“WandaVision completely rewrites the narrative regarding what we can imagine a Marvel movie to be.”
I would be lying to say that I have not been growing tired of the overblown nature of the Marvel franchise, one that values the commercial stock of its base of loyal fans rather than providing quality entertainment. I do not wish to debase the franchise as a whole, as it would be unfair to alienate the millions of people – including myself – who have grown attached to characters throughout the years. However, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) needed something fresh to awaken it. After all these years, comic book adaptations have seemed to lack the true character of the works it was adapting, perhaps for the exception of Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther, and Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse (even if it was created by Sony’s rather than Disney’s studio). With how imaginative and innovative the fantasy of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is, it seems that there needed to be more audacity in the material placed on the screen. If one is to make comic book movies, who is to say to not completely embrace the extreme breadth of fantasy that these characters can take us?
WandaVision completely rewrites the narrative regarding what we can imagine a Marvel movie to be. With its structure largely being built around the American sitcom (with episodes one and two focused on the 1950s and 1960s respectively), WandaVision triumphs as both a homage piece and an extension into the possibilities of the MCU. Even in its dated humor, the show maintains gags that appeal to its contemporary audiences, giving nods to both Vision’s (Paul Bettany) abilities as a glorified supercomputer and Wanda’s (Elizabeth Olsen) various powers such as telekinesis, which acts almost as a fourth wall nod to its viewers.
It is an incredible feat for each episode to feel like its respective era. The costuming is a joy to watch, truly enveloping the viewer into the setting seamlessly. Without it, the scenes would seem to be as lesser than, not truly allowing the viewers to be immersed in it. Especially notable is the bedrobe in episode one, something that clearly dates the work but provides a retrospective gag to the audience. It is truly remarkable how much care went into making these episodes seem as if they were recently unearthed, down to the opening title sequences and commercials.
However, as most Marvel fans are acutely aware, Vision was killed in Infinity War. Seeing him on-screen within these traditional American sitcoms is brilliant at unsetting the viewer almost automatically. As theories circulate, I cannot help but to view these first two episodes as a brilliant way to demonstrate Wanda’s need for a nuclear family. Nothing satisfies the requirements of these American ideas than these sitcoms, who wanted to instill these values for years to come. In a way, the medium itself reflects this message almost instinctively, without alienating any of its audience by berating them with expository dialogue. It is almost intrinsic that they are in these eras as they desire the normality of settling into a life with one another – compared to their extremely alienating circumstances.
This makes the ‘breaks’ into a more unsettling reality all the more intense, as the cinematography automatically adapts to more contemporary methods. Low angle shots, close-ups, pans, and low-key lighting are all used to reinforce that there is something beneath the surface of these opening episodes, even if they might be only the beginnings of the arousal to ‘real life’ (whatever that might be in the timeline of this show). There is truly a sense of filmic tradition, following and then later breaking traditional film techniques of the era in order to build intensity.
It is remarkable to say that in two simple episodes, we have received more play than many Marvel directors allow themselves to partake in. With character development and interesting subject matter, it is clear that this show aims to attract a wider audience, giving themselves more room to embrace the oddities of the comic book genre. If they are any indication for the rest of the series, WandaVision might be my favorite piece of Marvel media to come out of Disney. WandaVision truly is an immersive, creative play on the way we experience both the MCU and the traditional American sitcom. My appreciation for it only grows as the time stretches between my last watch.
Dir: Matt Shakman
Written: Jac Schaeffer, Gretchen Enders, Cameron Squires
Prod: Sarah Finn, Matt Shakman, Jason Tamez
Cast: Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Kathryn Hann
Header image courtesy of Disney +