Series Review – WandaVision

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Overview

Directing Matt Shakman

Producing Kevin Feige, Louis D'Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Matt Shakman, Jac Schaeffer

Writing Jac Schaeffer, Peter Cameron, Mackenzie Dohr, Laura Donney, Bobak Esfarjaani, Megan McDonnell

Starring Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Kathryn Hahn, Teyonah Parris, Randall Park, Kat Dennings, Josh Stamberg

Genre Action, Drama, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Comedy

Platforms Disney+

Release Date January 15, 2021

WandaVision is an American television series produced by Marvel Studios. The limited series is created and produced by Jac Schaeffer and executively produced by Kevin Feige. Schaeffer also serves as the series’ head writer along with Matt Shakman as its director. The series is the first in a line of upcoming shows directly based on characters and events from the Marvel Studios theatrical releases.

In the fall of 2018, Disney announced a number of original series based in the Star Wars and the Marvel cinematic universes. These projects would be exclusive titles for the upcoming streaming service Disney+, which launched in December of 2019. Marvel Studios announced three titles, with WandaVision being the first to be released.

WandaVision centers around the characters of Wanda Maximoff and Vision, with Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany set to reprise their film roles. The series was set for a nine-episode limited run, with no plans for a second season. However, the series is set to be the first leg of a three arc story which will span over WandaVision, Spider-Man 3, and Dr.Strange 2. The series is intended to continue the story of these secondary characters after Marvel Studios’ mega-hit Avengers: End Game.

The series is set to have a robust production budget that will allow it to fit seamlessly into the cinematic universe. Each episode is estimated to have a $25 million budget. Although there have been multiple shows associated with Marvel Studios, they were loosely connected to the overall cinematic universe and characters rarely crossed from film to television. Although series such as ABC’s Marvel’s Agents of Shield and Netflix’s Daredevil, Punisher, Luke Cage, and Jessica Jones took place in the universe and is considered canon, WandaVision will be the first television series to feature characters from the films and be executive produced by the film’s executive producer and studio president Kevin Feige.

In early 2019, Disney announced the writing team for the series, including head writer Jac Schaeffer, who previously worked on the hugely successful Captain Marvel. Later in the year, it was announced the series added Louis D’Esposito and Victoria Al as producers and brought on Matt Shakman as the series’ director. WandaVision’s creative production team indicated the series will be unlike anything the Marvel Cinematic Universe has ever seen. The series premiered its first two episodes on January 15th, 2021, exclusively on Disney+.

By the time of its premiere, anticipation for WandaVision was at a fever pitch. Over the last decade, Marvel Studios has batted a thousand with the quality of their production. Because audiences haven’t seen a Marvel Studios production in over a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, viewers have been anxiously waiting for something new.

The marketing for the series gave a sneak-peek into what it would look like. The series seems to be a unique mix of sci-fi fantasy with classic American sitcoms. These factors, along with the fact this will be the first true “in-universe” series to be developed out of the popular studio, critics and audiences curiously waited with anticipation…and WandaVision did not disappoint.

The series was met with rave reviews from critics and audiences alike. WandaVision has an average critic score of 91% on Rotten Tomatoes, with its highest episode score of 100% and an average audience score of 81. Metacritic scores the series at a 77 with a user score of 6.5, and IGN scores the series a 7 out of 10. Audiences and critics agree that Marvel Studios’ first step into a series format is on par in quality with its cinematic counterparts.

Content Guide

Spiritual Content: There is no religious content throughout the series. There are images and scenes featuring the use of magic, witchcraft, incantations, and spells.

Violence: The series features mild violence. Some hand-to-hand combat and use of firearms can be seen.

Language/Crude Humor: There is no use of foul or offensive language.

Sexual Content: Main characters share a minor kiss.  No other sexual content is present.

Drug/ Alcohol Use: There is no use of drugs or alcohol consumption in the series.

Other Negative Themes: Using emotional and mental manipulation to benefit one’s self.

Positive Themes:  Survival in the midst of personal tragedy is a major theme in the series.

Story

WandaVision follows Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olson) and Vision (Paul Bettany) three weeks after the events of Avengers: End Game. Although Vision met his demise at the hands of the titan Thanos, Vision and Wanda are living a seemingly happy life in 1950’s Americana in a town called Westview. Wanda and Vision appear to be happily married in what seems to be a Dick Van Dike-esque television sitcom, complete with situational comedic scenes, noisy neighbors, and humorous misunderstandings.

Though the series seems to be a clean-cut, wholesome version of our characters, curious behavior and confusing dialogue lead the viewer to question whether or not this is happening in reality. The series continues to roll through different styles of television sitcoms throughout the decades, such as The Dick Van Dike Show, Bewitched, Family Ties, Growing Pains, Modern Family, Malcom in the Middle, and the Office. No one in Westview seems to notice the world around them changes decades and settings.

Vision begins to suspect there is something off about the town and surmises his wife Wanda is the cause. The series continues to explore the reality-altering sitcom format to determine whether this is reality or some sort of hoax. Outside Wanda and Vision’s sitcom life, some familiar and unfamiliar faces try to uncover the mystery as to how and why this reality exists. While WandaVision manages typical sitcom tropes such as visits from their boss, ruined dinners, visits from distant family members, the loss of the family pet, and raising children, the outside world attempts to infiltrate and study this television reality to further explore its mysteries and cause.

Review 

WandaVision is Marvel Studios’ first true step into a series format within the cinematic continuity of its theatrical films, and it has set the bar high. At first glance, the series is a delightful homage to sitcoms throughout the decades. These episodes in the series are perfect reflections of the classic series it is portraying, while other episodes are an amalgamation of contemporary sitcoms for a particular decade.

These episodes are filmed, directed, acted, edited, and written just as the original series’ would have been. Some of the joy of  WandaVision’s first few episodes are identifying some of the iconic sitcoms the series is referencing. Though some references are immediately recognizable, others are a bit more obscure. These particular episodes are enjoyable to watch on their own as the wholesome and typical plot unravels itself. The episodes truly shine when moments occur in the “sitcom” that seem to be out of place from the traditional sitcom format. These moments are jarring, and at times uncomfortable. This occurs when characters within the sitcom break character, deliver out-of-place lines of dialogue, or the physical world is altered in some way.

These moments are where Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, and the introduction of Kathryn Hahn into the MCU shine. Olsen and Bettany perfectly portray performances as if they were filming in the decade these sitcoms originally ran. In the pilot episode, Olsen and Bettany seem to be ripped directly from the screen from a 1950’s sitcom like Leave it to Beaver. The actors’ speech patterns, cadence, and overall performances are perfectly matched with the decade the show originates from. This occurs over and over as the series goes on.

When an instance occurs that is out of the norm, Olsen and Bettany create a balance of familiarity and curiosity. They seamlessly transition from sitcom characters to characters who are unsure of their reality. Hann’s addition to the MCU is a standout for being able to switch from one character type to another. Hann can portray a victim, charming friend, nosy neighbor, and foe. Hann and the entire cast of Westview’s inhabitants add to the air of mystery that’s created.

WandaVision can be described as a series within a series. The audience can view the sitcom episodes starring Wanda and Vision, but so can other characters outside of that world. The series follows the events that occur in Wanda and Vision’s sitcom and events outside of their show. It is a mystery being unraveled for audiences and in-show characters.

The series introduces new characters and brings in some familiar fan favorites. It also introduces a new organization tasked to uncover the mystery of the phenomenon. The audience is introduced to Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) and reintroduced to Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) and Jimmy Woo (Randall Park). The chemistry between these performers as they attempt to investigate the events of WandaVision is captivating and absolutely entertaining. Darcy, Woo, and Monica became the investigative team the MCU never knew it needed. WandaVision perfectly balances mystery with answers. In every episode, the series answers just enough questions to keep audiences satisfied, yet still engaged in the overall mystery. 

Conclusion

WandaVision could have been a significant failure. To some, the series might seem as if it has no identity. Is it a comedy? Sitcom? Mystery? Investigative drama? Action? A love story? Tragedy? The answer is…all of the above.

The creative team at Marvel Studios brought their ability to blend many different tones and stories from film to film to bring an overarching storyline to the small screen. Blending all these different elements is quite simply a triumph of writing. Although the series has many different tones, aspect ratios, color pallets, and differences in overall design, the creative team managed to make a series that blended all these elements flawlessly.

The writing is touching, emotional, and heartbreaking. The performances from Olsen, Bettany, Hann, Dennings, Parris, and Park elevate the series and brings life and brevity to the writing. Ultimately the series depicts the emotional trauma a woman goes through after incredible loss. Wanda’s emotional trauma from the loss of her parents, her twin brother, and Vision (which occurred more than once) has brought her to the breaking point.  WandaVision is a story of love and loss about how one can go through grief and tragedy and still find the inner strength needed in order to survive.

 

 

 

 

The Bottom Line

 

If you like comedy, classic sitcoms, mysteries, investigative drama, action, love stories, and tragedies, then WandaVision is for you. The creative team at Marvel Studios brought their ability to blend many different tones to fit an overarching storyline. If you are a fan of the MCU, WandaVision is a must watch!

 

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Noel Davila

Noel is a writer, performer, and Podcaster based out of the New York City area. With a background in acting, theater arts, years of stage and screen writing, composing and scoring utilizing his skills as a singer song writer, Noel looks to be an all around creator in the arts. Many of the films Noel has written have been selected and featured at a number of Film Festivals including The New York International Film Festival, The Hudson Valley Film Festival, The Art is Alive Film Festival, ect and have gone on to be nominated and awarded for multiple awards including "Best Comedy Short" ,"Best Of", "Best make up", ect. Noel continues to perform live original music all across New York City

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