2022 was the year of the multiverse, but one movie stood out from the interdimensional pack.
One of the first big fight scenes in Everything, Everywhere, All At Once involves Ke Huy Quan slinging a fanny pack around like a meteor hammer inside an IRS building, and things only get weirder and more specific from there on out. In fact, about midway through, you realize very clearly that fanny pack-based combat is actually one of the most grounded things the movie has to offer. It follows it up with hot dog fingers, sentient rocks, a protracted Ratatouille joke, and improvised sex toy gags. Yet somehow, despite all of this (or maybe because of it) Everything Everywhere All At Once managed to stick the landing and run away with the title as GameSpot’s Movie Of The Year for 2022.
It’s strange to think that, in an era of endless big-budget Marvel blockbusters and nonstop franchise building, the idea of a “multiverse” has become as close to old hat as it’s ever going to get. The idea itself has become less of a story building technique and more of a way for billion dollar companies to cram as much of their IP into a given release as they can–which, don’t get us wrong, can make for some pretty fun opportunities to point at the screen and say “hey, I know what that’s from!” But Everything Everywhere took that idea and turned it on its head, not by reinventing the multiversal wheel, but by using the trope itself to craft what amounts to an intimate, personal, and above all original story about a family of extraordinarily regular people.
The Wangs aren’t superheroes. They own a struggling laundromat. They’re in trouble with the IRS. There’s the potential for divorce brewing between mother Evelyn (Michelle Yeoh) and father Waymond (Ke Huy Quan). Their daughter, Joy (Stephanie Hsu), is struggling to get her parents to accept her sexuality and her girlfriend–a problem made all the more apparent with the arrival of Evelyn’s father, Gong Gong (James Hong). It’s the makings of a family melodrama, not an absurdist comedy or a sci-fi epic. But this all changes when, suddenly, Evelyn is thrust into the middle of an interdimensional plot full of alternate realities and alternate versions of herself and her family trying to track down a cosmic evil that threatens to unmake all reality.
From there, things very rapidly spiral into absurdism and comedy, spliced in with some genuinely incredible martial arts fight scenes and surprising visual effects. Everything Everywhere had a fraction of the budget and the manpower behind one of the major franchise blockbusters that hit theaters this year, and still managed to look and feel polished and immaculately well made. It dips deliberately into meta-references and nods to other movies, but they’re not the hallow winks and nudges of Easter Eggs like you’d see in something with corporate IP coming out of its seams, instead they’re earnest attempts to flesh out the world and the characters by linking them to both the actors playing them and the movies that inspired them.
In short: It’s just plain, good-old-fashioned filmmaking, on top of some truly outstanding acting, and top-tier cinematography. It just also happens to feature an extended scene of Michelle Yeoh making out with Jamie Lee Curtis while they both sensually caress one another with their hot dog hands. It’s art, just trust us.
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