TV Review: What If?

What If...? (TV Series 2021– ) - IMDb

TV REVIEW

What If (2021)

The small screen output of Marvel Studios has been fairly well received, albeit with a lot of pacing issues. With the arrival of What If, Marvel Studios’ first animated series, those issues aren’t really addressed, but you will probably find yourself wishing you had a bit more time with some of these characters.

Like the comic series that inspired it, the main premise behind What If is looking at new spins on major Marvel events, only this time instead of it being major events from the comics, it’s major events in the Marvel Cinematic universe. Some of these are pretty major and fun (“What If Sharon Carter Became Captain America”?) some of these are weird but end up being cool (“What if T’Challa Became Star-Lord?), and others are just head scratchers (“What If Thor Was A Party Boy?”). In that sense, What If is the most comics-accurate take on a Marvel property ever, but as a viewing experience it does leave a bit to be desired.

If you didn’t figure it out already,What If follows The Watcher (Jeffrey Wright), a mystical being who observes the vast multiverse of the Marvel Universe. He’s essentially our guide through the series like Rod Serling in The Twilight Zone, and he only observes, never interferes (take a wild guess how well he sticks to that). Throughout the series, we are introduced to different new spins on established MCU heroes and villains, seeing how one small or large change can have lasting ramifications on the story we already know.

I’m a big fan of alternate universe takes on stories, and What If was one of my favorite titles to collect as

a kid (for some reason Marvel still doesn’t see the value in a new volume of this series, but I digress). Each month it was a new, standalone story that pretty much always ended on a bummer note, but also introduced some fun new characters like Mayday Parker, who eventually proved to be so popular that she got her own Spider-Girl series. In that regard, the What If show succeeds, as it introduces tons of new spins on characters that have already proven to be super breakouts, like Captain Carter. Where What If stumbled for me was in the standalone story department, as many of the episodes either end abruptly, or rush through their story when they could have been much longer.

There’s also the weird way that voice acting was done in this series. While most of the main Marvel actors are back to lend their voices (most importantly Chadwick Boseman in his final role as T’Challa), there are many more where it’s glaringly obvious that the actors we know aren’t providing the voices, namely Tony Stark and Black Widow. While the actors hired to do their voices are fine, when they are put up against the actual voice of another Marvel actor, it’s glaringly obvious. While I don’t know the finer contract details behind this, it definitely sticks out as a weird choice when you can get Chris Hemsworth or Josh Brolin to return, but Dave Bautista isn’t voicing Drax (and apparently wasn’t even approached either).

Marvel's What If...? release date, trailer, cast and more | Tom's Guide

Another bit of weirdness in the show is the animation style, which for lack of a better word, looks kinda cheap at times. For a studio with the money and power of Disney behind them, and for being the first Marvel Studios animated property, you’d think What If would look…better. While the action sequences and overall animation look good, where the animation tended to lose me was with the faces, which at times looked unexpressive and afterthoughts to the main style. This could have been to prevent likeness rights from coming into play, but like the the rapid pace of the episodes, it struck me more as a “saving money” move than a stylistic one.

As it stands right now, while What if is a fun series, I wouldn’t call it an essential viewing experience like Loki or even Falcon & The Winter Soldier. Time may tell if these characters will actually show up in a live action setting down the road, and if they do, I’ll probably have to change my tune, but as it stands right now, What If is just a fun distraction from the MCU at large.

VERDICT: B-

Posted on October 6, 2021, in TV and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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