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Marvel’s What If…? Review: Bold, Risky, And Out of This World

What If…? flips the script on the MCU, reimagining famous events from the films in unexpected ways. Marvel Studios’ first animated series focuses on different heroes from the MCU, featuring a voice cast that includes a host of stars who reprise their roles.

What If…? Trailer

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I was able to preview the first three episodes of this series and I have to say that this really caught me off guard. The absolute biggest question in my mind, and many MCU fans, was how we should approach this What If…? series. Marvel is still playing coy as to whether or not this should be treated as a stand alone property or if we should view each episode as an integral piece to the larger MCU puzzle.

With over a decade’s worth of an unprecedented, interconnected, cinematic universe, it was hard to believe that What If…? didn’t share some level of connectivity. While attending a virtual press conference, a Marvel executive producer gave us this little hint.

Brad Winderbaum: It’s no coincidence that [What If…?] picks up right after “Loki”…the multiverse has now erupted in every possible direction.  What If…? gives us a chance to explore that. I think you can tell that in this next saga, the multiverse is gonna be crucial.

I think that’s the only nudge MCU fans will need to ease any apprehensions in terms of how this show will operate. The episodes are setup as an anthology. I believe that was a really smart move for two reasons. The first being that every single episode is free to live on its own merit. If you didn’t like one episode, that doesn’t necessarily impact the success (or failure) of the next. While the third episode may have been my least favorite of the three, I’m still excited to see what the future episodes hold given that they don’t appear to be connected. (Yet?)

Captain Carter (center) and the Howling Commandos in Marvel Studios’ WHAT IF…? exclusively on Disney+. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

The other reason this anthology works well is because it allows Marvel to take some incredibly huge risks. As stated in the trailers, these episodes are all else-world situations. Meaning that the entire universe, and its characters operate under different circumstances compared to the one we are familiar with. That means that literally anything can happen, and we certainly get to see that happen in the first couple of episodes. I absolutely love how bold the third episode gets with its curious mystery and the surprising moments that get revealed.

The one knock I’d probably have against What If…? may be the animation. Obviously, this is a subjective criticism, but it just wasn’t doing it for me very much. It reminded me of a mixture between Love, Death, Robots mixed with traditional Disney movie animation. Personally, I would’ve loved to see maybe the animation style from the Castlevania Netflix series. However, to its credit, the current animation in What If…? does grow on you after just a few minutes of viewing.

Captain Carter Episode 1:

The very first episode on Peggy Carter becoming Captain Carter was a great way to kick off the series. It’s most notably the most advertised episode in many of the What If…? promotions. What I enjoyed the most about this episode was how audiences don’t have to sit and trudge through all the drama and setup as we normally would in a full length film.

Captain Carter in Marvel Studios’ WHAT IF…? exclusively on Disney+. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

Since we already know the events that transpire in Captain America: The First Avenger, the Captain Carter episode was free to jump to all of the action scenes and more important plot points. One thing’s for sure, Captain Carter is already out performing Captain America (Steve Rogers) on almost every level. She’s going to be an instant favorite among fans for sure.

T’Challa – Star Lord Episode 2:

This is hands down the best episode and by far the most emotional one too. As many fans know by now, Chadwick Boseman tragically passed away almost one year to this date. This episode was previously believed to be his final performance, however it was later revealed that Chadwick recorded four episodes for fans to enjoy. The director of What If…? shared some thoughts on working with Boseman.

Bryan Andrews: He was excited to play this version of T’Challa because it was different, because it was a version of him being able to play the king, but the king without the mantle. He was excited to bring that flavor to T’Challa and give it to the audience so we could see a slightly different version of T’Challa.

T’Challa/Star-Lord in Marvel Studios’ WHAT IF…? exclusively on Disney+. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

This episode is full of the same level of humor and drama from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 1. T’Challa is an absolute star of a character and Boseman absolutely shines through his voice acting. This episode should remind fans just how critical and important T’Challa is and how he’s too important for the MCU to lose in any manner. The episode overall was incredibly entertaining and it has several surprises that will have fans talking a lot.

Nick Fury – Episode 3:

(L-R): Nick Fury and Hawkeye in Marvel Studios’ WHAT IF…? exclusively on Disney+. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

Not much can be said about this episode without spoiling very much. This is probably a more shocking and ambitious episode that will inform audiences of the lengths Marvel will go for good storytelling. This episode is a “who done it” mystery, and I’ll admit that I couldn’t figure it out until the very end.  For that reason, this episode has my respect because it does exactly what a mystery is supposed to do by keeping you engaged all the way through.

Verdict:

Overall, What If…? is a promising fresh take on a plethora of stories within the MCU landscape. One of the biggest drawbacks is that these episodes are being released on a weekly basis. With each episode being only about 30+ mins, it simply doesn’t feel like enough. Netflix may have spoiled us with the “binge model”, but MCU fans are also used to much meatier and heavier episodes to hold them over during the week. (Thanks to the other Disney+ Marvel shows.) Nevertheless, if these three episodes are any indication of what’s to come, then we can only anticipate that the final episodes will be even better. Be sure to check out What If…? on Disney+ starting August 11, 2021.

The Rating: 8/10:

Director: Bryan Andrews
Writers: AC Bradley
Stars: Andy Serkis, Angela Bassett, Benedict Cumberbatch, Benedict Wong, Benicio
Del Toro, Bradley Whitford, Carrie Coon, Chadwick Boseman, Chris
Hemsworth, Chris Sullivan, Clancy Brown, Clark Gregg, Cobie Smulders,
Danai Gurira, David Dastmalchian, Djimon Hounsou, Dominic Cooper, Don
Cheadle, Emily VanCamp, Evangeline Lilly, Frank Grillo, Georges St-Pierre,
Hayley Atwell, Jaimie Alexander, Jeff Goldblum, Jeremy Renner, John Kani,
Jon Favreau, Josh Brolin, Karen Gillan, Kat Dennings, Kurt Russell, Leslie
Bibb, Mark Ruffalo, Michael B. Jordan, Michael Douglas, Michael Rooker,
Natalie Portman, Neal McDonough, Ophelia Lovibond, Paul Bettany, Paul
Rudd, Rachel House, Rachel McAdams, Samuel L. Jackson, Sean Gunn,
Sebastian Stan, Seth Green, Stanley Tucci, Taika Waititi, Tilda Swinton, Toby
Jones, Tom Hiddleston and Tom Vaughan-Lawlor.
What If…? Will be available on Disney+ on August 11, 2021. Be sure to follow E-Man’s Movie Reviews on Facebook, Subscribe on YouTube, or follow me on Twitter/IG @EmansReviews for even more movie news and reviews!

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