A new era in the Marvel Cinematic Universe has begun with the premiere of the first animated venture from the Disney powerhouse franchise, What If..?.
A retelling of some of the most beloved stories and origins in the MCU, What If..? is a journey through the multiverse that features all kinds of characters from the Infinity Saga. To ensure these stories feel as real as a cartoon can feel, Marvel Studios was able to bring back over 50 actors to lend their voices to their respective characters.
Hearing familiar voices in the premiere episode helped make it feel like a true re-imagining of Captain America: The First Avenger, even if Steve Rogers himself was not voiced by Chris Evans. This is likely to be a key for the show moving forward as the show's creators attempt to make these multiverse side stories feel like the real thing despite not having every original voice in the show.
After episode one, the voice acting in What If..? has been the focus of both admiration and criticism. While many fans are singing the praises of Haley Atwell for bringing Peggy Carter to life, others seem to have some problems with the performance of another big MCU name.
WHAT IF BUCKY BARNES HAD A ROUGH DAY?
Sebastian Stan has been one of the most beloved actors in the MCU ever since his first appearance in The First Avenger back in 2011. Through five more appearances, including one of the titular roles in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Bucky Barnes is a fan-favorite character audiences cannot get enough of.
All of that shows just how shocking the response is to Stan's voice acting performance in What If..?'s premiere. Many fans took to the Twitter-verse to express their criticism of the Bucky Barnes actor.
"Jesus Christ Sebastian Stan can act but he can’t voice act to save his life… does that make sense?"
Twitter user @aj_wlyms noted he is a fan of Sebastian Stan as an on-screen actor but not as a voice actor:
"Also, man Sebastian Stan is not a good voice actor."
Jack Sibley shared the same sentiment for Stan's microphone performance:
"oh my god sebastian stan’s voice acting is the worse thing i’ve ever heard"
The hits kept coming as @harveydentism continued to bash the Bucky Barnes performance:
"Just got through the first episode of What If, and it seems like a fun diversion. But man, the voice acting is super uneven. Hayley Atwell is having the time of her life, and Sebastian Stan sounds like he was given a script and no direction whatsoever."
Twitter account So Let's Just Say... pointed out why Stan's performance stood. Many believe Haley Atwell enhanced her character Peggy Carter while Stan had a hard time finding his voice for Bucky:
"It’s ok, Sebastian Stan, voice acting isn’t for everyone"
And @MungusJohn lets Stan know that just because he is beloved on-screen, that doesn't always transfer over to the sound booth for animation.
The news wasn't all bad, though, as there were a few fans that enjoyed Stan's work and were excited to see Bucky be a part of the episode.
@http_chxrry seemed to stay loyal to Stan in the first episode of What If..?:
"Sebastian Stan voice acting is something I didn't know I needed in my life."
@jingyipang21 even called Stan "a treasure:"
"Sebastian Stan in #WhatIf as #BuckyBarnes is a treasure"
MARVEL STUDIOS ANIMATION... PHASE ONE
What If..? is a concept that allows the creators at Marvel Studios to explore unrealistic and exciting stories that act as fanfiction brought to life. This is a luxury afforded to them by over a decade of sound and complete storytelling. The animation aspect of the show is seemingly necessary to portray the extreme variation of the MCU lore and allow them to bring in so much great talent.
However, with the style of that animation being a unique hybrid between comic books and cartoon realism, the voice acting and lip-syncing are under the microscope during any scene involving heavy dialogue. This is prevalent in episode one and is sure to be a topic of discussion moving forward with the rest of the season.
The lip-syncing with this animation style is something that audiences can get used to as an episode moves along. Any time characters are animated into situations fans know from live-action, the viewer has an adjustment period. That is not the case with the voice acting as it is much more hit or miss with these characters feeling like authentic cartoon versions of their theatrical selves.
In episode one, Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes stood out as a voice actor and not in the greatest of ways. Perhaps it is the fact that Marvel fans are coming off The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, where they saw Stan give an emotional and serious performance. That could lead to the slapstick one-liners from Barnes in What If..? feel pretty jarring.
Another reason Barnes seemed so off is the dialogue he was given. With no less than three references to seafood and an '80s sitcom level of sidekick confusion, this is the Saturday morning cartoon version of Sgt. Barnes and not in a good way.
Couple that with a rocky microphone performance from Stan, and the backlash for the character seems warranted. Some actors did not return to reprise their roles and others were reportedly not even asked, but with an inconsistent level of reception across the board in the premiere episode, fans will surely be on the lookout for which MCU talent has the stuff for voice-acting moving forward.
The next episode of What If...? premieres on Disney+ on Wednesday, August 18.