The Marvel Cinematic Universe has never been all that ambitious. For the most part, every movie within the series has a very similar formula. This isn’t a complaint though, it’s an example of: “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. However, it has left an ambitious story lover like me a little bit underwhelmed. I like to see stories told differently for different characters, and despite all the changes Endgame made to the formula it was still the safe Marvel campiness we’ve come to expect. This issue, however, is completely disregarded in what is easily the most ambitious piece of superhero media ever created: WandaVision.
A quick side note before the meat of the review. At the time of writing this, WandaVision’s final three episodes are yet to air. While this means I can’t completely ruin the show, I still highly recommend you watch the show going in blind. The entirety of the show is a confusing mystery that constantly builds on itself and unfortunately, some of the stuff I have to touch on in this review will spoil some early twists and turns. If you came here for a recommendation, you have it.
WandaVision has a very polarizing opening, as in it doesn’t. The first episode is almost entirely an average parody of a 50s or 60s sitcom starring everyone’s favorite emotionally unstable powerhouse: Wanda, and her totally not dead robot husband: Vision. Things are normal for the most part: wacky jokes, a laugh track, one-note side characters until things start to get wacky. The first episode features an out-of-context scene where a sitcom personality begins to beg Wanda to “stop it” over and over again. This scene is as haunting as it is intriguing. Slowly things within this world begin to glitch and break leaving one thing clear: Wanda knows something Vision doesn’t. The rest of the show builds off this and continues to drop just enough information every episode to keep people coming back.
The acting is also something I’d like to touch on briefly. Elizabeth Olsen absolutely knocks it out of the park. Her performance here is phenomenal and easily makes up for some of her shaky iterations of Wanda in previous MCU properties. Paul Bettany is the real star, however. His performance as an uneasy unsure Vision is worth the price of Disney Plus alone. Vision was never anyone’s favorite Marvel Character and I’m almost certain his death in Infinity War was met with exactly zero tears worldwide. This is not the case in WandaVision, Vision is practically the protagonist here as he is constantly doubting his surroundings. Side characters too have drop-dead performances. Whether they are making sitcom goofs or acting like broken AI the performances are astoundingly directed. And as much as I’d love to talk about a character that shows up later, I don’t want to spoil her reveal, so just know her actress also does phenomenal.
Something also needs to be said for that Disney production value. The sets, the effects, the music it’s all on par with what you’ve come to expect from the MCU. Shots are truly dazzling at times, and the sound production is quite literally music to my ears. But the effects are the true star. At times WandaVision plays with the reality of it being a TV show. There is a point in episode three where it literally hard cuts to a few seconds before as if you were watching it on a scratched DVD. These mind tricks perfectly capture the whole atmosphere of the show and make it even more intriguing to watch.
All and all, WandaVision is the best possible start to the MCU’s Phase 4 imaginable. It is also the most ambitious project I can think of from Disney. The show is not for children, and it’s not what you’ve come to expect from Marvel. WandaVision not only subverts your expectations but magically tosses them through multiple homes before launching them out of your simulated reality. For that, WandaVision is worth it.