Marvel superheroes return… in quirky black-and-white sitcom

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LOS ANGELES, Jan 13, 2021 (BSS/AFP) – When the Marvel superhero movies
reached their box office-shattering climax in 2019, nobody could have
predicted the saga’s next installment would be a kitsch, black-and-white TV
sitcom called “WandaVision.”

But a lot has changed since Iron Man and friends saved the world in that
summer’s all-time record-grossing blockbuster “Avengers: Endgame” (and mopped
up some loose plot points in “Spider-Man: Far From Home” shortly thereafter.)

The wildly popular franchise of 23 interconnected movies has ground to a
halt along with the rest of the world as Covid-19 shuttered movie theaters,
delaying “Black Widow” and other big-screen superhero sequels.

Meanwhile parent company Disney has splashed out billions bringing its
biggest franchises and characters to the Disney+ TV platform, as it locks
horns with Netflix, HBO Max and others in the spendthrift “streaming wars.”

So here to finally push onward the over-arching plot of Marvel’s
“cinematic universe” is “WandaVision,” an oddball and fiercely original
series out Friday on Disney+. It stars witch Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth
Olsen), and other-worldly android Vision (Paul Bettany), two B-list
superheroes who struck up an unlikely but fan-favorite romance across several
recent Marvel films.

“WandaVision” finds them — without explanation — living happily married
in the idyllic 1950s town of Westview, which is seemingly lifted straight
from an episode of “Bewitched” or “I Love Lucy” (complete with canned
laughter track.)

They still have superpowers, but have traded battles with genocidal
villains for a cozy world of school fundraisers, neighborhood watch meetings
and anniversary dinners.

If that sounds incredibly weird, it is.

“When I first heard the pitch of the show, I was gobsmacked,” admitted
director Matt Shakman.

“There are so many shows out there on streaming right now — to find
something that feels so special, like it hasn’t been done before, that’s
really rare,” he told AFP. “And this definitely is one of those.”

– ‘Secret sauce’ –

Of course, all is not what it seems.

Mystery shrouds the arrival of Wanda and Vision in their bizarre new home,
and some neighbors appear to know more than they initially let on.

Trailers suggest that later episodes will hop through time and bring
Marvel fans the more familiar popcorn action sequences they have been craving
— and, indeed, scenes shot in color.

Keeping plot under wraps, Marvel has shown press just three well-received
episodes, which are remarkable mainly for humorous set-pieces in which the
pair narrowly avoid revealing their secret to nosy neighbors.

“The (Marvel) movies are hilarious and that’s definitely a huge part of
their secret sauce,” said Shakman, who drew influence from his background on
other TV comedies including “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”

“The number one rule that we learned on ‘Sunny’ is if it makes us laugh,
it will make other people laugh.”

Beyond the gags, starved Marvel obsessives are itching to find out what
has happened to their favorite characters.

Marvel has produced dozens of TV series before, but “WandaVision” is the
first confirmed to fit — somehow — into the films’ grand, shared storyline.

An explosion of fan theories has tried to solve these riddles, not least
how the show gets around Vision’s death in 2018 film “Avengers: Infinity
War.”

“There is so much anticipation for the show,” said Shakman.

“The ‘why’ of it all is part of the great mystery of the show,” he
explained.

– ‘Crazy risks’ –

“WandaVision” is just the first of a dozen Marvel series in the works for
Disney+.

Bosses hope the shows can emulate the small-screen crossover success of
“Star Wars” smash hit “The Mandalorian,” which has sent subscribers to the
new platform in their droves.

But while “Star Wars” films have traditionally stuck to a fairly rigid
“space Western” formula, Marvel have never been afraid to experiment, said
Shakman.

“They have been taking these crazy risks the whole time — ‘Guardians of
the Galaxy,’ ‘Thor: Ragnarok’… they’re constantly playing around with genre
and tone and doing things that other people thought were pretty bonkers,” he
said.

“That worked out great in the end. And ‘WandaVision’ definitely is a big
swing… it’s very different.”