News Article

Marvel Takes America

Spidey is joining forces with the Avengers for a live arena tour, and EW had prime seats. Is it worth the cash--and the headaches?

Captain America and the Red Skull

The Marvel Universe LIVE! tour is a full-on assault. And that's before the traveling arena show—which kicked off last month in Tampa—even begins. Upon arrival, visitors are met by an army of merchandise-selling soldiers so vast in number and boisterous in spirit they appear to have been trained by HYDRA itself. They're on hand to make sure all children are properly indoctrinated into the Marvel franchise and all parents are properly liberated of their hard-earned cash. You name it, they sell it: flashing Spidey webslingers ($25), flashing lanyards ($15), flashing water bottles ($12), flashing Lectro-Links ($25)—the sensory overload is enough to induce a seizure. (Or, in my case, when I caught the show on Aug. 2, a seriously awful migraine.)

But such crass commercialism is to be expected for an 85-city show clearly geared to the pre-K and elementary school set (ticket prices vary by city, running anywhere from $35 to $150-plus; marveluniverselive.com). What's less expected is the revelation that our superheroes appear to be splitting their time between saving the planet from the dastardly schemes of Loki and other assorted villains, and training for the upcoming X Games. How else to explain Bruce Banner and Wolverine getting into an argument over who can pop more bitchin' wheelies? Or why Peter Parker won't stop parkouring all over Iron Man's lab for no apparent reason? Or why Captain America and archnemesis the Red Skull engage in an extended remix of a motorcycle stunt show? The entire event is so bathed in ''extremeness,'' you half expect Thor to start slamming down cans of Mountain Dew. (Instead he partakes in a somewhat painful exchange with Spider-Man about selfies and their various Twitter accounts: ''Over a million followers, dude,'' brags the Asgardian god of thunder. #PleaseStop.)

The production, which combines a large video wall, laser lights, copious amounts of wirework, and the aforementioned stunts, is certainly impressive in scope, and the story itself—in which our heroes must reassemble the parts of the Cosmic Cube to combat Loki's cube clone—is no sillier than your average Marvel film script. There's also undeniable nerdy fun in seeing Spider-Man and Wolverine—who've been kept apart from other Marvel heroes on screen due to various studio licensing deals—join forces with the Avengers. Considering this arena spectacular rolled out right as the latest Marvel megasensation hit theaters, however, it is downright shocking that no Guardians of the Galaxy appear in Marvel Universe LIVE! (Perhaps Groot on Ice! is already in the works?) In the end, kids will dig watching serviceable facsimiles of their favorite superheroes save the world in person, even if that means adults may be forced to reach for their wallets—and their Advil—repeatedly. B

Originally posted Aug 07, 2014 Published in issue #1324 Aug 15, 2014 Order article reprints
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