We hadn't been inside the American Airlines Center for five minutes when the marketing machine snared my six-year-old nephew in their trap of flashing lights, loud noises and wallet-depleting merchandise. And, with a deep sigh of resignation I accepted that I wasn't getting out of this one, as every parent, guardian and bearded writer-uncle was ponying up cash for soon to be tossed away toys in solemn solidarity for the social contract we had inadvertently agreed to by attending the Marvel Universe Live! event. The contract? Well it was the promise to not be "that asshole." You know, the one who didn't buy the toy and caused the kid to cry, thus spiking the punch bowl of joy with sadness that would eventually creep throughout the arena and ruin everyone's night.
So I stood in line while my nephew Tyler picked out what dollar-store-quality toy he wanted. I tried to push him towards the plush version of Thor's hammer Mjölnir, but I ended up forking over $25 for a fucking plastic sword that was only special because it had two stickers of Marvel characters on the sheath. This piece of shit didn't even light up or glow, but hey, social contract. I wasn't about to go into a 90-minute show with a crying six-year-old.
So how was the show? Well to quote the kid "AWESOME!" And if you're a kid I'm sure it was. I mean there's live action superheroes fighting villains, fireworks, mini-military vehicles, lots of jumping and flipping, lasers, motorcycles and shit blows up real good. Even a child of the current over-stimulated, mile-a-second, ADD generation was immediately gripped by Thor destroying the Cosmic Cube with his hammer, causing an explosion, and then flying away in a vortex of smoke.
What's the Cosmic Cube? Well, it's a magical MacGuffin that drives the Marvel Live storyline. It gives whoever has it unlimited power, and Loki, Thor's brother, has a fragment. Needless to say shenanigans ensue.
But first we have to meet a cast of characters. See Iron Man is bored, so he calls his superhero buddies to see what they're up to. El Capitan Americano is helping old ladies across the street. Bruce Banner (aka the Dr Jekyl to the Hulk's Mr. Hyde) is chilling out, relaxing, shooting some b.....er meditating, Black Widow is kicking ass by training recruits at SHIELD (per Tyler she's got sweet moves), and Spider-Man is casually dropping in on Iron Man to show off some nifty skateboard tricks.
Luckily a call from SHIELD director Nick Fury gets us to the firework factory, as he and his second in command Maria Hill (aka Ms. Ride or Die) are tracking an energy source, and bad guys come out of nowhere to attack, so they jump into military vehicles and drive around the stage area at high speeds while shit blows up.
Iron Man and Spider-Man go to save the day, there are flips, explosions and fake punches, and kids cheer. Loki get's away. Other heroes have to gather to go save the day, motorcycles happen. Wolverine is in a cage, he gets out, but his X-Men compatriots Storm and Cyclops are still being used by Loki for some type of random shit that's not really explained, but the kids don't care because they're too busy cheering. Wolverine yells, and intermission hits.
During intermission the vendors hit up parents left and right with programs and cheap toys. Tyler spots Spider-Man's head, which is being used as a cup for a Sno-Cone, and I'm instantly out another $15, and I have a sugar-riddled six-year-old as a bonus.
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For the second part of the show various groups of heroes team up to go get parts of the Cosmic Cube. Iron Man, Capitan Marvel and Hawkeye go fight some fiery dudes, one of whom literally catches on fire at one point. Shit blows up and the heroes win. Wolverine and Bruce Banner climb and banter, nothing blows up. Spider-Man and Thor fight the Green Goblin and friends in NYC. The Lizard's glowing red eyes scare Tyler, he asks me to pick him up and hold him, ladies all around us swoon, shit blows up, heroes win. Wolverine and Bruce Banner ride motorcycles for a bit, nothing blows up.
Captain America, Black Widow and The Falcon show up on motorcycles, they chase the Red Skull and minions on motorcycles, this is, to quote Tyler, "So awesome." Shit blows up and they do rad motorcycle jumps. Heroes sort of maybe, kinda win.
And then everyone shows up at the end to have a massive fight, with all the villains at the same time, and shit really blows up. It's hard to keep up with all the action, but the delighted screams of children mean it's, and I'm quoting Tyler again, "Awesome." Everything comes to a climax where the audience helps Iron Man defeat the bad guys by holding up their toys and focusing energy, or some shit like that. Anyway, the day is saved, heroes win, and the kids feel like they helped.
Was the event "awesome?" well, for the kids it was, for us adults who were having minor panic attacks because we were alone with our six-year-old relatives for the first time at a giant event where we're being bilked out of every dollar we have? Well, it was sort of ok. Watching a kid run the gamut of emotions and ending up in elation can make a person forget about the rest of the world. So, yeah it wasn't super "awesome" on my wallet, and I'm sure all the local cross-fit bros were bummed out by all the stunt men and women who took over their gyms this weekend, but at the very least shit blew up and the kid had a great time.