The Marvel Universe comes to life in Montreal

A review of the superhero show happening at the Bell Centre this weekend.

Marvel gang

Marvel Universe Live. Photos courtesy of Feld Entertainment


As single father to a culturally well-rounded nine-year old daughter, by matter of duty I’ve been privy to much arena pageantry featuring whimsical princesses, charming-if-befuddled princes, oversized mouse marionettes and even smart-talking toys, usually flitting around on skates to grating musical routines in capitalism-speared pursuit of cherishable family memories.

So when she and I stepped into the Bell Centre last night to catch Marvel Universe Live, a travelling show featuring Marvel Comics’ A-list of masks, mutants and mythos, live and direct, a mix of testosterone and relief flooded my “just glad to be here” kinda vibe.

Security actually passed a metal detector over us on the way in, so in some ways, I was in my element. Marvel gets rap show security? Mickey never has. When the detector went off as Melodie was scanned, the guard just smiled at her and said “Are you made of metal, miss?” before waving us on.

But this isn’t about the grown-ups. Marvel Universe Live, like the Wu-Tang, is for the children.

And with that said, my daughter really wanted to see this show. Keeping it 100, so did the kid in me. I grew up on comics, drawing my favourite heroes and villains in combat more studiously than anything else I committed to before age 13. I’ve shared that once-upon-a-time passion with my girl since she was old enough to care.

Melo actually chose to be Spider-Man for Halloween, when she was three — the black costumed Spidey, at that. We go see the big-budget movies and rewatch them ad nauseum when they hit Bluray.

My daughter’s notion of gender lines has long been progressive. Her first best-friend-ever in daycare was transgendered, and is now living as a girl. She is as down to figure skate as she is to skateboard, as much into Mako Mermaids as she is Fresh Prince , and doesn’t equate either to being anything other than herself.

But asked who her favourite hero is?

“Black Widow.” Every time. “Because she’s a girl, and she doesn’t even have super powers. She just has skills!”

Skills and lots of ’em, from concept to pyro to choreography to graphic, comic design, are on full display at the MUL show. There is a ton of bang for your Marvel buck at work here.

A combination of live action, impressive staging and imaginative set design (notably the 360 grahpic/laster projection show) coupled with a remarkably cogent, near-feature-length story sets the backdrop for the likes of Ironman, Thor, Spidey, Black Widow, Captain America, Wolverine, Hulk and a whack-load of other good guys to face baddies like Loki, Red Skull, Madame Hydra, Green Goblin, Doc Oc, Electro, Rhino, and more. Black Cat even pops up.

Virtually all these actors are stunt people, obviously trained across a variety of disciplines. Spider-Man — hammin’ it up as a social media junkie, through most scenes — is an acrobat. Black Widow truly appears to handle the martial arts she is executing, not to mention being a kick-ass motor bike trickster — as are Wolverine, Cap and an even-tempered, witty Bruce Banner (whom you’ll anxiously find yourself, throughout the entire show, wanting to know if you’ll like when he’s angry).

There are people, monsters and machines flying from the floor to the rafters non-stop, shit exploding everywhere, and when there is threat of a lull, the motorbikes come out. It’s really a blast, not to ape the non-stop cliches and puns of the script and narrative. And that’s not a jab. What else would you want, let alone expect, from a gangs-all-here Marvel party, than corny quip-filled repartee? ‘Nuff said, other than that we saw the French-language version and clearly it was seamlessly translated with spirit intact.

And again, with a story that lasts nearly two hours, including the 15-minute intermission, they did a great job of weaving together this many hallowed heroes and hated villains into a reasonably cohesive, vivid story. And fans of dramatically bellowed “Nooooooos!” will be tickled.

Loki vs. Spiderman

Loki vs. Spider-Man


If you’re looking, you can spot the tie-ins, at a surface level, to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, at least in terms of positioning. Spidey is being groomed by the Avengers. Captain Marvel struts her stuff as she prepares to take on a role in the expanding celluloid world. The idea that Captain America “doesn’t make it” is dangled at some point. The pursuit of the Cosmic Cube drives the whole show.

Don’t get it confused, nerdlingers: There are no reveals here. But as a dad who gladly follows the flicks (how ’bout that Ant-Man, yo?) and a not-too-shoddy observer of detail, it was an interesting thing to consider as I became engaged in the plot.

If you’ve been thinking about seeing this show with your kids this weekend,  or even as a solo spectator (and I mean, don’t be a fuckin’ sketchball, kay? Security, as I said, is tight. I waited alone for my daughter outside the girls room at it was all eyes on me) I’d totally recommend the escape this weekend. Of course, the souvenir traps are set up at every corner, but there are ways to treat your child without breaking the grocery bill. Pro tip: as you exit, they sell a neat little light-up Tesseract for a cool fin.

If you’re bringing kids under five or six, especially, I’ll give you fair warning: there is a line between cartoon violence and reality happening here that may not jibe with “the-movies-are-make-believe” script most of us subscribe to.

Cartoon heroes are coming to life and kicking asses here. But with them come actual, teachable moments. There is ample opportunity to show your kids exactly how this is “not real” at play here, in terms even a three- and four-year-old will understand, and probably be fascinated by. And that is a great thing. So what I’m saying, really, is to maybe leave grandma at home for this one.

Damn, I made it about the grownups again. Melo adored it. At some point, among the good times, laughs, near-heart stopping firework blasts and mutual approving nods, what I considered to be one of the schmaltzier prop effects almost made me nudge her and go, “Hey, isn’t that kinda cheesy?” thinking it was funny.

But I shut my mouth. After all, we were chillin’ together in the kid zone. Five seconds later she looked up at me and said “Daddy, that is awesome!”

Cha-ching! Score one for cherised memories care of Stan Lee’s vision. Take that, Walt. 


Marvel Universe Live is at the Bell Centre (1909 Avenue des Canadiens de Montréal) through Sunday, Aug. 23, with two to three shows daily. Details on pricing, schedule and English/French versions of the show can be found here