Saturday, November 15, 2014

Review: Kid and adult-friendly, Marvel Universe Live! blasts into uptown

Marvel Universe Live! blasted into Time Warner Cable Arena Friday with a cast of high flying and motorcycle stunt-racing superheroes. The live-action show, which pairs the Avengers, X-Men and Spider-Man not to mention an all-star group of Marvel villains, runs through Sunday.

Although there were plenty of distractions in the lobby for younger kids that couldn't quite hang for the whole show, the real attraction was on the arena floor where all the comic book franchise's heavy hitters gathered to battle Thor's brother Loki for an all-powerful Cosmic Cube. Loki kidnapped The X-Men's Storm, Wolverine, and Cyclops in order to power a clone Cosmic Cube since Thor busted up the real cube and scattered it around the globe.

Sound confusing? That's the nature of superhero stories. Thor with the Avengers, Spider-Man, and Wolverine team up to reassemble the original cube in order to beat Loki. As with most of the movies, the story is secondary to the action here which incorporates aerial stunts, ground combat, car chases, and motorcycles, The latter steals the show. The biggest gasp occurred when two-wheeled Captain America scaled a ramp and jumped on stage chasing Red Skull up and down a half-pipe that doubled as Tony Stark's office (Peter Parker uses it as a skateboard ramp during his inspired introduction earlier in the show).

Marvel Universe Live! is definitely a kid's show although I found myself wincing as Wolverine sliced through enemies like a wound up Freddy Krueger and wondering if I would spend my evening separating my boys. The dialogue, which reflects the quick banter of films and cartoons, and the stunts will appease older fans. The teaming of Wolverine and David Banner, whose amusing scenes acted as segues to bigger battles, seemed especially tailored for adults. Adults could also appreciate the skill the cyclists exhibit as well as the dead-on casting of characters like Loki and Captain America (dead ringers for the big screen versions).

The show is divided into two parts with plenty of time to peruse merchandise during intermission. The first half sets up the premise and brings the team together, while the second, longer section finds our heroes battling familiar villains.

The Statue of Liberty-set battle between Spider-Man and Thor and Green Goblin, Black Cat, Rhino, and practically all of Spidey's foes was particularly riveting as was the motorcycle-stunt filled battle led by Captain America. Both utilized a climbing spiral walkway which mimicked the Statue of Liberty's stairs and morphed into a tiered motorcycle ramp for the next act. Each act benefited from more and more cast members on the floor. Black Widow fought Madame Hydra in one corner. The winged Falcon dodged moving bikes in another as Captain America sent his shields rocketing (via wires) through the air to take down Red Skull. By the last fight all the characters, including a cartoonish Hulk towering over the other characters, share the stage.

Not everything was as fast-paced as the cyclists or Spider-Man's acrobatic fight sequences though. Iron Man was a bit clunky, but its hard to be agile wearing a bulky suit of armor. Kids didn't seem to mind.

Including intermission, the show clocks in at two hours. I was worried my four-year-old couldn't hang. He did voice his desire to go home during the second half, but I placated him with snacks and juice, and was happy to provide loud commentary ("I'm going to get that guy" - aimed at the Hulk). My older child was happily along for the ride, afraid it was over after each battle. Spider-Man waving at my him as the show closed eclipsed everything else.

Marvel Universe Live! has three more performances at Time Warner Cable Arena this weekend - at 7 p.m. Saturday and at 1 and 5 p.m. Sunday. Find more information and tickets here.

(Photos courtesy of Marvel Universe Live!)