T’Challa Is Star Lord In Final MCU Performance From Chadwick Boseman
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T’Challa Is A Much Better Star Lord In Final MCU Performance From Chadwick Boseman

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BY August 17, 2021

One the most exciting things about the What If…? series is that after the surprising loss of Chadwick Boseman, we get one final Marvel performance from him. In the second episode of What If…?, Boseman again voices T’Challa, but instead of the Black Panther, he’s Star Lord. This episode is one that deals a momentous change to the state of the cosmic MCU, including the prevention of the Blip and much of the events of Guardians of the Galaxy. We know that a few of these episodes will have an overarching continuity and give what we’ve seen in the trailers it seems like it will be this version of the universe. Naturally, I want to hear more of Chadwick Boseman as the Star Lord version of T’Challa. However, even if Boseman was still alive and currently filming Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, I would still want this version of T’Challa.

When it comes to what should be done with that character, I agree with the man who argues T’Challa should be recast because the character is bigger than Chadwick Boseman. However, in watching episode 02 of What If…?, I understand Marvel Studios’ decision a little better now. I remember awhile back that Boseman said he had no interest in acting in Disney+ series. Perhaps it was because he knew his time was limited, but I also think it was cover for the surprise that he’d be voicing this character. Because even though the circumstances are different and it’s animation, this is T’Challa. With just a patient tone and a smile in his voice, Boseman is able to bring T’Challa from the MCU into this series.

Check out the episode, because spoilers will follow.

A What If…? Where Things Definitely Go Better Than They Did In the Prime Timeline

Marvel's What If Series T'Challa Star Lord The Collector image via Marvel Studios

The central conceit of this episode of What If…? goes beyond asking what if T’Challa became Star Lord instead of Peter Quill. Essentially, using his place as part of Yondu’s Ravager crew, T’Challa is able to make himself a legitimate hero of the galaxy. The biggest surprise is the return of Josh Brolin’s Thanos as a member of the Ravager crew, having been talked out of his Infinity War plan by T’Challa. (Also, where, who, and why is Gamora?) Now some nitpicky fans may point out that “Star Lord” was Quill’s mother’s nickname for her son. To those fans, I’d say: Lighten up.

The central action of this episode is what was the first half of the Guardians of the Galaxy. However, instead of worrying about Ronan and Thanos, it’s the Collector who is the real threat. Instead of having Knowhere almost destroyed by a Kree attack, T’Challa saves every living being in the Collection, and finds his way “home.” While we got to spend much less time with T’Challa as a character in the MCU, it seems that they are trying to establish that he’s a lot like Steve Rogers. There is just something about him as an individual that means he’s going to both be pure of heart and a force to be reckoned with. It makes me sad we won’t get any more T’Challa in this version of the MCU, but it does show how that, like Chris Evans, a crucial part of selling that point is the actor performance.

T'Challa Star Lord Marvel What If Drax Dave Bautista Chadwick Boseman Image via Marvel Studios

Also, it’s a little clearer why Dave Bautista was not asked to voice Drax in the show. He already feels like his character was marginalized, and it’s even more true in this episode. Rather than being hell-bent on revenge for the loss of his daughter, Star Lord T’Challa saved the planet Drax came from, including his wife and daughter.

What Is Being Set Up in What If…? Episode 02 With T’Challa the Star Lord?

T'Challa Star Lord Gamora Killmonger Black Panther What If Marvel Disney+ Trailer Image via Marvel Studios

We know that Chadwick Boseman will voice T’Challa, most likely the Star Lord version, in four episodes. Since he is, arguably, the most successful MCU hero to date, that makes sense. It will be interesting to see the intergalactic version of the Avengers he’s able to form. I mean, in just 20 minutes of this episode, the storytellers get us Marvel fans to a place where we are actually rooting for Thanos to survive. As I mentioned in my What If…? series premiere review, these stories and characters are infinitely remix-able, and they can trick us into loving an evil character or, sometimes, hating a heroic one.

Yet, the real clue comes at the very end of the episode. Ego, voiced by Kurt Russell, comes to fetch an adult Peter Quill, not voiced by Chris Pratt. It seems that his plan from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is still underway, and without his friends perhaps Quill will be more easily convinced to be the bad guy. It also sets up a nice conflict between Ego and the MCU hero absent almost any ego at all, the Star Lord version of T’Challa.

Things are getting exciting in the Marvel Cinematic Universe multiverse, and What If…? is a great series so far. Beyond the simple fun of seeing familiar stories told in different ways, it also serves to drive up stakes in a franchise that admittedly struggles in that department. With rare exceptions, we know that the central characters from these franchises are not going to face mortal consequences. What If…? stories show audiences that the decisions the characters make do matter. And with characters like Star Lord T’Challa, we can even wonder if “our” Marvel heroes made the right ones at all.

What If…? debuts new episodes on Wednesdays on Disney+

What do you think of Star Lord T’Challa and the What If…? series so far? Share your thoughts, theories, reviews, and predictions in the comments below.

Featured image via Marvel Studios

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Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.

Chadwick BosemanMarvel StudiosMCUT'ChallaWhat If

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