What If…? is the latest Marvel show to hit Disney+, an animated series that shows us what could have happened had events played out differently in the Marvel universe. Based on the Marvel comics and boasting the return of the majority of the original cast, What If…? is answering questions that I didn’t think we needed answers to, but fortunately it still makes for an enjoyable show.
The 9-episode series explores alternate timelines in the multiverse, narrated by The Watcher (Jeffrey Wright), a member of an alien race that oversees the multiverse and swears an oath never to interfere. Episodes 1 through 8 each explores a different alternate story, such as Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) getting the serum instead of Steve Rogers (Josh Keaton), T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) being abducted by Yondo (Michael Rooker) rather than Peter Quill (Brian T. Delaney) and if Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) lost his heart instead of his hands. There’s also an episode based entirely around what would happen had zombies taken over the world, including some of the Avengers, and then episode 8 which showed what would have happened had Ultron won. The final episode sees The Watcher forsaking his oath in a bid to stop Ultron (Ross Marquand) from ending the entire multiverse, by bringing together the heroes he watched over in the earlier episodes.
Like all series, What If…? has its highs and lows with the episodes. The Captain Carter episode is a good introduction to the series as a whole but not particularly outstanding, although fortunately it then picks up with the next 4 episodes. Star Lord T’Challa is a fun and entertaining caper in which we see T’Challa reform Yondo, the Ravagers and even Thanos (Josh Brolin) into the space version of Robin Hood and his Merry Men. The Doctor Strange episode is incredibly sad and heart-warming as we see Christine (Rachel McAdams) die in the car crash that Strange lost his hands in, and watch as Strange repeatedly uses the Eye of Agamatto to try and bring her back. And What If… the World Lost Its Mightiest Heroes? Is a surprisingly dark episode reminiscent of a crime thriller as we see the Avengers killed off one by one by a mysterious foe, with Black Widow (Lake Bell) investigating their deaths.
However, for me, the best and standout episode in this entire series is What If… Zombies? Here we see Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) find his wife Janet in the quantum realm but she is infected with a quantum virus, which is then brought back to earth causing a zombie apocalypse. I’m a big fan of zombie movies, and this episode was a riot. Getting to see our favourite Marvel heroes fleeing from and then getting turned into zombies is hugely entertaining and also pretty terrifying. It’s the closest Marvel have got to horror and I for one would kill to see this turned into a live-action film.
Following this is What If…. Killmonger Rescued Tony Stark? While not a terrible episode, it’s a bit of a low after such a high with the zombies. It isn’t helped by the fact that despite showing alternate events for Tony Stark (Mick Wingert), the character arc for Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) isn’t entirely dissimilar to the one in the main MCU. It’s followed by an episode that shows what would have happened had Thor (Chris Hemsworth) never had Loki (Tom Hiddleston) as a brother, which while quite fun as Thor just acts like a partying frat boy, isn’t particularly remarkable.
Fortunately, the final two episodes focusing on Ultron help bring the series back from this slight dip and bring together the entire story arc with the Watcher into a rather exciting and entertaining finale resonant of the battles with Thanos in Infinity War and End Game.
The animation for this series is pretty impressive, in a style that is incredibly fitting with the theme of the show and it is very well done. It’s not perfect and this is usually most obvious when characters are talking, but overall it looks great. The fact that they’ve brought the majority of the original cast back for this as well helps make it so enjoyable. As this is based within the MCU, having the characters return with the right voice actor just helps tie it all together, especially those with recognisable voices like Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson and Josh Brolin. Unfortunately, doing this also makes it incredibly obvious when the original cast hasn’t returned. There are some notable absences here with Chris Evans, Tom Holland, Robert Downey Jnr, Scarlett Johansson and Brie Larson to name but a few that are missing. While the voice actors that have taken over the roles aren’t bad, the change in voice is too obvious to ignore and this paired with writing that doesn’t quite match the witty, intelligent style of the rest of the MCU, is quite disappointing.
What If…? is overall a fun and entertaining animated show and a good addition to the MCU, although I’d argue that it wasn’t a necessary one. There are some incredibly enjoyable episodes here with some notable standouts, but it’s not perfect.
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A contract manager moonlighting as a rather discerning film and book critic, with an almost fangirl appreciation for anything made by Christopher Nolan. When I’m not catching up on my latest read or watch, you can usually find me trying out my amateur baking skills – Bake Off here I come!