WandaVision is a story about suburbia with super-powered beings at the helm. It kicks off in a fashion reminiscent of Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie — intentionally mimicking the grandeur of the bygone sitcom — before veering off into the twisty-turny. It’s reverence meets reinvention. Marvel pays homage to the classics while tinkering with their antiquated formula to pointedly mock the gender stereotypes and sexism that often characterized such shows.
As laugh tracks finish off each quippy remark, Wanda and Vision become the image of an idealistic life. Yet, the mysteries at the core remain everpresent — how could this be? What has resurrected Vision since Avengers: Endgame?
Questions lurk as full explanations remain just out of reach. And, as for Elizabeth Olsen’s Wanda and Paul Bettany’s Vision, they get on quite swimmingly in the mid-1900s. As supporting characters utter phrases like “gee willikers” and “this is gonna be a gas,” Wanda and Vision must convince the townspeople that they are no different than anyone else.
Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany will razz your berries with their old-school, sitcom-style acting
1950s Wanda props her hands at hip level as she walks, always with a subtle hip swish to suggest a polished feminine demeanor. She almost always articulates as if asking a question, and she wonders if wearing pants will sit poorly with a crowd of women garbed in skirts. And, to do magic, why she snaps her fingers of course.
Elizabeth Olsen’s housewife version of Wanda is impeccable; each exaggerated facial expression rests upon her face for that extra second (or two) to ensure the audience catches it. And when her face contorts to indicate confusion, images of Lucille Ball come flooding in. Olsen delivers without over-selling it; she finds the sweet spot that exists between the character viewers know and the tone the show is aiming to strike. And, she meets her match in Paul Bettany.
Vision, though yearning to please his boss at a company that seemingly does nothing, is not just the breadwinner in this tale. He will learn to change a diaper, and he will be there to raise his son, challenging the negative depictions tied to socialized masculinity that defined the mid-1900s. Yet, he’s just as comfortable as Olsen in sitcom land. And, he even gets to try his hand at the physical comedy inherent to slapstick films of the day. He can fall over himself and raise his arms in fright as best as the next guy.
Vision is an ideal husband, yet more overtly horny than most male characters were back in the day, which seems to be the writers’ way of poking fun at the lack of a sex drive that once defined TV couples. Both Vision and Wanda’s personalities and predicaments exist somewhere beyond reality — in tune with the sitcom shtick. However, the series remains grounded in the Marvel Cinematic Universe via references to Hydra, Stark Industries, and the like.
It all begins to get a bit old, but the Marvel-themed mayhem makes its entrance in due time
The show lingers a bit too long in this classic atmosphere — journeying from black and white to vibrant technicolor — making stops at Bewitched and Full House along the way. The show briefly loses sight of Marvel’s tried and true appeal, leaving behind the massive action sequences and feats of CGI that define the universe.
The mystery subsisting beneath the suburban staleness cannot compensate for the lack of high-octane thrills. Vision’s unexplainable existence and the perplexity surrounding the show’s entire operation creates a suspenseful, absurdist vibe akin to The Twilight Zone. And, while this is not inherently a flaw, it is in stark contrast to the action-thriller film that the MCU is known for.
The actors and writers seem to be enjoying themselves far too much to recognize — or to care about — the production’s lack of consistency with the expected Marvel ambiance. However, the show course corrects before it’s too late. Just as the concept’s initial intrigue fades and the actors’ early amusements give way to apathy, the bubble bursts. And, the customary Marvel world awaiting creeps in through the cracks in the kitchen. The familiar then meets the fresh, and WandaVision triumphs in untraversed territories.
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