Review: Inaugural Marvel show 'WandaVision' sets up a different cinematic universe
Courtesy of Disney+
Marvel fans are eager for what the next phase of their beloved cinematic universe entails, and with titles “Black Widow” and “Eternals” delayed in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, there poised to get some gratification from Disney+’s newest series: “WandaVision'' which is the first title set to launch Marvel Studio’s ambitions slate of television programming (next up is “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” followed by “Loki”). Considering it’s been two years since 2019’s “Endgame,” and “Far From Home,” “WandaVision” has the herculean task of roping fans back into the lore of the universe, while keeping the continuity of Marvel in check.
The results - at least over the first three episodes provided in advance for critics - are a mixed bag. Jac Schaeffer - with help from Feige - have crafted a unique opportunity for the MCU in that fans have never been fed their superhero diet in episodic spurts (the episodes range from 26 to 37 minutes) and thus it opens the floodgates for expansive worldbuilding that’s not restricted by theatre friendly runtimes. For some, that could be too much of a good thing (and Disney needs to keep pumping content into its new bloodline). But “WandaVision” strikes an odd tone that’s hard to read over the first 90 minutes, inviting audiences into a “I Love Lucy” meets “Bewitched” 1950s sitcom, except the leads are Marvel superheroes Scarlet Witch/Wanda Maximoff and Vision with actors Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany reprising their roles.
Directed by Matt Shakman and written by Schaeffer and Roy Thomas, “WandaVision” has all the production value and VFX attention akin to a live action film, so it looks polished. The first episode sets the stage with a cheesy intro of the characters before thrusting us into the daily lives of Wanda and Vision. The former a classic housewife who cooks and cleans while the latter punches calculators at Mr. Heart’s tax firm down the road. Matted in the classic black and white 4:33 aspect ratio, “WandaVision,” commits to the premise, complete with laugh tracks, cheers, applause, and a commercial for some nifty products (devout Marvel fans will notice a few Easter eggs in these segments).
Yes, there’s the nosy/gossipy neighbor played by Kathryn Hahn who pops in to help with last second dinner plans - (“You forgot the pineapple for the upside down cake!”) - Wanda and Vision sleeping in separate beds, and a screwball soundtrack but not everything is peachy. Something feels sour, and the first three episodes are a slow burn offering no real solutions as to why these two are trapped inside a sitcom. I’m sure the answers will come as the series progresses, and I will stick around to see how it plays out, but fans clamoring for a big spectacle might be left confused. Don’t expect a Baby Yoda seismic reveal in the pilot episode.
Still, Olsen and Bettany are having a good time milking how silly the overall vibe is, watching them prep for unexpected visitors or doing a magic show for the town’s elementary school fundraiser are key indicators nobody else should be in these roles. And for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there’s huge implications for how this series (and others) can mold live action pictures going forward. Right now, I’m digging “The Truman Show” style of it all, but the jury is still out if the gamble will ultimately pay off or become tiresome.
WandaVision debuts on Disney+ Friday, January 15th