Review of Disney+ Marvel 2021

2021 is almost over (holy cow!) and it’s been a busy year for Disney+ and the Marvel franchise. In order to try and be really relevant, I’m going to give my drive-by review and score of each show.

WandaVision (7/10)

I always felt that Wanda Maximoff was a character who was horrendously underused. She had been through so much and yet still had such a tender heart. Tenderhearted characters often get pushed to the background, especially if they are women, for fear that we might view these characters as “weak”. That’s a broken philosophy and the film industry/culture is suffering for it. Wanda is incredibly tender and incredibly strong. Tenderhearted women are often stronger than everyone else around them.

Vision as a character is one I’ve never focused on but always enjoyed. Back in the Civil War days of the Marvel, I wrote how Vision’s failure in Civil War when he accidentally shot War Machine was the doorway to him discovering what it means to be human. He’s only continued that trend since then, and grown more likable every time we see him.

The beauty and humanity of Wanda and Vision were shown quite briefly in Infinity War, but it made an impact. It made me hungry for more. On that note, WandaVision absolutely delivered. I had no idea that Paul Bettany and Elizabeth Olsen were so funny, I was constantly surprised by their incredible comedic delivery. However, their comedy wasn’t even paralleled by the depth of emotion and heart both leads brought to the table. They poured their guts out into the show and I felt it. Tears ran down my face multiple times as I watched them process love, fear, grief, curiosity, and hope. It was layers and layers of humanity unfolding and it was beautiful.

WandaVision was revolutionary in terms of TV-style. I’ve never seen anything like it before. I grew up watching sitcoms of much older decades, so I am right at home in a world influenced by The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Brady Bunch, and more. The architecture, clothing styles (Elizabeth Olsen was MADE for the 70s look), and pop culture references of WandaVision were like a love letter to American television and culture through the years. I enjoyed watching these larger-than-life, otherworldly characters interact with a world that I already felt at home in.

That being said, WandaVision got weird. Like, weird weird. Do y’all remember back in Spider-Man: Far From Home when Mr. Dell was asked his opinion on the strange happenings around them? His response

As a man of science? I think it’s witches.

was incredibly prophetic. The MCU has just gotten weird, and I’m not a fan of all of it. In full disclosure, I didn’t watch part of the second-to-last, and the final episode of WandaVision. Once we got into the territory of deeper witchery and dark magic, I was out for personal reasons (which I may share someday). I liked it better when we thought Wanda’s powers came from the Mind Stone. The show took her character to places I was not interested in going to.

*I do appreciate the fact that her new costume has more body coverage though. It’s about time!

I would be remiss in speaking on this show if I didn’t mention my favorite part. Or rather, my favorite character. Am I the only girl who walked away with a bit of a crush on Jimmy Woo? For real, he is the biggest surprise I have had in the MCU yet! How they took Jimmy Woo from being the funny but oblivious FBI agent in Ant-Man And The Wasp, to a dogged, smart, still hilarious character in WandaVision is close-up magic at its finest! I couldn’t wait for him to show up on screen and I want to see him so much more! And the pairing of Jimmy Woo with Darcy Lewis was yet another surprise. It’s like putting together two foods you think have nothing in common, and discovering that they were actually made for each other.

I’m 100% voting for a Jimmy Woo + Darcy show and I totally ship them. They were such a surprise and a delight. I enjoyed Monica Rambo’s character as well, though she didn’t hit me in a deep place. I admired the fact that she let her compassion and intuition drive her interaction with Wanda, even when Wanda pushed her away. That’s an important side of being a hero and Monica was worthy of that title.

All in all, I give WandaVision a 7/10. But I have no interest in delving deeper into the witch side, and I will not be a viewer of the newly announced show featuring Agatha. She played her role well, but no thank you! WandaVision was something incredibly unique, but not something I will watch again. It was a once and done for me.

This much handsomeness in one place is almost dangerous.

The Falcon And The Winter Solder (6/10)

I loved this show because Captain America: The Winter Soldier is my favorite Marvel movie. In fact, it’s not just my favorite Marvel movie, it’s one of my top 10 movies of all time. I think it’s one of the most perfect movies ever written and carried out. Steve Rogers was the character who carried my heart into this new world of Marvel that I first entered into as a teenager. Steve, Sam, and Nat were my favorite Avengers. Sam’s introduction into the MCU is my favorite character introduction.

All of that to say, I love this window into the Marvel world and this side of the story matters to me a lot. I was pleased that Steve chose Sam to carry the shield, even as I was grieving the loss of my Avenger. I was also angry at the huge lack of answered questions in Endgame regarding the details of Steve’s…I don’t know, return? Disappearance? Is he living on the moon? I’m happy for Peggy and Steve, but sad for me.

As I said above, the MCU has just gotten weird, and I don’t like all of it. Captain America stories were always very down to earth, very human. The trend continued in The Falcon And The Winter Soldier, and my heart just really needed it.

Here’s the funny thing, in terms of overall plot and story execution, I think large parts of TFATWS were actually terribly weak. The show struggled to gain traction for the first episodes. There were a few places that didn’t fit well with Sam and Bucky. It didn’t deliver well or clearly on the villain front. Neither Karli Morganthau or John Walker fully occupied that space. And once we broke Baron Zemo out all we cared about was that fabulous dance scene, so nevermind on him. I just kept waiting for the reveal, the hand holding the puppet strings behind the smaller characters. I thought that person was going to be The Power Broker, who would be revealed as a Big Bad from the comics. But no…

My biggest beef with the entire show was the very lazy (in my opinion) choice to make Sharon Carter The Power Broker. We got a big fakeout build-up “oh guys it’s probably Sharon but we’re gonna make you think that’s the red herring” and then it actually turned out to be Sharon! But the execution of her character wasn’t even done well. It was too harsh, jarring, and obvious. So obvious it seemed like the lie they wanted us to believe, and then just decided it would be so. As a Sharon Carter fan, I felt gypped. It’s not my fault that the entire MCU creator group forgot about her existence since Civil War, and it’s certainly not Emily Van Camps’ fault. In fact, I read that they intended to make The Power Broker the Big Bad for Captain America 4 (yay!), but after the poor fan reaction they may be reducing that role (internet rumor). Well, if that’s the case, then that’s on you, Marvel creators. The way you treated her character stinks and I didn’t even believe it while I was watching it unfold.

While I felt the overall plot elements were shaky and messy (potentially due to changes made after COVID hit), I think the nuances of this show were done really well. Like, really well. I was noticing everything and there was a lot to notice.

I need to address the Bucky elephant in the room. I’ve always liked Bucky, always rooted for him. But I wouldn’t say I ever loved him. And now? OH MY SEBASTIAN STAN, SWEET GLORY WOULD YOU LIKE TO STAY FOREVER? We’ve never gotten to see Bucky like we got to see him in this show. The layers and levels of emotion, humanity, and joy that this man displayed left me breathless every time! I just wanted to keep staring at his face when he smiled, or laughed, or made a breakthrough. I couldn’t get enough of Bucky and I want SOO much more of him!

The nuances of this show where character developmental storytelling happened was excellent. They made use of everything: body stance and choreography, the script, costuming, soundtrack, location, everything! Every layer and detail told you what a character was currently bringing, feeling, or needing. Even the props were used to tell a story behind the story. I don’t have time to jump into the details in this post, but in this regard The Falcon And The Winter Soldier excelled.

I found the ending (aside from the Sharon thing) very satisfying. It was nice to end a show where two characters are actually happier and at peace with long-standing issues. It’s not that every problem has been solved, every war won. But the personal war Bucky and Sam had going on inside of them / with each other is over. They’ve taken their places as brothers of the shield and have become family. I could watch the barbecue on the pier scene over and over and over again. That was something special and it needs to be protected. Despite the fact that I think that in many ways WandaVision was better executed, I don’t want to revisit that show. But I will be rewatching The Flacon And The Winter Soldier in days to come. Love can be forgiving like that. I wrote in-depth articles on each episode for my personal social media back when they were released. Some day I may clean those up and take you on a deep dive into this series, but for now I will end with this.

Ahem. #releasethebuckysarahcut

Loki 9/10

I was nervous about this series. I’ve been so disappointed by Loki in the movies over and over again. Every time it seemed like we took a step forward with Loki, something stupid made him slide two steps back and we started all over again. If Tom Hiddleston wasn’t so incredibly adorable I would have given up sooner.

I hated his ending in Infinity War. The movie just went downhill from that moment on. It felt incredibly meaningless and worthless. What a waste of talent and potential! Once we found out about Loki after Endgame, I waited with skepticism. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me a bazillion more times with one of Britian’s finest, shame on me for thinking you had changed.

I didn’t watch Loki as it came out, I waited until I had more information. The reports I received plus the research I did gave me enough of a reason to give it a chance.

Wow, just wow.

Again, I have never, ever seen anything like this show. It was like the weirdest scifi/fantasy trip mixed with some sort of 70s show featuring a beaurocratic government agency, all while bringing game-changing plot elements to an entire franchise! It wrestled with questions involving the value of every life and free will. And above all, this show actually changed Loki for the good.

Storytelling-wise, I think this show did a bold thing by having so many “just talking” scenes. In book storytelling, a long conversation doesn’t raise as many eyebrows as it does in visual storytelling. Writers and directors can love these scenes, cinematographers can hate them. Many viewers can complain about them as well.

I’m a writer so I love talking scenes. But even more than that, a good conversation is something that will attract me more than anything else. I have talked with people for 5-8 hours before and not gotten bored. Conversation is a foundational layer of relationship and growth (with God or with people), and one reason we all are struggling so much is we don’t know how to converse well.

Loki embraced conversation wholeheartedly. And when someone as talented as Tom Hiddleston is the speaker, that conversation becomes like an action scene to me. The way he and Owen Wilson (Agent Mobius), or he and Sylvie tossed words back and forth felt like active, stirring story.

To cap it off, one of the scariest scenes I have ever witnessed in the entire MCU took place during a seemingly normal conversation. He Who Remains gave the worst download of information. It was like Gandalf telling Frodo how all of Middle Earth is about to go to hell in a handbasket if he doesn’t destroy that oh-so-normal looking ring his uncle left him. He Who Remains was so casual about life and death and the fate of the universes, it was awful.

Loki’s transformation throughout his show set the stage for some of the best storytelling to come. The introduction of characters like Sylvie and Agent Mobius (and He Who Remains) all gave such unique viewpoints. I cannot wait to see what happens next and I am still in awe of how well this show was made.

I think what we are discovering with both the Marvel and Star Wars Disney+ shows is that some stories are told better in a episodic format, where more time and attention can be given to details and subtle development. Loki was absolutely proof of this as it accomplished for the character of Loki in 6 episodes what 5 movies could not.

Despite my dislike for the show, I acknowledge the animation is quite beautiful.

What If 3/10

Whew! Harsh rating eh? Well, it’s my blog, I can do what I want to. Full disclosure here, I only made it through a few episodes. 4 to be exact and I didn’t even finish the zombie episode because it was terrible. I cannot believe that episode is the inspiration for a whole new series on Disney+.

I am likely not the target audience for this particular show, I’ll give them that much. This show is for deeper Marvel fans than I am, and for people who don’t mind the rearranging of their characters. I have a friend who absolutely loved this show and we have still remained friends despite our differing views.

The stars I do give here are in honor of T’Challa’s Starlord episode. That one I truly did enjoy, probably because it was actually an episode that had a happier outlook than the main MCU timeline. The other episodes I tried I just felt more depressed and found them dark. Also, it felt like the characters had no real emotions. They were cardboard cutouts of the characters we’ve come to know and love. I felt that things were done just for a cheap joke that were actually disrespectful to the characters. I also felt that some of the voices didn’t adapt well. Sebastian Stan’s voice acting left something to be desired. Hayley Atwell, on the other hand, fit it like a glove.

But T’Challa’s episode was beautiful (visually), happy, genuinely funny, and it made me feel really glad to know that Chadwick Boseman’s family gets to enjoy that episode in memorial of him.

Beyond that, I really have nothing to say. I may try a few more episodes and if I change my mind I’m not above updating a post with new info. I think this show was for a niche audience and that’s who enjoyed it.

The colors of this series already look amazing!

Hawkeye (Prediction) 11/10

I know, Hawkeye hasn’t even come out yet, but I have a feeling. I have pretty good instincts on these things, plus, I can read the room. Everything is aligned to make Hawkeye the most successful and beloved Marvel show yet.

Clint Barton has never gotten his day in the sun that he deserves. He’s been around in the MCU almost longer than anyone (who’s still alive that is), and he’s still been waiting for that spotlight. In fact, Jeremy Renner said that in the first 2 weeks of filming Hawkeye he had more lines than all of his previous movie appearances.

Clint Barton is our last original Avenger who hasn’t gone through radical physical changes, been killed, or travelled back in time to marry his sweetheart. Clint is also radically normal compared to every other superhero. He’s a family man (cheers for the family men!). He’s got a farm. He just oozes dad feels everywhere he goes, often taking in the strays and giving them a chance to succeed.

Clint Barton is a hero for the deaf community. He’s a hero to the normal people (which we all are). He’s a hero to those who have suffered grief and loss as well as regrets. He’s a member of the “cool movie dads” Hall of Fame. He’s also hilarious. Oh yeah, and this show has a DOG and IT HAPPENS AT CHRISTMAS TIME IN NEW YORK CITY!

The world is ready for this. We want some normal. We want a dad. We want a good guy who doesn’t have it figured out but is doing his best. We want a dog (okay, I want a dog). We NEED a little Christmas, right this very minute!

We. Need. Hawkeye.

And finally, we are being given Hawkeye.

This show is going to be incredible.

What are your thoughts? How would you rate the Marvel Disney+ shows so far?

Wanda Maximoff’s Room: Backstory in Less than 3 Minutes

The Russo brothers had their work cut out for them in Civil War. They had to bring us up to speed on all of our old characters, seamlessly introduce new ones, and engage in a deeply layered and interpersonal conflict in a way that was organic and engaging. What is the answer to that dilemma? Multitasking storytelling; using every aspect of a scene with characters, props, setting, music, etc to get the point across.

They pulled it all off magnificently. There are so many of this aspects of this film that I could discuss, but today I want to talk about how we were brought up to speed on the character of Wanda Maximoff, aka Scarlet Witch.

When we last saw Wanda, it was in Age of Ultron where she spent most of the movie on the hunt for revenge on Tony Stark. We got a bit of her backstory, she and her twin brother lost both their parents and their childhood to a missile made by Stark Industries. Still, we didn’t really get to experience her heart, and we learned next-to-nothing about her personality.

Now, it is one year after the tragic events in Sokovia. Wanda lost her brother to that battle, and that meant she lost pretty much the only stability or identify she has ever known. Pietro was her foundation and safe place. She has been with the Avengers for a year now, and they have become her new sense of family and security. She’s no longer thirsting for vengeance, so….just who is Wanda Maximoff?

We got a few glimpses of who she is in the battle with Crossbones in Lagos, Nigeria. Wanda is obviously still in training, but her powers make her one of the biggest assets on the team. She was very tuned in to instructions and quick to have Captain America’s back. Her face was heartbreaking when she saw the accidental explosion caused by her efforts to save Steve from Crossbones’ bomb.

But the greatest download we got on Wanda was in the short scene in her bedroom. This scene was brilliantly done on every level, but I have to give the biggest applause to the set designer. Multiple levels of information and story were given to us in less than 3 minutes.

We know exactly who Wanda is when this scene is done; we know her desires, her hopes, and her fears. Her character arc for the rest of the movie is established in this scene. we know where she is coming from, which means we also now know where she needs to go.

Shall we examine this fine bit of set design?

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Notice the pin markers in her globe. Are these places she has already gone with the Avengers, or places that she dreams of going? Her life before wasn’t exactly one where she could dream, it was a life of survival and vengeance. She was experimented on and became this insanely enhanced person.

Despite all that she lost before, her normal life, her parents, and especially her brother, I would venture to say that Wanda also feels a sense of relief. She is now free to dream again. She is young and it is a big and beautiful world just waiting to be discovered.

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The color palette in this room is very subtle and restful. Soothing grays, blues, greens, and ivory. Despite her superhero name of “Scarlet Witch”, Wanda Maximoff is very non-scarlet in her both her color choices and personality. This room is her refuge, her quiet place to be vulnerable and to dream. This room represents who she is inside, and inside she is a soft, sweet person.

See the guitar? Wanda is learning to play music. She is a very gentle soul. There is a soft throw on the back of the chair, perhaps she cuddles up in it to watch late-night movies or read a good book. A bit of laundry in the hamper? It would seem she is actually still quite normal in the fact that she is procrastinating laundry day.

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Her shelf. It has books, a glass globe (I have one like it), candles, and this oh-so-telling bulletin board which I will get to in a minute.

My favorite part here is the cute hanging rack she made with a gold chain and a feather. Feathers represent freedom and whimsy, a side of Wanda we never saw in Age of Ultron. She has a feminine pair of dangly earrings hung on this homemade rack. I’ll just bet you she got the idea to make it when she saw a similar idea on Pinterest. Wanda can manipulate and create with her powers, but she can also create beautiful things with her hands.

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We can see a photo of what is obviously little Pietro. It is both sweet and heartbreaking. There are also photos of dogs and a cat. Were they her pets? Or does she just love animals? This bulletin board is completely stuffed. Memories matter to Wanda, she treasures them. She has experienced other people’s memories through the visions she gave them, how telling that she keeps her own memories out in plain view, even the tragic ones.

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More subtle colors. Another glimpse of her stuffed bulletin board. A stray headband that she never put away. Baskets stuffed with what looks like stationary or scrapbooking materials. And the final detail, a cross necklace hung in the background. Could it be a part of her past, or has faith become a part of her life since the events in Sokovia?

Dreams. Memories. Sweetness. Peace. Refuge. Femininity. We learned all of this just from the background setting, this doesn’t even include everything we learned in Wanda’s conversation with Steve.

This is not the room of a child, nor is it the room of a woman. It is the room of someone who is in between. It is a room reminiscent of the childhood that she never got to have, but it is also longing for the womanhood she is not yet sure how to grasp. Instead, she is a girl caught in the middle between fear and vulnerability, and bold strength.

Wanda made huge strides to grow and become braver. She faced down her fear when Vision confronted her and she triumphed. Everyone is well aware of just how powerful she is, she is not lacking for capabilities to protect both herself and others.

But underneath all of that, Wanda still has a sweetness that needs to be protected. All those who know her feel that and try to guard her. Steve, Vision, Clint, even Tony. She’s the baby Avenger, the kid sister, the girl who they have all grown to love and want to protect. I think Pietro would feel great relief to know that his sister is so well looked after.

We were truly introduced to Wanda Maximoff for the first time in Civil War. And we were introduced so subtly and organically that we never even noticed it.

Meet Wanda Maximoff, a sweet young woman with a heart that’s even bigger than her beautiful eyes.