Last night I had the opportunity to attend the live arena show Marvel Universe Live! in Salt Lake City’s Vivint Smarthome Arena. To say I’ve been looking forward to this for a while is an understatement. Mrs. Brawl bought me tickets for my birthday... in July. It started even before that though, when they announced the events over two years ago. So how was it?
A little background to begin with- Marvel Universe Live is an arena show featuring stuntmen and women playing some of your favorite Marvel heroes and villains in what would amount to basically the greatest Marvel movie ever. The show featured extensive wirework, stunt fighting and prolonged motorcycle stunts. The featured heroes were (mostly in order of appearance): Thor, Iron Man, Spider-Man, Captain America, Bruce Banner/Hulk, Black Widow, Nick Fury, Maria Hill, Wolverine, Captain Marvel, Hawkeye, Falcon, Cyclops and Storm. The villains featured were Loki, Aldrich Killian, the Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, Rhino, the Lizard, Electro, Black Cat, Red Skull, and Madame Hydra/Viper, along with a score of generic troopers from the Chitauri, AIM, Extremis soldiers and Hydra.
(BTW, sorry for the blurry pics, it was an arena show with funky lighting.)
The plot is like the ultimate Marvel movie crossover. Thor has acquired the Cosmic Cube and uses Mjolnir to shatter it and scatter it across Midgard. Loki appears immediately afterwards to reveal that he desires to clone a Cube of his own. We fast forward to Avengers Tower, where Tony Stark, Pepper Potts and Peter Parker confer over the fact that super-crime is at an all time low (while Banner, Cap, and Widow are introduced briefly). Fury and Hill contact Stark to confirm strange energy readings they’ve detected just before they’re attacked by Loki’s Chitauri minions.
Stark and Parker suit up, and travel to Fury’s last known location. Iron Man and Spider-Man fight off the Chitauri, free Fury and Hill, and discover Loki’s plot- to use mutant DNA to clone the Cosmic Cube. This DNA is supplied by the captured Wolverine, Cyclops and Storm. Spidey and Iron Man are only able to rescue Wolverine before Loki teleports away. An enraged Wolverine proceeds to gut two Chitauri in despair.
The Avengers gather to form a plan, which comes down to finding and reforming the Cube and its power to take the fight to Loki, which both Wolverine and Thor oppose for different reasons. Wolverine wants to free his teammates as quickly as possible and Thor knows that they’re courting disaster with reforming the Cube. Wolverine storms off to find Loki’s Himalayan base (which Stark was able to locate), and Banner follows to try to calm his frenemy. The Avengers then split off to find the Cube- Iron Man, Captain Marvel and Hawkeye to fight AIM, Spider-Man and Thor to retrieve a shard from the Sinister Six, and finally Cap, Falcon and Black Widow take on Red Skull and Hydra.
From here we see each group go after their target, with brief breaks to follow Wolverine and Banner through the Himalayas. It culminates in a massive battle at Loki’s base in which the freed X-Men and Avengers join forces to stop Loki.
Overall the show was a LOT of fun. This was the closest you’d ever get to seeing these heroes in the real world. The story was geared towards children, naturally, but there was plenty to keep adults entertained.
The highlight, beyond a shadow of a doubt, were the motorcycle stunts. The first Wolverine/Banner intermission was all motorcycles, supposedly showing them climbing the mountains on their dirt bikes. It was all one-upmanship though, with wheelies, jumps and flips. The Avengers vs. Hydra scene was also almost entirely on motorcycles, with some fun and clearly difficult jumps and ramp work, including Cap chasing the Red Skull down a multi-level platform. In these scenes, the action kept up constantly, and never dragged for cheesy dialogue.
The large group fight scenes were also great, particularly the Spider-Man/Iron Man vs. Chitauri fight that kicked the show off and the final battle.
A few negatives- although the Avengers vs. AIM fight was a lot of fun, the main opponent was Aldrich Killian, who never looked more imposing than Biff Tannen in Back to the Future 2. If you follow me on Twitter, you saw me hopefully post about MODOK a couple times in that scene, which was teased several times (with a tank full of Extremis almost dumping on three or four goons and Killian himself). It was fun but had not memorable villain like the following Sinister Six and Hydra fights.
The Thor and Spidey vs. Sinister Six fight dragged quite a bit, and I think it was unfortunately due to the staging of it, with the majority of the fight happening in and around the head of the Statue of Liberty. This meant the Spidey/Green Goblin fight on the outside of the head had to pause multiple times to show Thor get beat up by the Rhino and the Lizard inside the head. This is where the show lost Little Brawl, which is unfortunate because he LOVES Spider-Man.
Also, even though there were six villains in the scene, Black Cat was not a part of the Sinister Six, but a distraction who stole the Cube fragment. That meant the scene only featured a Sinister Five. Another villain would have made it much more engaging (maybe Vulture to add to the wirework fight outside the Statue?). One more complaint about the scene- Doctor Octopus was barely used, mostly only standing on a platform taunting Thor while Rhino and Lizard beat him.
Last negative- except for Wolverine, the X-Men were completely underused. I don’t think I even noticed Cyclops in the final fight with Loki’s minions, and Storm had maybe three lines of dialogue total. Wolverine though was GREAT, if surprisingly violent for a children’s show. Logan probably straight up stabbed a dozen Chitauri, including stabbing one through the chest who had wrestled him to the ground.
Overall though, the positives outweighed the negatives. The show was fast paced and outside the Sinister Six sequence it was always engaging.
Unfortunately, they’re ending the North American leg of the tour to head to Europe. From what I’ve heard not only will it be back, but it may include a new story, which I’m sure will include some new character additions such as the Guardians of the Galaxy, Doctor Strange and Black Panther.
Keep an eye out for it on their website. They’ll be in the US through May, so you may still be able to catch it.