Quantcast

TV review

'WandaVision' on Disney Plus gives Marvel Studios its first true power couple

Reality is not what it seems for two former Avengers (Paul Bettany and Elizabeth Olsen) in "WandaVision."

MARVEL STUDIOS/DISNEY PLUS

By DAVID BETANCOURT | The Washington Post | Published: January 15, 2021

"WandaVision" puts to rest any thoughts of the Marvel Studios machine losing steam during a pandemic that has temporarily shelved two of its 2020 superhero films.

And if you thought it would take the Hollywood superhero-movie superpower a bit of time to shift from theaters to whatever screen you stream Disney Plus on, well, they needed just about 30 seconds.

That's how long it takes for the symphonic Marvel Studios intro to reel you in. It's like a long-lost friend you haven't seen in a while unless you've been bingeing on Disney Plus. Now it is attached to something new again.

But then the high-definition crispness and digital sound begin to muffle a little bit and for a few seconds its like you're watching that black and white TV you startlingly realize you're old enough to remember. The first of many hidden messages in this new series is abundantly clear in that black-and-white Marvel Studios logo: You're not at the movies. And you've never seen Marvel Studios like this before.

"WandaVision" is the shouldn't-be-possible, seemingly-alternate-reality reunion of two B-list Avengers in love. The pair was together until death did them part in 2018′s "Avengers: Infinity War" when Vision fell to Thanos.

There aren't too many Avengers reunion options. Iron Man? Dead. Thor? Out of shape at the moment. Captain America? Old. And very tired (especially if he's been watching the news lately). Black Widow? Also dead. And with a prequel in limbo. Hawkeye? His Disney Plus show isn't ready yet. The Hulk? Always a co-star. Never the lead. But perhaps he'll show up in the She-Hulk Disney Plus series.

That leaves us with Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) to fill our post-"Avengers: Endgame" void. Ironically, they're two of the most powerful Avengers around, but geek hierarchy dictates their roles would be of the supporting variety in any Avengers movie get-together while big guns threw shields, hammers and fists.

A movie? Featuring these two? No one was really banging down Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige's door for that. But a series? With a splash of inspiration from Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta's Eisner Award-winning "Vision" comic book series? Combined with Feige's mutant power of making what you watch seem brand-new even though you've already read all the comics? Now you've got our attention.

If anything, "WandaVision" will make you realize perhaps you've underappreciated the characters in the Marvel Cinematic (and now streaming) Universe.

Wanda and Vision are living the perfect life. A newlywed couple settling into a neighborhood that's more "Leave it to Beaver" than Avengers Tower. There's a comedic feel that runs parallel to the show's hidden superhero plot, enhanced by an actual studio audience that was used while filming in black and white.

Bettany shines as an android with a heart. In the past, his impeccable robotic delivery of his lines always convinced you that he's a machine and not a man. "WandaVision's" delving into comedy allows him more range for those lines. Who knew watching a robot be startled by anything was so funny? Well, I guess C3PO let us know it was possible. Want more "Star Wars" influence? This will be a weekly show. Just like "The Mandalorian." No bingeing until it's over.

The TV-sitcom vibe also makes way for wacky friends next door. Kathryn Hahn's Agnes is the nosy yet helpful neighbor, always seemingly there to help spoon-feed Wanda a reality that might not be real, judging from the blips and VCR-like rewinds. But is Agnes trapped in this potential alternate reality too? Or connected to the possibly devilish Marvel baddie pulling the strings?

Teyonah Parris's Monica Rambeau, another neighbor who is more than she seems, is delightful, and in limited screen time makes it clear she has superhero potential. Those deeply versed in Marvel lore know Monica Rambeau is a big deal in this universe. But will "WandaVision" be where she takes flight?

So what weird MCU world is this? And an even bigger question is: Do Wanda and Vision even know where they really are? Or who they really are?

It's easy to miss the point of what "WandaVision" will eventually become. At some point there is going to be action. And capes flapping. And zapping and telekinesis (well, actually Wanda uses that to make dinner right away). But the big surprise is that the series works so well as a comedy, even though the jokes are intended to distract you the viewer, as well as our titular heroes.

In addition to a streaming series, we're getting something else we've never had in the MCU: a true power couple. Yes, Tony Stark had Pepper. Steve Rogers had Peggy. But love was always put on the side to save the day on film whereas here in "WandaVision" these two super-powered beings' love is at the center of the plot.

There's romance, bedroom talk (as much as is allowed while the show has a '50s sitcom vibe, but we'll be skipping through various decades), babies on board and a chemistry that was always there during Avengers get-togethers and that, when given room to breathe, has blossomed into something very watchable.

The honeymoon is far from over for Wanda and Vision, and for Marvel Studios.