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Terminator Makes it Sweet 16

Six Flags Magic Mountain opens its 16th thrill ride with full movie tie-in

Posted: May 28, 2009 1:08 p.m.
Updated: May 29, 2009 6:00 a.m.

Guests wait in the roller coaster's "mission control" assembly bunker, where they watch battle action outside on monitors. The ride serves as an escape for trapped civilians who are hunted by machines.

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Resistance fighters in olive drab bark orders at you as Harvesters close in outside. Gunfire sounds and explosions rattle the assembly bunker. The machines are coming for you and your only escape is to board the train.

But this will be no scenic ride. The way to freedom passes through high speed drops and twisting turns and you'll push the edge aboard Terminator Salvation: The Ride.

Terminator Salvation: The Ride opened to the public this past Saturday, May 23. But Thursday, May 21 was the big media-day opening of this new roller coaster at Six Flags Magic Mountain. And, on that day, extra fanfare added to the anticipation of guests, such as me, who were looking forward to their first trip aboard the thrill ride. Nearly everyone was dressed in olive drab and explosions and fireworks warned you it was time to escape, that the Harvesters were coming for you.

From its inception, Terminator Salvation: The Ride was intended to offer up the feeling of the post-apocalyptic world from the movie "Terminator Salvation," and the ride employs many elements from the movie.

For one thing, as you pass through the assembly bunker leading to the train’s boarding area, you observe a battle going on outside between resistance fighters and the machines that are coming to destroy you. Played out on video screens, this battle features actual characters from the movie.

Soon enough, the resistance fighters who are helping you escape urge you up out of the bunker and onto the boarding platform.

From there it’s mostly about the thrill of the ride, though fireballs remind you of the world you are riding through.

Terminator Salvation: The Ride is a good-time experience on many levels and I probably would have benefitted from having seen the movie first — but even without the "Terminator" atmosphere this is a heart pounding ride.

An old-fashioned wooden roller coaster, Terminator rips you along for two minutes, which might seem like an eternity if your life passes before your eyes. With a top speed of 52 miles per hour, the hills and banked turns fly by with a delicious smoothness. If you are bold enough, you can keep your arms in the air the whole time — trusting to your lap restraint. But you can’t help flinching each time you go through a tunnel.

Everyone was having a blast on this media day, including a large contingent from the local Boys & Girls Club. But the good times should continue long after the hoopla because this is a quality ride. The $10 million coaster features synchronized on-board audio, a loading station "fly-through," two tunnels and fire and fog special effects.

Jay Thomas, president of Six Flags Magic Mountain, said he was excited about what the ride brings to the park. "People will be engaged," he said. And all of that comes with careful planning. Thomas said they had been working on the ride for 18 months and that the folks from the movie had been heavily involved in incorporating the "Terminator" theme. "We’ve got props from the movie," he added.

Great Coasters International, which built the ride, specializes in wooden roller coasters. Company designer Jeff Pike said, "People who ride this are going to be blown away. It’s absolutely the best wooden coaster in the world." When questioned about leaving the structure’s wood unpainted, Pike explained that, as the wood weathers, it will only add the post-apocalyptic setting.

Terminator Salvation: The Ride is the 16th thrill ride or "coaster" to join the Six Flags Magic Mountain arsenal. Each of these rides has its own personality and some are more "extreme" than others. And while Terminator is pretty extreme for a wooden roller coaster, you still remain facing forward and mostly right-side up — unlike X2, which turns you every which way but loose and is, in my opinion, the wildest ride in the park.

But you have to try it, so get out and get Terminated.

For more information visit www.sixflags.com/magicmountain/.

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