Marvel Universe Live Review

(09-28-2016) By: Phil Nourse (philtnourse@yahoo.co.uk)

Ok, I admit it. I love the World of superheroes, but I was never a huge comic book guy. I remember my Dad giving me a stack of comics when I was maybe 5 or 6 and I enjoyed flicking through them but I was more enthralled by the artwork and the characters than the stories. I remember thinking “Wow! Captain Britain huh? We got one too!”

In more recent times I’ve tried to get into some graphic novels but they just don’t grip me. I’m not really a great lover of fiction literature general so perhaps this isn’t a surprise.
I think my love of these Worlds comes more from their representations in 1980s TV cartoons and movies. I have such wonderful childhood memories of ‘The Incredible Hulk,’ ‘Defenders of the Earth’ and ‘Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends’ animated series among others.

 Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends

Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends

The Lou Ferrigno Incredible Hulk TV show is clearly all time classic television and, honestly, I even loved the quite awful late 1970s Spider-Man and 1990 Captain America movies. The first two Christopher Reeve Superman movies were thoroughly enjoyable and Tim Burton’s 1989 ‘Batman’ is one of my favorite films of all-time. These three movies are arguably the direct predecessors for every superhero movie in the millennium slew which began with 2000’s ‘X-Men.’ Without those movies we may never have had ‘Daredevil, ‘Elektra,’ ‘Wolverine: Origins,’ ‘Spider-Man 3,’ ‘Green Lantern’ or ‘Catwoman.’

Oh.

Increasingly, I think my experience is becoming the norm. I wonder how many people nowadays have only been exposed to these comic book characters through film, television, videos games etc. I recently had the opportunity to visit “Marvel Universe Live” the latest pop-culture vehicle to expose new audiences to the characters, at the O2 Arena here in London, England and it was wonderful to see how many young children were passionate about these characters.

Marvel Universe Live’ is a live action arena show featuring many of Marvel’s best known characters. The show was conceptualized in March 2013 with regional casting calls taking place all across the US later in the year. The cast comprises of martial artists, aerial performers, X Games competitors and stunt people. As you can imagine the plot is basic and simple to understand. This is, after all, a presentation aimed at exposing children to real life, believable representations of their favorite superheroes and super-villains. Spoilers ahead…but I wouldn’t worry too much.

The show opens with Thor shattering the cosmic cube, so it won’t fall into villainous hands. Loki moves to reform the cube from fragments in order to destroy the Earth. This results in a three team, worldwide race for the fragments. The full cast includes Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Captain America, Spider-Man, Black Widow, Storm, Wolverine, Nick Fury, Hawkeye, Falcon, Black Cat, Maria Hill, Captain Marvel, Cyclops, Pepper Potts, Loki, Green Goblin, Rhino, Doctor Octopus, Lizard, Electro, Red Skull, Chitauri Warriors, Aldrich Killian and Madame Hydra. 

The production is excellent with only the effect of Iron Man’s repulsor beams falling short. The combination of lasers, pyrotechnics and explosions, high wires, audio, giant screens, projection and fabulous props and costuming helps the audience to suspend disbelief as much as would ever be possible in an arena setting.

There is a strong reliance on the use of motocross bikes which is exciting for a short while, but honestly it’s overdone and the motorcycle stunts feel very shoehorned in. It didn’t feel like a natural fit in a superhero show and it took me out of the performance. I can’t really imagine Wolverine being too concerned about wearing a safety helmet, let alone a customized, color co-ordinated one. Seeing Captain America in his helmet could only make you think of one thing, the awful 1970s Captain America series.

 In case you didn't know... the "A" is for awesome... or awful.

In case you didn't know... the "A" is for awesome... or awful.

The casting is first rate with every main character being fully believable representations. Spider-Man did seem to be constantly overacting but no-one could question his incredible gymnastic ability. The stars of the show are who you would expect; Wolverine, Captain America, Iron Man, Spider-Man, Thor, Loki and a Hulk Costume that moves with glacial pace.

Undoubtedly Storm, Cyclops and Doctor Octopus are drastically underutilized, and it looks like the costume budget ran out just as Lizard and Rhino were being attended to. Honestly, it’s clear that the producer thought “They’re not important characters, let’s spend the money elsewhere.”

The first half seemed very short, running only about 35 minutes, but the second half felt longer and the whole production felt substantial. The pacing and build to the final act was excellent with the show peaking with a phenomenal crescendo. To see the victorious heroes playing to a crowd who were giving them a standing ovation could only bring a smile to the face of even the most stoic comic book aficionado.

Kids were clearly enthralled by their heroes and parents spent ungodly sums on souvenirs, merchandise, food and parking. All was right with the World. I thoroughly enjoyed the show and would fully recommend it but with ticket prices in the region of £30-£60 a family trip may require some remortgaging.

Marvel Universe Live is currently touring the UK into the New Year.