'WandaVision': Colour Me Intrigued
The first two episodes are out now.
As a self-professed Marvel fanatic I've been cautiously optimistic about the arrival of the studios first foray into large-scale television production.
Marvel has already delved into television in a variety of ways, first with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter on mainstream network television, then going for a more gritty and realistic tone with an impressive albeit brief flirtation with Netflix.
Now, the studio seems to have found its footing on Disney+, with the promise of these shows remaining in the overall canon of the MCU.
The first of a slew of shows announced is WandaVision, a superhero... sitcom parody? Marvel are not strangers to smashing genres together and seeing what works, but before they've kind of made sense. A political thriller, a Space Opera, a coming-of-age movie, but this is the most out-there pairing they've gone for yet. The result is a surreal, genuinely funny, and disturbing first couple of episodes for the series that wears it's source material influences on it's sleeves. There's flavours of Tom King's 'Vision' series, with an underlying current of the emotional breakdown that Wanda is clearly going through at this point in time.
But it's not just enough to say that you're a throwback to these old sitcoms. You've got to look and feel the part, and I have to say that with these two episodes so far I've been the most impressed with the cinematography of this show compared to a great deal of the movies it follows up from. These first two episodes have the most to do in terms of providing a 'look'. Remaining authentic to the 50's/60's is no mean feat, especially from a cinematographic perspective, but they manage to capture it pretty perfectly.
Apparently, the first episode was filmed in front of a live studio audience and it definitely lends something to the actors performances. They're much more outward facing, and it definitely feels like a stage play in that respect. Their tonality has shifted as well, with accents reflecting the times they live in, and just the right level of surrealism to bring everything together. If you weren't any the wiser, you'd feel it were an old show dug up from an archive somewhere. It's just the right level of overly perfect family life to be slightly disconcerting.
Props go to Paul Bettany and Elizabeth Olsen for carrying the entire thing, and making you forget that you're actually watching a superhero thing.
This aesthetic is somewhat lost in the second episode. They move outside and on location, and whilst the costumes definitely match (with the exception of Wanda for obvious reasons) it's quite clearly a high grade cinema camera with a filter slapped over it. It doesn't break the immersion, it's just something I noticed.
Breaking the Illusion
And whilst on the topic of immersion, I found it very easy to slip into this world of sitcoms. Surprisingly so. But when they break the immersion, that's when it shines. This is where the second episode triumphs over the first one. Other than a strange moment around a dinner table, there's nothing to really suggest that anything else is going on, but the second episode drops a good coloured hint early, then lets you sit in the world for a bit, relax into it. Then, just before the credits roll, it rips you out again.
Everytime something strange happens, the cinematography shifts. It's much more modern, much closer in with tracking shots, and the bass on the score kicks in a little. Even the aspect ratio changes. It's an obvious choice, but it's still very much appreciated.
So, with the first two episodes out now, colour me intrigued. The biggest questions, from a fan's perspective, are what's going to happen next. We know this is some sort of illusion, and there's a hint (less of a hint more of a smack around the jaw) that new organisation S.W.O.R.D. is behind it, but the question is how and what is their end goal? This is also some of the first cases of Wanda demonstrating different powers. Before, all she could do was throw things. We got a glimpse of her increased strength in Endgame, but now we're getting illusions, creating objects out of nothing and maybe a form of time travel involving a chicken? I doubt they'll go into time travel again, but we're definitely seeing some of Scarlet Witch's comic book powers come into play here.
I think the best way to sum up these first two episodes is intriguing and witty. Some of the jokes land more than others, sure, and there's a fun sequence where we see Vision get 'drunk' off of a stick of gum in his systems, which makes him seem much less powerful now that I think about it, but there's enough hints at a grander story to take it beyond a simple sitcom parody. I'll be interested to see where it goes from here. But I'm intrigued, I'm excited, and I'm in.
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