Marvel’s What If…? – Review

Marvel’s What If…? returns to our screens with nine more original tales just a little different than you remember them.

Premiered on 22nd December 2023 and running daily over the Christmas holidays the series is available exclusively on Disney+ and is part of phase five of the MCU.

the "80's Avengers" King T'Chaka/Black Panther, Howard Stark, Bill Foster/Goliath, Peggy Carter, Dr. Wendy Lawson/Mar-Vell and Hank Pym/Ant-man

As with the previous season, the art style remains the same being a blend of 3d models and cel-shading giving a faux hand-drawn style that helps give a uniformity between each episode and portray accurate representations of the characters/actors. It’s not perfect though as I did end up googling who one character in the first episode was (I had a hunch who they were but couldn’t be certain) and there was another character whose detail lines appeared very thick in comparison to others which made me think they just scaled up the animation model. Original designs and character mashups are aplenty in this so if you ever wanted to see Nebula in Yondu’s outfit or Steve Rogers as Robin Hood this is your fix.

Uatu the Watcher observes the Multi-verse

Plot-wise we have nine (mostly) unconnected stories narrated by the ultimate Peeping Tom, Uatu aka The Watcher, an omniscient galactic being who peers into the multiverse and its unlimited variations, and has vowed never to involve himself, only to observe. The series starts strong with a crime drama on Xandar with Nebula in the lead, followed up with an Avengers-level threat appearing on Earth in the 80’s meaning a team must be formed with whomever was active at that time. The Christmas episode was a delight being an obvious homage to Die Hard with Justin Hammer seizing Avengers tower on Christmas with only Happy Hogan to stop him.

The Grandmaster in a racing car mesmerised by something out the passenger window

Here’s where the series begins to dip however, as while it was fun to revisit Sakaar and Jeff Goldblum’s Grandmaster (seriously he steals this episode) it was introduced as a Gamora tale only to focus more on Tony Stark. While this isn’t always a bad thing, it’s just the sound-alike isn’t quite there and coupled with the “just off” character design it makes this episode more uncanny valley than the rest. (It’s almost as if RDJ didn’t give permission to use his likeness.)

Xu Wenwu, master of the Ten Rings stand back to back in battle alongside Hela

The next episode doesn’t fare much better as we get a sequel to season one with the return of Captain Peggy Carter and while I enjoyed the character it’s not something we haven’t seen before which (in my opinion) is what the What if…? series should be about.

This is followed up by two episodes which do bring the quality back up. In one we are introduced to a brand new original character of Kahhori, a native American girl of the Mohawk tribe who discovers powers and fights off Spanish conquistadors, and a story of Hela who, instead of being imprisoned, was sent to Earth powerless like Odin did to Thor.

"Rogers" Hood swashbuckling

The series wraps up with a two-parter, the first being the MCU take on Niel Gaiman’s Marvel 1602 which leads into a big multiversal threat tackled in part two with characters and callbacks to both seasons. This is where I get really mixed feelings about the series as with these two episodes Peggy Carter becomes the main character making this feel like the “Captain Carter show”.

Nebula catches Yondu's arrow with her right hand

A lot of the actors do reprise their roles in the show and the few that don’t are replaced very closely with sound-alikes. A lot of veteran voice actors also turn up in the credits as well so it is a very good performance from all involved. The music score is your typical Marvel back catalogue of tracks and sounds, so it fits right into the Cinematic Universe. A special mention to episode six must be made as it was completely voiced in Mohawk language and Spanish with help from the Mohawk nation – the Kanien’kehá:ka.

Kahhori stands in front of a blue portal with blue glowing eyes surrounded by her people

For me the What If…? series is about fun one-off stories placing familiar characters in almost unfamiliar circumstances and postulating from there. Trying to bring continuity or an overarching story to this, betrays what the series should be and you can feel it in the writing. Episodes with no ties feel like the writers had fun exploring what a character would do in X, Y or Z but it almost seems like they got a mandate from higher up that it must include an overarching plot or “character A” because they were popular.

Happy Hogan crawling through an air duct in a very familiar Die Hard way

This makes this season hard to rate. If I were solely to rate the original episodes on their own they would be rated much higher but because of all the callbacks to within its own “sub-lore” it prevents the series from becoming what it should be, a collection of one-off adventures which you can dive into with no prior knowledge to have fun and spark the imagination.

7/10 star rating






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