Hot on the heels of Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse & No Way Home yet before Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness & oft delayed The Flash, Michelle Yeoh stars in her own multiversal movie! I did not expect this concept to be the basis for so many blockbusters. I guess we have Blind Chance, Sliding Doors, Run Lola Run, & The One to thank for all this. It’s madness hers didn’t kick off with a wide release. The Wages Of Cinema will fill you in on SPOILERS for Everything Everywhere All At Once! As its title promises, there’s so much going on here that even we can’t cover them all in a reasonably sized podcast & blog combo. I doubt these can ruin the experience of actually observing this masterpiece, but you may want to do that first just to be on the safe side. You can look at my repainted Scare Glow while you’re waiting for it to open near you. Reject Morbius mania & embrace Everything Everywhere All At Once!
This vaguely titled film (I’m going to abbreviate it to EEAAO.) is written & directed by the confusingly named Daniels duo. It lets Michelle Yeoh flex her literal & figurative muscles more than her glorified cameo in Shang-Chi & The Legend Of The Ten Rings. It seems like most Yeoh movies either prioritize her martial arts or acting chops. EEAAO is a showcase that she can do both simultaneously & bilingually! Although she’s not playing herself, The Multiverse Of Michelle Yeoh would’ve been a snappier title.
The regal Yeoh pays against type as Evelyn Wang, the flawed & seemingly unremarkable protagonist. Because she hasn’t had much success with her avocations, Evelyn is myopic about her struggling laundromat. She takes her more emotionally open husband, Waymond, for granted. Evelyn alienates Joy, her metaphor-named daughter, through casual homophobia. Her inability to connect with her family stems from her relationship with her own disapproving father, Gong Gong (played by the great James Hong to rhyme). Evelyn is also terrible at taxes. Unlike her husband, she doesn’t attempt to win over Deirdre Beaubeirdra (Jamie Lee Curtis), the IRS auditor threatening her family’s livelihood. Although she’s an anti-heroine, Evelyn’s not that villainous that her redemption arc feels unearned.
This marks the return of Ke Huy Quan to acting after thirty-five years! His portrayal of Waymond Wang makes me wonder what performances this universe was robbed of while he’d been squeezed out by racist casting. Waymond gracefully shifts between comic relief, exposition machine, action badass, & soulful heartthrob. This neglected husband serves his wife with divorce papers as a last ditch gambit to save the marriage. His penchant for googly eyes is key to saving everything (including Raccooncoonie). He single-handedly redeems the public image of fanny packs.
Waymond from the Alphaverse, where her variant invented dimension jumping, warns this Evelyn that the many-verses are in peril from Jobu Tupaki. The identity of Jobu Tupaki is Alphaverse’s Joy Wang (Stephanie Hsu). Her late mother experimented upon her to unlock her full jumping potential & succeeded too well. Not only can Jobu Tupaki instantly jump to any Joy making her nigh-omniscient, she can also warp reality. She decides that if everything is already happening in a universe of infinite possibilities then choice is meaningless even for the nigh-omnipotent. Thankfully that doesn’t stop her from slaying a series of audacious outfits as she slays. She’s not a villain because she’s gay, but that is why Jobu Tupaki is a fashion icon. (In contrast, Evelyn’s Joy with less self-esteem is outfitted more nondescript.)
It’s a fully self-contained movie spanning multiple dimensions featuring their own emotional throughlines. This is a masterclass in concise storytelling. While it includes a standard “What if ... the long-term marriage never happened?” altverse, it wisely draws upon zanier hypotheticals too. The most existententially moving world features a dialogue between rocks on a lifeless Earth. These wacky scenarios reinforce the relatable family drama rather than undercutting it.
By doing awkward & often physically painful things to themselves, characters can jump between realities to swap minds with skilled counterparts similar to Sense8. This universe’s Evelyn Wang has the greatest potential to embrace this ability because she’s failed at everything. When Evelyn returns from a jump where she was basically Michelle Yeoh & tells Waymond her life without him was amazing, it’s a heatbreaking gut punch.
Deviating from modern action movies, the dual Daniels made the fight scenes comprehensible. Assorted skills are creatively deployed like applying sign spinning to a riot shield. I already believed Yeoh could defeat anyone with her pinkies without a training montage, but that was fun to see. Who expected nudity pixelation would come into play? The surrealism stakes are raised to Legion levels when Evelyn gains powers equivalent to her alternate daughter. More importantly, even the non-fight scenes are fluid & visually engaging.
To access martial arts to counter a wrestler Deidre, Alphaverse Waymond tells Evelyn she must honestly tell the ogreish auditor that she loves her. While this condition seems improbable, we later see a universe where Evelyn & Deidre are a couple. (This isn’t one where she’s a kung fu guru, so the triggers aren’t directly linked.) This also sets up the two becoming friends in the main universe by the conclusion. It’s such a subtle plant & payoff.
Unlike the DC’s & Marvel’s multiversal offerings, you don’t need any prior familiarity with a franchise juggernaut to appreciate this. The merchandising tie-ins of The LEGO Movie are absent as well. It does have some references to 2001, Ratatouille, Kill Bill, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, The Matrix, & In The Mood For Love. If you haven’t seen those, it gets even more surreal.
If you’re a fan of comics & cartoons, you’ll find some parallels. Jobu Tupaki is positioned as an omniversal menace like The Anti-Monitor, but she thankfully gets more personality. Her conflict with her mom is reminiscent of Proteus vs. Moira MacTaggart. Her cosmic nihilism is essentially the same ethos as Owlman (Crisis On Two Earths edition) & God-Lyn.
Jobu Tupaki creates a literally Everything Bagel that acts like a black hole. Having grown disillusioned with existence, she plans to destroy herself & all Joys by leaping into it with either her mother joining in or watching. Enlightened Evelyn strives to stop her daughter’s suicide to the chagrin of both Jobu Tupaki & the Alphaverse jumpers summoned against her. Googly eyes improve anything! They’re the antithesis of The Everything Bagel. While it’s made of suicidal depression, they represent whimsical empathy. The climax has Evelyn combat minions by balletically healing their inner wounds rather hurting them.
This a mundane family drama extrapolated into an extradimensional crisis. Much like Encanto & Turning Red, the villain was intergenerational trauma all along! Evelyn saves the day by realizing she has to change to comfort her fractured family. Beyond all her counterparts’ specializations, she learns that love is her true power. Her multiversal omniscience prevents this epiphany from being a rushed cop-out. Rather than defeating Jobu Tupaki with violence, she overcomes her with unconditional acceptance. She repairs her strained relationships with Waymond & Gong Gong by abandoning harmful misconceptions. She even manages to save her business from the IRS by sharing vulnerabilities with Deidre.
EEAO isn’t necessarily novel, but it whips up its ingredients into a creative cocktail. It deftly juggles multiple films’ worth of content with panache. The runtime is definitely earned. It’s a gonzo extravaganza that wraps up with a cathartic bow that will appeal to Doom Patrol fans. (I’m not sure why my season three review suddenly took off in March but thank you!) Now that I’ve witnessed it, Dr. Strange & Flash are going to need to work thrice as hard to justify their multiverse movies.
Give Everything Everywhere All At Once all the awards! I didn’t give Titane or The Green Knight full reviews, & they got completely shut out of the Oscars. Hopefully this review will at least net EEAAO some nominations (not that this strategy worked for The Suicide Squad). Regardless of trophies, you owe it to yourself to check this film out to live in the best of all possible worlds.
“We want Morbius!”
“We have Morbius at home!”
<Puts on “The Brain Of Morbius” DVD & there is much rejoicing.>
I chose not to be part of the problem & skip Morbius. I don’t dislike Morbius The Living Vampire per se (He’s no Man-Bat, though.), just Jared Leto in starring roles & Sony trying to make its Spider-Man Minus Spidey cinematic universe take off. (I guess Rocket Racer V. Big Wheel: Dawn Of Transportation is a movie that could happen.) After being pandemic postponed repeatedly, it was finally foisted upon the world as an expensive April Fool’s Day gag. Others have assured me it’s forgettably bad aside from Matt Smith. Apparently it also tries to do some multiversing in the stinger except ineptly. It’s already sucking the box office competition dry, but I implore you not to give into the impatient desperation of Morbius mania. If you can only pick one to see in the cinema, let Morbius go to streaming & wait for EEAAO to open wider.