If you’re not a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) then you’re probably not going to rate this new series from Marvel Studios. Furthermore if you’ve never even seen Avengers: Age of Ultron or Captain America: Civil War you may not even know that Wanda Maximoff and Vision are characters from the franchise.
Wanda as an orphan from the fictional east European nation of Sokovia. She has mindblowing telekinetic abilities, forged in secret Hydra experiments with the powerful Mind Infinity Stone; and Vision is a humanoid synthesis of the artificial intelligences called Ultron and Jarvis whose powers, including flight and passing through solid matter, are aided by the same Mind Infinity Stone.
Wanda , also known as the Scarlett Witch, and Vision fell in love, and in 2018’s “Avengers: Infinity War,” Vision was then tragically killed when Thanos tore the Mind Stone out of Vision’s head. As only cinema can do, he was brought back to life by another time warp in 2019’s “Avengers: Endgame.” Confused? Never mind, the novel idea of WandaVision is that it sets these two futuristic characters in classic US sitcoms.
Every 30-minute episode resembles a vintage US sitcom, although only the first three were made available for critics to watch. The first two episodes are filmed in black and white. The first starts with opening credits in the style of “The Dick Van Dyke Show” in which newlyweds Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) arrive in a new neighbourhood to begin their life of suburban normality. The series sees the couple travel through the decades, parodying many classic TV shows in the process.
The big question is to whom will WandaVision appeal to mostly. Will young people, who know the characters well, be able to relate to them being set in classic sitcoms that they do not know at all well? Will middle aged parents find the juxtaposition acceptable and funny? Will boomers enjoy the couple infiltrating classic sitcoms that they remember fondly.
The critics certainly think so:
“Each episode is a pitch-perfect – from script, to delivery, to lighting, to cinematography, to aspect ratio – but loving parody of classic sitcoms,” said The Guardian’s Lucy Mangan.
“The jokes are great, the performances are wonderful, and it has the glorious air of something shaped by people who know exactly what they’re doing, where they want to go and how they’re going to get there.”
The Telegraph’s Ed Power described it as an “eccentric, if often delightful, take on the Spandex crimefighter formula”.
“As a loving pastiche of creaky American sitcoms, WandaVision is endearing,” he said. “And Olsen and Bettany are clearly having a hoot in their retro frocks and dad sweaters.”
While the show’s creativity was widely praised, Rolling Stone’s Alan Sepinwall suggested the studio was also taking a “big risk” with the series.
“WandaVision starts out demanding as much affection for television from its audience as from its creative team,” he said. “If you don’t instinctively smile at the sight of Vision using his powers to phase through an inconveniently-placed chair, or recognise that one episode takes place in a mirror image of the Brady family’s house, you may grow impatient for the actual story to reveal itself.
Of course you can make up your own mind if you have a Disney+ subscription.