Following the introduction of the multiverse in Loki, Marvel’s What If…? makes for the perfect companion piece to the timeline-jumping series. Narrated by Jeffrey Wright’s booming-voiced Watcher, the animated show is an anthology of tales that provides viewers with alternate versions of events that would have happened had one choice been slightly different in the long-running blockbuster franchise. The possibilities to explore are virtually endless, with the first two episodes giving radically different takes of fan favourite outings. They’re bite-sized chunks of comic book fun, however they don’t go further than being half-hearted fan service.
The first thing viewers will notice about this latest series is its presentation. Unlike other Marvel shows, What If…? is fully animated. The visuals are vibrant, fast and fluid, which brings a lot of energy and flair to events. The punchy action scenes are like watching the panels of a comic book come to life, and it’s clear the creators had fun putting these sequences together. Likewise, having the original actors return to voice their onscreen counterparts is a nice touch from Disney. However, their voice performances are noticeably wooden this time around, and a long way off matching the liveliness of the animation.
Worse, though, is how these alternate scenarios play out. Even with limitless possibilities at their disposal, the scripts are more concerned with filling the runtime with self-referential jokes and retracing key moments from the franchise than creating stand-alone comic book adventures. Long-standing fans may get a kick out of some of the gags – particularly those involving surprise role reversals – however, the comedy quickly wears thin when it becomes clear the writing doesn’t have much else to offer.
What If…? doesn’t get off to a good start. By relying too heavily on in-jokes and references, the series falls short of being the exhilarating superhero outing it advertises itself to be. In short, these mindless animated adventures will pass the time for half an hour, but for those looking for more of that Marvel magic, this show can be safely skipped.
What If…? is released on Disney+ on 12th August 2021.
Watch the trailer for What If…? here: