Free Guy

The tldr; is that this movie could not have possible worked without Fornite. Full stop.

If you enjoy Ryan Reynolds being himself, well then, you’re going to enjoy this movie. If you want a social critique on MMO behaviors, then yeah, this is the movie for you. If you’re looking for a film full of easter eggs and call-outs to gaming, then this is a thousand times more appropriate than Ready Player One.

I have no idea who was smoking what when this pitch came through. An NPC in an MMO gains sentience, and then the McGuffin quest to find proof of the AI. Sounds like a few people on a couch, enjoying the air, and then this comes out. Without Fortnite taking over the west, there’s no way for movie goers to even understand the fundamentals here. The whole over 49 demographic is going to come away from this with barely any understanding of what’s going on.

It is worth pointing out that Taika Waititi goes for the fences in this one. It’s so borderline absurd, it’s realistic to the immature genius of game development studios. That he doesn’t use an accent here, really let’s him lay into the kiwi vibe something fierce. There’s not a scene he doesn’t completely own.

This is also a weird movie with the romantic aspect is a key turning point. Fine, the epilogue is laying it on thick (more on this) in terms of the main characters, but it’s also an interesting twist plot-wise, that acts as a deux ex machina. Gamers understanding MMO technical limitations will find this particular scene a little tough to swallow, but in the larger scheme, it works.

The whole movie is about breaking a 4th wall (or I guess a 5th) in blurring the line between the art and the consumer. The epilogue just puts it all out there… log off and talk to people. Feels like a giant critique of streamer/gamer culture, which doesn’t feel like it’s heavy handed. It does feel like this is a more cartoony version of a Black Mirror episode, and packaged in such a way that people can take something away from it, aside from depression.

Call me pleasantly surprised with the balancing act this film achieves. Plus, you know, Ryan Reynolds.

Loki

The joy of vacation is that the world keeps going while you’re away. It meant that by the time I came back the entire season of Loki was ready for a binge watch. And it is a worthwhile binge.

I won’t get into specific spoilers here, since that’s part of the ride. I will hit some broader strokes, which I think make this the most “comic book” of all the Disney series so far. The larger plot point tries to answer the question about free will or pre-destination.

The series deals with a time travel agency (TVA). You learn this in the first 5 minutes, and the set design is astounding. It’s borderline brutalist in architecture design, but also full of whimsy – making for a very anachronistic setting. Each episode has something going on within the TVA, and it always feels real. This is a big contrast to the Easter-egg-a-thon of episode 5, which is almost entirely CGI. Comics work because they don’t live in the grey. They have a base foundation from where people start, then end up in space or another dimension.

With the exception of the last episode, every other one manages to build an idea and then subvert expectations. It’s very close to Dr Who under Moffat, where it feels like a roller coaster in the dark, never quite sure of what twist is coming along, but it’s a fun ride. It’s supremely helpful that all the actors here do a great job with the material (casting Owen Wilson seems madly appropriate in his role). The last episode is almost entirely exposition, which I’ll get to in a bit.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the development that Loki goes through. He’s one of the most interesting villains in the MCU, and has been in as many films as the Avengers (10+ years). MCU isn’t known for character development, and Loki was certainly in that package. He was interesting because you were never quite sure what his next crazy plan would be to betray everyone. He was consistent in his inconsistency – sort of like Jack Sparrow. That is not the case in this series – he goes through ample character development, to the point where he is all but unrecognizable by the end. It’s a bit weird that a being thousands of years old has a major change in a couple day’s adventures. He’s not causing any mischief – which is sort of his bag.

The last episode is pure comic book exposition. Love it or hate it, comics books follow a story line for months, then when it’s about to close, they put on bigger stakes or a bigger villain. Loki goes all in on this, and sets up phase 2 of the MCU multi-verse with the grace of a sledgehammer. Which, fine if it wasn’t preceded by 5 episodes of character progression. The sole saving grace in the last episode is that the character doing the exposition is frankly the most interesting character I’ve ever seen in MCU.

Some caution on the multi-verse… I read comics in the 80s when this took off. Without a leash, it goes off the rails super quick and nothing matters anymore because there’s another version to make up the gap. You get something like Sliders rather than Fringe. I’m less worried because it’s clear that Marvel has the larger plot points locked up 5-10 years down the road (as compared to DC), and yet the movie audience is not going to see these movies for the plot.

I liked Wandavision’s slow burn reveal, which was also wonderfully acted. I didn’t like Falcon and the Winter Soldier as it wasn’t episodic, with a really weird pace and structure. Loki feels like the best of the MCU series, while still being handcuffed to the larger story arcs.

Love, Death & Robots – Season 2

I’d been looking forward to this for some time, as I rather enjoyed the first season. I’ve been a fan of Heavy Metal since my younger years, if only because it often provided a raw view of Sci-Fi in visual medium. I do have a heck of a passion for long-form sci-fi, but truth be told, the short story format is often much more enjoyable. LD&R is all about short form stories, with 10min average duration for each short.

Season 2 is only 8 episodes, whereas season 1 was 18. It’s also much less excessive. You’re not going to find Aquila Rift’s 2 minute sex scene here. One short in particular is impressively violent, and another is a very difficult watch given the context.

Automated Customer Service

A humorous short and a killer automated vacuum cleaner. The pacing is good, and the context somewhat surreal. It lacks the larger questions of most sci-fi. I found it the weakest of all.

Ice

This one has very unique art style – in line with Zima Blue from prior season. It has a decent concept, about teenager social acceptance, this time through the lens of ‘modifications’. The final action bit feels like you’re there, and look brilliant. I think the art choice here is better for it, as it focuses on contrasts.

Pop Squad

This is a very hard watch the first time through, as you’re lacking the context for the first few minutes. It’s the longest of all the stories, and I’m going to avoid spoilers beyond. I enjoyed this story the most as it asks some fundamental questions and leaves plenty of room for discussion.

Snow in the Desert

A merc is hunted for his biological abilities. The themes here are more complex than the other stories, or at least appear so to me. The art here is photo-realistic, and makes it all pack a lot more punch. I find it has good pacing, but certainly has a sterotypical romance sub-plot that feels tacked on. Those should be earned, which is all but impossible in a short story.

The Tall Grass

This is the horror episode and I don’t quite follow why it’s here. I do enjoy the art style, and the panic within the story. But it’s based on multiple bad decisions, and then luck at the end. I don’t enjoy stories that depend entirely on crutches.

All Through the House

What if Christmas had a horror tinge? The shortest and most surreal stories in the anthology, it asks the simple question ‘what if you were naughty’ for Christmas…It’s frankly surreal and I ended up confused as to who the target audience is for this one.

Life Hutch

So if you want to see a Michael B Jordan likeness in a sort of prison room, this is up your alley. With shades of a larger storyline, this one suffers greatly with editing. Take the crazy robot from Red Planet and you have all you need to know about this story. Too bad, cause the backstory here seems infinitely more interesting.

The Drowned Giant

Now here’s an interesting one on the concept of major events, impacts, and longstanding memory. You’re never quite sure if this is a fever dream or real. How the larger un-answered questions remain – like are there other giants? It begs to ask what really is meaningful and how unique events eventually become integrated into local legend. This is a real black sheep episode as it had no external conflict, it’s just a journal of an interesting event. I found it captivating in its simple portrayal.

Overall

With only 8 episodes and less hard sci-fi theme, it was quite a bit different than season 1. As with that, there are some stories that will hit harder than others, some where you want to learn more, others where you need to watch again, and then some that you can do without. Same with any short-story book really.

I will say that it reinforces the concept that great sci-fi is about the people in sci-fi settings, not a plot for plot’s sake.

I am hopeful for a season 3!

Lord of the Rings – 20 Years Later

There’s something about the 1999-2001 timeframe where an explosion of ideas simply came to fruition. I’ll lay that cause, of all places, with Toy Story. That movie affirmed that CGI was here to stay and could be used as a tremendous storytelling tool (and also the end of Harryhausen). Frankly ushered in a new age of storytelling.

One of those films is Lord of the Rings (or series I guess). Fellowship of the Rings released in 2001, way back when I was still college. I had read the books multiple times while growing up, I think it was a sort of rite of passage for any geek. And the think about the books is that while they are highly descriptive, they also have a lot of room for interpretation. So to the cinema I headed with a bunch of geek school friends (a programmer class). I was not prepared for what was to happen.

There was always going to be some debate as to the construct of the films. While the first is linear, the last 2 are multiple storylines that swap between. And there are quite a few sub-storylines that take place. Removal of Tom Bombadil was somewhat expected, as he was always a sore thumb. Arwen taking more space was a welcome change. To take such complex and dense material, and yet remain faithful was practically unheard of at the time. The last attempt at faithful book adaptation was Dune, and that really did not work.

And, in my mind, the most important aspect of this film is that is was intended to be a series from the start and filmed all 3 back to back. The concept of a trilogy wasn’t new… I mean we did have Star Wars 20 years earlier. And yet, it wasn’t a trilogy in the concept where there are clear beginnings and endings to the films. You could, and if you have the bladder power should, watch all 3 films back to back to back. The success of this film series (and Harry Potter for youth) opened the door for a default trilogy story-telling mechanism.

The story opts not to start calmly, but in the middle of a massive battle. It’s hard to explain the impact this scene had… having that many extras hadn’t been done since the Ben-Hur days, and this threw even more on the plat. To have it all happen in lock step, then have Sauron come around swinging that mace… I still get raised hairs thinking about it. It sets the stage as to how epic the journey will be, and the quality of the effects throughout.

The film them slows down a tad, what with the Hobbits being generally slow folk, and then introduces the Nazgul who are rightfully dreadful. The whole effects while the ring is worn is jarring, doing a much better job than the book to explain the evilness of the effect. The battle with the Watcher and then the troll battle in Moria continually amped up the anxiety and adrenaline, with periods of quiet offsetting the chaos. It isn’t a film of non-stop action, it’s a film of ups and downs, reflecting the reality of a long journey. And then…

The Balrog and the pass. The slow reveal. The sound. In a movie theatre you could imagine the heat coming off the massive flaming demon. ‘You shall not pass!’ was meme worthy before memes existed. The fall of Gandalf and the mourning that followed are where most other films would have ended. The group barely got through and had to sacrifice the strongest member to do so.

The voyage to Galadriel is powerful yet seemingly too quick. The epic score and setting for the fall of Boromir (which technically was in the 2nd book) did an amazing job with marking how powerful the evil forces actually could be. Instead of whispers in the dark, they were out and about in the day.

It’s a rare event for a film to have two effective gut punches. 2 leads die, the party is split, and there’s less hope of success than at the start, all generally seen as ‘bad endings’. And then we get Enya.

I recall leaving the cinema and being in a sort of daze as to what I had just seen. I’d seen the Matrix a few years before and remember being sort of euphoric for the insanity of that film, but LotR was like having taken a rollercoaster, while listening to a heavy metal album, and being in a pie eating contest. I left the larger doors with my group, then just sat down on the curb nearby, trying to collect my thoughts. We had all read the book, so we knew what to expect… and yet we still came out surprised with how they put those ideas to image. You can read about the Balrog, you can look at the earlier images (Sargeras in WoW looks like early Balrogs), but they don’t do justice to what was on screen. I’m still amazed as to what WETA was able to accomplish 20 years ago.

I picked up the normal version, and then the extended version for home. I watch it every year. I read the books every other. There are subtleties to the films that really stand out when you get the context of the books – in particular the relationship between Gimli and Legolas. I’m still amazed by the scenery – and at some point will need to take a trip to NZ to fully appreciate it all.

Back to the original point. You can draw a line pre- and post- Matrix/LotR/Harry Potter. It started a new age of film making, of storytelling, of video game tie-ins (2 MMOs!) It was an impressive time, and remains an enjoyable experience to this day.

Jupiter’s Legacy

Perhaps this is riding the comic book adaptation wave, or the wave of comic book social critiques on hero worship. Jupiter’s Legacy is an odd series that attempts to transcribe complex comic concepts to visual media.

Setting the stage here… the bar for a successful comic book adaptation is quite high. The actors have to be solid, the effects believable, the script clean. We’re not comparing to Fantastic Four here, but the Marvel Universe and The Boys. Jupiter’s Legacy has none of these things. But it has an interesting thought, and you have more than enough time, so…

Based on a series by Mark Millar, who’s largest successes are based on deconstructing super heroes (Marvel Civil War, Old Man Logan), the underlying story is how does a golden age super-hero fit into today’s complex geo-political world. The world isn’t beset by bank robbers or purse snatches, but supervillains who will commit crazy atrocities, along with corporate controlled governments that care only for profit than people. The concept here is really interesting. The series has multiple challenges though, and while I can easily forgive the special effects, the writing and acting is much harder. Josh Duhamel is not someone with range or nuance. To pin an entire series around his character’s ‘do good’ mantra requires a crazy level of balance of crotchety and good intentions. Instead, he comes off as out of touch, overbearing, and unfocused. It’s not all his fault though, as the adaptation itself is really, really heavy handed.

The first episode is borderline Power Rangers. A monster of the week setting in a rubber suit, lots of weird ninja moves, lots of speeches, and slow motion. It’s like 10 heroes vs 1 villain, none of whom are actually strong enough to take him solo. Which, you know, is borderline Thanos. He successfully kills 3 heroes, with little effort and is about to kill more when one hero decides it’s enough and with 1 punch kills the bad guy. There are multiple red flags in this battle that just don’t make any sense as there’s no stakes at hand, and no character build-up. The first scene in the series contradicts this battle too!

It doesn’t help that none of the main characters aren’t endearing in any form. The lead is called Mr Utopia and is an idealist that continually causes conflict in every situation. Lady Liberty flips flops between truth above all and mother instincts. Paragon is a try-hard that cannot please his father. Chloe is a drug addicted rebel with absolutely zero redeeming qualities. Brainwave is a pragmatist who can read minds… so it’s pretty damn clear where that arc goes. The mystery is Skyfox, who you’re told broke the code long ago and was exiled. Never why though.

And yet, the series does have some interesting mysteries to it. How they got their superpowers in the first place… how there are other superheroes (who appear technically to all be genetically related to the original 6), how the powers manifest. There’s a bit of LOST flavor here with visions and epic journeys. Since this portion of the story is the progress towards power, it’s actually quite interesting.

The concept at the start, how do golden age values work in a complex world… that’s never truly answered. There are no simple answers here, hence the complexity, but at the same time no real effort is put into that question. Kingdom Come told this story nearly 30 years ago, and did a much better job. I’ve yet to read Millar’s comics on this, but I’d have to assume they do better as well.

I’ve been somewhat negative on this so far, but it’s really because the potential here is so high and the delivery underwhelms. It’s not bad (there’s a lot of bad on Netflix) and is a decent watch if it’s raining outside. Season 2 is set up for some solid potential, and maybe this is just season 1 jitters (look at Parks and Rec!).

Star Wars 20 Years Later

I’m old enough that Star Wars means something to me, yet young enough that I only caught the prequels in the cinema. I can still remember when The Phantom Menace came out… a massive multiplex was built to coincide with that launch and we stood outside for some tickets. My sister worked there for quite a while, more for the access to the movies than the actual job. Still a cinephile!

A few years prior, Lucas had re-released Star Wars to cinema and I had gone to watch them all multiple times. Smart to raise the hype. I was used to the old VHS versions that felt like they were of their time. The remakes polished some bits but also added some weird sections – Jabba in A New Hope, a moving Sarlacc, and the very jarring cantina signing scene. Foreboding!

I remember going to watch the Phantom Menace as a group. Full Star Wars hype was abound! The movie started to cheers with beginning of the scrolling text. To this day, I can still recall the group confusion that came when the words ‘taxation of trade routes’ showed up on screen. But then Jedis and action! Great! Meeting Jar Jar was really odd, but I figured it was one of the multiple passing characters in Star Wars. That he became a tag along was grating and an extremely poor substitute for the droid duo. The pod racing was, and still is, exhilarating. The final battle sequence with Darth Maul still holds up with great framing, pace, and music. That final score is found in every pre-quel movie, including the final battle between Anakin and Obi-Wan.

The end of The Phantom Menace was a high note. We came out with smiles, then talked about our favorite parts. It really only focused on 2 pieces…and then the conversation turned to the stuff that didn’t work. There was way more than 2 pieces.

I still went to see Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith in cinemas. The former was confusing and had horrible dialogue, while the latter had some amazing combat sections. The end result was mixed, but a better appreciation for Ewan McGregor. While it should have been Anakin that tied it all together, it really was Obi-Wan.

The major challenge the prequels had was that the universe had been fleshed out something fierce by that time. The sense of mystery and awe just didn’t exist in the same way. We knew how the prequels would end… there were books about it long before the movies. They didn’t talk about pod races, but the larger lines were out. The movies had a fairly high bar to reach before they ever reached our eyes.

There’s plenty written on why the original trilogy worked. Pacing, character building, physicality, R2D2 being a literal deus ex machina, and C3P0 being a stand in for the audience. Editing, photography, writing, and direction are all big ones – things that are much different in the prequels. These highlights are counterpoints to the prequels being so derided.

As bitter as it made me feel, I always knew that the core was solid. It’s Star Wars! It took a while for news to spread but someone had taken a knife to the Phantom Menace and edited it down to something watchable. The Phantom Edit was in nearly every respect, a better film with 18 minutes less content. Jar Jar was nearly removed, the Trade Federation was done with subtitles, midichlorians were removed, and then some precise edits. Just an overall better film! And the one I presented to my own kids. Attack of the Clones had the same treatment but ended up cutting nearly 40 minutes. These fan edits created an entire new sub-genre of film fanatics…there are dozens of fan edits of Star Wars films now.

And yet, the point remains that there was more good in these movies than bad. It was like a puzzle with too many pieces, and set up in the wrong order. When put together in a different way, the image is much clearer. If anything, it truly highlights the value of a great editor (not the person in the credits, but the person making the final calls).

So with Star Wars day last week, and a subscription to Disney+ my family got together and re-watched the prequels. No edits. Plenty of Jar Jar. Horrendous love dialogue. A brooding Anakin. A stellar Obi-Wan. The realization that the Emperor was in 7 of the 9 Star Wars movies (quick cameos in Episode 5 + 8). That Star Wars, for all it’s place of conflict in my mind, is best experienced through the eyes of a child’s wonder with no expectations. There is no extended universe for them. Just some crazy space ninjas with laser swords. And who wouldn’t want to watch that?

Love, Death & Robots Season 2

Not going to hide it, but Heavy Metal was one of my favorite magazines as a kid. Fine, hormones aside, there was no real competition in the comic sci-fi genre… the stories told within those pages were just pure imagination. I watched the movie from the 80s, it’s a decent anthology that culminates in a crazy final story that is worth watching for that alone. There was Heavy Metal 2000 that came out a lot later, but it wasn’t as good.

2 years ago we got Love, Death & Robots, about as close as we’re ever going to get to a Heavy Metal 3. It’s an impressive anthology, with some extremely poignant standouts. There’s no binding storyline, just some great individual stories. Zima Blue is the high watermark, no doubt. I really enjoyed Beyond the Aquila Rift too. Heck, there wasn’t a single entry I disliked, which is saying a lot about any anthology.

And here we are holding out breath for a sequel and sure enough the trailer dropped this weekend. We’re a month out (May 14) from another set of serious binge watching.

(Side note: This is a really good trailer. Compare to something like Shang-Chi and you really see how the intersect of music and editing really pays off.)

WandaVision End of Season

What a strange trip it’s been. Spoilers herein.

The End

I find it best to look at the end and work my way back. And in this, Wanda comes to accept her role as the Scarlet Witch and rather clearly is going to be set up as a nemesis of sorts for Dr Strange in the Multiverse movie. Mr Feige had made this point clear multiple times, though I should say the in-episode link is simply a statement of “more powerful than the Sorcerer Supreme”. There’s no practical cliffhanger in that regard mind you.

Agnes is an expository villain, and the larger battle between her and Wanda is quite well done. In the end she gets stuck in Westport, and I’m pretty sure will come around to actually helping Wanda in the future. Given the material provided, I think this character was the strongest supporting character.

Vision has the oddest of arcs, and thankfully the most reflective of his personality. The mind stone version helps White Vision access his memory banks, and then the latter simply “wakes up”. The conversation that happens prior to this is a philosophical debate as to what it means to be. I enjoyed it, but I would think that this scene will go over many people’s heads. MCU has always had challenges with motivation in any setting, and this is certainly an attempt.

Monica Rambeau pretty much turns into Photon, in all but name. I dunno where that will lead, but certainly a lot to do with Captain Marvel 2.

The Dream

The concept that the entire world was created as a way for Wanda to manage her grief is pretty neat. It takes a long time for her to find any closure, really making a larger and larger set of poor decisions as the series went on. When she finally lets the people leave the town, you can see that she has a longer term plan in mind. And when she sees that her kids and Vision are part of the dream, it’s also quite clear that she makes a call then and there to end it all.

Her goodnights to the kids, understanding that she will never see them again, is underplayed compared to the goodbye to Vision. His final lines about continually saying goodbye only to come back again speaks enough to this particular relationship. I’d have to guess this means a way to get White Vision to “fully come back”, and then the above mentioned multiverse giving access to other versions of her children.

Overall

This is a really neat take on the MCU, with a much more interesting take on character development. It’s really not possible to watch this without having seen Avengers Ultron or Infinity Gauntlet – there’s too much context there that sets this one up.

Olsen and Bettany do an amazing job here, much better than I had honestly expected. I don’t see how there could be a season 2 here, or any way to have this model really apply to any other character. But the idea of vignettes, or shorts (like Thor had) certainly seem like a possibility.

I wouldn’t recommend binging on more than the first 2 episodes. The experience of a week to digest what was presented is part of the process, as there are so many references that it can be hard to keep track. Especially the last 3 episodes. Really well done.

WandaVision Ep 5

Right, spoilers.

  • Episode 1 had a sort of surreal atmosphere and a 30 second or so part where things were really odd.
  • Episode 2 only slightly expanded on this, with some Twilight Zone type things taking place. Enough to show that there was more behind the curtain.
  • Episode 3 really dug into the concept that this was a simulation of sorts, and the end of it just went off the charts.
  • Episode 4 finally put us on the other side of the curtain, brought back some interesting characters, tied into the larger Marvel universe (at least time-wise), and gave a general frame to the what happened before.

Which brings us to episode 5. Framed as a Full House sitcom, it wastes little time to get into the surreal aspects of Wanda’s powers.

Tangent. In the comics, especially House of M, Wanda goes crazy, says “No More Mutants” and that becomes reality. She’s an Omega-level mutant, meaning one of the most powerful beings in existence. What we’ve seen in the movies so far doesn’t even come close to this – so perhaps this is just the start of that development.

Back on track. The episode introduces multiple important pieces.

  • Wanda is clearly suffering from PTSD, which is impacting her ability to make decisions.
  • Wanda’s power is not to warp perception but to change reality. She is re-writing people.
  • Vision is both dead and alive at the same time.
  • SWORD is really being set up as either incompetent or the bad guy. You’d think that there would be lessons learned here from Civil War.
  • The kids are resistant/immune to Wanda’s powers, and likely more powerful than her.
  • I have no idea of the mechanics behind Pietro/Quicksilver

Referencing Billy and Tommy, in the comics they are but vessels for Pandemonium. Which was a closed storyline, yet the loss of her children triggered a pile of major events. Tinfoil hat here – this is a prelude to Doctor Strange 2 and the Multiverse as it introduces things that have nothing to do with Earth. Also why this is SWORD instead of SHIELD, which in the comics the former deals with space-based issues and this has nothing to do with space so far.

I do want to give credit to the series makers in that the sitcom frame is really working as a great reference point from which the actors can launch. I think we’ve all felt that sitcoms in general were “off” and WandaVision really does a good job of exploring that aspects to great effect. Olsen and Bettany do a bang up job on this (all the more amazing as they have no chemistry), but the stand out here has to be Kathryn Hahn.

If you have Disney+, then you really should be keeping track of this show. If not, then consider waiting until end of season and subbing for a month.

WandaVision and D+ Content

My wife bought a year’s worth of Disney+ over the holidays. I am personally not a fan of annual subs for things that I am not actively using – I do have Amazon Prime, Netflix, and Spotify, since I use those nearly every day. D+ is different. We binged on the Mandalorian, watched Soul, some Pirates of the Caribbean movies, and a couple other films. And now we’re scraping the bottom of the barrel in terms of interest (for me). It’s not a lot of money for us, and we’re still miles away from the previous cable costs that we cut 10 years ago, but I guess it’s a principle thing.

D+ certainly has plans for content streaming, no questions. Investment in the Marvel world and a bajillion offshoots to the Star Wars world are on the way. Not tomorrow, or next month though. From a month to month basis, is there content that makes sense to pay a fee? There’s no ‘vault’ content that’s suddenly going to show up here.

I think Disney is aware of this challenge, and why they are taking the non-binge approach to release. Having week to week releases makes sense if you want to maintain engagement (hello Blizz!) and therefore subscriptions. Netflix pumps out insane content in large chunks to keep engagement.

Slight tangent on episodic vs serial content. Episodic is something like Star Trek TNG. You can watch it in pretty much any order and it makes sense. A serial is closer to LOST or GoT, where missing an episode is a problem as it has key pieces for the next one. It works in a positive sense, as it allows you to digest what occurred before the next episode. Which is one reason why I like The Boys more than Umbrella Academy.

Now for WandaVision. The pitch for this series does not do justice to the actual content. It’s weekly and serial, so there’s than concept of engagement or at least digestion between episode. Without spoiling, it’s set up as a spoof of a 50s romcom, like I Love Lucy. Which it does, but with a surreal tone, effectively breaking the 4th wall on a regular basis.

By the third episode it’s moved into the 70s, and we’re in Stranger Things / Twilight Zone territory now. The framing is consistent to the period, but the subject matter is clearly a different thread.

I won’t spoil anything, but state that the challenge with this particular format (30m serial) is that you need a really good hook (or frankly, hooks) to keep interest going. There is but one hook now, as it’s a 2 person show. That low risk approach makes the time space between episodes feel long rather than an opportunity to dig deeper. If it was an hour long, or if there were more story threads then it would be more engaging. Mandalorian is a great example of this, where it was borderline episodic, but had serial elements that you wanted to see through.

WandaVision is good. More than good, as compared to pretty much any 30min piece of entertainment out there. Is it worth paying 2-3 months of D+ until it reaches its end of arc? eh, not really.