After the earth-shattering conclusion of Avengers: Endgame in 2019 followed by a whole year of nothing in 2020, Marvel Studios have made their triumphant return in 2021. WandaVision proved they could take on a sitcom, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier saw Marvel tackle race issues, Loki opened up so many doors and timelines for the MCU to head down going forward and Black Widow saw the OG Avenger finally receive her own film. But what seems like their most ambitious leap yet is about to launch on Disney+. ‘What If…?’ is the studio’s very first foray into animation.
The series explores alternate timelines in the MCU, begging fans to ponder the question what if? What if things had happened slightly differently? For instance, the very first episode asks, what if it was Peggy Carter not Steve Rogers that took the super soldier serum? Each episode in the series runs for about half an hour and asks a different question leading to alternate scenarios in the MCU.
The show sees the return of many fans’ favourite characters with lots of the original cast members returning to voice their superhero counterparts. Among the top billed cast returning are Benedict Cumberbatch, Chris Hemsworth, Sebastian Stan, Tom Hiddleston as well as the final performance of Chadwick Boseman who will voice T’Challa in four episodes. But beyond the big names the show also sees the return of many of the smaller characters that fans never thought they’d see again. Clark Gregg returns as Agent Phil Coulson, Toby Jones is back as Dr Zola and Seth Green even reappears as classic Marvel character Howard the Duck.
The show is pulled together by The Watcher, voiced by Jeffrey Wright who narrates the series and guides us through the countless possibilities across the multiverse like Rod Sterling leading us through The Twilight Zone. What If proves that Marvel are willing to have a complete change of pace. The show is nothing ground-breaking and from the first three episodes it doesn’t appear to have much connection to the wider MCU but it’s a break from explosive big budget live-action films and TV shows with incredibly high production values.
Each episode offers up some familiarity, not just with the characters but with some of the situations too, however it injects these familiar circumstances with the unexpected. Each episode is filled with action, emotion, comedy and so much more in a way that matches the films, but the animation makes it feel incredibly unique. Although the first episode which sees Agent Carter injected with the super soldier serum and becoming Captain Carter instead of Steve Rogers as Captain America does feel a bit too derivative and too similar to Captain America: The First Avenger. There are lots of call backs that MCU superfans will recognise and enjoy with many shots being recreated only this time they’re animated, and it is nice to hear characters that we never thought we’d see or hear again like Stanley Tucci’s Dr Erskine.
Of the first three episodes, number one is the weakest. It’s a strong episode but two and three have a lot more to play with and make use of the altered scenarios much more. Episode two sees the return of a big bad we never expected to see again so soon and the third includes an insight into what fans know as ‘Fury’s Big Week’ when Nick Fury was assembling the Avengers- only not everything goes to plan this time around.
What If flips the MCU on its head and has countless possibilities for the future. A second series with nine more animated adventures is already in production. Writer A.C. Bradley has an enormous wealth of material to choose from with any moment since 2008’s Iron Man being fair game.
There’s enough familiarity in the characters, the actors voicing them and some of the situations to make it retain the MCU feel we all love but there’s also enough small changes to characters to make the show really interesting and fun to watch. We get to see characters we never expected to make us laugh cracking jokes and we get to see things that could never happen in live action as Marvel really embrace the animated format.
It is a bit disappointing to hear certain characters not being voiced by the same actors and it does feel a bit off. You can immediately tell when it’s not the original actor voicing the role and it does take away from the level of inter-connectedness the rest of the MCU has had. Hearing characters like Black Widow and Tony Stark being not being voiced by their usual actors that have played their parts so well after the past decade is quite disheartening but nonetheless there are still an impressive array of world class actors returning to their roles.
What If has beautiful animation and is a nice shift away from the usual Marvel formula. It’s much smaller, more contained stories than we’re used to from them but it’s entertaining and nothing too serious. It’s a good, fun time for those looking for something a bit different from Marvel.
The first episode of What If…? will premiere on Disney+ on Wednesday, August 11.
Netflix to Team with Legendary Entertainment for Live-Action Feature of ‘My Hero Academia’
Netflix seems to be in on almost everything anime or manga-related including live-action iterations for some of the more popular franchises. First, having made a Death Note film back in 2017, followed by a live-action Cowboy Bebop series before pivoting to focus on the One Piece and Avatar the Last Airbender series, it seems that they are taking another swing on a big anime property for their streaming service.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Netflix will team with Legendary Entertainment, best known for their monsterverse films centering on Godzilla and King Kong on a live-action feature film based on the popular manga, My Hero Academia. Joby Harold (Obi-Wan Kenobi, Army of the Dead) will write the script as Shinsuke Sato (Alice in Borderland, I Am a Hero) will make his English-language debut as director for the film. My Hero Academia debuted in 2014 and has quickly ascended into one of the more popular manga titles before gaining attention and turning to anime where its currently in its fifth season.
Legendary boarded the property all the way back in 2018 aiming to create a live-action movie and will aim to generate a wide-scale audience by teaming with Netflix. My Hero Academia revolves around a world in which 80 percent of people have a power called “quirks.” Lead character, Izuku Midoriya, or Deku, is a superhero fanboy who happens to be a part of that unfortunate 20 percent without powers and is discouraged. However, after meeting the legendary hero, All Might, he sets on a path to become the ultimate hero himself.
DC and Warner Bros. Discovery on Cusp of Animation Deal with Amazon
There has been much anticipation in waiting to see the unveiling of the structure of James Gunn and Peter Safran as the new heads of DC for Warner Bros. News came just this week from Gunn that the comic book flagship money maker for Warner Bros. that he and Safran are aiming to make everything cohesive within their vision connecting movies, television, video games and animation throughout the universe. However, a new report from Deadline sees that they may be looking at a new (or additional) streaming home for animated content surrounding their heroes and villains.
In an article originally reported from Deadline, Channing Dungey, the Chairwoman of Warner Bros. Television, has alluded to “closing a big deal” with Amazon featuring DC branded content in animation on their streaming platform, Amazon Prime Video. Though she also explained that HBO Max will be the “first stop” for all things DC, it’s interesting to note a deal such as this potentially going through with a company and competitor as big as Amazon, no less.
While it’s hard to imagine any major DC characters synonymous with the brand such as Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman or Green Lantern getting animated foray onto Prime Video, it begs the question, could we see Amazon as a pipeline to popularity for some lesser-known characters getting introduced to a larger audience? There is so much potential and richness of characters within the DC landscape that have yet to be introduced through live-action or animation so this seems like a risk that might be worth taking, especially considering the financial troubles that Warner Bros. Discovery has been reported to have.
Disney’s ‘Strange World’ Review | An Ecological Sci-Fi Family Adventure
Adventure is Out There! And “Strange World” is an Epic One indeed! Showcasing breathtaking animation, colourful visuals, heart, and a beautiful story about three generations living up to a family legacy whilst directors Don Hall and Qui Nguyen (who also wrote the screenplay) weave in an impactful eco-environmental message.
Walt Disney Animation Studios’ original action-adventure “Strange World” journeys deep into an uncharted and treacherous land where fantastical creatures await the legendary Clades, a family of explorers whose differences threaten to topple their latest—and by far— most crucial mission.
They’re The Clades!
“Strange World” introduces us to the multigenerational Clade family. There’s larger-than-life explorer grandfather Jaeger Clade (Dennis Quaid), his family-orientated farmer son Searcher Clade (Jake Gyllenhaal), Searcher’s wife and pilot Meridian Clade (Gabrielle Union), and their teenaged 16-year old son Ethan Clade (Jaboukie Young-White) who longs for adventure beyond his father’s farm and together with the help of their crew aboard the Venture, the Clade family alongside their adorable dog Legend, a mischievous blue blobby creature named Splat and the president of Avalonia Callisto Mal (Lucy Liu) navigate through this Strange unique world in a race against time to save their home.
This nostalgic homage to sci-fi adventures has a moving intergenerational storyline, positive diverse representation, and two adorable sidekicks throughout the film we focus on the family dynamic and relationships between Ethan, his parents, and his grandfather. Ethan is a typical teenager who rolls his eyes when his parents smooch, lights up when his friends visit and get completely tongue-tied when his crush, Diazo, is around. Ethan is the first openly gay character in a Disney Animated feature and the way it’s handled throughout is beautifully done. His queerness doesn’t define him it’s part of who he is, it’s refreshing to see how his family embrace him exactly who he is without question.
“Strange World” also challenges the father and son dynamic as Jager represents the old-school explorer wanting to venture beyond the mountains and ultimately leave a lasting legacy, whilst Searcher is caught between that legacy, and Ethan longs for the kind of adventure that echos that of the grandfather he’s never met. Ultimately this brings to the surface deep parental anxieties and regrets as the Clades’ family dynamic becomes clear. An adventurer expects his farmer son to be more like him, and that farmer transfers his unique expectations onto his own son. At its heart “Strange World” is a story about saving your home and repairing generational relationships.
The voice cast is phenomenal throughout as the movie’s heart and soul are its characters. Everyone from Jake Gyllenhaal to Lucy Liu was fantastic, but the standouts for me were Dennis Quaid as Jaeger Clade whose dreams become an obsession, he’s a man too focused on leaving a lasting legacy and Quaid’s vocals provide warmth, charisma which makes this grandfather a very relatable character. Jaboukie Young-White as Ethan Clade provides such a vulnerable and relatable vocal performance as a young boy searching for his purpose and Adventure in life.
“Strange World’s” visuals are vibrant and cotton candy-coloured as the new world comes to life around the curious Avalonians. The world-building includes peril at every turn. Avalonia is part agrarian, and part retro-futuristic and the technological society uses a newly discovered bioluminescent plat called “Pando”. These round green saplings give off electricity providing Avalonia with a new energy source. Avalonia itself is a Community woven together from a mix of ethnic cultures, the world is both a peaceful and quiet utopia.
However, to save their home from dying they must descend into an enormous hole in the ground. the group all end up in a vast, hidden subterranean world where bizarre creatures, looming danger, and point unknown await the legendary family of explorers. The look of this “Strange World” harkens back to pulp-fiction magazines that were published from 1896 to the late 1950s. This world is weird, fun, and extraordinary, the artists and animators have truly outdone themselves and have created something truly unexpected as everything looks unique and everything is not as it seems throughout this “Strange World” trees may not be trees and mass landscapes may not be real, plants may suddenly take flight it’s a junglelike landscape composed of every single colour except for green, this place is otherworldly yet grounded. One of its inhabitants was the adorable and mischievous blue blob named Splat and credit to the animators who were responsible for bringing personality and movement to such a character.
Voyage To The Heart
The environment is something that we think about everyday as we ultimately want our descendants to have a future, but in order to do that we have to realise the choices we make today will and can affect the future. Avalonia’s energy crisis is at the forefront with the bioluminescent Pando becoming the substitute for fossil fuels.
Family is central and each play part in this environmental story. Quaid’s character Jaeger wants to conquer nature whereas Gyllenhaal’s Searcher is the controller as farmers interact with nature. As for Ethan, he’s the conservationist and the character that ultimately drives the message of the story. If we take a small step forward, we can change so much and treat the Earth a different way.
The Fate of Strange World
“Strange World” overall is a must watch for the family this festive season, its an epic Adventure that’s fun, showcases breathtaking animation, colourful visuals, heart, and a beautiful story about legacy, and the relationship between a father and son as told through three generations that are surrounded in a relatable world with many issues that we are facing right now shown at the forefront. The environmentalist-friendly story truly offers plenty of laughs and feels courtesy of Legend — the family’s big, lovable, three-legged dog, who befriends everyone — and Splat, the blob-like, being that Ethan discovers in the seemingly magical world. Both will absolutely delight of younger viewers and certainly sell merchandise. The score by Henry Jackman is thrilling and adventurous harkening back to John Willam’s Indiana Jones soundtrack. There have been noticeably little to none promotion and advertising but this being Disney’s 61st animated feature film truly makes for a theatrical experience.
Helmed by Oscar-winning director Don Hall (Big Hero 6, Raya and the Last Dragon) and co-directed/writer Qui Nguyen(co-writer, Raya and the Last Dragon). Disney’s “Strange World” is now in cinemas.
Click HERE for an explorers activity pack full of “Strange World” goodies!
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