“Loki” 2nd Trailer Leans Into The Absurd Side Of Marvel

WandaVision was the gust of fresh air that blew open the doors to the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s untapped reserves of sheer absurdity, and for that I think we will always be thankful. But WandaVision‘s weirdness was very specifically engineered to produce a sense of dread in the viewer, an understanding that something had to be terribly wrong – because worlds like the one Wanda had created for herself couldn’t possibly exist in the (mostly) grounded MCU. Loki, on the other hand, reassures those of us who loved WandaVision that the MCU actually is just…weird. Permanently.

"Loki" 2nd Trailer Leans Into The Absurd Side Of Marvel 1
Loki | polygon.com

I’ve compared the upcoming Loki series’ concept and styling to the works of British fantasy author Terry Pratchett before, and the second trailer (released today quite out of the blue: classic God of Mischief move) only makes that comparison more apt – as well as making a convincing argument for everyone involved in the production of this series going on to develop an adaptation of any one of Pratchett’s novels after this is done. There’s also shades of Dr. Who, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, and Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy – basically, every zany, high-concept, British sci-fi/fantasy ever made rolled up into one.

The new trailer for Loki treats us to one deliciously abstract visual after another, beginning with a charming elevator noise as a magical glowing door appears in the wall of what looks like a horrendously ugly 1980’s subway-station with brown, orange, and mustard-yellow tiling; soon revealing a man in a German stahlhelm, holding the Tesseract in one hand, and gripping the Norse deity’s arm with the other. I mean, seriously, just read that sentence and tell me it doesn’t sound like the opening to a Dirk Gently mystery.

The atrocious color palette is echoed throughout all the lobbies, waiting rooms, offices, and elevators of the Time Variance Authority, or TVA for short, in whose headquarters Loki has unwillingly ended up. As in the Marvel Comics, it appears the TVA work from behind-the-scenes to monitor the flow of time, making sure everything runs like clockwork and working to ensure that alternate timelines are cut off before they in turn sprout innumerable other timelines – each an entire universe of possibilities. Like Wanda walking out onto the empty soundstage of her life and finding stage-lights and auditorium seating, we’re seeing for the first time the nuts and bolts of the MCU.

From their seemingly infinite office space (which I’m fairly certain is tucked away in its own dimension, not limited by the confines of our earth), the TVA dispatches heavily-armed soldiers (including one prominently played by Lovecraft Country‘s Wunmi Mosaku) across the Multiverse to locate anyone caught moving across timelines, and drag them back for trial…where they will presumably face Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Judge Renslayer. This character’s first name hasn’t been revealed, but don’t be surprised if it turns out to be Ravonna, since Princess Ravonna Renslayer is a notable comics character who shares a long romantic history with Kang the Conqueror, a time-traveling Marvel villain who’s already been confirmed to appear in Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania, played by Jonathan Majors of Da 5 Bloods and Lovecraft Country.

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Judge Renslayer | marvel.com

The TVA’s agenda is still not entirely clear, so it’s possible – I’d say probable – that they have an ulterior motive for keeping Loki alive and enlisting him into their army of timeline-hunters, beyond just needing his “unique Loki perspective”, as Owen Wilson’s Mobius puts it. They, or at least some of their top agents like Renslayer, might be working with Kang to conquer all the timelines simultaneously, and Loki’s knack for causing mischief might work in their favor. Kang could even be the hooded figure we see battling TVA hunters in the agency’s hallways and utilizing their glowing portal technology – though, with alternate universes in play here, that could just as well be Lady Loki, or Old Loki, or another of the God’s many variants.

But while that mystery is sure to be compelling, the thing that has me most excited for the series is the thought of traveling back in time through the history of our earth, and of all the Nine Realms yet to be explored – and all the versions of them that exist throughout the Multiverse. Loki has already been seen playing the part of notorious real-life hijacker D.B. Cooper in the 1970’s, but now we get a clearer glimpse of other locations he’ll travel to, including a Medieval festival (where we later see a TVA hunter wielding a jousting lance); a Roman street that’s probably in Pompeii based on the wall of ash and smoke bearing down on the grinning God; a Roxxcart supermarket; a ruined New York City; an otherworldly mining facility; and two diametrically-opposed castles, one bathed in golden light and the other dark, laced with cracks as if made of glass.

Another awesome reveal is the return of Loki’s magic powers, an aspect of his character that’s been sidelined in his last few movie appearances in favor of his twin daggers. Those beautiful weapons still show up in the trailer, but it’s nice to see him wielding magical green energy-blasts as well, particularly given how badly the Russo Brothers used him in Infinity War; not even allowing him to pull a signature magic-trick on Thanos before having his neck broken. It’s still one of the most embarrassing character betrayals in the MCU, if you ask me.

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The God Of Mischief | nme.com

But the crucial difference is that this Loki is Avengers-era Loki, at the height of his game, riding a massive confidence boost from escaping the Avengers on Earth, and still significantly more villainous than heroic. And the writers have clearly gotten into the character’s headspace from that period, because the chaotic mess of Shakespearean angst that we all fell in love with is finally back, and I can’t wait to see where (and when) his story goes from here.

Trailer Rating: 8.5/10

“Zatanna” Is Finally Coming To The DCEU!

It’s been a good year for Emerald Fennell. Coming off two Emmy Award nominations for her work as head writer on Killing Eve‘s second season, the multitalented British actress has skyrocketed to fame thanks to a major role in Netflix’s The Crown, followed by her feature film directorial debut with Promising Young Woman; a revenge thriller seeped in social commentary that has sparked heated discourse while scooping up nominations and wins at every prestigious awards ceremony – including five Oscar noms, three for Fennell herself. She probably doesn’t stand a chance against the awards-season juggernaut that is Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland, but either way, she and Zhao will be fine – they’re both now attached to major superhero franchises.

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Zatanna | comicbook.com

Fennell, it is reported, will write the script for a Zatanna solo film set in the DC Extended Universe and produced by J.J. Abrams as part of his overall deal with Warner Brothers to specifically help bring characters from DC Comics’ Justice League Dark roster to the big screen. Currently, Fennell is only set to write the film, not direct, but hopefully she’s given enough creative freedom and input to leave her distinctive stamp on the final product: if anyone can give Zatanna the adaptation she deserves, it’s Fennell. Promising Young Woman has all the eccentric flair, dark humor, and gloriously campy production design I’d hope to see from a film centering DC’s best magical character.

Zatanna Zatara is a classic stage magician and illusionist, whose character builds on every antiquated trope associated with the business: from the magic wand, to the flowing cape, tarot cards, and top hat (which, in Zatanna’s case, doubles as a gateway to other dimensions). Descended from sorcerers and alchemists dating as far back as Nostradamus, Leonardo da Vinci, and Nicholas Flamel, Zatanna belongs to the race of Homo Magi, who possess the innate ability to cast spells by speaking backwards (and are therefore susceptible to throat injuries). But while Zatanna’s magic makes her one of DC’s most powerful beings, theoretically capable of overpowering Superman, she’s at her best while working alongside gritty characters.

Zatanna
Justice League Dark | denofgeek.com

Batman and Catwoman are frequent allies/opponents of hers, a result of living just outside Gotham in a magically-guarded mansion named Shadowcrest, but Zatanna’s strongest allegiance is to the team of sorcerers known as Justice League Dark. Formed by Madame Xanadu to guard earth from supernatural threats, the team goes through many iterations, with Wonder Woman even leading it at one point – while possessed by the fragmented spirit of Hecate, the Greek goddess of witchcraft. Zatanna has an on-and-off relationship with her teammate, John Constantine (who is in the process of being cast for an HBO Max series following the occult detective’s own adventures).

With witches all the rage right now, it makes sense to finally elevate Zatanna to big-screen status, after having previously only appeared in live-action once on the CW. There is currently no actress attached to star in the lead role, although the internet is abuzz with fan-casting. My personal suggestions are British-Indian actress Anya Chalotra, who flawlessly portrayed the sorceress Yennefer in The Witcher‘s first season, and Pakistani-Indian actress Jameela Jamil – who’s already a member of the DC family thanks to a small role in the Harley Quinn animated series. If the film is more serious in tone, Chalotra’s quiet intensity would be a good fit for the role – but Jamil would nail a more irreverent, humorous interpretation.

As a third choice and a bit of a curveball, I’ll also throw Lady Gaga’s name into the mix, because she’s an Oscar-nominated actress who shares the character’s Italian heritage from the comics, and would certainly bring the campiness I want, as well as the kind of star power that could make this a true event film for general audiences. It feels a bit too much like stunt-casting, to be honest, but I’d be open to the idea.

Zatanna
Anya Chalotra | express.co.uk

So what do you think? Who are your top fan-casts for the role of Zatanna, and how do you want to see the character brought to life? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

“WandaVision” Episodes 1 & 2 Review! SPOILERS!

SPOILERS AHEAD FOR WANDAVISION!

A year’s worth of quarantines and COVID-19 delays has changed us all, Marvel Studios’ classic formula and release date calendar included. Thus, WandaVision, originally slated to follow two more traditional Marvel installments (Black Widow and The Falcon And The Winter Soldier) onto the scene, is now kickstarting the MCU’s fourth phase of movies and Disney+ streaming series’. It’s a bold and potentially risky move: WandaVision is the kind of experimental property that Disney was probably afraid to lead with, due to its, shall we say, zanier qualities.

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Vision and Wanda Maximoff | marvel.com

But as the MCU expands across multiple new mediums and genres, WandaVision probably offers the most authentic taste of what’s to come in the near future. Refreshingly unpredictable, quirky, and a bit more mature in tone than what we’ve come to expect from Marvel, the series’ first two episodes released this morning offer up a complex yet intoxicating concoction – blending the charm of retro black-and-white sitcoms with a dash of chilling psychological horror. Ironically, the only ingredient absent from the recipe is superheroes – and I’m okay with that.

With no Avengers running amuck, and with both Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) trying to hide their supernatural origins from their neighbors, WandaVision‘s quaint suburban utopia is perfectly normal in every way, at least at first: and only hints of the larger cinematic universe are able to bleed through, mostly via brief, jarring, infomercial segments that interrupt each episode about halfway through, advertising some bizarre product with a hidden MCU connection – a Stark Industries toaster, which refers back to Wanda’s own complicated history with Tony Stark, and to Vision’s famous comics nickname; and a classy Swiss wristwatch named for Wanda’s old handler, Baron Von Strucker, and bearing a small, sinister, HYDRA logo.

But for the most part, we’re simply following Wanda and Vision’s day-to-day misadventures in the picturesque town of Westview, as if we were being dropped randomly into the middle of actual sitcoms. The first two episodes span two decades of television history – the first set in the 50’s, with a familiar aesthetic borrowed from The Dick Van Dyke Show and I Love Lucy, and the second in the 60’s, with cute nods to Bewitched: including a near-identical animated opening sequence and some suspiciously witchy behavior. Each episode comes with a new theme song written by Frozen songwriting duo Kristen-Anderson Lopez and Robert Lopez, but the cast of characters remains the same, their ages and appearances largely unchanged even as they advance rapidly through time.

Elizabeth Olsen is at the top of her game, bringing out the best version of Wanda Maximoff yet with the help of extremely well-written dialogue and witty jokes that land well more often than not (the live audience laughter is give-or-take, though it works with the setting). Olsen has great comedic timing, and, crucially, all the charisma and earnestness of the real-life sitcom heroines from this era. She finds opportune moments to subtly channel the sophistication of The Dick Van Dyke Show‘s Mary Tyler Moore, the casual confidence of Bewitched‘s Elizabeth Montgomery, and the unbridled campiness of I Dream Of Jeannie‘s Barbara Eden, depending on what any given scene requires – but her performance is entirely her own, and never crosses the line into parody. Paul Bettany, meanwhile, lends a surprising amount of physical comedy and slapstick humor to the series, as well as his character’s signature brand of sardonic wit. Combined, the duo are more compelling and more naturally romantic (I’d even go so far as to say “adorable”) than we’ve ever seen them to date. With the series jumping into the 50’s setting right off the bat and providing no explanation for why or how two characters last seen in the modern world (one of whom even died – twice) are now living in an oldschool sitcom, Olsen and Bettany’s relatable performances act as necessary anchors for the audience – the couple seem just as unsure and unsettled as we all are, but do their best to ease into Westview’s flow without making a stir because (a) they don’t really have an alternative, and (b) who wouldn’t do the same, placed in a similar situation?

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WandaVision | vox.com

Of course, their actions lead to some hilarious hijinks (a particularly funny one involving a mix-up with a wedding anniversary that neither Wanda nor Vision can remember, because, well, they haven’t actually gotten married yet), but the couple seem to be doing pretty well playing catch-up on everything they’ve missed, while making new friends in town.

In fact, one could argue the neighbors are a little too friendly, and too quick to forgive and forget any of the couple’s oddities in pursuit of some ulterior agenda. Agnes (Kathryn Hahn), Wanda’s next-door neighbor on the right (“my right!,” Agnes unhelpfully elucidates), pops by periodically to check in on Wanda or help her out of a predicament with a well-timed pineapple. In episode two, Agnes also provides Wanda access to the town’s high society cliques, including the event planning committee headed by a woman named Dottie (Emma Caulfield), who goes from hating Wanda’s guts to endlessly praising her. Eventually it becomes creepily clear what prompts this change of heart: Dottie’s motto, which she and her friends recite in a reverent chant, is “For The Children”; a simple message that glosses right over the fact that Westview has few, if any, junior members at all – until Wanda herself suddenly becomes pregnant near the end of episode two.

If you’re familiar with the comics, you’ll know that Wanda’s twins, whom I expect will arrive at some point in episode three, are of great interest to multiple dark powers lurking in the Marvel universe – including the evil sorceress Agatha Harkness, and the devil himself, who typically goes by the name Mephisto. Many fans have already caught onto the fact that Agnes is probably Agatha Harkness in some form or another, but Mephisto is probably already in Westview too. Agnes seems to confirm this in episode two, after Dottie remarks that “the devil’s in the details”, when she whispers to Wanda in an aside that he’s in other places too. Mephisto hasn’t shown up physically yet, at least not that we’re aware: he could be the salesman in the aforemtentioned informercial segments, whose products are all fragments of Wanda’s traumatic memories, and who is accompanied by a tall woman who might be another version of Agatha too. Or he might be Agnes’ mysterious husband, “Ralph”, whom she mentions in passing so many times he has to be significant. Even Agnes’ pet rabbit, Señor Scratchy, has a Mephisto connection: Scratch is a term often applied to the Christian devil, and Nicholas Scratch is the name of Agatha Harkness’ son, an ally of Mephisto.

There’s a distinctly creepy undercurrent to WandaVision – quite literally, as episode two’s cliffhanger reveals that anonymous characters from the outside world have been moving underneath Westview via the sewers, dressed in bee-keeping uniforms for some unbeknownst reason. There are loud noises in the night, a strange voice cuts through radio static to loudly address Wanda by name, and a colorized toy helicopter shows up in Wanda’s black-and-white rosebush. The show’s visual iconography feels straight out of an arthouse horror picture: a crimson splash of blood on Dottie’s hand, constantly flickering TV screens, Mrs. Hart (Debra Jo Rupp) laughing while her husband chokes to death on the floor. The implication is that WandaVision sometimes glitches – but whether that’s because of someone inside manipulating Wanda, or someone outside trying to exert control, or Wanda herself losing control over what she’s created, is unclear.

Certainly it looks like agents from S.W.O.R.D. are trying to break through to her from outside, and that Wanda is unintentionally absorbing them into her world, rebooting them with new identities and forms – in much the same way that, while dreaming, you might still be able to hear noises in the real world, but your brain contextualizes them within the dream’s internal logic. For instance, we the audience know that Teyonah Parris’ character is not who she says she is to Wanda, a cheerful young debutante named “Geraldine”, but is in fact a S.W.O.R.D. agent named Monica Rambeau (whom you may remember from Captain Marvel). But Wanda doesn’t know that, and Monica doesn’t seem to know either – she’s been so deeply absorbed into the fabric of Wanda’s reality that she’s forgotten her own.

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Geraldine and Wanda | elitedaily.com

It’s easy to see why. WandaVision masterfully recreates the world of classic sitcoms, employing practical effects and only the most rudimentary digital effects to convey Wanda’s chaos magic. From the shifting aspect ratio to the cinematography, to the hard work of the hairstyling and costume departments, to the period-accurate slang and mannerisms (for example: Wanda and Vision begrudgingly respect the constraints of unseen network censors until the 60’s, when Wanda converts their two beds into one), everything in this faux reality feels perfectly authentic, and detailed enough that I can’t wait to rewatch it again and again. My only major complaint is that I fear we won’t spend enough time in any decade to feel truly settled in one – though I rather suspect that’s the point, since Wanda and Vision are facing the same struggle: not being able to fit in no matter the era and changing social norms, and despite their best efforts to disguise their differences.

In episode one, Vision promises Wanda that their star-crossed romance will finally have a happy ending in Westview…but, well, considering that he’s actually dead and she’s about to lose everything again, we’ll see how long that lasts.

Episode Rating: 9.5/10

“WandaVision” 2nd Trailer!

The annual Disney Investors Call this year turned out to be a far more spectacular event than anyone could have guessed, with creatives from all of the studio’s many divisions (including Lucasfilm, National Geographic, Disney Animation, Pixar, and Marvel) revealing new information about upcoming films, TV series, and Disney+ originals. The deluge of teasers, trailers, and reveals will take a while for me to work through – so let’s start with something sweet and simple: a new trailer for Marvel’s swiftly-approaching superhero sitcom, WandaVision, which many of us thought would drop earlier in the day that it did. Either way, we got it, and I’m glad we did.

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Wanda Maximoff and Vision | gamesradar.com

The first trailer for WandaVision, which dropped a few months back, quickly broke records and proved that Marvel fans are ready and willing to jump back into the MCU. WandaVision, however, appeals to audiences from all different backgrounds, with a retro aesthetic and zany comedy that are sure to be a hit with fans of classic sitcoms like I Love Lucy, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Bewitched, and The Brady Bunch, or more recent ones like Modern Family, which is also said to be an inspiration for the six-part Marvel series.

This new trailer is a cleverly edited blend of both the sitcom mayhem and the superhero action – plus the touch of psychological horror that I find most fascinating about WandaVision‘s premise. Once again, we see Wanda Maximoff and Vision using Maximoff’s reality-bending superpowers to live out their dream life, with a nice house in the suburbs, twin babies, and suspiciously friendly neighbors. Wanda is able to change the time period at will, and the trailer gives us a better look at the various decades of television history we’ll see replicated in extraordinary detail throughout the show, while the aspect ratio changes accordingly. For instance: notice how Wanda’s magic is achieved with practical effects for scenes set in the 1950’s and 60’s, while actual CGI is used more and more only as the series progresses into the future. The scenes in the 70’s (where Paul Bettany’s Vision sports an appropriately atrocious blond hairdo) seem to have matte painting backgrounds, which is another cool little nod to old filmmaking tricks. In the background, a slowed-down, psychedelic version of “Daydream Believer” by the Monkees plays.

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WandaVision | theplaylist.net

But something dark lurks beneath the cheery façade Wanda has designed for herself, as we can see when scenes and characters start glitching. Teyonah Parris, who plays superheroine Monica Rambeau, shows up at Wanda’s door with a knowing smile – but then doesn’t seem to know who she is, or why she’s there. Eerie voices cut through normal radio broadcasts, and a creepy-looking figure in a hazmat suit appears suddenly in the darkness. Even Wanda’s neighbor Agnes (whom we’ve believed for a long time is actually the evil witch Agatha Harkness from the comics) looks a bit freaked out. Meanwhile, in the real world, a team of S.W.O.R.D. agents led by Jimmy Woo and Darcy Lewis try to break through to Wanda, bringing in armored vehicles, military helicopters, and entire squadrons of army troopers to deal with a massive, flickering red wall of light – which I believe is enclosing Wanda in the pocket-reality where she’s crafted her suburban utopia.

We also get a new tease of how Wanda was able to resurrect Vision, who died in Avengers: Infinity War after having the Mind Stone – his power source, and supposedly the source of Wanda’s own magic – ripped out of his head by Thanos. In this new trailer, Wanda can briefly be seen interacting with the Mind Stone, before an explosion knocks the wind out of her. Since the Mind Stone was destroyed offscreen by Thanos in Avengers: Endgame to prevent anyone from ever being tempted to use its power again, there can be only one explanation: Wanda is strong enough to recreate the Infinity Stones. And even though I don’t expect her to bring back the entire set, one is enough to accomplish what she wants – and probably enough to attract the attention of any number of Marvel villains who might want to exploit her rare skill.

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WandaVision | cbr.com

Whether that’s the case or not, Wanda isn’t going to let herself be exploited so easily – which I like, because I’ve always been worried that WandaVision could repeat a long-since trope of depowering strong female characters by having them go mad, usually because they’re “too emotional” to handle the weight and responsibility of their own strength. But what we can see from Wanda is that she’s ready to fight to defend her home and her loved ones, and there’s an awesome shot of her taking flight into battle, buoyed by her characteristic fireballs of red energy – while the final sting shows her and Vision taking each other’s hand and getting ready to face some unseen enemy. Hopefully she has plenty more opportunities to show off her capability and competence, as this trailer promises.

Trailer Rating: 8/10