Two years after Marvel’s last production, the severely flawed Spiderman: Far From Home (2019), Marvel returns with a bang, with the uniquely creative limited series, WandaVision.
WandaVision, Marvel Studios’ debut Disney+ production, is also its most experimental production to date.
To recap, the last time we saw Vision (Paul Bettany), the sentient AI robot was when he was killed by Thanos to take the Mind Stone in Avengers: Infinity War. In the sequel, Avenger: Endgame, Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) was fighting against Thanos to avenge the death of her lover, Vision.
WandaVision starts off as a mid-century sitcom, where a newlywed couple, Wanda and Vision, moves to the suburbs from the city to lead a quiet life. But as in all sitcoms, there is a twist, Wanda has magical abilities and Vision is part robot.
One day they find a heart marked on their calendar, Wanda thinks it is their anniversary, Vision thinks that they are having dinner with his boss and his wife, Mr and Mrs Hart, that evening. What follows are sitcom type shenanigans, where Wanda and Vision must not let the townsfolk know about their abilities.
But there is more than what meets the eye, as Wanda and Vision cannot remember what they used to do or who they were before they shifted to this quaint idyllic town.
WandaVision is packed with spectacular performances.
Leading the show, Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda is the heart of WandaVision. She has grown a lot as an actress over the years, since Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), where her performance was the weakest of all the cast.
Grief, joy, denial, ecstasy, Olsen puts the whole gamut of human emotion on display, as she gives her career’s best performance. Olsen gives, both, a nuanced dramatic and a well-timed comedic performance. Her various English accents and mannerisms change ever so effortlessly as the show progresses.
Much like Olsen, Paul Bettany too finally gets to show his acting prowess in both comedic and dramatic roles. He is hilarious as Wanda’s bumping husband but seamlessly delivers other emotions too. Bettany finally gets to shine as Vision and he does not disappoint.
Another surprisingly effective performance is delivered by Randall Park as Jimmy Woo, an FBI agent. He was underutilised in Ant-Man and The Wasp (2018) and finally gets his due here.
Teyonah Paris as Geraldine and Kathryn Hahn as Agnes, who play the neighbours of Wanda and Vision make up a strong supporting cast.
Marvel productions are big-budget mainstream productions that can only be sustained if they have a large enough following. This is what made making Guardians of Galaxy (2014) with a bunch of unknown characters such a gamble. The sheer existence of WandaVision is a marvel.
Starting from the 1950s and 1960s sitcoms like The Dick Van Dyke Show, the 1970s sitcoms like The Brady Bunch, 1980s shows like Family Ties, 1990s sitcoms and even sitcoms from the 2000s and 2010s like Malcolm in the Middle, Modern Family and The Office, WandaVision pays homage to sitcoms across the decades. The attention to detail is phenomenal. Right from the costumes, the sets to the production design, everything fits the tone perfectly.
The cinematography and editing of the series also mimic the era of the sitcom the show is following that week. From single-camera sitcoms with canned laughter to the mockumentary format, even the aspect ratio and grain are accurate to the time the show is set in. As an added bonus, every episode has a new opening credits sequence, that are an absolute treat to watch.
Much like actual sitcoms, Wandavision also has very specific advertisements between the act breaks. These are relevant to the themes of the episodes and contain several references to MCU. The show is one of the better examples of cinema.
Wandavision has been written and created by Jac Shaeffer and directed by Matt Shackman, who has directed episodes of the best sitcoms and drama series of the decade, from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia to Game of Thrones, making him the perfect director for a show with such a varied emotional tone.
The direction of the series is very precise. The writing also cleverly uses the assets Marvel recently acquired. All things fit in the MCU despite the show having a peculiar premise.
At its core, WandaVision is a tragedy about loss and trauma, disguised as a comedy. The toughest aspect in such productions is juggling the tone of the series.
Since the show is rooted in character and not plot, there is always a hint of grief even though the most comical moments of the show. The whole cast and crew have come together to create a hilarious and heartbreaking show that is one of the best productions in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Despite, everything new Marvel has done with this show, one of MCU’s faults plagues the show. WandaVision, once again, has terrible antagonistic forces with surface-level motivations.
The antagonistic forces are entirely predictable and forgettable. They have terrible dialogue and motivations. They were in fact completely unnecessary. The series would have been better without them, albeit with lesser action and less like Marvel productions everyone expects. Using them, brought Marvel back to its roots, which unfortunately isn’t a good thing.
Episodes one and two of WandaVision are excellent. Episode three suffers from mild pacing issues. But episode 4 changes its focus and is entirely wasted on exposition and making sense of the series.
Episode eight is a fantastic exploration of Wanda’s character but is marred by superfluous exposition yet again. The ninth and final episode of WandaVision has terrific gut-wrenching moments but unfortunately falls into the Marvel tropes of big tedious predictable showdowns.
WandaVision would have been more enriching and hitting if it was not for the overstuffed plot and mandatory action sequences that audiences expect from the MCU.
Brilliant performances, quirky writing, exemplary direction and exquisite technicals, WandaVision is Marvel’s most distinctive production and Olsen’s best performance yet.
It is a must-watch for Marvel fans and a much-needed break from its monotony. WandaVision might just end the superhero film fatigue for many viewers.
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