The multiverse has officially opened, and for the first time on-screen, we get to see how minor changes cause entire realities to branch. It’s truly a time for us to ponder – what if…?
The multiverse has been a significant component of Marvel Comics for decades, but Marvel’s What If…? is the first time Marvel Studios has properly delved into the concept. Yes, Loki did feature multiple Loki’s, but we didn’t really explore multiple universes’ in the same way that What If…? does.
Based on the comic series of the same name, What If…? takes seemingly insignificant moments from the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies and twists them, creating entire new plots. From Peggy Carter taking Steve’s place in Captain America: The First Avenger and becoming Captain Carter; the Ravagers accidentally picking up T’Challa in Guardians of the Galaxy, and Loki leading an Asgardian army to Earth in Thor, each episode leads us down a new, unexpected, and exciting paths.
Animating the Multiverse
The first thing many will notice is the animation style chosen. You’d be forgiven if you mistook the series for a Telltale Game because Marvel has utilised a similar animation style known as cel-shading.
Cel-shading is a type of 3D animation made to look like 2D animation by using various colour shading techniques that I won’t go into here (there are plenty of professional’s online who won’t butcher the full explanation as I would). While the result doesn’t look like live-action by any means, the cel-shading style manages to capture the MCU in a fashion that perfectly blends realism with a nice comic book aesthetic, especially when it comes to the fight scenes.
The fight scenes are some of the best you’ll find in any animated series because the art style helps give it that live-action kick despite it not being live-action. Another plus for the series is that the characters look just like their real-life counterparts, no matter whether the same actors voice them or not.
Voicing the Multiverse
Marvel has done a terrific job recruiting as many actors from the films as possible, with Michael Rooker, Samuel L. Jackson and the late Chadwick Boseman (in his final role) being standouts for me. Of course, there are a few actors who, for whatever reason, did not return, but the casting director has done a fantastic job hiring soundalike actors to stand in their place.
Lake Bell takes over the voice of Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow, and while you can tell that it’s not Scarlett Johansson, she does such a terrific job that at times it’s easy to mistake Bell for her.
The most publicised actor in the series is undoubtedly Jeffrey Wright, who voices The Watcher, a cosmic being able to – well – watch. These beings can watch any and all outcomes, no matter what universe the events are occurring in, but they do not, can not, and won’t interfere with the events they witness.
There isn’t too much to say on Wright’s performance because if you’ve seen the trailers, then you’ve seen his performance, but he’s still really good with the little he has been given.
The Brancing Paths of the Multiverse
What If…? is half an anthology and half an episodic series, and to be honest, there wasn’t any direct information to say whether the first three episodes took place in the same universe or not. Still, each episode is presented as if they were.
Most of the series trailers take their clips from the first three episodes, so you have a general idea of where the series kicks off. However, I won’t go into further details on the plots. What I will say is that the writer’s team have done a great job with twisting the stories and characters we know and love.
Out of the three, the second episode was my favourite as it had the best deviations from the movies, and my least favourite was the first episode. The first episode is the much publicised Captain Carter episode. While it’s still really, really good and features some of the best action sequences, I just found it a little too similar to Captain America: The First Avenger, from which the episode branches.
When it comes to the multiverse characters, only the main characters have been dramatically altered, à la Captain Carter and T’Challa. Most, but not all, of the secondary characters, have largely been left untouched, which was a little disappointing to see. Thankfully, the new stories give these characters new and exciting things to do.
Exciting Things To Come
I didn’t see everything that the trailers have shown us, so I am very excited to see where the series takes us, especially one specific event that occurs in the trailers.
After the multiverse teases Marvel gave us in WandaVision and Loki, What If…? finally gives us an idea of where the MCU may be heading with Spider-Man: No Way Home and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. It’s everything we Marvel fans have been craving.
I don’t usually leave ratings in my reviews. I reserve that for Letterboxd. But with some fascinating stories, great animation, fantastic fight scenes, and the return of many fan-favourite actors, Marvel’s What If…? is a solid four out of five.
And that rating is just for the first three episodes. I bet the more we get to see, the higher that rating will grow.