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Green Lantern: First Flight

This Thing Is A "Ball," Baby.

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As of this writing, in April 2012, Six Flags Magic Mountain is the only park in the world to offer two "4th Dimension" roller coasters for our delectation: X2, the last mighty effort out of Arrow before that company went bankrupt, and Green Lantern: First Flight, a "Ball" or "ZacSpin" coaster from the good folks at Intamin. And they are as different as night and day.

I have described X as a "Zipper on a roller coaster." In hindsight, that's really not right. The seat flips on X2 are all very controlled and do not vary from ride to ride. Not so with ZacSpins. They are truly the unholy spawn of a Zipper and a roller coaster, with totally unpredictable vehicle rotation, from the top of the lift to the very bottom.

It's taken a while for one of these rides to make it to America, and to date, there are only four installations worldwide. The first pair, smaller, prototype-sized models, debuted overseas in 2007: Terra Mitica's Inferno and Linnanmäki's Kirnu.

Two years later, Gröna Lund installed a distinctly larger version and since then, you've likely heard some horror stories about Insane. Apparently, ride ops go out of their way to load the cars with uneven weight distribution, thereby producing much frenzied spinning and all the body distress that can result: cephalalgia, emesis, etc. As someone who can be brought to my knees by the wrong kind of harmless-looking kiddie ride, I was not very pleased with these anecdotal reports.

But then Green Lantern opened last year and more than one brother-in-arms told me it was a blast, super-fun, very intense, not sickening, "don't be a schmuck; try it," etc. Best of all, it wasn't being loaded for super-aggressive spinning - bad news for many, but for me, a relief to hear.

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As I get older, I am getting more easily agitated about places that I think should properly be called "theme parks" and those that should not. (It's becoming a little unhealthy, I'll concede.)

Disneyland is a theme park, duh. Knott's Berry Farm is a theme park. Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Tampa, those are theme parks. Amusement parks that do a very nice job naming and painting their rides, but put "Pirate Galleon!" next to "Kung Fu Koaster!" next to "Wild West Log Flume!" ARE NOT THEME PARKS, GUHDAMMIT.

Until pretty recently, I would have had Six Flags Magic Mountain square in my sights with this little rant, but things are changing for the better here.

As I remarked in the West Coast Bash 2012 Day One trip report, DC Universe is a real stand-out. It looks and feels like a whole - bright, colorful, true to the comic book aesthetic. AND - this is so important - all the rides in this corner are themed to DC good guys and bad guys. Even the freaking Round-Up. That's what I expect in a "theme park," and it makes me so happy to see Magic Mountain putting in the effort.

Hard to believe that this ravishing Batmobile design is already 23 years old; it's still among the sexiest things to come out of Hollywood ever, maybe just right behind Jennifer Tilly. Anton Furst, you are missed, good sir.

I have never been a huge comic book reader, so my familiarity with the Green Lantern character(s) is pretty weak. I love the idea of an intergalactic police force, very badass. But a guy who wears a ring that shoots out a green ray that turns into stuff, do I have that right? And he powers up the ring by sticking it into a green lantern? And they made a $200 million movie out of this?

Anyway, like Insane, Green Lantern: First Flight is one wacky, wiggly, weird-looking beast, a very arresting presence, especially for something with such a small footprint. It's fun to watch the little cars as they trundle along and then suddenly drop like balls in a giant Pachinko machine.

I guess this Green Lantern, Hal Jordan, lives in "Coast City," depicted by these repurposed facades from the old Batman stunt show. Seems like a lot of environmental design for a ride exit, but I'd rather have it here than not at all.

Hal's a jet fighter test pilot for Ferris Aircraft. That's a cool back-story for a superhero.

And I'll bet he's a cocky, flies-by-the-seat-of-his-pants pilot that everyone else hates because he doesn't play by the rules but is really the best pilot ever and gets all the hot chicks he wants. "You’re everyone’s problem. That’s because every time you go up in the air, you’re unsafe. I don’t like you because you’re dangerous."

(There is also a bit of storytelling set decoration in the enclosed portion of the queue, but I'll let that be a surprise, if'n you haven't seen it already.)

Like X2, Green Lantern saddles us up two-by-two in leg-dangling trains that carry us alongside the rails. But the restraints are those lovely Intamin soft-pad harnesses that I am more fond of every time I use them. My "first flight," I was facing back into the station, which was good as I wanted to see that first drop coming, so I could brace for it. Despite the reassurances, I still had nagging doubts that GL:FF would be an entirely vomit-free experience.

We left the station and this happened: our row of the car dipped forward and then locked into that position until we reached the top.

All the way up, we were held at a fairly off-level angle. The climb is very smooth, and I felt very snug and secure, but nagging doubts quickly became shrill "DO NOT WANT" klaxons blasting around the inside of my skull.

Ohcrapohcrapohcrapohcrapohcrap... To get to my happy place, I tried to imagine making out with Scarlett Johansson, but then I remembered that she and Ryan Reynolds had split up and how awful that must have been, especially for him, and then I just felt sad AND scared and that was even worse.

Has Green Lantern ever fought The Riddler, in some crossover series or something? Just wondering.

At the crest of the vertical lift, the cars unlock and we slide along the top shelf, all loosey-goosey, ready to let gravity and angular momentum work their voodoo on us. That first little dip is just a tease, a warning.

At this point, my courage had indeed taken flight, and was well on its way to somewhere far from this place.

Over the cliff: it's a split-second moment of pure freefall, our weight dropping down then whipping up, moving backwards, rocking and rolling HOLY CHEEZWHIZ WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?!

There's another dip and this one is bigger, and we're not really flipping too terribly much, but we're starting to haul some ass and you know another drop is right behind us, but we can't see it com - YAAAAAAAAAH! MOMMY, MAKE IT STOP!

A mid-course pause, thank god. Catch your breath, laugh nervously, turn to your riding partner, "Dude, how crazy is this thing?!" And then we're back at it for the lower half, where Green Lantern really brings the gnarly.

Down the third drop, you may or may not achieve something close to an inversion.

Drop number four, however, is almost guaranteed to flip your wig. Out of the several rides I've taken, I've never done a full 360-degree spin, but have always gotten at least a couple of these "not quite but close enough" maneuvers.

Since I can't compare it to a full rotation, I don't know which is worse. But nearly going all the way over the top and then snapping back in the opposite direction is pretty freaking insane.

At the bottom far end, we scoot up this final riser and that abrupt acceleration triggers another frantic roll. Have I ended up fully inverted at the end of each ride, held there for the controlled descent back into the station? I'm pretty sure, yes.


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It's a short trip, but by the time it's over, I have had just about all I can take. This is one manic burst of whiplashing G-forces and in larger doses, I'd be in big trouble.

In some ways, I prefer this to X2. Foremost, Green Lantern doesn't leave me feeling like I've just finished an MMA cage match, as I sometimes do after an outer-row X2 encounter. And the unpredictability of each GL ride is both scary and awesome.

Whichever you prefer, you can't deny that Green Lantern: First Flight is an experience unlike any other at The Mountain.

So, now, what does this DC Universe need? That's right, another bad guy. Oh, how different this tower will look, so very soon.

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  • Track Length: 825 feet
  • Maximum Height: 107 feet
  • Top Speed: 37 MPH
  • Ride Time: Approx. 2  minutes
  • Vehicles: Eight-person vehicles, four abreast and back-to-back, each side rotating independently.




© Robert Coker.
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