Evaluation: WandaVision is unlike anything in the MCU

WandaVision – Marvel’s first (mini) series on Disney + and Disney + Hotstar – is an odd delight. It shows Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) washing the dishes and a vision (Paul Bettany) who produces his dulcet tones at a dinner party. Two of Marvel’s most powerful superheroes, time and time again occupied with saving the world, suddenly descended into the homebody realm. In that sense, it’s very similar to our collective experience last year as we got stuck at home. The first episodes – I’ve seen three – are mostly in black and white and are shot at an aspect ratio of 4: 3. And oh, did I mention it is set in the fifties? WandaVision is Marvel’s first new offering since Martin Scorsese compared Marvel films to theme parks and complained that they weren’t “cinema,” and the new Marvel series seems to be a direct response to those comments.

Of course, part of it is just random. WandaVision is the first entry in the fourth phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe – an insider term referring to the Post-Avengers: Endgame era – but not planned that way. Scarlett Johansson led Black widow It kicked off last April with The Falcon and The Winter Soldier starring Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan, who were on TV as the MCU began their Disney + journey. WandaVision would be third, but then the pandemic hit us and delayed everything. In a way, it worked out fine for Marvel. Black widow and Falcon and winter soldier They look very similar to Marvel’s existing offerings, which is in line with Scorsese’s criticism. WandaVision is unlike anything in the MCU, and its audacity speaks well for Marvel’s Disney + launch, something Marvel boss Kevin Feige also acknowledged.

WandaVision’s monochromatic Academy Ratio look is inspired by dozens of classic American sitcoms to which it pays homage. That includes such as I love lucy, The Dick Van Dyke Show, I dream of jeannie, In love with a witch, Family ties, and Full house. And just like some of these shows, WandaVision shifts to color over time, adopting new tropes and styles in the process. It starts as a Golden Age Hollywood sitcom with a laugh track – Episode 1 was filmed with a live studio audience – and goofy jokes at a staccato rhythm, and then moves through the decades of physical comedies, animated sequences, and pops of used become vivid colors. WandaVision even has contemporary title sequences that are new for each episode, and they include opening title songs put together by Frozen duo Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez.

But WandaVision isn’t just that. The sitcom corporate identity is a facade to a bigger mystery lurking beneath the surface – it takes place technically after the events of Endgame and will lead to Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, starring Olsen plays – one that gets the shortest mentions early on. In this essence, it feels closest Westworld (whose creative team included mystery boxing lover JJ Abrams) and seems to spawn endless theories after each episode. And just like with the HBO series, enthusiasts and redditors are sure to find out the true nature of WandaVision in the first few episodes.

The first Marvel Disney + series begins with a sign that reads “Just Married” on the back of an old car. The couple in question is Wanda and Vision, who have just arrived in the quaint suburb of Westview. They both admit that they are an unusual couple apart from the whole superpower business – they have no wedding rings, no wedding pictures, and even no memory of a wedding – but Wanda wants them to “fit”, and that’s exactly what they do. She does her best to be a housewife, prepare meals, and organize local events with other women. Vision spends his days typing out forms in a 9-to-5 office job. He once wonders what the company is really doing, but nobody seems to know what bureaucracy feels like and what a cog in the machine is like.

There are early signs that something is wrong, and both Wanda and Vision strive to remember the significance of a day ahead. The two also have trouble remembering anything from their time before Westview when they discover a diner at dinner asks them the simplest of questions. Annoyed, the guest yells, “What’s your story?”, Which reads like a question asked by the audience of the series. After all, Vision died – twice from Wanda and the great bad guy Thanos – in Avengers: Infinity War, but he appears to be alive on WandaVision. What is your history? The Marvel series – designed by Jac Schaeffer, an in-house Marvel talent that was being worked on Captain Marvel (not in the credits) and Black widow (Story) – is in no hurry to provide answers, however, as the early episodes mostly act as sitcom episodes.

In the first episode, Wanda and Vision have to throw an impromptu dinner party that gets incredibly out of hand. In the second case, the two sign up to put on a magic show for a local fundraiser – which sometimes seems Chaplin-esque – which also goes weirdly off track. And third, they have to deal with a life changing event that is progressing much faster than usual. In between and all around, WandaVision jokes about the two personalities of Wanda and Vision based on the fact that the audience knows more than the other characters on the series.

Speaking of other characters: WandaVision has three from the bigger MCU: Monica Rambeau (Teynoah Parris) from Captain Marvel now an adult, Dr. Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) from Thor and Thor: The Dark World and FBI Agent Jimmy Woo (Randall Park) of Ant-Man and the Wasp. The only newcomer is Agnes (Kathryn Hahn), a curious neighbor.

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Teyonah Parris as Monica Rambeau in WandaVision
Photo credit: Disney / Marvel Studios

WandaVision also has its rare dramatic moments. They investigate Wanda’s family worries and maternal desires, the death of her brother (who was killed in Avengers: Age of Ultron) and the emotional agony it caused. These are all moments that she has never been allowed to because Marvel films have no room to process these feelings, and even more so because Wanda is a supporting character and has never had a stand-alone film.

As the trailers suggested, the sitcom world seems to be a construct that Wanda manifests in search of a normal life she never had. Or maybe as a refuge from some kind of danger. In WandaVision there are early indications that this supposedly virtual state may not have originated from Wanda himself, with fake commercials serving as evidence of this. Feige has admitted that the bigger truths about the show will emerge from these ads.

It’s thanks to Matt Shakman, the director best known for “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia” (over 40 episodes) and “Game of Thrones” (“Eastwatch” and “The Spoils of War”) and himself shows as capable of handling both the light and the light difficult and brings a gentle note to darker notes. The real test of his skills, of course, lies in the remaining six episodes that Disney failed to provide to critics prior to the show’s release. WandaVision is unlike anything we’ve got before. There is nothing sticking out about his approach, something Marvel has rightly been blamed for in the past. But how will it develop as it nears its endgame? After all, its creators already spoke in the third act that it was a great action MCU film. Will it stay very dissimilar to Marvel throughout, or will it eventually dissolve into a generic MCU actioner?

WandaVision premieres on January 15th on Disney + and Disney + Hotstar. Two episodes will be broadcast in the first week, followed by one weekly until March 5th.


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