Marvel’s What If…? Captain Carter Premiere is Solid but a Little Too Safe

Wayne Rock, Comic to Screen Head Writer

Warning: Mild spoilers ahead

The official title of Season 1 Episode 1 of Marvel’s new animated anthology series What If…? is What If…Captain Carter Were the First Avenger? But I like to think of it as What If…Steve Rogers Had Macrophilia? (having sexual arousal from giants), because oh boy can I imagine the field day they internet memers are going to have with this one. If the first episode is anything to go by, this latest Disney+ offering from Marvel has serious potential, but I need to see more episodes to really know if it’s going to live up to the incredible standards set by its predecessors. Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself.

What If…? is a concept adapted from a line of Marvel comics which date back to 1977 and where they would change one detail in a character’s story and examine the ramifications of that change. It could be something as simple as Gwen Stacy living instead of dying or as weird as Wolverine becoming a vampire. The TV series uses this concept to frame canonical stories taking place in the multiverse following the events of Loki, which in my opinion is ripe for crazy stories that have so much potential to surprise an audience that, by now, might find the MCU to be a bit formulaic. Which is why I found this first episode to be a bit disappointing.

We shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender…

Basically all they did was swap Steve Rogers (voiced here by Josh Keaton, but you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone that would tell you that wasn’t a stellar Chris Evans imitation) and Peggy Carter (Haley Atwell returning to the role). The ramifications of this change weren’t really all that impactful. Don’t get me wrong; it was an entertaining half hour of TV, but it all felt a bit superfluous by the time the credits rolled around. Before I elaborate on the things I didn’t like as much, let’s talk about what I actually enjoyed.

The animation is amazing. It’s fluid and vivid and action scenes have a life to them that just are not present in the live-action version. It almost seems like Peggy has a more balletic style of fighting to Steve at some points, but when she needs to punch hard, boy can she punch hard. I was skeptical about the animation at first but seeing it in action made me a true believer. The voice acting is also stellar outside of a few clumsily-delivered lines (c’mon Sebastian Stan, you’re better than that). One particular standout is Jeffery Wright as Uatu the Watcher. Is there anything this man cannot do? I never imagined Uatu sounding quite like that, but Jeffery brings a gravitas and otherworldly quality to the Rod Serling-type role that I just thought was absolutely perfect.

Give ’em hell boys!

We also do get many more actors reprising their roles than I initially would’ve thought, with Toby Jones, Dominic Cooper, Stanley Tucci and Neal McDonough all reprising their Captain America the First Avenger roles, and even Samuel L Jackson and Jeremy Renner making an appearance at the very end of the episode. Ross Marquand also continues his eerily perfect impression of Hugo Weaving as the Red Skull from Endgame which made the episode feel very much like The First Avenger in another dimension. The dialogue was also pretty solid with one joke in particular making me laugh out loud. This may seem like a short list of things I enjoyed, but what more do you need for an enjoyable 30 minutes?

The things I didn’t enjoy too much really aren’t all that bad. The pacing for one felt rushed, because we have a direct comparison in the existence of The First Avenger. We know the journey Steve went on in that film to eventually become Captain America, so when it happens to Peggy in a fraction of the time it’s obvious that they just did it to condense the story into 30 minutes. A good example is the shield. Cap got his signature round shield after a brief period of deliberation, but this added to the shield itself being more purposeful in service to the story. In the episode Howard Stark just hands Peggy the shield and says “Here you go!” There are many more moments like this that make the story feel a bit rushed and unevenly paced.

I see filming on Stargirl Season 2 is coming along well

My biggest gripe with this first episode is that the conceit of “A GIRL AS CAPTAIN AMERICA” made no real difference to the story as a whole. Yes, we got to see Steve as a Hydra-destroying mech and we got to see a different dynamic to their dimension-defying relationship, but everything pretty much happened the same as the original story. The whole point of these What If…? explorations into the unknown is to embrace crazy, bonkers storylines that would seem out of place in the MCU. But this one felt right at home.

Conclusion and rating

I do hope that we do get some of that much needed insanity in future episodes. But as of right now, What If Peggy Carter was a Sexy Giantess gets a 6.5/10 from me. Definitely watchable and enjoyable, but there’s potential for it to be so much more.

So how would rate the What If…? premiere? And you can check out more great MCU content below:

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Wayne loves to complain, and that was an unintentional rhyme. When I’m not watching movies, TV, anime or trophy hunting on PS4, you can usually find me deep in my thoughts preparing my next scathing review of a bad movie. I think Zack Snyder’s take on superheroes is terrible and that The Quick and the Dead is actually a decent movie. I re-watch Death Note every year. Unlike the other fine writers on this site, I’m not a critic, but I can definitely Rock a review…(Read More)