now streaming on disney plus
starring: elizabeth olsen, paul bettany, kathryn hahn and Teyonah Parris
REVIEWER: lyall carter
Living idealized suburban lives, super-powered beings Wanda and Vision begin to suspect that everything is not as it seems.
It's hard to believe that it's been a year and a half since the last Marvel cinematic outing. Due to the pandemic our entry into Phase 4 of the Marvel universe is coming not via the big screen but the small. But it would appear, from the first three episodes at least, that the Marvel universe, franchise and larger story arc is all the better for it. WandaVision is fresh, inventive with a whole lot of heart while hinting at a larger story lurking beneath its shiny surface.
Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and her husband Vision (Paul Bettany) are just your average suburban couple living in the quaint and quiet town of WestView. Although they're not quite as normal as they first appear. Wanda has reality-bending and telekinetic powers; Vision is a robot who can fly. As they struggle to hide their super abilities and appear normal for their neighbours, something rather more sinister appears to be happening behind the scenes.
This is Marvel as you've never seen it before. Presented as a 1950's or early 60's American sitcom, think I Love Lucy or Bewitched, it contains all cliches of that time and genre. It's in black and white, with a smaller aspect ratio of 4:3 (don't adjust your sets), and all the cheesy and slapstick humor that you'd expect from a 50's sitcom. For those not used to that era of TV it could be a little tough to sink your teeth into at first.
But stick with it as not only is this totally worth it for the larger story that develops over the episodes and the characters of Wanda and Vision but this is fresh, bold and inventive from Marvel and should be applauded. One of the strengths of the franchise is it's ability to reinvent itself and try something new. Guardians of the Galaxy, from its story and tone and even it's director and main star, seemed like a massive risk on release. Now it's one of the most beloved films of the franchise. And while WandaVision is weird its a whole lot of wonderful too.
You would have seen in synopses and first reaction reviews that something is going on behind the scenes of the shiny surface of the 50's sitcom. There is. I think. Even after 3 episodes I'm not entirely sure what is truly going on and whether I've picked up all the clues either. And therein lies one of the strengths of the first three episodes. While some of the 'danger is lurking' vibes are obvious, there are quite a few that aren't. WandaVision makes you seek them out, to work for them as well. There's even a homage to a technique Schindler's List used. Absolute brilliant.
Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany are superb as Wanda and Vision, completely committing to the 50's sitcom slapstick and cheesy comedy. While both of their roles were important in the franchise, we didn't see a lot of them. In WandaVision we not only get to spend a great deal more time with the characters but get to see more of the acting range of Olsen and Bettany is these roles and it is an utter delight.
WandaVision is fresh, inventive with a whole lot of heart while hinting at a larger story lurking beneath its shiny surface.