TV Review: Marvel’s WandaVision

WandaVision | Watch Full Show Online

My parents are always raving about old sitcoms like The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Facts of Life or Friends.  Sitcoms, in their day, were the perfect half hour to hour where family and friends could gather for a show and a laugh with little worry.  They were children of the 70’s and 80’s, so I get it, but as a child of the 2020’s I prefer more action.  Disney Plus’ WandaVision is a perfect marriage of our mutual loves.  To add to its appeal, it comes from Marvel.  The creators of Marvel have expertly woven pop cultural references from the 1950’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, and 2000 television with Marvel action packed story telling.  Not only that, but the writers take a deep dive into Marvel lore, providing excitement for everyone from the basic fan to the aficionado.  This ended up being a show that our family watched together, something my folks would call “must see TV,” though I am so glad I live in an era when I can watch what I want when I want.  Beware this review may contain spoilers

WandaVision begins as an idyllic 1950’s sitcom in the vein of The Donna Reed Show or Leave it to Beaver.  We are the audience watching an hourly scheduled program, of which Wanda is the main character.  How audiences found entertainment in these vanilla black and white comedies, I’ll never understand but, as pop culture goes, they reflect American values of the time.   The first episodes keep in step with the idea of a 1950’s happy home where the husband goes to work and the wife stays at home in the kitchen.  Weird, right?  We see that Wanda Maximoff (Scarlet Witch) is blissfully married to Vision, a sentient robot created by Ultron to destroy the world but who is later reprogrammed to help the Avengers.  Right away, the set up is a surprise because when audiences last saw this pair, Wanda is grieving the tragic destruction of Vision by Thanos at the conclusion of Avengers, End Game.  Here, Vision is very much alive and functional.  The couple is in love, recently married, and have moved to the perfect American small town, Westview, where they appear to be happily trying to fit in as “normal.”   At first it appears their ruse is working but there is a very peculiar and eerie undertone that something is not right.  As the sitcom transforms in rapid time from the 1950’s to the 1960’s we realize that not everything is as it seems in this little town, and by the time we reach the big hair and fluorescence of the 1980s, we learn that our protagonist has a dark secret and danger is lurking in a neighbor right next door.   We also are clued into a concurrent present day storyline, in the outskirts of Westview, that threatens to collide with WandaVision’s tranquil and out of time-sync town.

What is particularly attention-grabbing is that past Marvel characters, who were seemingly peripheral to the ultimate Marvel storyline, make appearances in WandaVision and are integral to the movement of this story.  You can’t help but almost cheer when they arrive on scene like an old friend you haven’t seen a while and remember how cool they are to hang with. I don’t want to give too much away except to say that Agent Woo has some amazing and quotable lines from this series.  If you don’t know Agent Woo, do yourself a favor and revisit Antman.  Oh and check yourself, you may not be a true Marvel fan.

WandaVision: What Big Marvel Cameos Could Happen? | Den of Geek

Without a doubt there is a blurring of lines between good and evil in WandVision which the audience comes to understand as we learn how and why Wanda escaped to Westview.  What is clear, however, is that actress, Kathryn Hahn, brilliantly sneaks up on you as the evil villain.  She is suspicious from the start but the true nature of her back-story unfolds in a wonderfully diabolical manner, drawing from historical fiction dating back to the Salem witch trials of the 1690’s.   She drives Wanda in the direction of her destiny as the Scarlet Witch.  Hopefully, this is not the last we will see of Kathryn Hayn and her mischievous character in the Marvel Universe.

Lastly there is a deeper message about running from problems and pain in WandaVision and that message is delivered via the ridiculousness and lightheartedness of the sitcom.  The sitcom is the perfect escape from the real world.  Typically, it is funny, sometimes even cheesy.  The basic sitcom plot involves the introduction of a problem that is most often resolved, with hijinks to boot,  by the end of the half hour. Who wouldn’t want to hideout in that kind of easy-natured fun, at least for a while.  Unfortunately, life is not a sitcom and even Wanda, with all of her powers, can only suspend reality for a brief time before her spell begins to bend and become vulnerable.  The pain of her losing Vision, along with the pain of her other life struggles, can’t be resolved in a half hour sitcom and trying to bury it there hurts everyone around her.  She has to embrace Vision’s lesson “But what is grief, if not love persevering?” In the end, Wanda emerges stronger, and more powerful and the audience is left to ponder her next move and also to ponder the ultimate question, “where will the Marvel Universe take us next?”

Johnson D.

Film Review: Raya and the Last Dragon

I remember watching Mulan from the floor of my living room, gazing up to the screen, a little girl absolutely fascinated by a princess who looks like me–and yet, doesn’t at the same time. As a first-generation of Southeastern Asian descent, I felt like Mulan didn’t represent my culture. Even as Disney created a female Asian who takes the lead role, I still felt left out. After watching Raya and The Last Dragon, I felt like my culture was now being appreciated.

A heroine who doesn’t undergo typical coming-of-age experiences, but instead carves her own path to save her world and even becomes the villain of her own story–Raya is undoubtedly one of the best Disney princesses for Asian Americans to look up to. In the fantasy world of Kumandra, humans and dragons used to live in harmony. With different kingdoms who are separated by hate, Raya finds the last dragon Sisu and embarks on a quest to restore their uninhabitable land.

I have quite a few things to mention about the movie. In regards to animation, the movie is bright and colorful with realistic shots–the perfect setting for a hero’s journey. To be honest, the plot itself was often predictable; it seemed too straight forward, especially as a quest plot. The characters however, were extremely diverse and versatile in personality and never fall short to entertain the audience. There’s never a specific villain, but rather applies to everyone in the movie–a well-thought aspect to include. All of the characters show real human emotions at the right times; negative characteristics such as anger, hatred, and mistrust contributes greatly to the story’s plot and message.

As for the Southeast Asian references, Raya and the Last Dragon does so well in including details from every Southeast Asian culture. From my perspective, I was finally able to see a representative of my culture, regardless of it being a nonfictional movie. Raya is a bold, empowering female figure that I believe many little girls can look up to, no matter the race. Unfortunately, I’ve already grown out of my childhood, yet I’m grateful nonetheless. Disney has finally created a movie that girls of Southeast Asian descent can watch on the floor of their living room, gaze up to the screen, and see a courageous princess who actually looks like them.

– Natisha P.

Star Wars: The Mandalorian

Whether you are casually entertained by the Star Wars franchise or a rabid fan, Disney Plus’ The Mandalorian is a truly fun escape from the humdrum of life since Covid 19.    This Disney Plus series, which now has completed two seasons, takes place after Return of the Jedi and before The Force Awakens in the Star Wars universe.  For those, like me, who thrives on Star Wars lore, the exact year is 9 ABY (After the Battle of Yavin).  During this time the empire has been mostly destroyed and the New Republic has taken over the galaxy and is attempting to bring stability and peace, though corruption lurks behind every turn.  The series follows a bounty hunter who seems to have no affiliation with either the Empire or The Republic.  His aim is to make money for his clan who live in the shadows to avoid conflict with the outside world.  As season one unfolds, a disturbing and sinister connection between the Mandalorian race and the Jedi is revealed that intertwines and blurs the lines of good versus evil.  This blurring of lines persists through both seasons and is inherent to the exciting plot twists within each episode and at the conclusion of each season.  The central story is based around the bounty hunter who sacrifices his position as a bounty hunter to save a child he was meant to deliver to the hands of the Empire.  Instead, he listens to his inner voice and makes it his mission to protect and return “the child” to his people.  This proves a dangerous and challenging odyssey that carries the pair across the Star Wars Universe.  They face sinister and sometimes familiar characters along the way and are often forced to fight their way out of what seems like near-impossible situations.  Along the way, more and more is revealed about “the child” and the unexpected and surprising man who is called Mandalorian.

The Mandalorian (TV Series 2019– ) - IMDb

The mastermind behind The Mandalorian is none other than, Jon Favreau.  Favreau is a director, actor, producer, and screenwriter.  He directed the wildly popular Christmas comedy, Elf.  Additionally, he is the creative genius behind the Iron Man franchise among many other popular films.  Favreau has been quoted as saying that The Mandalorian is meant to “hearkened back to the Westerns and samurai films that had originally influenced Lucas.”  Favreau is referencing George Lucas the original creator of Star Wars. The world Lucas imagined in the original Star Wars movie has been capturing the imagination of audiences since its release in 1977.  Jon Favreau includes himself as one who was fascinated by Star Wars lore and he has built on that in The Mandalorian, staying true to Star Wars roots but adding his own take.  With the expanded format of a TV show,  Favreau has been able to take a deep dive into the Star Wars expanded universe and draw from Star Wars spin-offs including The Clone Wars and the video game, Star Wars Battlefront.  However, there is enough character development, revelations, cliff-hanger, and adventure that even audience members new to Star Wars can enjoy the fun.  Favreau has said that, with this show, he wanted to create a “good party” for the Star Wars audience.  He has done just that.  Grab your family, your best friend, and your lightsaber and join in.  “This is the way.”

-Johnson D.