One 'What If…?' Episode Pitch Was Too Dark for the MCU
9th August 2021

The MCU has its fair share of darkness. The biggest storyline in the saga involves half the universe dissolving into ash — an onscreen phenomenon that slowly takes the lives of many beloved characters, including a terrified child. Speaking of children, the most recent film in the franchise made allusions to human trafficking, in a haunting opening title sequence and even allowed its leads time to reconcile with their stolen childhoods.

But despite onscreen deaths and various dark themes, Marvel films have maintained their PG-13 ratings, keeping things safe for younger members of the fanbase. They manage by rarely delving too far into bleak territory (at least not visually), and though action-packed, the films skirt past extremely graphic violence. Plus, save for one slip-up by the Captain “Language” America himself, Marvel movies are usually a swear-free zone.

But we recently learned that keeping things kid-appropriate means sacrificing interesting ideas — including one potential plotline on the upcoming Disney+ animated Marvel’s What If…?

Speaking on The Post Credit Podcast, What If…? writer A.C. Bradley admitted that one potential plotline was abandoned for fear of being too dark for younger audiences. She said:

“There were a couple of episodes that were just a little too dark… There was an original ‘What If’’ run where Spider-Man turns into a real spider, and that was just too dark and too body horror for their PG-13 [rating].”

The image of a young, rosy-cheeked Peter Parker making the horrifying transformation into an eight-legged creeper is enough to make you shudder.

The animation might have made things more lighthearted and bearable than they sound, but the more spider-phobic amongst us would not have appreciated the plotline. Still, there’s something creepily exciting about emphasizing the spider in Spider-Man. An entire episode through the eight eyes of Peter Parker could’ve been fun —even though he would be very hard to look at.

The Creativity of What If

Bradley also spoke about other limitations placed on the writers. For the most part, she shared that they were allotted plenty of freedom with storylines.

Like the famous run of comics, Marvel’s What If…? is meant to wander into strange territory. It plucks characters from the settings we know and disrupts crucial points in their backstories. They become jumbled with others and severely altered because of it. So when it came to choosing storylines, the limitations were mostly practical, not creative. Bradley said:

“It was less about being reeled back in from crazier stories, it was more about being stopped from walking into one of the movies and destroying that.”

For a while, fans speculated that What If…? would be entirely independent — a fun way to explore alternate worlds but utterly inconsequential to the rest of the series. However, the recent Marvel shows, including WandaVision but especially Loki, might indicate otherwise. Crossovers and long-lasting implications are not entirely out of the question.

Hilariously, Bradley also shared that the MCU is not the only universe the series tried to mess with. She teased:

“We would jokingly try to put Star Wars in and were always told, ‘No, you can’t do that, those aren’t your toys Ashley.’

Based on what we’ve already seen, What If…? found plenty of ways to have fun with the many characters of the MCU. Still, it’s a shame they couldn’t wreak havoc on the many other Disney universes… But we can always hold out hope for season 2.

Marvel’s What If…? premieres on Disney+ on August 11, 2021.

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