All nine episodes of Marvel Studios first animated venture ‘What If…?’ have premiered on Disney +. The series, which is based on the 1970’s comic of the same name, explores a number of alternative realities that occur within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, in which the events of their popular films play out differently.
The show is a change of pace for Marvel; for the most part each episode is its own singular story, unique in their tone and vision. As a result, the show is a mixed bag- some episodes like ‘What if Doctor Strange Lost his Heart’ are masterful and leave the viewer appreciating the original story in new ways.
Whereas character swap episodes like ‘What if Captain Carter was the first Avenger’ whilst enjoyable can leave you wanting more out of the show’s premise. Despite each episode being contained, they all connect towards the season finale in rewarding ways.
A highpoint of the show is the animation. It’s gorgeous and often feels like a comic book come to life, yet it also appears close enough visually to the films to keep casual viewers familiar. The flexibility of the animated format is used to the full; fight sequences are bigger and crazier than ever. In fact, I’d say they have a creative edge over the original films in terms of mind-blowing battles and visuals. So, no matter the quality of the episode, it’s always stunning to watch.
The voice acting is also solid, with the majority of the original cast returning to voice their roles, it’s particularly bittersweet to hear Chadwick Boseman portray T’challa one last time. Whilst not all the original cast returned (Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr) their replacements are still able to capture the characters’ likeness.
Fans will also be happy to see a number of underutilised favourites return throughout the show. Characters like Ultron and Zola appear in much more exciting roles, living up to their potential in ways the films wouldn’t allow.
However, whilst the show might be exhilarating for diehard fans of the MCU, it can also be difficult for casual viewers to keep up – as locations and characters from all 23 films can appear at random without much room for catch-up. Although as mentioned, the show does still have plenty of enjoyable elements for everyone to enjoy, super fan or not.
The show isn’t perfect. As stated, a number of episodes are more like character swaps than interesting “What If” scenarios. Whilst it’s fun to see Peggy Carter as Captain America and T’challa become Star Lord, these episodes fall short dramatically compared to episodes like ‘What if Killmonger saved Tony Stark’ where we properly get to witness small decisions change entire franchises.
Captain Carter in particular feels like a beat for beat remake of the first Captain America film. However, these episodes aren’t entirely wasteful as they’re still exciting watches and visually they’re still magnificent, also they connect together for the ensemble finale which ties up the full season in a very satisfying way.
Although talking about the finale, the show suffered an episode cut due to COVID-19, originally slated for ten episodes, a story featuring both Gamora and Iron Man had to be axed. Whilst this doesn’t hinder the entire show, it does cause some confusion when both characters appear in the finale with no explanation as to who they are. The finale still holds up, however certain moments fall short without the necessary set up from the doomed episode.
Overall when the show commits to the premise of ‘What if?’ it excels creatively compared to just swapping out characters. But nevertheless, each episode has its merits and are all an enjoyable watch brought to life with beautiful animation and strong performances.
Featured image credit: Den of Geeks News