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Review: Marvel Universe Live!

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Read also about how Marvel Universe Live! came into being.

When the new Marvel Universe Live! arena show developed by Ellenton's Feld Entertainment premieres tonight at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, kids will love the chance to see their favorite superheroes in action, if my 10 year old son is any indication. When we left the media preview on Tuesday night, his praise was unequivocal: "It was awesome, dad!"

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Thor destroys the Cosmic Cube! (Herald-Tribune photo by Thomas Bender)

Parents, however, may have a different perspective on the superhero spectacle.

The show follows many of the superheroes that we've all grown up with, from comic books to cartoons to the recent spate of blockbuster movies, including Spider-Man, Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and many others. It has a simple plot, which makes sense in an arena show that needs to paint a story with broad strokes.

Loki -- Thor's Asgardian arch-nemesis and the villain behind the recent "Avengers" movie -- is trying to build his own Cosmic Cube, an object that grants vast power to its bearer. The heroes have to assemble the three pieces of the real Cosmic Cube, which have been scattered across the world when it was shattered by Thor to keep its power out of the hands of evil-doers.

Along the way the heroes confront many of Marvel's big-name villains, from Red Skull to Green Goblin, with plenty of fights and special effects to accent their encounters.

Feld Entertainment invested in a state-of-the-art video projection system for Marvel universe Live! that pays off fairly well, resulting in effects like Iron Man's repulsor beams that are flash from the actor thanks to infrared trackers in the costume, as well as few interesting flashes that accent three-dimensional objects. There's also explosions, indoor fireworks and plenty of stunts.

The actor playing Spider-Man is especially memorable thanks to an acrobatic agility that has him flipping from spot to spot on the set with spectacular ease. Feld also hired a variety of former X-Games competitors to add some excitement to the surprising number of motorcycle stunts in the show, which shows in the comfort level actors like Phil Smage (who plays Captain America) display when doing some fairly simple but impressive wheelies and ramp work.

After all the effort spent on technology and stunts, the show's dialogue reflects a serious lack of effort. Most lines seem culled from a roster of cliches that range from merely boring to borderline offensive, as shown when Ms. Marvel defeats Madame Hydra and quips, apropos of nothing, "Hope you didn't break a nail!" That's just sad, especially when you take into account how the comic book version of Ms. Marvel is one of Marvel's strongest female role models.

Then there's the cost. You'll likely pay at least $50 or more for each ticket, plus parking, which means a family of four will shell out well over $200 before they even walk through the doors. And when you do enter the arena, you're assaulted by vendor tables seemingly every 10 feet, selling everything from overpriced plastic swords that flash with LED light to overpriced hats and t-shirts. Bags of cotton candy -- the kind made in a factory -- are $15 each, with a plastic mask attached that may serve to justify the cost to some.

Perhaps the most egregious example of the show's attempt to cash in on guests is the "Lectro Link," a plastic bracelet with the show logo on top that flashes with LEDs, for a whopping $25. The bracelet plays a minor part in the plot of the show, which means any kids who want to hold up their arms to help power Iron Man when he needs their help the most will need one, or feel left out of the fun.

So call it $300 or so for a night at Marvel Universe Live! for a family of four. You could buy a Blu-Ray player and the entire recent Marvel movie catalogue for that (and pop your own popcorn), or you can grit your teeth and open your wallets to splurge on a single night that you'll endure but your kids will likely love.

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Brian Ries

Brian Ries is the editor of ticketsarasota.com.
Last modified: July 10, 2014
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