Movie World Gold Coast is a land fit for superheroes, writes Michael Wayne
The Batmobile pulls to a stop beside the gloomy Gotham Plaza, and Batman leans out the window to wave at me.
In 1991 Warner Bros Movie World opened on the Gold Coast, where it has brought Hollywood to the masses ever since.
The movie studio-cum-theme park was one of the final works by the late Cornelius Wood, one of the masterminds behind Disneyland.
But Movie World faces the same problem as so many fading icons of La-la Land — irrelevancy.
In the early days its attractions were themed around a very different entertainment landscape: the Police Academy stunt show, a Gremlins ride, and the park's centrepiece, Batman Adventure The Ride, themed around 1992's Batman Returns.
These days, you'd be hard-pressed to find many people who even remember Police Academy.
I walk from the Gotham City Cafe down the park's Main St, past posters for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. In the distance, I can hear the screams emanating from the Green Lantern rollercoaster, themed around the 2011 Ryan Reynolds comicbook film.
The commercial and critical drubbing the movie received doesn't seem to have affected the ride, with plenty lining up for their two minutes of white-knuckle thrills.
Heading toward the latest Bat-ride, Arkham Asylum (formerly the Lethal Weapon), I pass a sign promoting the upcoming introduction of a new rollercoaster themed around DC Comics supervillains.
I'm beginning to sense a pattern.
Comicbook characters dominate the park. A quick glance at a list of the park's former attractions is rife with yesterday's heroes like Riggs and Murtaugh, Neo and Trinity, and perhaps egregiously, Young Einstein, but today, five of Movie World's seven major thrill rides boast DC Comics characters.
According to Movie World GM Greg Yong, the park is meeting demand. "Warner Bros Movie World is the only place in Australia where people can experience the DC Universe," he says. "With the increased popularity of superheroes worldwide, Movie World continues to see the fan excitement grow."
Increased popularity may be something of an understatement: Superhero movies have become a multibillion-dollar industry. The third of Marvel's Thor films, starring Australian Chris Hemsworth, will be shot at the Village movie studio adjoining Movie World.
Hopefully the delighted screams from the Batwing Spaceshot and Superman Escape coaster, which goes from 0 to 100km/h in two seconds — won't ruin any takes.
The Joker makes his way down Main St on the daily parade, the Batmobile in hot pursuit.
The engine's roar almost can't be heard over the screaming of kids desperate for Batman to wave at them. The Dark Knight cheerily obliges.
Behind him, the Looney Tunes emerge from behind a curtain, dancing for an audience of dust and bored parents as the kids chase after the Caped Crusader.
That's all, folks.
Checklist: Gold Coast
Qantas flies from Auckland to the Gold Coast, via Sydney, with return Economy Class fares starting from $794. The Gold Coast is an hour's drive from Brisbane.
General admission to Warner Bros. Movie World is $89 for adults and $74 for children and pensioners, and includes unlimited access to all the rides.