REVIEW: ‘Ms. Marvel,’ Episodes 1-2

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Ms. Marvel

Ms. Marvel is a Disney+ Original Series developed by Bisha K. Ali and based on the character created by G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona, Jamie McKelvie, Sana Amanat & Stephen Wacker. Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani) is a teenager who has a deep love for superheroes — particularly Captain Marvel (Brie Larson); this leads to friction with her parents, especially her mother Muneeba (Zenobia Shroff). When Kamala and her best friend Bruno (Matt Lintz) sneak out to attend the first “Avengercon,” Kamala brings along a bangle that belonged to her great-grandmother. Said bangle bestows the ability to generate hard-light energy upon Kamala, and now she must navigate being a superhero with the usual pitfalls of being a teenager.

A large part of what makes this series such an engaging watch is Vellani’s performance as Kamala. Throughout multiple interviews, she’s shown her love for the character, and that love permeates her performance. She’s just as energetic as Kamala is, especially during the Avengercon scenes and a montage where she learns to use her powers. And she also brings raw emotion to the forefront when called for. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the scenes where Kamala and her mother argue about what she wants to do with her life; it’s one thing to try and be a superhero, but it’s another to try and find common ground with your own flesh and blood especially when it seems like they don’t understand you.

I said it before, and I’ll repeat it: Sarah Haley Finn is the unsung hero of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. She and fellow casting director Krista Husar manage to find the actors who can bring these characters to life. Ali previously worked on Loki, and similar to the God of Mischief’s journey, it looks like this series will find Kamala figuring out what kind of hero she wants to be, especially as her mother encourages her to find her own stories.

The supporting cast, for the most part, matches Vellani’s energy. Lintz plays Bruno as the straight man to Kamala. His intellect and honesty serve as a much-needed foundation for Kamala as she starts on her superhero journey. Likewise, Mohan Kapur and Saagar Shaikh provide some heartfelt — and hilarious moments as Kamala’s father Yusuf and brother Aamir. The only character who doesn’t click for me is Zoe Zimmer (Lauren Marsden). In the comics, Zoe served as a bully to Kamala and her friends. Here, she’s been reworked into more of a social media star. Keeping Zoe’s original characterization would have been the perfect chance to show more of how Kamala’s teenage life feeds into her superhero one, especially with how a Pakistani-American teenager has to navigate the social hell of high school.

That leads me to the other significant change, which concerns Kamala’s powers. In the comics, she is a polymorph — granted the ability to shapeshift and change her size. Here…she’s basically Green Lantern. I’m not kidding. She describes her powers as “thoughts coming to life” and refers to them as “hard light,” which is more or less the abilities granted to someone wearing a Green Lantern ring. Kamala’s polymorphic powers, like other Marvel heroes, served as a metaphor for adolescence, and I feel that was lost with the power change. That being said, there are hints that the bangle Kamala wears is tied to her family’s history, which will probably be expanded upon in future episodes.

What hasn’t changed, thankfully, is Kamala’s Pakistani heritage. Scenes feature Kamala and her friend Nakia (Yasmeen Fletcher) attending mosque as well as an Eid Mubarak celebration. South Asian songs are also used throughout the first two episodes, similar to how Egyptian music was used in Moon Knight. Directors Adil El Arbi & Billal Fallah (Bad Boys for Life) and Meera Neenon (The Walking Dead, For All Mankind) also add inventive visual flourishes to represent Kamala’s imagination. A series of text messages between Kamala and Bruno are stamped across the streets and neon lighting of Jersey City. The end credits have vibrant, colorful street art interposed with panels from Ms. Marvel comics. And the opening features Kamala presenting her own interpretation of the final battle from Avengers: Endgame — set to “Blinding Lights” by The Weeknd, no less. It makes me excited about what El Arbi and Fallah will bring to the table with Batgirl.

Ms. Marvel is worth a watch due to the passionate performance of its lead actress and the visual flair of its creative team. I look forward to future episodes and hope that Kamala can continue the trend of other great South Asian heroes like Behrad & Zari Tarazi in Legends of Tomorrow and Violet Harper/Halo in Young Justice. And hopefully, the remaining episodes will smooth out the rough patches of the show.

Ms. Marvel premieres on Disney+ on June 8, with new episodes every Wednesday.

 


Ms. Marvel Episodes 1 and 2
  • 7.5/10
    Rating - 7.5/10
7.5/10

TL;DR

Ms. Marvel is worth a watch due to the passionate performance of its lead actress and the visual flair of its creative team. I look forward to future episodes and hope that Kamala can continue the trend of other great South Asian heroes like Behrad & Zari Tarazi in Legends of Tomorrow and Violet Harper/Halo in Young Justice. And hopefully, the remaining episodes will smooth out the rough patches of the show.