In as little as a year and a half, Marvel Studios has cranked out new material from their assembly line to continue the connected story post Endgame and the ramifications that snapping half the universe back into existence caused. What started with Wandavision has led to this point – Ms. Marvel, the 6th live action “miniseries” and 7th show overall (so far) released on Disney Plus in the dubbed 4th phase. Phase 4 has become a reset for the universe, slowly building up to the next major event after a brilliant crescendo that will soon begin to take shape. One of the many criticisms of the new phase has been the lack of a clear direction, though, the direction has been sprinkled across this gap of releases, the dots are just too far away from one another to connect them.
Already, with what has been released to fans globally, the ambitious undertaking is beginning to show the flaws in the foundation. The F word, fatigue may finally be setting in as every few months a new series is being released along with a new film that if one is missed than more questions are raised than answers are given. Still the MCU films have remained the main draw and talk of the town, generating billions of dollars at the box office, while the shows have so far suffered post Wandavision.
That is until now, with Kamala Khan aka Ms. Marvel (Iman Vellani) embiggining her way on the scene in yet another 6-episode series that comes and goes in the blink of an eye. Before you know it, 6 weeks pass by, and the studio has shifted focus on to the next series and hero to be introduced. Aside from Shang-Chi and the Eternals, and a few supporting roles, all the new fan favorite characters have been introduced on Disney plus with the promise to transition to the big screen after the introduction is made. Ms. Marvel is the first however to look and feel new – a true breath of fresh air from all aspects.
I firmly believe the 6-episode model for these live action series is doing more harm than good. Ms. Marvel is also at the expense of the formatting – starting off strong, setting the tone John Hughes style with text bubbles popping up out of nowhere and a dreamers creativity stealing the show and finally branching off with sub-plots that all feel rushed in the finale to wrap the story up. So far, no series has triumphed over the handicap of the miniseries, leaving a promising story to crash and burn. But Ms. Marvel is the first since Loki to cause a seismic shift in the greater MCU. To avoid spoilers, the finale will drop some jaws.
Kamala is a typical high school student, surrounded by her best friends Bruno (Matt Lintz) and Nakia (Yasmeen Fletcher), a loving, supporting, strict, and overbearing family who also may be a tad too Avengers obsessed. Scratch that, Kamala is Captain Marvel (portrayed in the films by Brie Larson) obsessed – daydreaming and creating content based on her favorite heroes. A true believer among skeptics if we ever saw one. Stan Lee would be proud. In a way, we all can see ourselves as Kamala, idolizing these gifted heroes and gods who save the day from total destruction. Posters invade every inch of Kamala’s walls along with other Knick knacks and awesome collectibles. Kamala will go so far as to cosplay as Carol Danvers at this universe’s version of comic con, titled AvengerCon.
When Kamala isn’t fantasizing about saving the world or appearing on Scott Lang’s podcast, she’s taking a driver’s test, falling head over heels for a boy named Kamran (Rish Shah), helping with her brother Aamir’s (Saagar Shaikh) wedding, and surviving her humiliating parents Muneeba (Zenobia Shroff) and Yusef (Mohan Kapur) demanding to join Kamala at AvengerCon dressed as the Incredible Hulk.
The look on Yusef’s face said it all in that moment – no matter what our background is, identifying with the Khan family is the easiest, most prominent theme to get behind. Series creator Bisha K. Ali transcends cultures to make the family stand out as the series strength. Coming from an Italian background, the protective nature of mother and child is universally relatable across religions and backgrounds. One moment Kamala is breaking her father’s heart because they want to be included in what she loves and the next Yusef is reassuring his daughters bravery and purpose to their family while supporting choices Kamala is making and being precautious about Kamala’s safety as she figures out her powers. From the dialogue to the more intimate moments, the veteran presence with newcomer Vellani give the show an inclusivity imbedded in its DNA.
Speaking of Iman Vellani, the first-time actress shines as bright as the stars she idolizes as Kamala. In the same sense that Chris Evens is synonymous with Captain America and Robert Downey Jr. is with Iron Man, Iman in her first acting role is a complete natural. She’s full of charisma, charm, and infectious energy, once again, Marvel casting gets it right. Just search Iman’s videos on YouTube of her reacting to the first trailer and the news that she got the role – it’s wholesome.
Every step of the way, Iman makes it effortless to cheer for Kamala in her origin story. A story not directly ripped from the comic pages as Kamala in the comics got her powers from Terrigen Mist making Kamala Inhuman but altered to fit the direction of the MCU. Her powers resemble the comics to a degree with her power being derived from a bangle passed down from her great grandmother Aisha (Mehwish Hayat) along with her final costume given to her by her mother.
Purists may scoff at the different power base but to the story being told, it makes sense. Kamala’s story is linked to the Partition of India in 1947 connecting Kamala to the villains of the series known as Clandestines banished from the Noor dimension and led by Najma (Nimra Bucha). What Marvel has done exceedingly well with Ms. Marvel resides in the celebration of culture injecting bright colors, music, and customs into every frame. Creative control has translated easily on screen with the different but universal terms used in dialogue.
While Iman, the theme of family and her friends lead the way, Ms. Marvel falls short along with the rest of the series with the number of episodes and a poorly developed villain. Subtly, the villain of the series tended to lean toward the discrimination from the government toward a a group of people. Luckily, Ms. Marvel finds its footing after a misstep in the middle episodes to stick the landing and set up for the next adventure. It may not be on the level of Wandavision or Loki and at first glance turn perspective fans away by the lighthearted tone, but Ms. Marvel is like any other coming-of-age story that thrives behind the star and suffers by getting its momentum a little too late when the game is almost over.
Created By: Bisha K. Ali
Episodes Directed By: Adil & Bilall, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy & Meera Menon
Music By: Laura Karpman
Cinematography: Robrecht Heyvaert, Carmen Cabana & Jules O’Loughlin
Starring: Iman Vellani, Matt Lintz, Yasmeen Fletcher, Zenobia Shroff, Mohan Kapur, Saagar Shaikh
Where to Watch: Disney Plus
Release Date: June 8, 2022
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 98%
Based On: Ms. Marvel by Sana Amanat, Stephen Wacker, G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona & Jamie McKelvie