What If? Review: Marvel continues to churn out more stories for its fans, taking advantage of the fact that the burn-out phase has not yet set for the franchise yet. With the freedom that the OTT medium has given to Marvel Cinematic Universe, the franchise is taking risks to go in directions it might have not attempted to do before and the approach was successful with WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Loki. Now What If…?, created by AC Bradley and Bryan Andrews, makes MCU take on some very radical storylines and bring them to life, albeit through animated frames. What if…?: From Chadwick Boseman to Robert Downey Jr, Who’s Returning and Who’s Not From Avengers Cast To Voice Their Characters in Marvel’s Anime Series.
Some disclaimer here. My review is based on the three episodes that had been sent to me by Disney, and each brought in its unique storyline, twists and impact.
Remember the branching out of multiple realities at the end of Loki? Perhaps taking a cue out that idea, What If…? shows how the Avengers history sees various alterations in each of these realities, narrated solemnly by the Watcher (Jeffrey Wright). I found the concept of Watcher to be similar to that of ‘Kaal‘ (Time) in BR Chopra’s Mahabharat – a sentient narrator who overlooks proceedings, but refuses to interfere. The Watcher has some very interesting tales to share. We also get to see his shadow in some of the frames of the series, benignly watching the proceedings.
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However, looking back at the history I share with MCU, I am not very trustful of super-powerful beings who like to watch over us. Case in point Ego, SHIELD or the Time-Keepers. So is there anything twisty when it comes to this shadowy narrator? Will he reveal himself to be Kang?
While I allow you to ponder over this curious conspiracy theory, let me get into three What If…? tales The Watcher, I mean the studio, shared with me. The first is a revisionist take on Captain America’s origins. What if, instead of Steve Rogers, it is Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) who got injected by the serum and manages to survive the procedure? Steve, being the good guy he is, is quite happy with the change in plans, while Peggy became Captain Carter, and turns out to be quite the leader, taking charge of the Howling Commandos, including Bucky (Sebastian Stan). What If: Fans Upset With Marvel for Replacing Sam Wilson’s Captain America With Hayley Atwell’s Captain Carter on Official Twitter Handle.
The feminist twist to Cap’s humble origins gives Peggy as a character to shine, after the underrated Agent Carter got cancelled (Before Phase 4, MCU’s small screen endeavors were quite disappointing, weren’t it?). Steve Rogers fans don’t need to be disappointed as the series allows him to be the early prototype of a hero that, years later, his antagonizer-turned-friend-turned-foe-turned-ally would become. At times, the episode ran like a highlights reel of a far more interesting movie, but with half an hour runtime dedicated to each episode, I can forgive this rushed pacing.
The second episode is my favourite, not just because it is centred around the late Chadwick Boseman. Sure, listening to the departed actor voicing T’challa for what could be the last time is heartbreaking indeed, but even overall, the episode stands out with how it turns around some very popular cosmic characters and make them even more interesting. Like, Thanos (Josh Brolin), for example. Or how it transforms the Collector (Benicio del Toro) into a badass villain, that too with abs!
The story goes about on how, instead of Peter Quill, Yondu (Michael Rooker)’s men accidentally brings in a young T’challa. However, while T’challa does become Star Lord in this reality, his approach to his new fate is quite different from Quill’s rebellious, wannabe-swashbuckling space-smuggler. While he is still the part of Yondu’s team, T’challa shows that you may take him out of Wakanda, but you cannot take Wakanda out of him.
This episode works more as a heist, with some very surprising character transformations and team-ups. Saying more will spoil the the many surprises in store, since the episode lands a couple of weeks later, but do watch out for this one.
The plotline of the third episode, I would rather keep it short and sinister. What if, Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson)’s original plan of banding the Avengers fell through due to malevolent developments? It’s a suspenseful storyline – a murder mystery thriller – that marks the return of fan-favourite characters like Agent Coulson, Thor, Hawkeye, Black Widow, Hulk, Iron Man among others.
Yes, it is disappointing that Robert Downey Jr and Scarlett Johansson do not return to voice their characters, but the intriguing nature of the episode do mellow down your disappointment.
As much as I like to delve into details around these episodes – the Easter Eggs surrounding The Collector deserves an article on its own – let me temper down and allow our weekly recap to do that job for me, when each episode drops very Wednesday. What If…? might not exactly be refreshing, but its format allows Marvel to be daring, I heard there is also a zombie episode in there, what fun! The animation is slick, though the voice-acting isn’t always upto the mark (bar for Boseman, who transfers the regality of Black Panther into his Star Lord with consummate ease). But the deficiencies are more than made up by the series capturing the childish glee of an animated show, and the experimentation mode of what Phase 4 is turning out to be.
– The Surprise-Laden Storytelling
– Plenty of Easter Eggs, Twists and Cameos
– Rushed Pacing At Times
– Voice-Acting Not Always Upto the Mark
What If…? is yet another successful endeavor from Marvel in its never-backing-down approach to share more stories in new directions with Phase 4. The animation is a joy to watch, the fan-favourite characters evolve in unexpected manners and previously underrated heroes get their chance to shine. What If…? is streaming on Disney+ Hotstar, with new episodes landing every Wednesday.
(The above story first appeared on Stock Market Pioneer on Aug 10, 2021 08:25 PM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website stockmarketpioneer.com).