What If…? Episode 1 Review — “What If… Captain Carter Were The First Avenger”
Out of all the major comic book industry titans, Marvel has always had a rocky history with adapting their stories and characters to animation. While the company may have been on fire in the early 90s with their Spider-Man and X-Men cartoons, their ventures into creating high-quality animated projects really took a dive after the turn of the century as their competition continued to thrive. After years of mediocre attempts at the same characters and constant misfires, it is no surprise that Marvel Studios’ What If…? would be a massive triumph for the blockbuster giant. Helmed by the incredible storytellers from its film department, What If…? already shows that it knows how to build upon what audiences already love.
Marvel Studios’ What If…? has one simple goal in mind: to open up the multiverse and diversify it after Loki and WandaVision finally unleashed its madness. It is out to create a wide array of stories that showcase the movies with a single storytelling difference that could drastically cause a massive overhaul to the events of each individual film. Whether or not all these anthology episodes will be connected is yet to be seen, but like the multiverse itself, the decision to or not to connect everything leaves open even more possibilities.
As the first episode title states, “What If… Captain Carter Were The First Avenger” shows an alternate reality where Peggy Carter became the first super soldier. As Steve Rogers is about to become Captain America, Peggy Carter chooses to stay with her newly found friend on the ground floor of his creation site rather than staying in the viewing booth. As a result of her actions, the nazi spy from Captain America’s origin story is able to stop the experiment early in an attempt to steal the super soldier serum for Hydra. When Steve is injured by the attack after being shot, Peggy makes a last-minute call to jump into the experiment to see the science project through before it is lost forever. The result is, of course, Captain Carter: appropriately the first Avenger of the multiverse.
The “What If…?” scenario is intended to alter the source material in new ways, however, it also deeply respects what it is adapting. Ultimately the first episode culminates into a fantastic viewing experience for longtime and newly interested Marvel fans. Captain Carter’s first adventure is a nostalgic and cozy journey as Marvel Studios aims to recapture one of its earliest films with a new coat of paint. From various shots to specific dialogue instances, the creative team behind the show has clearly overanalyzed its source material and pulled a lot of its beats.
Just comparing the first episode of the show to Captain America: The First Avenger, What If…? puts Peggy Carter on the same journey that Steve Rogers faced while also smartly showcasing how the two would have made different decisions. As if she was not already likable enough, Haylee Atwell kills it as she steps back into the resolute boots of World War II’s Peggy Carter for a blissfully entertaining quick-fire retelling of her first Marvel film with a thrilling twist. It is not just Peggy though that the creators have done wonders returning to. Every character who once appeared in Captain America: The First Avenger is done justice alongside the movie’s tone and wartime atmosphere.
Marvel Studios has done a pristine job bringing back as many of the original actors as possible for their animated roles. Ross Marquand (Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame), in particular, deserves a special mention as he is having an absolute blast getting to spearhead the original egotistical side of Hydra’s leader Red Skull alongside Toby Jones as Armin Zola. Even when the original actors could not return though, their characters are being treated with an immense amount of care. While Chris Evans may not be helming the role of Steve Rogers this time around, Josh Keaton does a tremendous job recapturing the character’s initial heroic and heart-warming attitude.
Hopefully, Keaton’s casting will set a standard for future veteran actors not part of What If…? as Marvel Studios’ attempts to recapture each actor’s likenesses as closely as possible. It may not be able to one hundred percent replicate the globally iconic films, but What If…? understands this and embraces that reality. The show understands that it is animated and living in a different age of Marvel filmmaking. The first episode is not afraid to get a bit more violent and brutal than the original Captain America film as it embraces the perks of being animated. Not only does the show look incredible, but it also has stellar choreography and planning as its action scenes and detail are just as enjoyable as any other major-budget Marvel film.
The only issue with the debut of What If…? is the episode length. As mentioned before, the premiere feels like it is absolutely flying through an alternate recreation of Captain America: The First Avenger with Peggy as the lead. Normally adapting a two-hour film into thirty minutes would be almost impossible, but What If…? does a damn fine job doing so. The show takes its time to develop its cast and give them those moments of quiet character building and interaction you would expect to see, even if they are rather short. Due to the show’s quick nature, it could more than likely benefit from having an extra five or fifteen minutes of runtime, but for what it has to work with, it does a notable job of not feeling rushed.
Marvel Studio’s What If…? is already bursting with potential as it gets started on a brilliant and explosive opening. Captain America: The First Avenger has always been a fan-favorite film of the Marvel franchise and What If…? absolutely honors Captain America’s origins with a spectacle of celebration for its lore, cinematic approach, and overall creativeness. Like Loki and WandaVision, the unique approach Marvel Studios has been taking will surely pay off in the long run as they embrace an absolute chaotic side of their cinematic universe that audiences are loathing to see after over twenty-five films. What If…? can only grow up as it opens an infinite gateway of storytelling potential with characters everyone already loves.