Review: Marvel Universe Live On Tour
What do you get when you mix comic book characters with a circus, a motocross, and a martial arts tournament? Marvel Universe Live. This week sCrypt comics was able to attend the event here in Philadelphia. The tour is currently hitting major cities across the United States, so check http://www.marveluniverselive.com for tickets and dates. Okay, now let’s get down to the review. I’ll avoid major spoilery material, as the plot to the show isn’t what I want to focus on, though I will touch on it.
Attending for sCrypt Comics was myself (Rick Pipito), co-founder and lead artist Dan Pipito, my 4 year old son and my 5 year old daughter. When I say that this is a show for all ages, I’m not lying. It is aimed at a younger audience, but has enough other fantastic elements that visually alone it is fun for anyone.
Sound Effects and Dialogue: Okay, so some of the dialogue was cheesy bad, but not bad in a repulsive way. Bad like in a comic book way, where certain things were done just to appease the audience. Who doesn’t like a laugh? Thor saying “It’s Hammer Time” was a bit much, but the campiness works as if it were a stage play. The voices were prerecorded as the characters acted the lines out (sort of in an exaggerated Power Rangers type of way). The best part about the voices was that they literally sounded EXACTLY like the actors who voiced these characters in the 90s animated cartoons. For any fan of those, and lets face it, who isn’t a fan, you will be quite pleased at the nostalgia it brings. Sound effects wise, the lasers and explosions were as expected to be, and not hard to make perfect. The soundtrack itself was also impressive, and JARVIS as the narrator to introduce the beginning of the show and after the intermission made a lot of sense.
Acting and choreography: The acting was as mentioned above with an exaggerated movement of the characters speaking. Although visually seeing this is somewhat distancing from real life, it has to be done to show who is the one doing the speaking. I mean you can’t have a show like this and not; otherwise there would be dead space. That being said, the acting isn’t what makes this show amazing. I cannot express how exciting and action packed it is. The fighting sequences were as if you were watching it on the silver screen, and while the punches and kicks didn’t literally connect with the other characters, the distance from the stage makes up for that. Remember that scene in Ironman 2 when Black Widow kicks a dozen asses without batting an eyelash? Yep… the actress playing Widow in this tour does those moves in the same manner. Even the aerial fights (Green Goblin vs Spiderman) were well done. What made my jaw drop was watching these stunt people drop a good fifteen to twenty feet after being “punched” off of balconies or catwalks. There were no ropes in those sequences, so they freefell onto inflatable mats. I can’t emphasize how much coordination this must take because one small misstep and they’d be splattered all over the floor.
Visual effects: Right from the beginning we get Thor using his hammer to smash the Tesseract. As he does, lightning comes down from above and the cube shatters outward in a dazzling display of particles. From Ironman’s repulsor blasts, to Aldrich Killian’s fire body of extremis virus, to Spiderman’s webs, it was stunning and breathtaking. The fight with the sinister six at the Statue of Liberty was especially exciting because while there was a battle inside the head of the statue, there was more in the air outside, and the transition back and forth between the two scenes was seamless. The highlight of the show was perhaps the Hulk element. A green light focuses on Bruce Banner when he is getting angry, but when Hulk finally shows up he is a good ten feet tall. The actor in this huge Hulk costume obviously walked on stilts but that was hidden by the design of the legs, and although his facial features couldn’t move, it was the sheer power you felt having him on the scene and destroying things, smashing and raging out.
Motorcycles and stunts: Kudos to the man who is Spiderman. He didn’t stay put for five minutes. Most of his stage time was either from a high wire, swinging above or him doing flips on the ground, running up walls, and just being the best acrobat around. Coordination and balance are both an understatement when it comes to him. The motorcycle and vehicle rides were impressive with the space they had on stage, but what made me gasp was the unexpected backflips and long jumps across “chasms”. This part of the show alone could have stood by itself.
Stage: The design of the stage, the shape of it, and its ever changing scenery leaves no room for complaining. It worked well for every part of the show, and some of it made me wonder exactly how the hell they break down and set up after each city tour. It’s a lot of moving parts.
Character usage and costumes: While each character had an equal amount of show time, and looked great in their comic cloned costumes, there were some issues I had. First, the costumes: Ironman’s suit looked entirely too bulky, Red Skull’s head looked a bit oversized, and Captain America’s shield bent during one of the shield throwings, so it was a bit odd. In the case of underwhelming characters, I choose three: With all of the visual effects and build up of the show, I really wanted to see Storm go crazy at the end and summon some of her weather abilities. I also wanted to see Cyclops unleash his optic blasts. I got neither, and I don’t understand why. Ironman had plenty of lasers going off, so a few shots of red light from Cyclops would have been easy to do. Smoke effects and lightning were abound, so making some smoke look like a tornado or have Storm firing lightning or wind would not have been that much of a stretch. To me, the lack thereof of these elements made me feel as if the creators of the show got lazy in the last five minutes and wanted it to end. Captain Marvel also only flew and fought. In the scenes she was a part of, her comic book counterpart would have blasted the thugs around in seconds. Instead they focused on her fighting, which made her a useless character. If they wanted to focus on fighting, they could have used Punisher or someone else like that.
Concessions and Other attractions: Like any of these type of shows, the ticket prices are through the roof at times, but worth it. The price you pay to see this show goes to making it happen, so I can get by that. What I can’t get by is how outrageous concessions are. I’m not talking about popcorn or anything like that, because we all know at these events you spend ten dollars on a hotdog. What I AM talking about are the plush toys and cheap gimmicks. Light up toys that twirl around and the plush dolls look like something that you’d win at a carnival or buy at a five below, but the price of one costs between 20 and 25 dollars! And the program would have been nice to have, but I wasn’t spending that money either. Sorry. I’ll go spend half the price somewhere else and get something four times as good. One cool thing is that (and you can see from my pic of Dan and my kids) you can dress up as characters and stand in for pictures. There are a few of these lying around, so you can take your pick of which to do.
Overall, this show is something new and fresh. You’ve never seen anything like it before. Sure, there are elements you have probably scene, but the combination of everything together is out of this world. Marvel Universe Live on Tour is an event that you do NOT want to miss. The sold out arena was proof of that alone, and I hope that this leads to many more similar incarnations. A Marvel Universe Live sequel focusing on X-Men, Fantastic Four, or other heroes than the Avengers would have me grabbing tickets right away. With over 32 characters from the comics it is a job well done. For an arena performance, I give it 8 out of 10 sCrypt Coffins.
What did you think? Feel free to comment if you saw it. I’d be interested in hearing others’ thoughts.
*MARVEL UNIVERSE LIVE is a production of Feld Entertainment (C) 2014