An Intellectual Property-Free Multiverse
A review of 'Everything Everywhere All at Once.'
Everything Everywhere All at Once was only just released in the U.S. two weeks ago, and even with the majority of the year to go it’s already guaranteed a slot on every top 10 list from every film critic in the nation. It’s just that good. It’s trippy, it’s mind-boggling, it’s a take on the multiverse that makes the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s current attempt to bring the concept to the big screen look boring.
The basic premise: Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh) finds the monotony of her life upended when an alternate version of her husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan) contacts her to warn her that a multiversal threat is tearing through timelines, and she may be the only one who can stop it because her unique life of rejection and failed dreams has her well-situated to access other, more successful versions of herself in the multiverse. Stunning visuals, brilliantly choreographed fight scenes, and an unexpected number of laughs ensue.
I don’t want to get into any more detail than that. To do so would be to ruin a movie that I was expecting to be good and was still taken aback by. Yeoh shines as a frustrated, middle-aged Evelyn who is suddenly given another chance to live out every dream she’s ever had. Her chemistry with Stephanie Hsu, who plays her daughter Joy, and Quan is incredible to watch; her family forms the heart and much of the comedy of the film. Hsu’s dual role as Joy and as the antagonist is at once amusing and menacing, and it’s a delight to see Quan—who you might recognize as Indiana Jones’ kid sidekick Short Round or Data from The Goonies—return to cinema after retiring from acting 20 years ago.
The trio—plus Jamie Lee Curtis as IRS inspector Deirdre Beaubeirdra and a whole host of other strong supporting characters—engage in some of the best fight scenes Hollywood has made since the first Matrix movie. They’re innovative and clever and they feel real in a way that so many movie fights don’t these days. If CGI was used, it isn’t apparent.
Between fights, the characters bicker and talk about things all families do. Intergenerational strife causes the Wang family to contemplate not just their family discord, but deeper questions too. Everything Everywhere All at Once is part family drama, part fish out of water comedy, part sci-fi thriller, part metaphysical thinker, and part a million other things. In other words, it lives up to its title. This is the most creative movie Hollywood has churned out in a long time, just as funny—if not funnier—than anything Marvel and Disney puts out without the intellectual property studios have come to believe is necessary for films to succeed, and infinitely more interesting and beautiful to watch.
When people complain that so much of what Hollywood makes these days are just sequels and reboots and remakes, Everything Everywhere All at Once is the type of movie they’re wishing would get made more. Go see it. Reward originality.