Ms. Marvel On Disney Plus Hotstar Earns Its Joyous Niche in the MCU
Directors: Meera Menon, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, Adil El Arbi, Bilall Fallah
Writers: Bisha K. Ali, Sana Amanat
Cast: Iman Vellani, Matt Linz, Yasmeen Fletcher, Zenobia Shroff, Rish Shah, Laurel Marsden
Cinematographers: Carmen Cabana, Robrecht Heyvaert, Jules O'Loughlin
Streaming on: Disney+ Hotstar
One imagines that at some point in 2019, as Avengers: Endgame came out, kids around the world grabbed their Captain America, Iron Man, Thor or Hulk toys and recreated the iconic 'Assemble' scene. For what it's worth, this reviewer, once he received his 'Marvel Legends' Captain America Mjolnir and Shield toy, did that too. The world usually views such behaviour with scorn, considering it stupid and even childish. But deep down, those who have experienced the joy of comic books, or tucked in a long piece of red cloth at the collars with fists on their waists, know why it is sometimes smarter, and even simpler, to just imagine and believe heroes exists.
With that in mind, Ms. Marvel's first episode (which dropped today on Disney+ Hotstar), plays on that concept to perfection in its opening segment. As Weekend's 'Blinding Lights' drops over the Marvel logo montage, we are treated to the Avengers: Endgame story – and Kamala Khan's obsession with Captain Marvel in form of gorgeous comic book doodles juxtaposed against the 'real-life' of the show. With that Scott Pilgrim-esque opening montage and Kamala Khan's (Iman Vellani) hyperactive fanboy narration, you know that directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, and writer Bisha Ali have hit the nail on its head – with comically oversized hands I might add.
In fact, you may get the same 'fuzzies' you got, when the beats to 'Sunflower' came on as Miles Morales accepted his new found superhero status in Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse. Or, when Tom Holland's Peter Parker first graced the MCU in Captain America: Civil War walking in with a skateboard and Alt-J's 'Left Hand Free' blaring.
In Kamala Khan's first outing as Ms. Marvel, in Episode 1, we find her dealing with a rather relatable problem – how to convince her seemingly traditional parents to let her to go to AvengerCon. That's it. There's no secret hidden story, no SHIELD, no Hydra, no TVA, no Illuminati, or any other world ending threat. It's just two kids, with hyperactive imaginations and some tech skills trying to get to a 'Comic Con'. Of course, there's obstacles in the form of Kamala's strict mother, a case of her grandmother's traditional gauntlets and the fact that their plan to get to AvengerCon absolutely sucks. And then some shenanigans lead to her obtaining new super powers.
Now, a lot of the conversation around Ms. Marvel has been centred around diversity, South Asian representation in the MCU and even Bollywood. Yes, Adil, Bilall, Bisha and Co. cover their bases on those aspects with ease. However, those are not the show's actual strengths. Ms. Marvel stands out because it is not just MCU's sweetest show so far; it is also its most visually inventive. Iman's performance as Kamala is near-perfect and relatable, and is buoyed by the supporting cast of Mohan Kapur (Yusuf Khan) and Matt Lintz (Bruno Carrelli).
The first episode is great fun, and barring nerdy gripes about her powers being cosmic, it stays generally true to the spirit of its source material. Powered by a loveable lead and its unique vision within the MCU, it succeeds in celebrating both its eastern roots (a few inaccuracies aside) and the joy of superhero fandom.
PS: Stream till the mid credits for a subtle Spiderman nod!