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Marvel’s ‘WandaVision’ Looks To The Past To Pave A New Future – Review (Episodes 1-3 Spoiler-Free)

After the longest content drought since 2008’s Iron Man, the MCU is back with their first Marvel series at Disney+, and overseen by Kevin Feige himself. WandaVision puts supporting Avengers members Wanda Maximoff and (the previously very dead) Vision centerstage to live seemingly ideal suburban lives. The production is a major shift for Marvel, with episodes hovering around 30 minutes in length and leaning heavily into a classic sitcom style…or so it seems.  

It’s an interesting gamble to have their return feel so foreign, but Marvel is known for being bold. The last time we visited the Marvel Cinematic Universe was over 560 days ago–it’s been a long time for a franchise that has consistently given us content for years. After twenty-three movies the first officially recognized Marvel series is finally here. Apologies to the ABC, Freeform, Hulu, and Netflix series that came before, they were loosely tied to the Infinity Saga, but never acknowledged fully in the films. WandaVision is the start of Phase 4, and the beginning of something new. 

Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany in WandaVision
Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda and Paul Bettany as Vision in WandaVision exclusively on Disney+ (Courtesy of Marvel Studios. All Rights Reserved.)

Over the first three episodes that Marvel sent as screeners, one feeling bubbled to the top. This series is a good time. For the audience (live in-studio or at home watching on Disney+), the actors, custom designers, and directors. Everyone seems to be having a blast on the set of WandaVision. If you haven’t seen the trailers, WandaVision continues the story of Wanda Maximoff in the aftermath of Avengers: Endgame. Taking centre stage for the first time, Elizabeth Olsen exudes a lovely energy and it seeps into every aspect of the production.

The series pays homage to different iconic sitcom formats across television history. Mixed in are bits of Bewitched, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Brady Bunch, and more. There are theme songs, commercial breaks, a 4:3 (1.33) aspect ratio, and they even filmed an episode in front of a live studio audience. Speaking of live, Paul Bettany and Kathryn Hahn are both extremely committed to the bit and deliver lively performances to sell each setting. Rounding out the excellent cast we have Wanda’s neighborhood pal played by Teyonah Parris. The actress was confirmed to play the grown-up version of Monica Rambeau last seen as a child in Captain Marvel. Parris will also be returning for Captain Marvel 2.

Paul Bettany as Vision and Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda in WandaVision exclusively on Disney+ (Courtesy of Marvel Studios. All Rights Reserved.)

One of the greatest joys of the show is the opening sequences, and without saying too much the intros really get you in the mood for each era television that is about to be borrowed. A musical time stamp for what’s about to unfold. What’s even more exciting is songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez (the Oscar-winning duo of Frozen, Frozen 2, and Coco) lend their award-winning talent to create new Marvel melodies. Now that the full Disney mothership has been mobilized for their streaming endeavor, we can only hope for more high-end Disney talent collaborations in the future.  

The show is very funny in a winking way and matches the comedy of its inspections. Some jokes could be called corny or cheesy but that’s mostly the point. We won’t regurgitate jokes here, but the three episodes we screened are chock full of them. There are physical gags, superpower-fueled puns, and 4th wall in-jokes for the excitable fandom. The show is intentionally different from the rest of the MCU from its structure to its set up. There are even episodes shot entirely in black and white. The show is constantly shifting between tones and styles. The creators change the world, they change Wanda, Vision, and the norms for the audience. 

As viewers, it’s best to reset your expectations. This is a snack-sized MCU offering that aims to pique your interest week to week. Marvel hasn’t had to prove itself like this in a while, and this first experiment could differ greatly from their next. We don’t know if week to week Marvel works yet. We don’t know how the young Marvel fans will connect with old sitcoms they’ve most likely never seen. There is a big nostalgia bet the show makes and some families never connected with those older sitcoms because they never saw themselves in them. So far the show is made with great quality and is extremely fun, but it might take some getting used to.

Paul Bettany as Vision and Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda in WandaVision exclusively on Disney+ (Courtesy of Marvel Studios. All Rights Reserved.)

Before the pandemic, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, and Black Widow would have graced our eyes before WandaVision, however, 2020 derailed a lot of plans. Kevin Feige seems very pleased with the upcoming slate of Marvel series, and if WandaVision is any indication of what’s to come, then we are in for a treat. The future of Marvel has never looked better and it’s great to have some of our favourite heroes back. 

Sure, WandaVision was never supposed to kickstart Phase 4, but after an uneasy hiatus, the slower build, mysteries, and comedic focus are a great way to ease us back into superhero society.

WandaVision premieres exclusively on Disney+ on January 15th!

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