This episode of “What If” answers the burning question… what if Guardians of the Galaxy hadn’t been an attempt to reach the blandest white bread audience in the Marvel Universe? What if they’d hired an actually charming leading man instead of Chris Pratt? And, as I’ll never pass up an opportunity to diss the worst Chris, he doesn’t show up for this episode. Many other Guardians vets show. Including Josh Brolin—because the story affects Infinity War—Benicio Del Toro, who’s delightfully played as an anime villain, and Kurt Russell.
John Kani is back from Captain America III as Black Panther dad, who apparently doesn’t get killed off in this universe.
The episode opens with a rehash of the Guardians intro, but here Djimon Hounsou is very impressed with Chadwick Boseman, who has turned the intergalactic gang the Ravagers into a band of Merry Men (in the sort of most appropriate white way possible they identify Boseman’s character with Robin Hood instead of finding like a real African hero). Boseman can reason everyone down from violence, including Brolin, who doesn’t destroy half the galaxy instead argues academically about it like any good classical liberal.
It’s fun. Some of the action sequences are a little long, and since it’s a heist narrative, writer Matthew Chauncey apparently felt obligated to throw in some ruses and red herrings. Not to mention the ending steals the episode away from Boseman, which is a particular dig since they then dedicate it to him in the end credits. Probably could’ve made it work with him getting to finish it out and still had the suck-up to white male mediocrity.
Would it be fun without being Boseman? Probably but it definitely wouldn’t hit the same. Michael Rooker’s all right. Gillan’s good. Brolin’s fun. Hounsou’s hilarious. I wish he’d get to have so much fun in live-action sometime. And, again, Del Toro’s good. There’s also a not long enough Seth Green is Howard the Duck scene; it’s still unclear if the bit has any potential. It doesn’t seem like it’s ever going to be funny, but they’re trying to delay that evaluation.
As the narrating Watcher… Jeffrey Wright’s less annoying than last episode.
The strangest part of this one is the seeming admission it’d have made a better movie the first time around this way.