Martin Carr review the premiere episode of Marvel’s What If…?
Breaking new ground on your first animated series is one thing, shaping it around a preposition which offers infinite possibilities with no concrete resolutions is quite another. However, that is the route Marvel has decided to take with the new series Marvel’s What If…?.
That Disney have just offered up a limitless sandbox of invention in two dimensions will definitely upset the applecart. Or in this case build on everything which came before, before tearing up the rulebook and doing away with narrative conventions. Making this open-ended exercise in ingenuity an entertaining concept that will keep audiences intrigued if not always engaged.
There is something instantly ingenious about subverting established intellectual properties, whilst forging something new from the ashes of what remains. That this series exploits a fanbase which is fundamentally global in nature, culturally craves content and moves on instantly, makes What If…? ideal. To all intents and purposes this is recycling in the most stylish way possible. By drawing in audiences with the promise of A-list voice acting, then drip feeding notions already alive and well cinematically, Marvel are continuing to dominate.
With writer A.C. Bradley and a content catalogue stretching back to Seventies cinema, this retro reinvention for the streaming generation is uber polished. The vocal talent on offer in this opener include Hayley Atwell, Jeffrey Wright and Toby Jones. Familiar Marvel forays are explored, alluded to and re-engineered with an extra dash of Stark, while other iterations are opened up.
This is slick, concise and comes in at thirty minutes and change, a fact that gives audiences very little time to genuinely evaluate the concept in full flow. By the time those end credits come rolling up, audiences may think What If…? is something new, whilst retrospect might offer a more lukewarm conclusion. With eight more episodes to come, endless numbers of the frenzied fan faithful will be burning up message boards attempting to figure out where things might be headed. An attitude which Marvel has spent over a decade propagating, with the marketing savvy of a veteran card shark.
When What If…? premieres on August 11th, there will be naysayers and advocates in equal measure. Those who write off Marvel’s latest effort as a high concept cash-in, while others might just see this animated adventure series as further proof that Disney are taking over the world.
What If…? is streaming exclusively on Disney+ from Wednesday August 11th.