We’re in the multiverse timeline. The timeline where the concept of alternate universes intertwining and interacting has taken hold of screenwriters everywhere. And it’s a neat idea. Marvel have mainly been at the helm with Spiderman and Doctor Strange going on whacky adventures to meet bizzare foes and, while I think the multiverse aspects of those Marvel films is fun, I don’t think the rest if what happens allow them to reach maximum potential.
A multiverse film that I feel does reach it’s maximum potential, however, is Everything Everywhere All At Once – a film I feel guilty about not seeing sooner because of just how much I enjoyed it.
The film follows Evelyn, Waymond and Joy Wang, a Chinese family who moved the the US. Evelyn is busy and emotionally absent to her family, Waymond is very emotional, feeling neglected and wanting a divorce, and Joy just isn’t getting what she, as a child, needs from her mother. When an alternate version of Joy comes accross the multiverse to hunt down Evelyn, she finds herself learning to harness superpowers under the protection of her alternate husband. It’s whacky, bizzare and touching all at once.
It’s also incredibly existential which, as I’ve noted on many occasions, is something I love. But most of all I love that the existentialism isn’t limited only to the infinite smallness one feels in a massive multiverse, but how it’s most prevelant in Evelyn’s inability to exert control over her life because of how emotionally detached she’s become. So yeah, for a film with such grand stakes it’s very character driven, with all of the lessons learned and solutions to problems coming not from science fiction mcguffins, but from lessons Evelyn learns from speaking with all the alternate versions of her family, and experiencing how her life could have gone if she had made different choices.
She learns to love her husband again not because she sees the badass he could have been, but for the goofy traits her version of him displays in moments of conflict. She learns to be there correctly for her daughter not by listening to her evil daughter tell her what a bad mom she is, but by evaluating how her own selfishness has stopped her from being a decent mom.
Things that you think are going to be throw away jokes or one off comedic scenes turn into emotional highs and lows for the story, somehow, very successfully. And this happens in a way that is surprising but without giving you tonal whiplash. They seem to know how far to push things, and get away with quite a bit – there’s a reason I’ve seen people discover this film after a meme of people being emotionally attached to Evelyn and Jamie Lee Curtis falling in love while having hot dog fingers is a thing.
On top of all this you’ve got insane action where characters tap into the skills possessed by alternate versions of themselves to get the upperhand on one and other. In one scene Evelyn out matches martial artists fighters by tapping into the world where she twirls a sign on a street corner, and uses that skill to protect herself from all sides wkth a riot shield. It’s not just good action that feels impactful, it’s really fun and creative.
My only issue is that it does go on a tad too long. Towards the end I thought “I get it, you don’t have to keep hammering it home…” It wasn’t like the film was spoon feeding me the message, so much as it was repeating it a needless amount of times. All that to say a good 15 minutes or so could have been cut from the finale and the film would probably be better in my opinion.
So, would I recommend Everything Everywhere All At Once? Absolutely. There’s just so much fun and comedic moments here mixed in woth touching emotional ones and great action. None of it feels as though it conflicts with anything else and I found myself unable to get the movie put of my mind when it was done. It’s the best take on a multiverse that I’ve seen in a movie so far, setting the bar higher for those aspirational blockbusters.