what if trailer breakdown

Disney dropped a new What If…? trailer during their huge Investor Day event, bringing us more footage of the animated series. Like the comics that inspired it, What If…? presents us with alternate realities; versions of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that are either slightly, or vastly different from what we’ve experienced in the films. It’s a great idea, and bringing in the MCU actors to voice their animated counterparts makes the whole endeavor even more enjoyable.

Let’s dive into the trailer and see what we can decipher.

Part of the fun of this trailer is that it starts off with shots designed to trick you. Sure, it’s all animated, but the imagery we’re seeing is familiar. There’s Nick Fury (designed to resemble Samuel L. Jackson) uncovering Captain America’s frozen shield, presumably after Cap ended up frozen at the end of The First Avenger. There’s Doctor Strange’s Eye of Agamotto. There’s Star-Lord from Guardians of the Galaxy. There’s the shot of Tony Stark chowing down on a donut from Iron Man 2. And then…things change. “Space. Time. Reality,” a whispery voice tells us. “It’s more than a linear path. “It’s a prism of endless possibility.”

The first indication that things are not what they seem comes here – Star-Lord removes his mask, and – shocker! – it’s not Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill. Instead, Star-Lord is now T’Challa, AKA Black Panther! (The late Chadwick Boseman reportedly recorded the voice for the character here, although oddly enough, we don’t hear his voice in this trailer).

The changes keep on coming. The familiar pod that pipsqueak Steve Rogers entered only to emerge as the buff Captain America opens up to reveal Peggy Carter.

And sure enough, instead of Captain America, we now have Peggy as Captain Britain. But Steve Rogers isn’t entirely out of the equation just yet…

Meanwhile, in Wakanda, a young T’Challa ends up abducted by…Yondu, voiced by Michael Rooker. The implication is clear: instead of abducting the young Peter Quill, Yondu took T’Challa, and that’s how T’Challa went down the road to being this alternate-dimension Star-Lord.

Remember when I said Steve Rogers wasn’t out of the equation? Here he is, still in his scrawny form.

And here’s Peggy riding on the back of someone in early Iron Man-type armor. Who is that someone? By all accounts, it’s Steve. Instead of becoming Captain America in this timeline, he becomes a version of Iron Man…

…and don’t worry. These two crazy kids still have the hots for each other.

Finally, we meet our narrator. “I am the Watcher,” he tells us. “I am your guide through these vast new realities.” This character has a name – Uatu, and he’s voiced by Jeffrey Wright. In the original What If…? comics, the Watcher was kind of like the Crypt Keeper without the puns – he’d set the story up, and then it would go from there. More Watchers were glimpsed – in live-action form – in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. In an interviewWhat If…? series writer A.C. Bradley said of the character:

“He’s above everything else. He’s above everyone, but there should almost be a gleefulness watching these stories. I keep using this metaphor, which I’m not too sure if anyone likes, but I always compare it to the pizza rat meme that went around a few years ago. Someone next to the subway recorded this video of a rat dragging a slice of pizza across the platform. I think that’s what The Watcher is – he’s a guy watching a rat drag a slice of pizza across the platform.”

So there you have it: the Watcher is Pizza Rat.

From here, the trailer goes into the standard “let’s throw a bunch of quick shots in your face!” route that all trailers do these days. The shots themselves are mostly unremarkable – Hawkeye drawing back his bow; Captain Marvel striking a pose; Bucky running around. But I did want to single out this one, which appears to be a very buff version of Benicio del Toro‘s Collector character from the Guardians of the Galaxy films. Seriously, look at that chiseled jawline. Dude’s been working out.

The big “money shot” comes near the end – although is it really a money shot if it was featured in a previous trailer? Probably not. But here it is anyway – zombie Captain America! This is obviously a storyline that’s separate from the Peggy Carter storyline, so you’ll have multiple “alternative Cap” tales to look forward to.

After the title card, we get a little stinger. All through the trailer, there are various shots of Doctor Strange doing…stuff. I honestly have no damn idea what he’s doing, other than waving his hands around and being mystical. But none of it seemed particularly different from what we expect from the character. This final beat finally clues us into what’s going on here: Doctor Strange ends up fighting…Doctor Strange. Only this other Doctor Strange has a bunch of red-glowing magic at his disposal, which suggests he’s evil. How does all of this work? We’ll have to wait and see.

What If…? premieres summer 2021 on Disney+.

Cool Posts From Around the Web: