Warning: minor spoilers ahead
One could argue that WandaVision (2021) is one of the most creative and captivating stories in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) to date– a cinematic masterpiece if you will.
Due to the pandemic, we've had to wait 2 long years for a new Marvel creation to debut. So, it goes without saying that I was super excited to watch WandaVision when it was released on Disney+ this past January. Marvel movies typically set the standard for high-production quality, so of course I anticipated greatness. Yet, this series honestly went way beyond my expectations with its intricate writing, creative cinematography, and oh-so-catchy music.
Head writer and executive producer, Jac Schaeffer, did an amazing job of expanding upon the complexity of the heroine, Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen), and ultimately portraying the powerful grief that consumes her as she tries to deal with a life-long series of loss. Simultaneously, we get to see her denial in the form of a television world she's created to bring back her lost synthezoid love, Vision (Paul Bettany), start a family, and live a seemingly normal life.
Early in the series, we obliviously follow along with Wanda’s new reality, where each day is a different “episode” inspired by sitcoms throughout the decades, starting with the 50’s and working its way through the years until modern day. Later on, the decades continue to change, but we get to see more and more of the bigger picture of what’s really going on with Wanda and the people around her. The different episodes pay homage to classic sitcoms such as: I Love Lucy (1951), The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961), The Brady Bunch (1969), Full House (1987), Malcom in the Middle (2000), Modern Family (2009), and more. Each episode stays true to the classic sitcom tropes of every era. For example, episode 2, “Don’t Touch That Dial,” shows Wanda and Vision sleeping in separate twin beds, similar to what you would see in shows from the 50’s and 60’s. This is due to the fact that, at that time, the Motion Picture Production Code did not allow for couples to be seen sleeping in the same bed between the 1930’s and 1960’s. Every detail is perfect down to the wardrobe, the script, the set, and even the camerawork.
The true magic behind creating the various decade-appropriate aesthetics comes from the creative cinematography techniques used. Most notably, the color scheme changes throughout the series with the use of various camera lenses and lighting changes. For example, the first two episodes are in black and white because they are meant to represent the 50’s and 60’s, when color in television was not yet easily available. Then, in the third episode, “Now in Color,” the color scheme is made to resemble early film with faded color typical in the 70’s. However, whenever the show shifts from Wanda’s reality to the “outside world”, they use an advanced lens frequent to Marvel movies. This specific lens has a recognizable color palette, which subconsciously brings the audience back to the classic MCU look and feel.
Another interesting cinematic aspect of WandaVision is the constant change in aspect ratio. In the first few episodes, they utilize the classic 4:3 framing, common for old shows. Yet, whenever it shifts to the “outside world,” the aspect ratio changes before our eyes into Marvel’s unique 2:40:1 framing. This also gives the audience the familiar MCU feel and helps them to switch from the limited view of Wanda’s sitcom life to the bigger picture of why she’s doing what she’s doing.
Aside from the meticulous writing and the top-notch cinematography, the music on this series really sets it apart from other Marvel movies. Each episode has a catchy theme song that fits its decade inspiration, all of which were written by the award-winning songwriting duo, Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Bobby Lopez. For some perspective, they have contributed to numerous Disney projects, including writing the chart-topping songs for Frozen, Frozen II, and Coco—it’s no wonder the songs of WandaVision were instant hits!
Kristen and Bobby have since explained their creative process for writing the songs of WandaVision, which is subtle yet genius. All of the episode theme songs are unique and draw inspiration from the popular shows of each decade. However, they purposefully tie each song together with a common (sometimes hidden) musical motif based on a tritone known as “the devil’s interval,” which is very fitting since there is a certain darkness lurking beneath the surface of the seemingly fun and wholesome sitcom life Wanda has created.
While watching WandaVision, half the fun was trying to figure out the mysteries of the show, including whether Wanda was actually a hero or a villain; she was trying to protect her family but also kept innocent people captive in her self-created television reality. That’s the beauty of the writing for this show, it slowly unpacks Wanda’s pain and suffering in a way that shows her in a wholistic way. In other Marvel movies, they only scratch the surface of her character, showing Wanda as the powerful superhero she is. However, in WandaVision, we get the chance to dig deeper and discover more of her human side.
So, if you were to ask me now whether Wanda Maximoff is good or evil, the answer would be neither; she is simply a complex person with good intentions and flaws. Thanks to WandaVision, we know this.
10/10 would recommend!