Each week, Darren from @darrenmoviereviews will be recapping the most recent episode(s) of What If…? and the show’s overall connection to the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is going somewhere it has never gone before: to the world of animation. Not only is the upcoming series the first Disney+ show that is not a continuation of characters we have previously seen in the films, but it is the first entry in the MCU that is entirely animated.
Assembling numerous stars from the MCU including Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Sebastian Stan, Paul Rudd, Hayley Atwell, Samuel L. Jackson and the late Chadwick Boseman, this series poses an important question: what if? What if Steve Rogers didn’t become Captain America? What if Peter Quill was not abducted as a young boy by Yondu? What if T’Challa didn’t become the next Black Panther? And what if the MCU had zombies in it? Based on the comic run that initially was published from 1977 to 1984, the series explores the question of what if events that we experienced in the MCU didn’t happen, but instead something else happened. It only seems fitting that this film is the next entry in the MCU after that universe changing Loki finale, allowing the MCU to begin exploring the vast array of stories it can tell with the multiverse now. Narrated by Jeffrey Wright’s The Watcher, each episode will explore the ramifications of a change in the MCU timeline and the ripple effects it has on various characters. It’s sure to be a wild series, the trailer was outstanding in terms of its animation and the exciting direction it would be taking the story. However, as an official entry in Phase Four of the MCU, the question lingers: how will the series play into the future of the MCU?
In terms of The Watcher, this is not the first time the race of godlike beings have appeared in the MCU. Their race briefly appeared during Stan Lee’s cameo in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 as Rocket, Baby Groot and Yondu sped off to Ego’s Planet. But this time we have Jeffrey Wright portraying Uatu as he explores different branches of the multiverse. We know snippets of information about the characters and some of the stories we will be getting in the series, but like the majority of the Disney+ shows, the story is largely shrouded in mystery. But there are just a few things to get excited for:
- Hayley Atwell as Captain Carter
Hayley Atwell made her MCU debut back in Captain America: The First Avenger as Steve Roger’s true love, Margaret “Peggy” Carter, only to be left behind in the past once Steve sacrificed his life to save the United States from the Red Skull’s attack and became frozen in the ice. While the MCU films found small ways to bring Atwell back in films including Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man, Peggy blossomed on the small screen with her own television series: Agent Carter. But like all great television shows, it was cancelled far too soon, though Peggy still got her beautiful MCU send off reuniting with Steve in the final scene of Avengers: Endgame, where the two of them finally gave them their dance. It only seems fitting that Atwell is kicking off the series with an episode focusing on the what if scenario of Peggy receiving the super serum and becoming Captain Carter! If there is one Marvel star who has not been given the opportunity to shine properly, it is Atwell and I could not be happier to start the wild journey that What If…? promises to be with her big MCU return! Plus, I’m a sucker for anything related to Steve Rogers/Captain America as he is my favourite Marvel character, so naturally this is one of my most anticipated episodes of the series.
- Chadwick Boseman’s Final Performance
Last summer, we lost a tremendous actor whose presence in the MCU will never be replaced: Chadwick Boseman. After dying from a private battle with cancer that he kept secret for years while portraying T’Challa, Boseman left not only a legacy within the MCU but within Hollywood. Last year saw his final live action performance with Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, he had recorded his lines for What If…?, which will mark Boseman’s final performance. While initially only confirmed for one episode, Marvel revealed this week that Boseman will be in for four episodes as they did not want to let the recordings go to waste. They have also retooled the musical score to pay tribute to Boseman, so have those Kleenex ready because I’m sure the waterworks will be flowing as MCU fans say goodbye to Boseman over the course of what I expect to be four wonderful episodes. One episode is confirmed to explore what if T’Challa became Star Lord, which will be a cool spin on the Guardians of the Galaxy story. I guess one will be a Black Panther centric episode with Michae B. Jordan’s return as Killmonger, but the other two stories featuring T’Challa remain a mystery and I cannot wait to see what Marvel has planned for his character.
The beauty of the multiverse and a series like What If…? is that Marvel can truly push the boundaries for storytelling and deliver a tale that would never work for their movie format. And that is exactly what I hope the zombie episode will be! Never in a million years could the MCU make a live action zombie film because it would be too scary, besides complicating the overarching MCU storyline. But doing it in a multiverse storyline in animation allows for such a fun and wild story that is unlike anything we have had in the MCU. And after that terrifying look at Zombie Captain America, I cannot wait for this episode to debut.
- Setting up the Larger MCU
Every time Marvel is asked about What If..?’s place in the MCU, they confirm it’s an official entry in Phase 4 and that it is canon. Naturally…every Marvel fan is now questioning what effect the show will have on the larger MCU and the future films? Much like the scope of the series, the potential effect is infinite. We could have these storylines craft future film storylines, or have characters from the series pop up in future MCU films. Some could theoretically make small cameos in Spider-Man: No Way Home and Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, being the two big multiverse centric films awaiting release (because a zombie Marvel character appearing for a brief scene or fight would be a lot of fun). But there is also potential to introduce new characters to the MCU that will become major players going forward. While I doubt the X-Men or Fantastic Four will debut, it is a possibility given the scope of the series, especially if Marvel decides not to recast the X-Men characters and to reuse actors from the X-Men films. However, I think this series could set up a larger role for new characters such as Hayley Atwell’s Captain Carter going forward. Atwell has for long been a fan favourite, she has said she is open to returning to the MCU, and with Peggy dancing happily with Steve, What If…? could set up a larger future in the MCu for Atwell going forward. Especially with her big role in the next two Mission: Impossible films, Marvel may want to be tapping into her star power once more. As for what other characters could branch out from What If…? There are no other clear picks based on the characters we know that will be in the series, because you don’t want to have two versions of the same character for an actor to play to avoid the audience getting confused (and paying that actor double for portraying two characters). But I’m sure Marvel has some surprise character reveals awaiting viewers in What If…? that will play a larger role in the MCU going forward.
So sit down, get ready for some gorgeous animation and mind bending stories that promise to be a fun outing as the next entry in the MCU unfolds. And don’t forget to check back every week for my recap breaking down the story, all of the Marvel easter eggs and the implications for the rest of Phase 4 of the MCU.