My review of Marvel Universe Live?
There you go.
What … not enough?
Okay, but where in the name of Margaret Elizabeth Carter do I start with how amazing this show is?
First off, a quick word about the venue in which I watched the performance, the Motorpoint Arena in Sheffield. I’ve been there before, for the wonderful Yorkshire Cosplay Convention last year (you can read about that / see my geeky derp face here) but this was my first visit to see a show. The place is MASSIVE, and even before the show started, it was brilliant to see the hundreds of children in the various costumes of their heroes, making me feel like the future is in good hands with these young geeks (Geeklings? We should make that a thing!).
Btw, some of these photos are mine, obviously (a lot of them have already appeared on Twitter and Instagram, and if you’re ever in those online neighbourhoods, please feel free to have a look around and say hi!) but I have enhanced this post with some images culled from the net, simply to illustrate how awesome the design of the show is. You’ll be able to tell the difference. The net ones are the nice and focussed images, whereas mine were all taken with the shaking hands of THE MOST EXCITED GEEK IN THE WORLD!!!
Seriously, the kid in the Iron Man costume behind me was a bit of a … well, let’s just call him a handful (although to be fair I really do think that maybe he was a little young to sit through a two-hour show) and he did seem to have a weird fascination with kicking the back of my seat, but, such was my excitement that I spent most of the time on the edge of said seat anyway, so ultimately this Iron Toddler and myself got along fine.
The only other interaction I had with a costumed geekling was when one of them was guided along the row of seats by his mother, who smilingly explained to me that “Hulk has a weak bladder” to which I replied “Well, I’m not gonna argue with him.” I’m forever grateful that my portcullis of good taste slammed down upon my initial instinct to shout “HULK SLASH!”
I didn’t cosplay, of course, but I did choose my clothes appropriately (including my Cap beanie and Civil PHWOAR shorts haha!)
Anyway, the show began, and I got my first glimpse of the spectacular (and really rather clever) way in which the story’s superheroics could be presented in a theatrical environment. I’m not a HUGE fan of seeing live shows, and some of you more experienced theatre goers might justifiably laugh at my caveman-like awe of what to many might be old-school stage tricks. But still, here was the mighty Thor himself, crashing to the ground in a vortex of light and smoke, holding aloft the Cosmic Cube itself, the Tesseract!
A quick note here. The show obviously touches on aspects of Marvel lore (and with admirable diversity in some places) and so any review is going to reflect that. There are degrees of interest in the Marvel concepts (from zero to my own level, and beyond) but the rise of the superhero genre in popular culture means that a lot of folks can maybe pick Hawkeye out of a line-up but don’t necessarily know that J.A.R.V.I.S (the Artificial Intelligence in the movies, voiced by Paul Bettany) amusingly stands for Just A Rather Very Intelligent System, so I’m going to presume that MOST people reading this know SOMETHING of the Marvel Universe, and take no prisoners in explaining EVERY LAST FANBOY NOD that the show contained.
So, essentially, the Tesseract is a power source that could be used to do evil, and so Thor smashes it into segments that are scattered far and wide. His evil brother Loki (or his spawn of a Frost Giant adopted half-brother, but let’s not go there) seeks to reassemble the segments for his own wicked plans and the heroes band together to stop him. That’s the thrust of the story, really. The Avengers (plus Spiderman, X-Men members Wolverine, Storm and Cyclops, and in a lovely piece of marketing foreshadowing the recently announced movie, Captain Marvel) track down the segmented pieces and must retrieve them from the hands of various Marvel Supervillains (and btw, that’s what I meant about the diversity of the franchise concepts used here – the villains included Black Cat, yet to be shown in mainstream Marvel movie, and A.I.M, basically another evil version of SHIELD that’s been usurped as the big bad in the MCU by Hydra)
All of the missions to retrieve the segments were spectacularly staged, realised through a mix of lasers and lighting and projection, plus the many “sets” that were wheeled unobtrusively into the arena to signify new locations. One weird thing was to see some characters on motorbikes (the Falcon and Red Skull) but yes, the Falcon DOES fly very convincingly (as do several other heroes and villains) and the bikes kept the action moving along at a wonderfully brisk pace.
And at one point, Captain America pulls a motorbike stunt that Will. Take. Your. Breath. Away!
The effects throughout were mostly amazing. My favourites were Nick Fury and Maria Hill in a jeep that rolled over in a ball of flame, and the moment where Cap slung his shield from one side of the arena to the other (a very clever piece of two-shield trickery). One lovely little moment came when Loki was trying to use his mind-control powers on the assembled heroes. Fans of the movies will know that Loki has a trait of projecting multiple images of himself, and rather wonderfully, the heroes being hypnotised in the arena show suddenly had an actor in an identical Loki costume standing in the shadows at their side.
For me, only two effects didn’t work, and to be fair, they’re probably two of the most difficult to replicate in a live show. One of them was the repulsor rays from Iron Man’s gauntlets and the other was Bruce Banner’s transformation into the Hulk. The rays were projected onto the floor in front of the actor and the Hulk … well, if any UK readers are familiar with Mr Blobby, there IS an element of that character’s rubbery awkwardness in the costume. That said, these visualisations only suffered in comparison to how brilliant everything else was, and as stated, are two of the hardest parts of the Marvel Universe to recreate without CGI.
Overall, this is a great show to see, whether you’re a geek or not. There are some great jokes in there too (listen out for Loki’s description of the audience as “a herd of human cattle, stinking of polyester and nachos”). And for what it’s worth … I can thoroughly recommend the candyfloss and accompanying Iron Man mask!
If you made it this far, thanks for reading!