What If… Zombies!? Review

By Ben Wright (@iamzavagno | www.xgeeks.co.uk)

This review is spoiler-free.

Zombies, we have zombies over here!

This was the episode that really peaked my interest from the initially trailer, so did it live up to the hype?

Set minutes into Avengers: Infinity War – with Banner falling to Earth – Bruce finds himself in New York, however it has been completely overrun with the un-dead, including some of Earth’s mightiest heroes!

Now, the opening and closing acts were great – emotionally and comedically, it hit all the sweet spots, but I really felt the episode lost its way with these concepts during the middle act. This wasn’t a completely different timeline, so it should have been as close to the original MCU narrative as possible – just with added zombies. Yet some of the character relationships – living versus the un-dead – just felt so indifferent. Scenarios with Character X versus Character Y, with so much backstory and history, just offered no significant impact or consequence. Again, this was just the middle act, as there were times, especially at the end when they did get these things right – and the episode was much stronger for it. I’m not going to sit here and say I hated this episode, there was a lot of good and it was enjoyable, but this was the first time so far in this series that I have struggled to fully invest and buy into the story.

In terms of the cast, we have Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/Hulk and Hudson Thames, replacing Tom Holland, as Peter Parker/Spider-Man. Until the end credits hit (I always skip the intro so I don’t get cast spoilers), I did not pick up on Ruffalo voicing Banner, as it just sounded like an impression. Thames’ Peter Parker was serviceable, but it wasn’t Tom Holland, and this is why sometimes I think the show struggles – if they cannot get the right impressionist – if they cannot secure the live-action actor. I would rather they have that consistency throughout the episode – either get all of the live action stars or just re-cast the whole lot, because when you get someone in to take on a role who can’t pull it off, it stands out.

Supporting the two leads, was a very Ant-Man franchise heavy cast which includes Evangeline Lilly (Wasp), Paul Rudd (Ant-Man) and David Dastmalchian (Kurt). We also had Danai Gurira (Okoye), Sebastian Stan (Bucky) and John Favreau (Happy), with further support from other key and secondary MCU characters, voiced by their respective actors – which I won’t spoil! Overall, this was a 90% casting, and again it’s just a shame they didn’t manage to complete it by getting Tom Holland.

The animation in this episode was on-brand once again and while it lacked the creativity of last week’s episode, understandably, it did manage to re-create some of the classic horror tropes you’d expect to see from a zombie film or TV show.

From the trailer, this was the one episode that I was really excited for, and yet for me, it’s the weakest out of the series so far. There were plenty of great moments sprinkled throughout the episode, but the tonal issues with some of the characters and the middle act of the story and some of the comedy just felt very out of sync with the rest of the episode. While it was still a very enjoyable episode, on the whole, it’s not one that screams for an immediate re-watch.

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