Superhero daydreams come to reality in Marvel’s ‘What If…?’

The latest addition to the Marvel universe is every fan’s dream

The+watcher%2C+voiced+by+Jeffrey+Wright+in+the+intro+sequence+for+What+If...%3F+Photo+courtesy+of+Marvel+Studios

The watcher, voiced by Jeffrey Wright in the intro sequence for ‘What If…?’ Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios

Tanish Mendki

“Time. Space. Reality. It’s more than a linear path. It’s a prism of endless possibility, where a single choice can branch out into infinite realities, creating alternate worlds from the ones you know…”

In 2008, the Marvel Cinematic Universe officially kicked off with the release of “Iron Man,” with 25 movies and two T.V. shows released since then.

Tanish Mendki

It’s safe to say that Marvel has many prior cinematic events that it can refer back to — and it’s common for new MCU movies to contain references back to previous works. 

The series “What If…?” revisits this long history of the MCU to reimagine fan-favorite heroes and villains and put them into alternate storylines that significantly change their character arcs. For example, the first episode takes a look at what could have happened if the super-soldier serum that was given to Steve Rogers, voiced by Josh Keaton here, was given instead to his love interest Peggy Carter, voiced by Hayley Atwell. 

While this may sound like a trivial change, the episode features a whole new set of plot points, changing the World War II-era themes in the original movie to a story that contains a tentacled monster. In this way, the show takes the MCU in a completely different direction, exploring scenarios separate from many of the events that the comics have laid out.

Perhaps the biggest difference between “What If…?” and previous movies or shows is that it’s the first fully animated Marvel entry. This allows for a certain flair that could have been challenging to pull off with live actors. The show’s producers were able to create stunning visuals without any limits. A giant horde of zombies with different shapes and sizes? Sure. An intergalactic multiversal battle between two cosmic entities? No problem.

The style of animation that the show uses, however, can seem rather jarring at times, with the mouths of the characters having unnatural motions, and inconsistent facial features. Nevertheless, since most of the original actors return to voice their animated counterparts, this is barely an obstacle for viewers.

T’Challa, voiced by the late Chadwick Boseman in the last episode. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios

The voice acting performances are one of the key highlights of “What If…?,” with each member bringing emotional depth and significantly elevating the character development of the various characters in the shows. One such example is the fifth episode, titled, “What If… Zombies?!,” where a zombie apocalypse causes most of the major characters in the MCU to turn into zombies, with only three heroes and Dr. Strange’s cloak of levitation surviving the onslaught. The emotions Peter Parker or Spiderman, voiced by Hudson Thames, displays really shows the impact the situation has on him and the other survivors.

 

Additionally, the narration throughout the series is done by a newly introduced character called “The Watcher,” voiced by Jeffrey Wright, whose confident and deep tone is perfect for the job. As a side note, the last episode, “What If… the Watcher Broke his Oath?,” is the late Chadwick Boseman’s last performance.

Some standout episodes included episode four, “What If… Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands?” which features Strange, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, reliving the death of his lover Christine Palmer, played by Rachel McAdams, and episode eight, “What If… Ultron Won?” which flips the outcome of “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” Episode four again demonstrated superb voice acting, and the eighth episode had excellent and immersive visuals. 

While the soundtrack and facial expressions of characters are nothing special, the voice acting and unique animation style greatly enhance the experience. Overall, “What If…?” is a strong TV series with many details that are perfect for Marvel fans to scrutinize.

4.5/5