WandaVision Brings Back The MCU With A Magical TV Twist

For too long (only about a year and a half but it felt like eternity), fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) were deprived of new content. But that ended when the Disney+ TV show WandaVision premiered last January and the series finale just streamed yesterday. By the time the finale, appropriately titled “The Series Finale”, streamed WandaVision became the latest water cooler show to talk about as many theories (most of which did not pan out) were discussed, and for good reason. Some spoilers will follow.

WandaVision stands out from the normal MCU fare by focusing more on character, plot twists and mystery. It still is an MCU offering but it took full advantage of its new television medium and tantalized viewers with questions and character studies with each episode. It also was quite unconventional as a TV show.

The series was an intriguing hybrid of MCU action and world building and a tribute to American sitcoms. We got to see the evolution of sitcoms from the 1950s to today with various episodes taking on a tone which was appropriate to the era it evoked. Starting with the first two episodes, WandaVision emulated 1950s shows like The Dick Van Dyck Show and I Love Lucy then the 1960s with I Dream of Jeannie and Bewitched with a narrow television ratio, laugh tracks and black and white photography in the first two episodes. The following episodes were in color with changed lighting that evoked the bouncy and colorful TV world of the 1970s like The Brady Bunch; the schmaltzy and corny overlit family comedies in the 1980s as seen with Full House, Growing Pains or Family Ties; the more in-your-face and goofball vibe of Malcolm in the Middle from the 2000s; and contemporary comedies where characters talk to the fourth wall as in The Office and Modern Family. Each era/episode came with an opening title scene that fit perfectly for the era it evoked. 

It was a lot of fun to watch these episodes which brought back memories, although the earlier episodes could have actually been funny. This flaw was a turn off for some viewers but others were rewarded when the series expanded beyond the bizarre artificial world created by the superpowered Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen, who has never been better at this role) and we learned what was going on. 

WandaVision truly began to stand out when we began to get answers and the world opened up. Essentially, the series takes place in the aftermath of Avengers: Endgame as Wanda is struggling through her grief over the loss of her lover, the android called Vision (Paul Bettany) and the events from the last two Avengers films. In her emotional pain, Wanda retreated to a fantasy world that inserted herself and a resurrected Vision in a sitcom world.

This draws the attention of the real world in the form of an agency called S.W.O.R.D., and people who investigate Wanda’s world. These included familiar MCU faces like scientist Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) and FBI agent Jimmy Woo (Randall Park) and new faces such as Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) and S.W.O.R.D. director and all-around tool Tyler Heyward (Josh Stamberg). It is remarkable that this show was able to take minor and annoying MCU characters who detracted from their films and made them so endearing. Darcy and Jimmy have to return in one of the other Disney+ MCU shows. Meanwhile, Monica made a brilliant impression as the newest MCU hero, the future Photon/Spectrum and the episode that focused on her return to life during Avengers: Endgame provided a fullfilling look at what the impact the events of the Avengers films had on normal people. 

Events quickly elevated and intrigued us when Wanda’s deceased brother Pietro/Quicksilver (Evan Peters reprising his role, sort of, from the Fox X-Men films) turned up out of the blue. Meanwhile, tantalizing clues and Easter eggs engaged us to try to figure out what was going on in the show and its characters, namely Wanda and Vision’s nosy next-door neighbor Agnes (Kathryn Hahn), who showed a wide range of depth from comedy to villainy. 

However, the true stars of the show was of course Wanda and Vision. The actors reveled in their roles and ran audiences through the emotional gamut as their scenes ranged from goofball comedy to horrifying heartbreak. But the emotional pulls were genuine and did not feel forced (unlike many of the attempts at humor). Their story was the heart of WandaVision as the series grew darker and darker when she processed her grief.

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Memo To Marvel Studios: Release Your Films!

OK, the title of this post does come off a might hyperbolic, but the feeling is justified among many fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) who have been without any new MCU films in over a year and a half.

Of course, this is not the fault of Marvel Studios or even Disney since the COVID-19 pandemic has been so disruptive in our society. Disney cannot do any widescale release of films in theaters because most of them are closed for safety reasons. Who wants to go to a crowded movie theater during the middle of a pandemic? Even if Disney was inclined to release a film widescale now they would lose money. Just look what happened last year when Warner Bros. released Tenet in the summer.

Last month, Disney and Marvel Studios announced a release schedule for their films for this year with Black Widow due on May 7th. This announcement was done with the understanding that the pandemic would be under control. However, at this point it will take some more time, with the latest estimates of widescale vaccine distribution happening during the late spring, summer and early fall. This jeopardizes the release schedule of the MCU films with Black Widow, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (due on July 9th) and even Eternals (November 5th).

The problem with the MCU films, and one of its strengths, is their interconnected nature. To fully appreciate the films they have to be watched in order as certain scenes connect with the other films. For example the post-credits scene in Captain Marvel deliberately led into the next MCU film Avengers: Endgame. Another example can be seen with the Infinity Stones. The Reality Stone was the main macguffin in Thor: The Dark World and was seen been placed in a specific spot for safe keeping at the end of that film. But in Avengers: Infinity War, the main villain traveled to that spot and obtained the Reality Stone.

A new wrinkle is that are the new MCU TV shows on Disney+ are certainly part of the MCU, and what happens in those shows will be referenced in upcoming films.

Rumor had it that even though Black Widow was a prequel film, it set up future events in the MCU from the introduction of the Thunderbolts or Dark Avengers to Black Widow’s sister, Yelena Belova, becoming the new Black Widow. Yelena has already been confirmed to appear in the Disney+ show The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. So this is a strong reason why Marvel Studios wants Black Widow to be the first MCU film out of the gate and not launch the cinematic part of the MCU’s Phase Four with Shang-Chi or Eternals.

But the problem is that pushing back Black Widow pushes back other slated MCU films. Some of us are eager to see the next Doctor Strange film, which was already delayed to next year, as an example. What would be the reaction if it got bumped to 2023? Would this imperil other announced films in pre-production to the point of them being cancelled?

The delay also could jeopardize the release of the Disney+ shows and in fact already has. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier was supposed to be the first Disney+ TV show to stream followed by WandaVision. Now that has been reversed with The Falcon and the Winter Soldier coming out this March as WandaVision is currently streaming. But who knows how more film delays would affect the future Disney+ shows?

Something has to be done. At this point it would be best if Black Widow and even Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings were released on Disney+ this year. This would satisfy fans who are eager for new film content (though many are pleased with WandaVision), entice more subscribers to the streaming service, free up the backlog of films piling up now, and maintain the viewing order of both films and TV shows. Also consider this, is there a great demand to see Black Widow knowing the character’s fate or Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, which features a character who was last popular during the 1970s?

Yes, this will hurt Disney financially but the company is already losing money and are going all in with their streaming platform. Releasing the films on their app would generate revenue so it would not be a complete loss. Of course, this endangers the filmgoing experience later on but this is inevitable. No matter what Marvel Studios and Disney decides, this situation cannot continue, but we’ll know soon what they decide. 

It could have been worse. Take comfort that at least we got to see Avengers: Endgame in theaters before all this started.

The Mandalorian Expands The Star Wars Mythos In Its Second Season

mandaolorian s2 poster

The second season of the Disney+ TV show, The Mandalorian, streamed its finale recently and not only has the second season of The Mandalorian pleased Star Wars fans but expanded its universe.

The Mandalorian stars Pedro Pascal as the mysterious bounty hunter known to many only as the Mandalorian, though his real name is Din Djarin. The other star of the show is Grogu, the infant member of Jedi Master Yoda’s equally mysterious race known for their connection to the Force. Originally in the first season of show the Mandalorian was hired to deliver Grogu to the remnants of the Galactic Empire (the show takes place several years after Return of the Jedi and the Empire has been defeated) for nefarious purposes. However, the mysterious bounty hunter developed a bond with the Child (as he was called then) and refused. Now hunted by the Empire, the Mandalorian spends most of the second season trying to learn more about the Child and find a proper home for the aforable, little impish being.

mandalorian and grogu

As it turns out the bond became quite powerful and over the course of the second season, Djinn became a father figure to Grogu and when the small Force-wielder was threatened the bounty hunter went all out to protect his adopted son.

In its second season, The Mandalorian expanded its mythos and embellished the Star Wars Universe as we were shown how the universe evolved after the events of Return of the Jedi. What was left of the Empire had been driven to the outer edges, perhaps this was the genesis of the First Order from teh Sequel Trilogy. Naturally, the Imperials are in dire straits as the New Republic attempt to restore order to the galaxy. There are signs the New Republic is having a hard time doing this, and again this provides clues to the backdrop of the Sequel Trilogy. In some ways, The Mandalorian is fullfilling the same role that Star Wars: The Clone Wars did in that that show fleshed out the worlds of the Prequel Trilogy, which led many to better appreciate those films.

Speaking of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, characters and details from that revered animated show, as well as Star Wars: Rebels, made live-action appearances in the second season of The Mandalorian, including the exiled Mandalorian princess Bo-Katan (played by Katee Sackhoff, who voiced her in Star Wars: Rebels), and Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson), the popular Jedi featured in both animated shows. Seeing these characters, especially Ahsoka, was a thrill to watch and gave validity to the Star Wars spinoffs as they are rightfully part of the Star Wars Universe. Even though it was a bit odd not to hear Ashley Eckstein’s voice coming out of Ahsoka, Dawson did a fine job interpreting a more mature Jedi warrior, who provided important details about the Child to the Mandalorian, starting with his name.

djinn and fett

Another popular Star Wars character finally returned alive and well. That being the most famous bounty hunter in the galacy, Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison), who is more of an anti-hero in his appearances in the show. However, we do not learn how he escaped his grisly fate as a meal for the sarlacc in Return of the Jedi. But the final episode gave us the biggest surprise appearances, which elevated the show to a whole other level. More on this later.

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Marvel (MCU) & Star Wars Have A Bright Future At Disney

By now, everyone reading this must have heard of the Disney 2020 Investor Day announcements on Decelber 10, which left us geeks and nerds salivating and tickled pink with excitement over what Disney has planned with our favorite IPs in their Disney+ streaming platform and theatrically. That last point alone is enough to hearten us since Disney more or less declared that the theatrical viewing experience will not die out. The best example of their commitment came when presenter and Marvel Studios head, Kevin Fiege, affirmed that the long-delayed Black Widow film will debut in theaters next May. This squashed any rumors that the film would premiere first on Disney+ and marks a return of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

MCU Phase 4

Marvelous News

Kevin Feige gave perhaps the most anticipated presentation since we’ve all been suffering from MCU withdrawal this year. Fortunately the wait will soon end as WandaVision will finally stream next month on Disney+ and the new trailer shown on Disney 2020 Investor Day was just as bizarre and trippy as the previous trailers. WandaVision looks like it will be a pivotal anchor in the MCU going forward and is rumored to be the first of a multiverse-connecting trilogy that will be further explored in the next Spider-Man film before concluding with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. It was confirmed that the Doctor Strange sequel will feature America Chavez.

By the way, very little information was given about the new Spider-Man, probably because it’s a Sony film, but the non-stop reports about cast members from all the previous Spider-Man  films coming back just leaves us very ecstatic.

Other highlights from Feige’s presentation were the news that the She-Hulk TV show will star Orphan Black’s Tatiana Maslany, have appearances by Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner, and Tim Roth will return as the Abomination; two mini-series about the Secret Invasion and Armor Wars comic book events will stream on Disney+; the third Ant-Man film (Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania) will feature Kang the Conqueror as the villain; Christian Bale will play Gorr the God Butcher in Thor: Love and Thunder; and from the footage shown the best were the previews of the new Loki series which will deal with the Time Variance Authority, the animated What If…, and the tantalizing behind-the-scenes footage of Ms. Marvel, who will also appear in Captain Marvel 2. Perhaps the most exciting news was the confirmation that Marvel Studios will produce a proper Fantastic Four film to be directed by Jon Watts, who directed the MCU Spider-Man films. Finally, a chance to do the Fab Four correct! Hopefully Spidey can make an appearance in that film!

Aside from Black Widow it is at this point too early to go into the release dates announced by Feige because we all know the schedule can change. But it is exciting and comforting to know that Marvel Studios is plowing full-steam ahead with their productions and 2021 will mark the Great MCU Comeback. Continue reading

The MCU Drought

 

Disney and Marvel Studios threw in the towel a few days ago when it came to releasing any films in 2020: Black Widow was bumped out of its slated November release date into next year. This created a domino effect in that all other scheduled MCU films were pushed back, in some cases to 2022. For the first time since 2009, a year will pass without any offerings from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Face it folks, we are in an MCU drought.

This is quite a downer and is completely due to the COVID-19 pandemic and how irresponsible many people have been (wear the damn mask already!). Of course, this is simply a First World complaint and pales to other more serious plights going on, but the lack of an MCU film for fans to enjoy is just more proof that the pandemic has uprooted our lives.

At this rate, who knows when things will go back to “normal” or if it is even possible. If this keeps up will any high profile film be released in theaters next year? It is understandable that film studios are hesitant to release films in theaters under current circumstances, even though some theaters are now open. The problem is that even if every theater re-opened, many people would be hesitant to go attend them, not with COVID-19 lurking around. Sure, some would not have a problem but any released film will not earn its full potential at the box office. Take Tenet as an example. At one point, it was one of the most eagerly anticipated films and thought to be the one film to herald a return to the movies after the pandemic ended. Only the pandemic did not end and the film was shuffled around almost as much as The New Mutants. In the end, Tenet turned out to be a box office disappointment. Even though it has earned over $200 million that pales to what was once expected of Tenet.

As for The New Mutants, the fact that it was eventually released is a small miracle and oddly enough wound up being the sole film released in 2020 that was based on a Marvel Comics property, though it clearly was not set in the MCU. Also worth mentioning is that fans already had a property released this year that was set in the MCU…sort of. That was Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Whether or not that TV show was considered part of the MCU is open for debate but on paper it was. Another Marvel property coming to the small screens in a few weeks is the Helstrom TV show which will debut on Hulu, though it is not marketed as a Marvel property.  With all that said, keep in mind fans of the MCU will have at least something for 2020 to get through the MCU drought and that is the upcoming WandaVision TV show on Disney+ later in 2020.

WandaVision may be a consolation prize, but judging from its trippy trailer it promises to be a wildly imaginative treat for MCU fans with its bizarre imagery of a 1950s Middle American TV landscape that morphs into more modern sitcoms. Hopefully, WandaVision will be as mind bending and thought provoking as Legion, but with an added bonus that it’s set in the MCU and is a vital cog that lines up with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

But even though WandaVision is supposed to come out in 2020, Disney+ still has not said when it will stream. It is believed to be in December but certainly after the second season of The Mandalorian has finished its run. It’s just too bad that The Falcon and the Winter Soldier was not completed enough for it to have streamed this year on Disney+ as originally planned. But at least we know that WandaVision is still on track to come out later in the year.

Yes, the MCU is in a drought but this will not last forever. The pandemic will pass. Theaters will re-open fully and be safe to attend. There will be plenty of MCU fare coming our way. Next year promises four MCU films (Black Widow, Eternals, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and a new Spider-Man film) along with two Sony films, Morbius and Venom: Let There Be Carnage, which are now rumored to be part of the MCU. Plus, Marvel Studios and Disney+ promised there will be more MCU shows streaming in 2021, starting with The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and then Loki and What If…

So, before long, we will have so many plum offerings to make up for our current MCU drought. Hang in there, be patient and wear your mask!