By Matthew Moorcroft
- Directed by Adil El Arbi & Bilall Fallah
- Starring Iman Vellani, Matt Lintz, Zenobia Shroff, Mohan Kapur
Going into Ms. Marvel was accompanied by nail-biting and worry beyond any MCU project thus far. Even outside of the fact that this was an important project to get right, early marketing materials and revelations about source material changes put an air of suspicion around the production that frankly could have doomed it from the getgo. While she’s a relatively recent character, Kamala Khan’s explosion in popularity over the past decade isn’t for nothing and her original run in 2013 is still one of the best comic books of the past several years.
The slice-of-life, laid back vibes of that comic make a good case as well that Ms. Marvel, beyond any other character, makes for a perfect television series over a movie, as the lower stakes and more character centric storytelling lends itself to an episodic structure perfectly. A lot of the MCU Disney+ shows, while consistent in their quality (very good to great) have admittedly felt like expanded movies with the big exception being WandaVision, which used the TV format effectively and smartly.
So colour me surprised (and happy) that Ms. Marvel is not only good, but it’s downright fantastic. Visually kinetic and creative in a way that not a lot of MCU content is, Ms. Marvel leans into it’s comic origins from it’s opening alone as it shows the battle at the of Avengers: Endgame but from the perspective of an Avengers superfan. The drawings come to life, the camera swoops in and around with energy, and the rest of the episode actually matches that same vibe. When a sequence involving Kamala and her best friend/prospective possible love interest Bruno are riding their bikes and discussing cosplay ideas with the murals in the background animating their conversation isn’t the most visually cool thing in your show, you’ve nailed it.
Iman Vellani is much of the good stuff here as well, perfectly embodying Kamala in a way that’s directly lifted off of the page. She’s an instant star, and that brightness radiates throughout the entirety of the production as she manages to have excellent chemistry with everybody, particularly Zenobia Shroff and Mohan Kapur who play her overprotective if well-meaning parents. The familial aspects of the show resonate the best here so far, and nails the internal struggle Kamala has trying to balance her faith, her studies, and eventually her superheroics.
Lots has been said about the now infamous power change, and my only takeaway is that we likely need to see the entire series to fully make a true judgement. As it stands, the power change itself seems to be more then a simple comestic change – it seems to be fundamental altering of Kamala’s origin, and the overall vibe I’m getting is that the creator’s were aware about how important Kamala’s origin is to the character. It still looks a little iffy (as does most of the CGI here) but I will give them props for making it’s introduction suitably funny and mysterious in good measure.
But when the rest of the visuals are this good, it makes up for it. Adil & Bilall absolutely kill this from a directing perspective, and Bisha K. Ali’s writing is smart, witty, and realistic without feeling too overbearing. All of the dream sequences and usages of animation are clever and reminiscent of the work of Edgar Wright in a good way. Special mentions must go to the usage of text in the overworld which was an incredibly intelligent way to pull that off.
Just a fun, intelligent, fantastic first episode. Out of all the Disney+ premieres this is the one that has surprised me the most and has the potential to be their strongest maybe ever in that regard. Let’s hope going forward it can keep this momentum going and deliver something really special.