Like I said, you could do that. You could decide to skip it because it’s a cartoon. You could choose to watch it because you love all things Marvel.
But the show isn’t a one-off Marvel cartoon. It’s not a spinoff that has no meaning, according to “What If...?” director Bryan Andrews. It’s a show that has genuine importance to the entire MCU, one that Marvel fans will eat up.
It’s packed with Easter eggs, excitement and eccentricities that will make all Marvel fans excited for more, head writer AC Bradley told me. And, at the same time, it’s simple enough that you don’t need to know Marvel to embrace it.
“I mean, if people are dismissing it because it’s animation, well, that’s a little sad,” she said.
“We do go to places that I feel like other Marvel movies and Marvel shows hadn’t gone or been able to,” Bradley said.
“We’re almost the chocolate sampler pack of the MCU,” Bradley said. “We explore all these different parts of the multiverse and show stories that you’re not going to see in the movies or TV shows.”
Why ‘What If...?’ is unique
“What If...?” — unlike any other Marvel Cinematic Universe project so far — is an anthology series. Each episode focuses on a different character or situation. Those characters and storylines take place in alternate timelines, giving us our first glimpse at the multiverse.
Bradley said the goal for the first 10 episodes was to highlight as many Marvel characters as possible.
“We could come up with 10 ideas for Captain America, Iron Man, but that’s hard,” she said. “It’s taking all these characters and finding new ways into them.”
She said the goal was to find “new stories to tell” that hadn’t been explored.
For example, the story of T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) has been told before in “Black Panther.” So “What If...?” decided to take a different route with the story, highlighting T’Challa’s familial story in Wakanda.
“So we kind of landed on this one about family and the importance of family, because while you see that a bit with his relationship with (his father) T’Chaka in ‘Civil War,’ it hadn’t been explored fully,” Bradley said.
Similarly, there’s a new avenue for Thor in the show.
“I don’t want to give any spoilers away. We’re just basically taking a different side of Thor and running with it,” she said.
But again, Marvel didn’t want “What If...?” to be stories all about Thor, T’Challa, Iron Man or Captain America.
“That was the one rule we gave us,” Bradley said. “It’s like — spread around the love as much as humanly possible.”
‘What If...?’ is as Marvel as Marvel goes
A highlight for the show — something else that makes it so different — is the authenticity of the show. It features a number of MCU original cast members reprising their roles in voiceovers, including ... deep breath ... Benedict Cumberbatch, Benedict Wong, Chadwick Boseman, Chris Hemsworth, Don Cheadle, Emily VanCamp, Evangeline Lilly, Hayley Atwell, Jeff Goldblum, Jeremy Renner, Jon Favreau, Josh Brolin, Karen Gillan, Kat Dennings, Mark Ruffalo, Michael B. Jordan, Natalie Portman, Paul Bettany, Paul Rudd, Rachel McAdams, Samuel L. Jackson, Sebastian Stan and Tom Hiddleston.
Getting the original cast members was a big deal for the show, said Andrews, the director of the show.
“It’s the cinematic universe,” he said. “it’s not, it’s not some little offshoot. There’s not this little animated thing happening over here in a corner. It’s just it’s an extension. It’s just looking at it through a different prism of what they’ve already achieved so it was paramount to get as many people back as possible.”
New to the cast is Jeffrey Wright, the star of “Westworld,” who will play the Watcher — a narrator who guides the viewer through the show.
Bradley said Wright “is just such an amazing human being, and his talent cannot be quantified.”
There’s a father-like quality to the Watcher, Bradley said. He watches over these new alternate timelines and takes note of them, embracing them like a father celebrating his children.
“He’s also a father,” Bradley told me. “He’s going to grow to love these characters because he’s watching them and they’re changing him too. In a way, he’s the audience. So that was really interesting.”
A story for all
The show — though there is no connection drawing the episodes together — will have a number of Easter eggs for fans. That might include references to different MCU television shows or movies, different characters in the MCU and even some comic book nods along the way.
“I like to think the die-hard fans are going to tune in just for the Easter eggs alone,” Bradley said, “but I hope we get new fans who just want to be something sit back for 30 minutes to be entertained and hopefully moved.”
That continues to be one of the main aims of “What If...?” Marvel wants to bring in new viewers to the universe — people who may never have seen MCU projects,
“I mean, anyone can keep up,” Andrews said. “There’s a lot of people that are familiar with the Marvel Cinematic Universe already, so I don’t think they need any kind of precursor. They’ve already got it the past 10 years.
“So just jump in, watch it and watch the characters that you know and love. Go on a completely different adventure,” he said.