Hey MiceAgers! First time writer, long time reader and glad I finally have something to contribute to the site. My wife and I recently went to the Marvel Universe Live theatrical arena event at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, soon to come to a city near you. The tour began in Tampa, which is the home of Feld Entertainment, the company bringing this super hero extravaganza your way. Set up for the amazing amount of infrastructure needed to bring your favorite Marvel heroes to life began on June 2. The first test run was Tuesday, June 8th and the first public performance was on Thursday, June 10th. We went to the matinee show on Saturday the 12th. The arena opened an hour before the 3:00 performance and we, along with countless other Marvel fans, filed our way into the Forum.
We don’t have children, so as the show approached my wife and I were both pretty skeptical that we would enjoy this. The commercials make it seem like one of those Motocross/BMX stunt shows that crisscross the country. Neither of us are Motocross/BMX fans, and we had things we would have rather done on a hot Florida Saturday (Like finally read issues #1 and #2 of Marvel’s Figment comic! Yes, I’m still a nerd). I have to say, though, the commercials don’t do justice to the show. We both had a really good time. I’m going to get into spoilers soon, but I’ll warn you when I do. For a brief non-spoiler plot summary, Loki is once again gathering ultimate power by generating his own Cosmic Cube (Tesseract, for you movie fans) and the Avengers have to stop him.
Before the show begins, J.A.R.V.I.S.’ voice is used to let you know the show is about to start and that theatrical smoke will be used during the performance. He also warns that the audience will experience periods of Cosmic Cube-related blackouts and strobe lights.
The show starts out with Thor shattering the Cosmic Cube (Tesseract) into three pieces and scattering those pieces on Earth so that the ultimate power of the cube could never be in one person’s hand.
We then look in on Tony Stark and Pepper Potts as they argue-banter about Tony’s schedule. Tony videophones with members of the Avengers – Bruce Banner is vacationing in what appears to be India or Tibet and trying to keep himself at peace, Captain America is busy walking an old lady across the street and Black Widow is having her own issues battling some enemy spies.
About that time, a young man starts skateboarding around the stage doing some half-pipe tricks. It’s Peter Parker, but his name in Marvel Universe Live really should be Peter Parkour because the actor playing Spider-Man does some really cool flips and spins, showing amazing athletic ability throughout the show. Tony gets a call from Nick Fury, who is going to investigate an energy signature in the desert. Tony turns into Iron Man and Peter dons his Spider-man suit and they go off to assist Nick with his search.
Nick Fury and Maria Hill drive a jeep-type vehicle onto the stage and are ambushed by the Chitauri (aliens from the Avengers movie), who (of course) are under the control of Loki.
Loki then explains his plan to the captured SHIELD agents. He has created a copycat Cosmic Cube that is powered by mutant energy. He unveils his machine and we see that Wolverine, Cyclops, and Storm are all his prisoners and their mutant powers are being used to energize the copycat Cube. Just when all hope is lost Iron Man and Spider-Man show up and free Wolverine from the machine. Loki escapes with his machine and the Chitauri.
So, your greatest enemy has a weapon capable of whatever his imagination can conceive – what do you do? Hold a meeting of course!! Before you can say “Avengers Assemble,” the heroes have gathered at Avengers tower. The roll call for this adventure is: Spider-Man, Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hawkeye, Black Widow, the Falcon, Bruce Banner, Wolverine and Captain Marvel (nice to see Carol Danvers’ alter ego get some of the spotlight! Maybe one day we’ll get a movie)! JARVIS has been configured to pick up traces of energy signature from the three parts of the original Cosmic Cube (which are now called “Fractals”) and on a giant map of the Earth, we see that the three fractals are on the move. We also see that Loki has established his base in the Himalayas as the copycat Cube can also be detected by JARVIS. Wolverine gets angry that the Avengers don’t seem to care about “his people” (the mutants Cyclops and Storm) and leaves with Bruce Banner hot on his trail. Iron Man, Hawkeye and Captain Marvel will go after the first Fractal, Spider-Man and Thor will track down the second, and the final fractal will be the responsibility of Captain America, Black Widow and the Falcon.
Cut for intermission. While I may have been a bit wordy in describing the first half of the show, the second half is all fisticuffs. Without really spoiling the show (some of the stunts are really good), I’m going to give you the bare overview with not a lot of detail on the second half.
When the show starts again, Aldrich Killian (the villain from Iron Man 3) has the first fractal and Iron Man, Hawkeye and Captain Marvel fight him and his EXTREMIS-enhanced henchmen. Hawkeye doesn’t really fire any arrows, but the results of his arrows are shown by fireworks effects. The EXTREMIS soldiers have glowing red bodies just like in Iron Man 3. At one point, the pyrotechnic effects just about steal the show. Of course, the heroes prevail and capture the fractal.
We check in on Wolverine and Bruce Banner on their motorcycles on the way to the Himalayas (the Geographer in me has a real problem with that last sentence since Avengers Tower is in New York City. But I will suppress my nerdiness for the sake of fun!) They do some jumps and at one point Bruce Banner does a flip on his motorcycle. They head off for Loki’s lair again.
The next heroes we see are Spider-Man and Thor. They fight the Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, Electro, the Rhino and the Lizard. The Black Cat shows up to get the fractal for herself, but she fails. Spider-Man pretty much only fights the Goblin and Electro. Thor takes on the other three villains. Although the battle does drag on for a while, the Goblin summons his glider at one point and that’s where the fight between Spider-Man and the Goblin gets inventive.
We see another interlude with Wolverine and Bruce in which they navigate a wooden bridge on their motorcycles. The wooden bridge is a nice effect that is projected on the ground beneath them. After some banter between them, Banner falls off the bridge and Wolverine has to save him.
Finally, Captain America, Black Widow and the Falcon fight the Red Skull and Madame Hydra. There’s a lot of motorcycle action in this round. Captain America and the Red Skull do some tricks on their motorcycles that are pretty good. The Falcon gets to fly and after a prolonged fight, the heroes get the fractal.
Wolverine has rescued Bruce Banner and they climb up a snow and ice covered mountain to Loki’s hideout. Wolverine breaks into the hideout and frees Storm and Cyclops from Loki’s copycat Cube machine.
Iron Man, Hawkeye, Captain Marvel, Spider-Man and Thor break into Loki’s hideout, but they cannot do anything with only two of the fractals. They need the third, but no one has heard from Captain America. Loki summons the greatest foes of the Avengers (all the villains we’ve seen previously) and a massive fight breaks out. Captain America, Falcon and the Black Widow show up with the third fractal. Loki tries to hypnotize some of the heroes and turn them into his minions. About that time, Bruce Banner shows up and is gang tackled by Loki’s henchmen. What happens when you make Bruce Banner angry (or body tackle him)? You guessed it; he turns into the Incredible Hulk and helps the Avengers defeat Loki once and for all. Defeated, Loki is banished to Asgard by Thor and all is well again.
I want to reiterate that my wife and I had fun and we enjoyed the show, despite the $50 price tag for mid-range seats. While the tickets were pretty expensive (lower bowl seating is around $100), the performers had a lot of energy and there was a lot of humor in the pre-recorded dialogue:
Spider-Man: Can I drive the Avengers Quinjet?
Iron Man: Alright, but one scratch and I’ll make it so your web shooters fire orange juice!
That being said, some of the costumes were terrible. Iron Man looked like he ate too many Twinkies and fruit pies from those old advertisements in the comics. Seriously, I’ve seen Cosplay outfits that looked better. The Lizard looked like a stuffed animal that creepy kid no one liked in Elementary School would have owned. Bonus points, however, for the Spider-Man costume and the inclusion of Captain Marvel. There haven’t been enough Marvel Super Heroines featured outside of the comics and it’s about time one of them got some face time.
Here’s the bottom line – kids will love it. While the storyline was a little hokey and repetitive, the stunts were impressive and the effects were pretty good (of course, all flying was done with wires – but we were OK with that – how else would you accomplish that effect? Sometimes you have to just suspend your disbelief and roll with it). The effect of Captain America “throwing” his shield to bring down an aircraft was cool. My wife and I agreed that this was like a 2-hour version of the Avengers Assemble cartoon (I’ll let you decide whether that is worth the inflated ticket price). I’m pretty sure they even got the same voices to pre-record the dialogue used in the show (if they weren’t the same voices, they were close – I’m sure someone will let me know in the comments whether I am correct or not!).
A few more quick comments – when you buy your tickets online, you are asked whether you want to purchase an interactive “Lectro Link” wristband. Pass on it. It’s a $25 waste of money that is used only once in the show to help Iron Man power his suit. As for its “interactivity” it’s not even equivalent to the “GlowEars” that the Disney Parks now sell to go along with their fireworks shows – at least the glow ears change color during the show. I don’t think the Lectro Link changed colors at all, but I could be wrong.
Also, parents beware, merchandise booths are everywhere!! The first thing we noticed upon entering the arena was the incredible number of merchandise locations (warning – you can buy the Lectro Link here, too), including some with food, and places to have your picture taken with the “Superheroes.” I put that in quotes because your picture is taken next to a cardboard stand-up of one of the Marvel characters and then other superheroes can be superimposed on your picture. You don’t actually get your picture taken with a real-live human being. The cost for the picture is $20, which we found ridiculous, since someone with Photoshop could do the same thing.
Are you a Marvel fan? Looking forward to Marvel Universe Live?