A Big Strength Of 'What If...?' Is Also Its Achilles' Heel
This week's episode of Marvel's What If…? featured the return of beloved villain Erik Killmonger, AKA … well, Killmonger. In this alternate version of events, we see the opening moments of the original Iron Man, but this time it's a tad different. For one thing, Tony's reference to MySpace has been cut out, presumably because the MCU doesn't want anyone to know how old it actually is. But also, instead of being taken prisoner, Tony Stark is miraculously saved by Killmonger, who looks and sounds just like he did in Black Panther despite the fact that he'd really only be like 20 at the time
More than any other, this episode underscores how one of the show's greatest assets is also one of its greatest weaknesses: casting. It was inarguably great to get another Killmonger performance from Michael B. Jordan after he was killed off in the prime MCU timeline frustratingly quickly. And so many of these episodes have been worthwhile in a big part thanks to the performances of the original MCU actors. Most notably, while it obviously wasn't intended as such, What If…? gave us another chance to see (or hear) Chadwick Boseman's T'Challa. And he had a doozy of a scene in this week's show.
It's also fun to see actors play radically different versions of their characters -- like Michael Douglas as the murderous, unshowered, presumably urine-encrusted version of Hank Pym. But as great as these moments are, they also make it all the more distracting when voice actors are called upon to fill in for the original actors, which was never more conspicuous than in this week's episode. Not surprisingly, the producers didn't want to pay Robert Downey Jr.'s Marvel fee (which we believe is measured in Learjets, not dollars), so instead, Jordan's Killmonger faces off against … some guy doing an impression of an Ally McBeal-era Downey.
Obviously, this is born out of necessity, and the voice work is certainly serviceable, but it would be one thing if the show's cast was composed of all sound-alike actors -- but the blend of original actors and impressionists makes the discrepancy between the two pretty glaring. In retrospect, maybe they should have just made the episode "What If ... Killmonger Rescued Tony Stark, Who Also Happens To Be Mute In This World?"
Top Image: Marvel Studios