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Review: ‘What If…?’ adds needed variety to Marvel’s TV lineup

“What If…?” brings animation into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as well as lots of twists, turns and dead Avengers.

Marvel’s fourth television series this year takes full advantage of its alternate-universe premise to murder Earth’s Mightiest Heroes in new ways every week. Nowhere is this in fuller force than in the fifth episode, “What If… Zombies?!”

The nine-episode series follows an anthology format of the cosmic entity known as the Watcher, who observes eight different iterations of the multiverse before they come together in the finale. The first two episodes are simple character swaps while the other seven escape the pitfalls of retreading familiar ground.

While I love Captain Carter and enjoy T’Challa as Star-Lord, the third episode is really where “What If…?” hits its stride and lives up to the titular question. The more the show departed from the MCU’s traditional beats, the more enjoyable it was to watch.

Jeffrey Wright is pitch-perfect as the Watcher, providing all the gravitas required of eternity’s witness, bound never to interfere. Although most of the characters are voiced by their live-action actors, sound-alikes were hired for Steve Rogers, Iron Man, Captain Marvel, Black Widow, Spider-Man, Gamora, Drax and Ultron. Seeing big-name actors reprise their roles for a somewhat goofier take on their characters made for some enjoyable viewing.

Unfortunately, the all-star cast is occasionally let down by shaky voice direction. Certain lines delivered by an acclaimed actor like Benedict Cumberbatch came off as ingenuine.

The art style combines the clean lines and bold colors of comic books with elements of classic Disney facial features. The fourth episode “What If… Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands?” is without a doubt the most visually stunning of the series and a strong contender for the best episode overall.

I would rank “What If…?” an 8/10. Going forward, I hope that Marvel will continue making weird, wacky and most importantly unique projects like this one.

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