By Joshua Hernandez, March 23, 2021
“WandaVision,” the latest chapter of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is a show trying to appear more unique and profound than it actually is, coasting by on the prestige established by the previous entries without pushing past the boundaries first established in 2008’s “Iron Man.”
Blending sitcom tropes, references and cinematography, it is advertised as a sitcom trapped in a superhero show but in reality, the series is more focused on maintaining the same style and presentation that people expect from the Marvel series.
The two main characters, Wanda and Vision, are a newlywed couple who wish to live a quiet life together. Wanda is your average telekinetic housewife, while Vision is a humble wage-slave and android that can walk through walls.
They live in Westview, a fantastical suburb in New Jersey populated by friendly neighbors and co-workers. It’s a normal place to live, except for the decade-long time skips that occur each night while the cast sleeps.
On a technical level, the show is mostly shot like a typical Marvel movie — with lots of shot-reverse shots during conversations, low angles to make characters look taller and more powerful and zoom-in shots to capture the characters’ expressions.
This is par for the course with Marvel, but watching these stories unfold in mostly the same way for 13 years is not ambitious or unexpected, but safe and calculated.
Given the premise of two superheroes living out a sitcom fantasy, it is pretty jarring to see Marvel cinematography inserted in the fantasy world.
The first episode is shot and executed like the 1961 sitcom, “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” with hokey writing, tongue-in-cheek delivery from each character and camerawork designed to capture individual characters on the set. It’s quaint, well-executed and unique compared to what is expected from this franchise.
Then, Vision’s boss starts choking, and suddenly the camera is angled slightly downward and zoomed in on each character to accentuate the horror of the situation. This could have been done to mimic horror movies or thrillers of the time, but again, this cinematography can also be seen throughout the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The sitcom premise was the perfect vehicle to experiment with how the story could be told visually, and I loved when the show committed to the aesthetic.
However, the show only committed as much as it had to rather than truly embracing and experimenting with the limitations of a sitcom. “WandaVision” was too comfortable to break the suspension of disbelief for a convenient camera shot.
While I was not enamored with the cinematography or impressed with the side characters, Wanda’s character development was well-written until the last episode.
Wanda had a hard life, and the show describes each tragedy in such agonizing detail that it is almost impossible for the viewer to sympathize.
The character’s flaw lies with the methods she uses to cope with her challenges, which is by running away from reality into the warm, manufactured worlds of American sitcoms — something Wanda grew up watching with her family before a Stark Industries missile killed her parents and left her and her twin brother, Pietro, homeless at 10 years old.
In short, the themes of the show capture grief and the dangers of escapism, and Wanda’s character arc is about learning to accept reality and pain over a pleasant delusion.
With that being said, the show does a serviceable job illustrating this lesson through Wanda’s character development but like a dispassionate teacher who is only in it for the money, “WandaVision” only teaches as much as it has to before cutting class early for a smoke break.
The ending feels like another half-measure, and it soured what was otherwise an engaging character study buried under a competently average superhero show.
In fairness, it is too soon to tell if this ending was deliberate or half-baked. True believers should know for sure once Wanda suits up again for “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” which releases on March 25, 2022.
In the meantime, “WandaVision” and the entire Marvel catalog can be viewed on Disney Plus.
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