For the first time in a number of years, due to the global pandemic, the 2020 cinematic calendar went by without any Marvel content. Avengers: Endgame rounded out a significant chapter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, leaving undeniably big boots to fill. Wandavision excitedly kicks off a brand new phase for the MCU, which heads to streaming service Disney+ for the first time ever. The show signals the beginning of many original series, with Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Loki to shortly follow. But the main question remains, will the magic of the big screen Marvel films translate to the small screen? Bold and ambitious, WandaVision is the biggest departure to date for the studio – but with connections to Doctor Strange: The Multiverse of Madness and Spider-Man 3, can they pull this challenge off?
Paul Bettany and Elizabeth Olsen reprise their roles as super-powered beings Vision and Wanda Maximoff in Wandavision. The pair appear to be living their ideal lives together, hiding their powers to reside in an idyllic suburban America neighbourhood. But as the cracks begin to appear in their perfect dream, the couple suspect that everything is not as it seems.
There’s no denying that WandaVision is surreal, weird and super trippy. The creative team fully embrace the classic sitcom aspects, with the first three episodes feeling like a homage to The Brady Bunch and Bewitched, particularly with the live audience element. However underneath the slapstick elements and retro humour, there’s an intriguing and slightly unnerving central mystery. Both Wanda and Vision know there’s something not quite right about it all, with certain situations and memories cracking the ‘perfect’ facade of happy suburban life. Numerous questions are raised throughout such as where is WestView, how did they get here and why do the neighbours act so peculiar when you ask them questions about the neighbourhood?
With each of the first three episodes clocking in at a brisk thirty minutes, and ending with a teasing reveal, there’s a very bingeable quality to the series which quickly hooks you in. Reddit boards will undoubtedly be aflutter with theories trying to decode these stings in an attempt to predict the show’s direction. However what’s most exciting is the fact that with a third of the series down, we’ve only just begun to scratch the surface of it all. This is such a unique concept from Marvel and considerably different to anything we’ve seen yet in the MCU. Feige and Jac Schaeffer are taking a risk and a huge creative leap of faith with this bold, complex and hugely left field narrative, coupled with a slow-burn (but compelling) approach. While this may alienate some viewers, personally I believe it’s so refreshing to see.
The success of the bold direction predominantly hinges on the central pairing of Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany and I’m so glad to say they both give career-best performances. The duo are afforded so much more freedom with the roles, allowing the actors to refreshingly explore a more comedically charged side of their relationship. The often underrated Bettany, who continues a fine run following Uncle Frank, brings a real likeable charm, slapstick nature and goofy humour to what was previously quite an undeveloped Vision. However, underneath the notion of happiness there appears to be a real layer of pain and confusion hidden just out of sight, which the two capture perfectly in certain scenes. I
If Schaeffer uses inspiration from the particularly rich source material of Brian Michael Bendis’ ‘House of M’ and Bill Mantlo and Steve Englehart’s ‘The Vision and the Scarlet Witch’, Olsen will undoubtedly revel and shine in the character’s complexities. Following on from the tragic events of Avengers: Age of Ultron and Endgame, this is Marvel’s chance to properly explore the impact and ramifications of Wanda’s trauma and grief. If Beale Street Could Talk’s Teyonah Parris and Bad Moms’ Kathryn Hahn prove the highlights of a strong supporting cast, adding a further air of suspicion and intrigue as they appear to know more than they’re letting on…
As expected from the meticulously plotted Marvel cinematic universe, there’s an abundance of easter eggs, references and nods dotted throughout the episodes. Fans will have a real treat attempting to discover and decode all of the various easter eggs, included in many blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moments. Due to the sitcom setting spanning multiple years, the show’s creative team truly excels in bringing to life the differing eras with meticulous attention and detail. The set production, wardrobe department, hair and makeup teams add a real authenticity and fun nature to the numerous time periods, coupled with the slapstick opening sequences featuring intro music from Frozen songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez.
While this won’t be for everyone due to the slow-burn pacing and departure from the usual trusted formula, WandaVision signals a bold and exciting direction for Marvel’s fourth phase. Jac Schaeffer proves that there’s so much more to superheroes and comics than giant battles and non-stop action in the most unique and surreal property to date.