Wednesday, October 13, 2021

What If... Two Bloggers Debated What If...?

Ryan: I just finished watching What If...? and I found that the series really does what Marvel does best: focusing on character development and letting the story flow from well developed characters. Marvel doesn't minimize their characters to, say, just a power, or just the color of their skin. For instance, there were concerns that Episode 2 (T'Challa becoming Starlord) would just be "Black Star-Lord". But I was pleasantly surprised. T'Challa brings his own set of quirks and character traits. So when he steps into the role of Star-Lord, it becomes so much less about just swapping roles, and so much more about how one character would respond in various different situations.

Joe: T'Challa did bring a different quality to his role as Star-Lord, his biggest accomplishment being that he turned Thanos. However, I feel that the series was far too constrained. I feel that they could've explored some less paid attention characters in the cannon, like Drax or Rocket. Drax as a bartender was not enough. Also why was Iron Man completely shafted? He builds Killmonger a few mechs then that's it.

Ryan: I feel like Tony Stark's death must be an "absolute point" in the timeline. I mean, except for the last episode, Tony Stark died in every timeline we saw. Interesting.

Joe: What was your favorite episode?

Ryan: The two that stick out to me the most, for completely different reasons, are:
  • Episode 4, about Dr. Strange. It was much more character-centric instead of plot driven. I feel like we really explored a different side of Stephen Strange, and really got to know him as a character. We also saw some new aspects to what he is able to do, and ultimately the consequences of acquiring too much power.
  • Episode 5, ZOMBIES! Just because it was fun and different and I’m a sucker for a good zombie thriller.

Joe: I have to agree completely. Dr. Strange's episode was dark and almost felt like it came out of a Dungeons and Dragons story. While the zombie episode had zombies, which were glorious, and had two of my favorite MCU characters in focus: i.e. Spider-Man and Scarlet Witch.

Ryan: And Ant-Man's head!

Joe: Quit having such great taste! I'm trying to find somewhere that we argue.

Ryan: How about the fact that Hawkeye is a better character when he's animated than as a live actor?

Joe: Exactly. Okay, what was your LEAST favorite episode?

Ryan: Probably Party Thor (Episode 7). I just found it to be kind of jokey. I’m still not quite sure why the Watcher chose him to help save the multiverse.

Joe: Okay, see no. I thought that one was hilarious. Thor's personality keeps going between the jock with a sense of humor and a classic D&D Paladin. In Episode 7 he had a distinct personality and I found it hilarious.

Ryan: True, it was fun to watch. I just didn't find his standalone episode to be very compelling. Which was YOUR least favorite episode?

Joe: As much as I loved T'Challa Star-Lord, I thought Episode 2 was the weakest episode since they had to find a villain to fill in for Thanos. They chose the universe's most avid Pokemon trainer.

Ryan: I really appreciated the idea that there was a power vacuum that The Collector filled. Would you have chosen somebody else is a villain? Or do you think there would just be no villain to take the place of Thanos, and everything would be hunky dory?

Joe: I liked the power vacuum but it didn't make any sense that The Collector would fill it. Even his brother, Jeff Goldblum was more threatening than The Collector.

Ryan: So you have a problem with the show because they didn’t do it the way you wanted them to do it? I see. I got your number. 😉

Joe: I'm a backseat comic writer. Classic geek move. We could've had the Ravagers, the blue dude who wanted the Power Stone, or Star-Lord's dad fill the vacuum if we have to reshuffle the existing canon. And this is my biggest problem with the show: All they did was shuffle all the already established characters around. This could've been a great way to introduce some fresh blood, like Adam Warlock, Galactus, or some of the other lesser known characters from the comics.

Ryan: Good suggestions. But there's something about Episode 3 that I really liked. I enjoyed seeing Tame Thanos. I enjoyed seeing what would've happened to Nebula is she weren't so badly abused. I enjoyed seeing the influence T'Challa had on his sphere. And I enjoyed the concept of the power vacuum, and seeing how The Collector filled it. I really appreciate, overall, how the episode highlighted some of the differences between Star-Lord and T'Challa. Again, for me it goes back to character development, and What If...? layers three-dimensional characters with depth, personality, and clear motivations in really unique ways. 

Joe: But I don't know if I needed to see a highlighted difference between Star-Lord and T'Challa. They did it well and I'm glad we got Chadwick Boseman for an episode, but it felt like it was just there to do something with the Guardians.

Ryan: "Need"? No, we probably didn’t need anything in the series. But I really like that we got to see that T'Challa is more than just a princely hero. Even when he's a Ravager and a thief, he's still classy and principled. He still believes in building bridges instead of putting up walls. He still sees the good in people. He's still selfless. And in that episode, he uses those traits to bring about good in his world. Or galaxy. Honestly, it made me reflect on what T'Challa did in the "What If Not..." timeline. All of his accomplishments really were a result of him and his values, not just being the right guy in the right time and place. Instead T'Challa himself was kind of destined to be a force for good no matter where he was. He bloomed where he was planted.

Joe: And that was fun to see, but not really as revelatory or as interesting as the rest.

Ryan: Fair enough. So what were your overall impressions, especially with how the last two episodes tied everything together?

Joe: Overall I did like it. The animation was solid and the last two episodes tied everything together beautifully, even if Dr. Strange was overpowered and the entire exercise felt like we were only working with a limited amount of Lego figures, and the other person never read the comics.

Ryan: I'm glad the series wasn't just a bunch of one-offs, but rather deepened the understanding of the MCU, gave insight to existing characters, and told a complete story that all tied together in the end. My biggest gripe was understanding why those particular characters were chosen to fight infinity Ultron. Like, why did it have to be Party Thor? Why not get a few Captain Marvels on the team? If the multi-verse is truly infinite, then why not get a version of Ultron that is good to fight Infinity Ultron? Or recruit a few thousand versions of every single Avenger? I’m willing to accept that a corrupt Killmonger had to be on the team, but I don’t see a compelling reason why the team had to be those exact individuals, and that's it.

Joe: That's the thing though, in the comics the Watchers do crap like that and then say "Mysterious ways..." before floating away.

Ryan: There are too many variables. I mean, it makes for good entertainment, but it's hard to swallow the pill that that was the only way to stop Infinity Ultron.

Joe: Agreed. And why was every Captain Marvel the same?

Ryan: Because she's a lame, overpowered character.

Joe: Homegirl just shows up bold as brass. No new haircut, no scars...

Ryan: Now we agree on something!

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