After nearly 2 years without any content, Marvel Studios has debuted the first of many Disney Plus original series. WandaVision follows Wanda Maximoff and the Vision, an idyllic couple in the suburbs trying to fit in while being themselves. However, everything isn’t all as it seems in the town of Westview. The couple just can’t seem to put their finger on it…
The first two episodes are an amazing exercise in mise en scene. Camerawork, production design, and performances are all structured around the premise of being a sitcom from the ’50s and ’60s respectively. Director Matt Shakman successfully interweaves the MCU with a genre and style of an age long gone. From the moment you see the Marvel Studios logo until the closing scenes, WandaVision fully commits to the structure and pacing of a golden age sitcom. After 23 films, the direction the first Disney+ show chooses to take is a bold and refreshing one.
While some fans of the MCU’s previous work may find the change jarring, these first two episodes are but one piece of a larger story. This is the first foray into a longer format of storytelling. Compared to a feature film, the story moves at a slower pace. Add to that the weekly release of episodes, and you get an experimental format for Marvel Studios. One that works to a great extent.
Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany are two stars bolstered by the supporting cast. Kathryn Hahn and Teyonah Parris are two integral parts of the first two episodes. Moreover, their characters provide great comedic timing. While they are only brief in their appearance, help bolster the aesthetic of the show. Olsen and Bettany as the title characters are obviously the part that shines the most in these two episodes. In this new circumstance and setting, Olsen and Bettany explore their characters in a way never expected or thought possible in a feature film.
From physical comedy to charming dialect and mannerisms from another time period, Wanda and Vision are at their peak in entertainment. Watching these larger than life superheroes from the MCU put in a situation so wildly different from anything else they’ve been in is what makes WandaVision such a fresh concept. The charm of these first two episodes incredible. With these charms though, also come with some unsettling moments as well.
The idyllic life in the suburbs for Wanda and Vision is randomly tampered with in one way or another. An eerily timed commercial, with easter eggs of the larger cinematic universe. Colors like red break out of the black and white cinematography. The aspect ratio changing, and color returning. Characters that don’t belong, coming from seemingly out of nowhere. Add to that the use of more modern camera work and unsettling creative angles, it creates the feeling of holes being poked in a dream reality. Olsen and Bettany bring out their dramatic performances more here. More serious and somber glances and reactions. Something is clearly wrong, but Wanda does not want to leave.
Overall, from both a technical and narrative standpoint, the first two episodes of WandaVision are a great palette cleanser and re-introduction to the MCU after a long hiatus. Kevin Feige, with sharp direction from Matt Shakman and great performances from Olsen and Bettany, has ushered in a new age of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. These first two episodes have me excited for what’s to come. That being more decades of sitcoms to be explored. But more importantly, more mysteries to unravel. – Ernesto Valenzuela
Grade – 9/10
WandaVision is now streaming on Disney+, with new episodes streaming Fridays. The show stars Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Kat Dennings, and Kathryn Hahn.