Multiversal playfulness and possibilities spun in Marvel’s ‘What If…?’
For over a decade now, Marvel has been doing what every kid (and kid-at-heart) have always dreamed of: bringing our favorite superheroes to the big screen. While the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has always taken inspiration from the comics – as it should – the movies still have their own styles, stories and origins that make them fresh and fit for cinema.
With “What If…?”, the MCU’s first animated series, Marvel embraces its wackier side, a treat that comic fans undoubtedly appreciated. The use of cel-shading animation also makes everything even more comic-like, yet not too cartoonish that you can still recognize the characters’ likeness to their live-action cinematic counterparts.
While the animation being fitting is mostly undoubted, the stories that the studio was able to tell were what made “What If…?” truly a joyful viewing experience. With over 10 years-worth of movies, Marvel Studios has built up such a rich cinematic universe with so much lore and characters that projects like “What If…?” are possible. Even the world of “The Incredible Hulk,” one of the first MCU films and unfortunately often forgotten, was brought back as if just to show that “hey, this film is still one of ours,” with Edward Norton being replaced by Mark Ruffalo, of course.
Embracing the Multiverse
It is no secret that “What If…?” coming out right after “Loki” has been planned for a long time, but it is nonetheless surprising to see the direct consequences of the two Lokis’ actions. While “What If…?” may not play a bigger part in the MCU moving forward, it is still a good teaser of what is to come once MCU Phase 4 fully dives into the multiverse.
Even though “What If…?” is officially MCU canon, as head writer AC Bradly confirmed, the people behind the series were still given much creative freedom as the stories do not transpire within the main universe. With that, Marvel was able to come up with some of the darkest stories – such as Doctor Strange destroying his own universe for love, or Hank Pym murdering the Avengers – and at the same time produce stories like Thor as the “Party Prince.” If writers were going to play around with such wacky ideas, what better way but to lift inspiration from the comics?
Of course, the series is far from flawless. If I were to nitpick, among many other things, I would have liked to change the way Ultron (in Vision’s form) killed Thanos – who was so easily sliced in half with a Mind Stone beam. “Perfectly balanced, as all things should be,” right? In the second episode, Thanos was also so obviously nerfed that he almost lost to his children, Proxima Midnight and Cull Obsidian, for the sake of story. It somehow made the impact of the last decade worth of movies a tad weaker, in my opinion. Then again, all of these were crammed into 20-minute episodes that occurred in different universes, so I just like to think in my head that their universes’ Thanos may not be that strong.
What I appreciate, however, is the use of The Watcher – whose iteration in the series is quite different from its comic counterpart – for being the glue that connects the multiverse in the eyes of the viewers. Turning him from a multiversal narrator into this god-like being in the last two episodes was also a nice touch, as we never knew that we needed to witness his multiverse-breaking clash with Infinity Ultron.
As a fan, however, what impressed me the most is how the writers were able to connect all nine episodes that had their own unique arcs (and universes, literally) to culminate into a finale that forms the Guardians of the Multiverse. In retrospect, however, I realize that that is actually the specialty of Marvel, the studio that is responsible for “The Infinity Saga.”
Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige has already confirmed that “What If…?” is going to have a second season and I couldn’t be happier. Given that “What If…?” is written the way that it is, fans still have no idea what to expect from the second season. Who will be the next multiversal threat? Kang? Or is the studio going to save him for the movies? Either way, I say you just do what you do, Marvel, and we’ll just keep pondering the question: “What if?” JB
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