Everything Everywhere All At Once: Just being the best
Everything Everywhere All at Once is the best movie I’ve seen all year and when the Best Picture Oscar goes to All For the Love of the Belforan Mews or How to Weep: The Weepy-Weep Way or whatever joyless festival darling wins, I will be… I want to say disappointed, but that’s not accurate… the Academy’s habit of deciding cinematic bummers are just more artistic than the absolute joy that was The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent then wondering why their ratings keep falling is well documented. Suffice to say, while I already know they’ll think The Batman and Top Gun: Maverick are too commercial, and we’ll all have to wait six or seven months to see if I disagree, they damn well ought to nominate Everything Everywhere All at Once, I cannot conceive of ten better movies being released in the next five months.
As to how it handles the multiverse.
In a lot of multiverse stories, the characters we see are clearly the best versions of themselves. The Arrowverse, like the comics it came from, was set on Earth-1, later Earth Prime, stating that it is the first, best Earth that all other Earths are just alternate versions of. In the TV version of Crisis on Infinite Earths, four out of seven Paragons capable of restoring the Multiverse are from Earth-1, that’s how great Earth-1 is. Over in Marvel, whether it’s comics or film, Earth 616 is always the best Earth. It’s the one we follow, and when we see other Earths, they’re almost always doing something worse. Sure the Illuminati of Earth 838 stopped Thanos and prevented the Blip (and apparently Earth being blown up by Celestials), but they also get wiped out pretty easily by 616 Wanda, and 616 Stephen Strange might yet be the only one who doesn’t risk or cause the end of his universe by screwing around with the multiverse. (Stay tuned, I guess)
Everything Everywhere All at Once instead presents a protagonist, Evelyn Quan, who is… not the best. She’s struggling. Her marriage is okay but not great; her laundromat is barely getting by; her relationship with her daughter is strained at best; and she’s facing an audit from the IRS because she has a bad habit of trying to deduct things purchased for hobbies. She’s not living her best life. And that, ultimately, is the point. This Evelyn is told she’s the multiverse’s best hope for defeating the mega-threat of Jobu Topaki not because she’s the best possible Evelyn, but because she’s actually the worst. She’s tried and failed to be so many things that she’s multiversally adjacent to endless possibilities.
And isn’t that what we all need to hear right now? Do we want to be told this is the best of all possible worlds, or do we want to hear that even if we’re currently the worst version of ourselves, we still matter, and can still be something? Even anything?
Jobu Topaki, of course, gets into the nihilism of the multiverse we discussed earlier, the idea that if everything happens, nothing can matter. Only with visual flair and imagination unequalled by anything in this post. People who saw this movie scoffed at Multiverse of Madness for thinking the weirdest idea it had (that it was willing to spend more than a second on) was the idea that in 838, red lights mean “go.”
But instead of just succumbing to that nihilism like Rick and Morty, Everything Everywhere all at Once makes that its third act conflict. Evelyn’s struggle is not to kill Jobu Topaki, but to prove that the best possible universe isn’t one of the many where life on Earth never happened, and you can just chill out and be a rock.
It’s emotional and exciting and dazzling in its inventiveness, and if Ke Huy Quan doesn’t get a Best Supporting Actor nomination the actual nominees had best be life-changing or the category has no meaning. And that is how you multiverse: open yourself to infinite possibilities, then prepare to defend the idea that this one right here matters. It does not mean creating new universes so you don’t have to explain why the Flash never shows up to lend Superman a hand, and it is not the portal to infinite fan service.
Was this entire post leading up to the buried lede of “Watch Everything Everywhere All at Once? Maybe. Probably? I am very mad at DC’s wasteful multiversing but that may have been secondary. Should I then have posted this when the movie was still in theatres? Sure, probably, but I have been busy. But like Evelyn, I am trying.
Anyway see y’all back here in a week when I’ve finished watching Locke and Key and am ready to rank some nerd shows.