everything everywhere

Via Wikimedia Commons

It can begin to feel like there are endless movies from endless universes about all the endless possibilities. “Spider-Man: No Way Home” has unexpected matches made in Marvel heaven and “Space Jam: A New Legacy” had a whole catalog of Warner Brothers Easter eggs to pelt itself with. 

But unlike any of these intellectual property-driven multiverse films, directing duo Daniels’ new film “Everything Everywhere All at Once” has zero source material and thus, an infinite potential for the unexpected. 

The premise of this film is pretty different from ever-popular Marvel entries into the emerging multiverse genre. There are infinite versions of Evelyn Wang, played by Michelle Yeoh, and through doing increasingly weird acts, she can harness the powers of those other Evelyns to defeat the ultimate villain. 

The film ends up following the other Evelyns as well and showing how she could have become any of them. There’s also a definite philosophical aspect, slowly ruminating on the meaning of our lives and how we spend them and just how much those things matter. This existential contemplation becomes the strongest part of the film, anchored by all other delightfully bizarre choices by the filmmakers. 

Yeoh and Stephanie Hsu star as distant mother and daughter Evelyn and Joy. Yeoh is fantastic, showing off her action skills learned from her career as a prolific Hong Kong action star as well as her subtle acting prowess. 

Hsu, in short, is a star in the making. Hsu has had small roles in “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” but nothing quite like this role, and she delivers. This role requires a lot of Hsu, and she is able to pull off that and more. 

The most interesting cast member, however, is Ke Huy Quan. Quan might be more recognizable as his stage name Jonathan Ke Quan as Data from “The Goonies” and Short Round in “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” both big roles for a child actor, but was pushed into obscurity afterwards. 

“Everything Everywhere All at Once” is Quan’s big return to screen and ended up being one of the best parts of the film. I was worried Quan would be a one-sided character and just a fun person to have grown up and on screen again, but he proves he is so much more than his childhood screen time.

What some current multiverse movies lack is the actual value of filmmaking; even when exploring a universe completely unlike their own, settings in these other multiverses look the same. Directors of these films have little variation in their techniques even in the most opportune of scenarios. 

“Everything Everywhere All at Once,” in contrast, is eclectic in every sense and every craft of the film. Directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert use an incredible variety of filmic techniques, including animation, imitations of auteur directors and practical and special effects alike. Tones vary throughout as well, from crudely comedic to soft and tender. They utilize ever-changing aspect ratios, interesting cinematography and editing techniques I’ve never seen before. 

The elements to take the greatest notes on are the costuming and editing. Because this film takes place in a cosmic number of universes, there’s a completely different look to each universe explored, including and especially the costumes.

The editing between these universes is additionally masterful and creates a very clear sense of unity in what could be an incredibly messy film. There are also clear delineations between each universe; because of the directors’ visual techniques, it’s hard to get lost in the time and space of it all. 

Recent multiverse movies, in my opinion, have leaned towards the camp of “I understood that reference” being thought by the audience throughout, and therefore the audience must have liked the movie because they “got it.” This isn’t a true error of these films; a lot of Marvel movie fans enjoy them for their self-referentialism, but for me, it gets tiring. 

Although there are cues to other movies, that sentiment isn’t the basis of the movie. “Everything Everywhere All at Once” is based on the meaning and meaninglessness of life, not hundreds of comic books. With this basis Daniels break a long line of soulless multiverses built on castles of intellectual property and instead make infinite possibilities unexpected, stylish and eccentric.

“Everything Everywhere All at Once” releases in theaters everywhere on March 25, 2022.