One to Watch: Wandavision

When the credits to Avengers: Endgame rolled it was an experience. The culmination of ten years of cinematic development, and one of the most ambitious and successful movie projects that has ever been attempted. When I left the cinema I felt the catharsis of seeing it through to the end.

I also felt a sense of relief.

I wouldn’t need to follow the Marvel Cinematic Universe anymore. I wasn’t interested in following ‘Phase Four’, I might watch a Spiderman or the next Thor: Love and Thunder, because I enjoy Tom Holland as Spiderman and Taka Watiti’s contributions to the franchise.

But then Wandavision came along, and it seems I am being pulled back into the MCU once more…

Wandavision follows the lives of Avengers Wanda and Vision as they try to live a typical suburban life whilst hiding their supernatural powers from their neighbours. Each episode is set in a distinct television time period, changing between episodes from the 60’s to the 70’s to the 80’s all the way to modern sit-coms in the latest episodes. However all is not well and the aesthetic changes, and moments of fourth-wall breaking, suggest something far more sinister is at play behind the scenes of the happy sit-com you are presented with.

The series is a masterfully crafted mystery, with rising stakes and tensions as each episode goes on. Each episode feels painfully short, running at about 20-30 minutes long, as the the screen cuts to a ‘please stand-by’ placeholder before credits roll, just as the tension reaches breaking point. It it intentional and it really builds up the mystery of what is going on in an exciting way.

This series is a gem of experiemental story telling. The MCU is trying something different and it is carried powerfully by the chemistry and acting talents of Elisabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany who play the titualar Wanda and Vision. If you have enjoyed the MCU to date, Wandavision is an easy must-see, and is a real breath of fresh air in a typically formulaic franchise, in the same way as Guardians of the Galaxy or Thor: Ragnarok have been, earlier in the franchise.

Whilst watching all the other MCU films is not a necessary prerequisite to watching Wandavision, you may find yourself lacking some understanding of the characters presented if you have not seen their character development through Age of Ultron, Infinity War or Endgame. The chemistry these characters have is obvious from watching the show, but how they reached this point is something that may only be clear to those who have seen the three films listed above, particularly in regards to the key emotional beats that the series follows.

And yes, to you MCU fans who are curious, this is set after Avengers: Endgame. I know. THAT is all part of the mystery of what is going on, and trust me when I say the mysteries really grow as the series goes on.

Wandavision is a great series and has re-invigorated my interest in the new phase of the MCU. I would have passed on the upcoming Falcon and the Winter Soldier series that will be released right after Wandavision concludes, but Wandavision has given me enough hope that the MCU is doing something interesting that I might have to just check it out…

Wandervision can be viewed on the Disney+ streaming service.

One to Watch: The Witcher

‘Toss a coin to your Witcher…’

The Witcher Poster.jpg

So you watched Game of Thrones and were hooked. The deep character arcs, the bleak setting, the political intrigue and of course, the sex and violence. It was all looking so good…until Season 8 when it all turned to ashes. You never thought fantasy could work for you, and now you’re not sure what could compare to Game of Thrones at its peak. What could bring that excitement back?

From amongst those ashes, The Witcher steps up to the wicket with a grim-faced Henry Cavill leading the team, and boy does he hit it for six.

The Witcher follows Geralt of Rivia, the titular Witcher, a monster-hunter for hire, as he tries to live his life avoiding and navigating the schemes of mages and kings as destiny thrusts him into the limelight.

The Netflix series is 8 episodes long and is based on the book series by Polish author Andrezej Sapkowski. This is the same book series that was adapted into the award-winning ‘The Witcher’ video game trilogy, which has set the standard for immersive and narratively compelling sandbox games. But the Netflix series should not be reduced to comparisons to video game adapted movies; it is so much more.

The first point to note is that the video game series is set after the conclusion of Andrezej Sapkowski’s books, whereas the Netflix series based on the books themselves, which forms an interesting prelude for those who want to go on to play The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt.

The acting and action are gripping and bloody and the political plots that are set up are intriguing; all the hallmarks of an exciting fantasy story. The story is not entirely linear, which can be confusing, however when I realised what was going on I found it enormously satisfying to piece together. Some of my friends enjoyed this less, and whilst it is not an issue I had with the series, it is definitely a matter of personal taste as to whether or not this element of the series would be enjoyed. One complaint I do have about the non-linearity of the storytelling is that several character relationships advance off-screen, which can make it hard to understand who has known who for how long at certain points. I think this could be remedied by having a few more episodes to the season to expand on these connections, but I believe that the directors have provided an excellent series given its relatively short number of episodes.

My only other complaint about the Witcher is the CGI in places is janky, and clearly on a TV budget, not a film one. This is not fatal to the series and understandable given this is an untested TV IP. Hopefully, future series will be given a higher budget to correct this.

Witcher BAnner

I thoroughly enjoyed this series and cannot recommend it enough to people who enjoyed Game of Thrones or who have played The Witcher video games. I am already itching for a season 2, and have started reading the book series to get my Witcher fix.

My final recommendation is not to watch this series on a commute. There is a significant amount of nudity, particularly in the early episodes, which might make for an uncomfortable public viewing experience.