What If… The World Lost its Mightiest Heroes? Review and Discussion

GateCrashers’ coverage of What If…? returns with Amanda and Reagan’s discussion of Episode Three.

Episode Three of What If…? has been described as what would happen if the world suddenly lost its mightiest heroes. What will happen if Nick Fury’s Avengers Initiative is suddenly…gone? Amanda and Reagan are locked and loaded and ready to find out with you all! Beware of the spoilers down below and buckle up for another episode of Marvel’s What If…?

Amanda: Really?! They’re gonna make me watch Tony die AGAIN????? Personally, I think this is overkill. Why they gotta do me like this? It wasn’t even a cool death, either!

But I guess at least I got an animated version of the iconic Iron Man is Dying and Eating Donuts in a Donut scene.

Also, as a side note, I am very obsessed with the animation of Black Widow fighting that entire caravan of SHIELD agents. The animation style of What If…? is just so much fun, the fight scenes are honestly expertly crafted, 10/10, will watch this scene over and over again.

Reagan: She. I really loved Natasha in this, her scenes felt like parts of The Winter Soldier and they were absolutely the standout part of this episode. You could really feel the mystery aspect of what was going on.

Amanda: When I tell you I SCREAMED when Hawkeye let that arrow loose! SIR! WHAT HAVE YOU DONE? Also, like, how did that actually kill Thor? He is literally a god? He wasn’t stripped of his godlike power in the first Thor, he just was no longer worthy of wielding Mjolnir! And, like, I’m pretty sure Hawkeye shooting him in the first Thor was just supposed to incapacitate him, not kill him!

Reagan: That and Hawkeye’s death were the moments where I was like “ok so this is what we’re doing, this is the what if.” It was simple yet left a lot of room to grow in terms of what could happen. Would we see the heroes introduced later on? I had no idea but I knew I was into it.

Amanda: So going in I was pretty convinced this was going to be the zombie episode, like, I was fully prepared for Tony to just wake up and start eating people but I also know that the zombie episode is supposed to be a later one, so. I honestly had no idea what was going on. Why are all of the Avengers dying? Why is someone trying to ruin Nick Fury’s day like this?

Reagan: There’s so many ways a scenario like this could go. A guy like Fury is bound to have a lot of enemies.

Amanda: Oh god why did the Hulk just blow up. Why did that happen? What is happening? What is going on? Why is Natasha dead? Someone please explain I am hands-and-knees begging.

Reagan: Was fully not expecting Hulk to just blow up like that, that was such a massive surprise.

Amanda: YES!!! FINALLY!!! SOMETHING WORTH STICKING AROUND FOR!!! As someone who has very little comics knowledge, I’ve been completely lost as to what this episode is supposed to be accomplishing but anything that includes Loki is automatically at least three times better. And Lady Sif? My queen!

Reagan: Once again, she. Loki was such a great part of the episode. It’s never hard to tell that Hiddleston is having a great time and you can really feel that here. It always improves whatever he’s in when that shines through, it makes it more fun. And I mean, I think we all know how much I love Loki.

Amanda: Okay, so apparently… Hope had been under Nick Fury’s employ and he… sent her on a mission where she… died, I guess. And so now we have an angry Hank Pym. Who is wearing what I think is the Yellow Jacket suit. And is swearing revenge on all of the Avengers? I’m so confused. And now Carol Danvers is on her way I guess? Reagan, do you know what’s happening?

This fight scene with Nick and Loki is pretty cool, though, I’ll give them that.

Reagan: It’s definitely a very busy episode, it feels cluttered with how much is going on. It’s one thing to have a butterfly effect caused by a single difference, it’s another thing entirely to have this many what if scenarios at once.

Amanda: I was fully confused for literally the entire episode. I’m honestly not sure what was supposed to be happening here. I generally had some context for the first two episodes and for most of the remaining episodes but for this one I sat here the entire time like “can someone please explain!!!” Why did Betty Ross become so significant here? Why did Hank kill all the Avengers? What purpose did any of this serve?

I know this episode was “What If… The World Lost its Mightiest Heroes?”, but I think what confused me the most is that I don’t really end up learning what happens without the Avengers, I only learn how they were eliminated and I guess why.

I really hope Ep. 3 isn’t someone’s first episode because they’re going to be hella confused. Also, like, not much really happens (at least that makes sense on paper)? I suppose the subterfuge and political intrigue would keep a casual viewer watching just for the suspense and I know the inclusion of Loki will absolutely encourage the audience to stay, but I honestly found myself… quite bored with this one, I won’t lie to y’all.

Reagan: Not even Loki could make this one outshine the first two in my eyes. I really hope this isn’t what the rest of the episodes will be like, especially after the other two were so good. 

Comics Television

“What If… T’Challa Became a Star Lord?” Review and Discussion

GateCrashers’ coverage of What If…? returns with Amanda and Reagan’s discussion of episode two. Beware – there be spoilers ahead!

What You Missed in Episode One:

If you haven’t seen the memes, then you probably need a bit of a refresh on what the series premiere of What If…? was all about. I can break it down for you in three words:

Captain. Peggy. Carter.

In the first episode of What If…?, Peggy takes the super-soldier serum in Steve’s stead, following a series of what the Watcher identifies as small choices that make a big impact. She becomes Captain Carter, Howard essentially makes Steve an Iron Man suit, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Peggy and Steve never did get that dance.

Now, back to your Episode Two coverage with Amanda and Reagan!

Reagan: Episode Two of What If…? follows a version of T’Challa who was taken by Ravagers and became a very different Star-Lord from Peter Quill. Take for example the first scene of this episode. It’s basically the same as the first scene of Guardians of the Galaxy except people actually like T’Challa. 

Amanda: I mean, I would definitely argue that people liked Peter until we properly found out that Chr*s Pr*tt sucked, ahaha. Unless of course, you meant characters in-universe actually like T’Challa as opposed to Peter, which… very fair, and I love it. Nothing tickled me more than watching the scenes and characters we know so well happening through the lens of T’Challa as Star-Lord. Korath being a huge Star-Lord fanboy? Was so. Good. And also, Drax’s family still being alive? Because of T’Challa? RIP me.

I also really loved T’Challa’s dynamic with Nebula and also Nebula as a character in general. While I absolutely adore the character journey they took Nebula one in the Infinity Saga, it was nice seeing her as someone who was confident and fully in control of her own life (to a certain extent), rather than buckling under Thanos’ thumb. I couldn’t get with the blond hair, though. I was very confused by that. 

The Collector was also super fun here! They made him a lot more bad-ass, which was kind of cool. I don’t dislike the film’s characterization of the Collector, because I like that he’s a little weird and squirrely, but it was fun to actually watch him fight to defend and expand his collection as opposed to letting it all just languish. What’s the point of a collection you don’t use? What a waste. Get with the times, theatrical film releases!

I will say, though, there was a severe lack of 80s music, aka, GotG’s biggest money-maker.

Reagan: T’Challa and Yondu’s relationship is really interesting in that they’re actually like father and son here whereas we didn’t get that between Yondu and Peter until the very end of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.

Amanda: I’m a big ole sap for a good father/son dynamic, so I was absolutely one of those people that fell for Peter and Yondu’s relationship in GotG2 (“He may have been your father, boy, but he wasn’t your daddy” dear god), and it was really nice to see a different side of that dynamic here with T’Challa and Yondu. “I’m not leaving without my kid” HELLO???

So while Peter and Yondu’s relationship had a foundation of animosity that stemmed from a lack of communication (and, y’know… trying to kill each other), T’Challa and Yondu showed mutual respect for each other and actually listened to one another. Honestly, this episode of What If…? goes a long way in showing us the kind of Star-Lord we could’ve had. *Adele voice* WE COULD’VE HAD IT AAAAAAAAAAAALL

Reagan: Let’s talk about Thanos. This Thanos is, like a lot of the characters we see in this, someone who has been changed by the fact that they encountered T’Challa. He’s given up his quest to kill half of the universe with the infinity stones.

Amanda: Yo, Thanos showed up and I SCREAMED I was so shocked. I was flabbergasted. I was ready to rumble. I was like SIR. PLEASE. And then this man was all T’Challa showed me the error of my ways, they’re really just out here hammering the point home. We get it! T’Challa is a vastly superior human being!! We already been knew!!! 

The frequent (and…kind of jarring) references to genocide were perhaps a little on-the-nose for me; I don’t think they needed to say it quite so many times, but also, this is coming from me, a person who was very aware that Thanos committed genocide. I’m also sadly, incredibly aware that there are people on this earth who thought he had a good idea in that noggin of his…to which I say…please…get off the internet…

Reagan: I think the stinger at the end with Peter and Ego could have been removed. The rest of the episode feels like a loving tribute to Boseman and his character and to have what feels like an ending show a scene with two completely unrelated characters feels unnecessary and a little bit jarring, especially when it’s almost immediately followed by an in memoriam for Boseman. 

Amanda: I totally agree with that. So much of this episode was not only just… a fun look at how literally everything is better when T’Challa is around, but also worked as a wonderful reminder that Chadwick really did enrich the lives of everyone around him. (Though, of course, I love Kurt Russell so much that I’m willing to overlook it.) I think it could’ve been a fun little bit after the in memoriam.

And also, as someone who’s watched the first three episodes already, I fully believe that this should’ve been the series opener. While I know episode one has a lot of great meme material and I do love the role reversal of Captain Carter and Steve Rogers, I just think this story has more heft and fun to it. Though I guess I can see why they’d want to start with What If…?’s chosen First Avenger. 

But for anyone who may have gotten through the first episode and said “that was okay” I implore you to stick around for this week’s episode. In my opinion, this is exactly what What If…? stands to bring us more of—a deep appreciation for the stories we already know and love, and an even deeper fondness for the amazing characters and actors who have told them to us.


Marvel’s What If…? and the Expansion of the Multiverse

What if… Marvel Studios… gave GateCrashers’ resident MCU enthusiast access to an early digital screening of the first three episodes of Marvel’s newest (and highly-anticipated) show?

Yeah—I think it’s pretty wild, too.

As someone who knows the MCU like the back of her hand, I am always excited for new content. Since the inception of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2008 with the groundbreaking Iron Man, I’ve been to many opening nights and a fair few early screenings. I even have some Marvel inspired tattoos—that’s how jazzed I am about this franchise that has swept up the world with its world-saving, blockbuster storytelling.

But as someone who doesn’t also make a habit of reading the comic books and only has a surface-level, passable knowledge of the myriad of other universes, story arcs, character swaps, and origins, a show like What If…? is ripe with the potential to both confuse and absolutely, positively enthrall.

The Watcher (Jeffrey Wright) via Marvel Studios

In Marvel’s What If…?, one small choice—as posited by Jeffrey Wright’s Watcher—can change the course of an entire future. So begins the premise of this animated anthology series which takes the characters that audiences both old and new alike have come to know so well and turns them on their heads. Viewers get to watch brand-new stories unfold using the framework of some of the most iconic MCU stories, including Captain America: The First Avenger and Guardians of the Galaxy.

What I think most audiences will appreciate is that each episode starts off with a familiar but relevant scene that immediately grounds the viewer in the story. While some viewers may find this tedious, others will definitely appreciate the brief moment of recall and chance to be immediately immersed in each new story. Paired with Jeffrey Wright’s narration as the Watcher, the beginning of each episode quickly lays the groundwork for the story to unfold without sacrificing precious screen time (especially since each episode is an average of half an hour).

From L-R: Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), Captain Carter (Hayley Atwell), Dum Dum Dugan (Neal McDonough) via Marvel Studios

The animation style is also a ton of fun—I absolutely love the way it emulates classic, traditional comic book art and calls back to Marvel’s roots. The characters are delightfully expressive and the colors are vibrant and eye-catching, even in low-light scenes (finally! I can see an action sequence!). And speaking of action sequences—they’re exceptionally well done. All that’s missing is the quintessential BOOM! POW! BANG!

There are also some really fun scene transitions and layouts, lending to that artful, comic book quality that will make What If…? immediately identifiable among Marvel’s other animated properties. Viewers will also enjoy the easter eggs hidden throughout the episodes and in the backgrounds, including nods to the not-so-easily-missed Grandmaster pleasure ship from Thor: Ragnarok.

From L-R: Lady Sif (Jaimie Alexander), Loki (Tom Hiddleston) via Marvel Studios

There are definitely some stylistic choices that I question, like some of the fine details of female characters in particular. The eyelashes for most of the human female characters, for example, often make them look raccoon-like and are hardly uniform from scene-to-scene or episode-to-episode. In a similar fashion, face wrinkles randomly disappear and reappear, colors (while, at times, a savior for dark sequences) are sometimes too oversaturated to the point of being jarring, and some of the animation transitions appear jerky and not as clean as they could be.

Additionally, some of the pacing of the dialogue seems very rushed. Whether that’s from the actors’ execution, the cut of a particular edit, or the writing itself remains to be seen and, again, does not seem consistent from episode-to-episode. I also found myself wishing that more experienced voice actors were hired to star as these iconic characters rather than trying to preserve their original actors. A lot of inflection gets lost when performed by actors not as experienced in voice work and, without the ability to see their faces, predominately screen actor performances can sometimes fall flat when translated into animation, which some of What If…? falls victim to.

From L-R: The Collector (Benicio del Toro), Star Lord/T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) via Marvel Studios

Despite this, some longtime MCU fans may still be disappointed to learn that feature film pillars like Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., and Scarlett Johansson will not be reprising their roles as their iconic characters, but the actors who will be returning is nothing to scoff at. Hayley Atwell as Captain Peggy Carter, Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes, Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, and the late Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa are just a few of the original actors set to appear in this animated romp through the multiverse.

Like I mentioned previously, I had the privilege of catching an early screening of the first three episodes of what President of Marvel Studios Kevin Feige has confirmed will be a ten episode season and I’m excited by the variety that viewers will have the opportunity to experience. I can’t wait to see what they do with the rest of the season!

From L-R: Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Hawkeye/Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) via Marvel Studios

Each episode has its own distinct flavor, which is indicative of the new genre exploration that Marvel has been doing not only with their newest Disney+ shows (WandaVision, Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and Loki), but with previous releases like Ant-Man and the Wasp (a total romcom), Spider-Man: Homecoming (a teen, coming-of-age comedy), and Thor: Ragnarok (a movie that many, I’m sure, would classify as a category of its own making).

What If…? releasing on the heels of WandaVision and the season one finale of Loki brings with it a big and brave new world to unravel. With Spider-Man: No Way Home forthcoming in December and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness in March 2022, there’s so much speculation for where the stories and characters we know may end up in the canon that getting a taste of their potential futures through these snappy and thoroughly entertaining one-shots is the perfect primer for that new universe to begin.

Captain Carter (Hayley Atwell) via Marvel Studios

It’s clear that the MCU is committed to broadening their horizons and allowing their creators more room to play, now that the Infinity Saga has reached its end and Phase Four begins.

Readers of the comics will find a lot to be excited about in this new series, including the opportunity to see some of their favorite arcs brought to life on the big screen, even if only for the space of a single episode. Newer and less-immersed viewers, by comparison, may find it difficult to get into the show initially, especially since each episode is a brand-new story with no overarching connectivity.

Nevertheless, once you get acclimated to the singular nature of each episode, What If…? comes as a balm to those exhausted by having to keep up with the connective tissue stringing each feature film together and is pure fun for the Marvel buff and casual viewer alike.

This show will be an excellent addition to your Wednesday night viewing, easily filling the void the Loki season one finale left behind.

Marvel Studio’s What If…? premieres this Wednesday, August 11, on Disney+.

via Marvel Studios

Loki Asks the Question: Was Kafka Wrong?

Last time we talked about Loki I was screaming about this Czech guy who really didn’t like to do paperwork (you can read it all about it here). Today me and He Who Remains will ask you a question: What if Kafka was wrong? 

But first, a recap: After fighting their way through the TVA, “killing” the Time Keepers, being “pruned”, enchanting Alioth, and finding the master behind the sacred timeline, Loki and Sylvie walk into an office. They walk into a somewhat normal office complete with a bookshelf, a big desk, back windows. Yes, it’s in the middle of all of time and space but an office is just an office regardless of where it is. In that office is a man who controls all of that time and space and he has something to ask of our two heroes. What does the man in the office ask of Loki and Sylve? Well he asks them to take over the paperwork. 

Why? Why does He Who Remains ask the Lokis to take over his job? Why does he ask them to become the ultimate bureaucrat? Because the world, the universe, it needs order, it needs people that set limits and rules, it needs someone to organize it, in short, it needs the TVA and the TVA needs what any good bureaucracy needs: someone in charge. 

He Who Remains explains that if it wasn’t for the sacred timeline different versions of himself would wage war with one another and destroy everything, he says that even if he is evil, his variants are worse. So once again I ask you a question: what is worse than the bureaucrat? Well, the answer is pretty obvious: the conqueror.

He Who Remains (Jonathan Majors) in Marvel Studios’ Loki / Photo by Chuck Zlotnick, Photo Courtesy of Marvel Studios

By the end of the final episode, with he who remains dead, and the conqueror taking control of the TVA I asked myself “What would Kafka think about this?” “Did he hate order, or just the dehumanizing nature of bureaucracy?” “Was Kafka wrong?” Let me tell you, I love the guy, he’s one of my favorite writers of all time. His influence has led me to make big decisions (he’s even one of the reasons I study philosophy), so for me to ask these questions well, let’s just say that Jonathan Majors gave one hell of a performance.

But let’s concentrate on the matter at hand, is Kafka wrong? Is bureaucracy justified by the need for order and the prevention of violence? I don’t think that Kafka was a fan of order, but I don’t think he was against it per se; I think the thing he really hated was the way bureaucracy alienates us and entraps us. In the works he confronts the problem of bureaucracy most directly (The Process, The Castle, The Penal Colony) all those long trials, legal loopholes, and (you guessed it) paperwork limit the freedom of the character, it transforms their life into a meaningless list of steps, it makes them small, makes them like bugs (pun intended). 

But even in the stories that bureaucracy isn’t that present Characters are still trapped in a meaningless existence, doomed to live a life of suffering, to be pathetic human beings. George Samsa from The Metamorphosis was always a bug, even before his transformation. The artist from The Hunger Artist was always destined to fast because he didn’t like food. The man of Before the Law was always destined to stay in the first door. Kafka’s characters are always meant to live life in a prison… maybe he thought the same of himself. 

Sylvie (Sophia DiMartino) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) in Marvel Studios’ Loki / Photo Courtesy of Marvel Studios

Sadly, the same is shown in Loki. Sylvie believes Loki will always look for the throne, and she does what a Loki always does, she betrays him. In a twist of events, even with the beginning of the multiverse, the TVA exists because it will always exist. Even without the bureaucracy things are going to happen as they should; the only thing that changes is that things get more violent and more sad. 

So maybe, Kafka was wrong, bureaucracy sucks, but it is necessary, because without it order prevails, but instead of it being buried in a mountain of forms and rules, it buries you, or in other words, it conquers you. 

But there is hope, or at least I believe there is. I say this because, well, let me confess something: I like Kafka, I like him a lot, but to be honest with you… to be really honest with you I think he’s a bit of a bummer and well, I think he’s full of shit. 

Don’t get me wrong, I really hate bureaucracy, I hate the trials and tribulations we make ourselves go through and I’m also not the biggest fan of order but in my mind you are only a bug if you let yourself be a bug, and your story is only written if you let someone else read it. 

There is a point in the episode where even the big almighty He who remains doesn’t know what’s gonna happen. The plan of the guy in the big chair only will always have a final step, and after that who knows things might change or they might not, but you won’t know until you get there. 

Sylvie (Sophia DiMartino), Loki (Tom Hiddleston), and Miss Minutes (voiced by Tara Strong) in Marvel Studios’ Loki / Photo Courtesy of Marvel Studios

The thing about Kafka’s characters is they give up too easily, they always stop fighting and even with his amazing writing skills my Czech friend can’t explain why. You may say this argument comes out of nowhere, you may think I’m just trying to be positive for the sake of it and that might be true, but let me ask you something; Wasn’t the Loki series renewed?

The story continues.

So let me leave you with this: you might have noticed that I’ve been asking a lot of questions, and that’s because I love questions; questions are doors (orange translucent doors), and as long as you keep opening doors, as long as the text ends with a question mark your story will continue. So now the question is, do you believe me?  

Comics Film Television

The Undoing of WandaVision

The below article contains spoilers for WandaVision.

WandaVision is one of the best shows of the year. It follows Marvel’s Wanda Maximoff and The Vision as they navigate life through a strange world of various sitcoms from across the ages, from the ’50s to present-day mockumentaries. A well-acted drama with a huge budget and a very intriguing and engaging premise, WandaVision was well on its way to being my personal best show of the year. That was until the very last episode where the awesome setup and conflicts didn’t pay off that well. I would even say the show shied away from the greatness it was showing.

Marvel had done an awesome job crafting an intriguing mystery, all the while creating a compelling drama about grief and loss. The only problem was closing the deal. The downside of the Marvel mold of filmmaking reared its head, the company had gotten so used to having a clear good and bad guy that they brought upon themselves a major problem come the finale. The show had an awesome villain, Mephisto. Just kidding. No, the great big bad of WandaVision was Wanda herself, not Agatha, not Hayward, Wanda. And this had amazing potential, the only issue was the writers and the show itself didn’t seem to realize it, or, they did realize and tried to cast others in a more negative light and walk back on that choice.

They had us with “Agatha All Along”, except It wasn’t. Agatha was maybe right, her only flaw was trying to steal Wanda’s powers (well, and threatening her kids), but Wanda kidnaped hundreds of people and tortured them for weeks. Should Wanda really be in charge of such power? In the final episode the directing, writing, and narrative choices seem to make a concerted effort to state that If there was a villain, it was not Wanda. But the truth is, no matter how we slice it, Wanda was the one who kidnapped an entire town and traumatized them.

Having Hayward be a sneaky villain makes no sense. The United States government wanting a powerful weapon like Vision is incredibly on-brand, no need to be sneaky about it. And more importantly, Wanda taking over the town pretty much gives him carte blanch, his being sneaky and duplicitous makes no sense. Lastly, and sadly for me, the biggest victim of these story decisions was sadly Monica Rambeau. Monica was a pretty cool and interesting character. Initially our guide into this world, who was trying to figure things out right alongside us, the audience. But after a while, she became fixated on Wanda and not the many victims in The Hex. Even when it became clear Wanda was the cause of it all, she didn’t have any wariness of her. It was particularly odd of Monica to absolve Wanda. How does Hayward stealing Vision’s body make him a bigger villain than Wanda? I still like Monica but hopefully she gets treated better in future instalments of the MCU. Regardless, wandavision is a great show but that last episode held it back from becoming a truly fantastic entry in the MCU.

By Bolu Ayeye.