot lift hill drops us into a series of lightning-fast, yet graceful, turns, highlighted by a station-shuddering fly-through and a couple of cooling mist tunnels, well welcomed in the Valencia heat.
Magic Mountain president Jay Thomas joined me for the ride:
Terminator Salvation's Achilles' heel will be rider capacity. With two 22-person trains on the track, and about a cycle time just under four minutes, we're looking at approximately 600-800 riders per hour. Okay for a wooden coaster, but not great for a theme park trying to keep wait times under an hour. Put this ride at Universal Studios, surrounded by high-capacity, people-absorbing attractions to take the pressure off, and Terminator Salvation would be a certain hit. But at Magic Mountain, I fear that massive initial waits will lead too many thrill-seeking fans to dismiss this coaster.
No, I wouldn't wait more than an hour for it, either. But Terminator Salvation's already become my favorite ride at Magic Mountain. Filled with giddy fun and smart story-telling, this is a ride not for a thrill junkie, but for a theme park fan.
As appropriate for a Terminator-themed attraction, let me say this: It's about time.