Creators: Bisha K. Ali
Cast: Iman Vellani, Matt Lintz, Yasmeen Fletcher, Zenobia Shroff, Mohan Kapur, Rish Shah, Nimrah Bucha, Aramis Knight, Alysia Reiner, Farhan Akhtar, Fawad Khan
Genre: Superhero fantasy
6 episodes, 40-50 min. each (approx.)
Created by Bisha K. Ali of Loki, Ms. Marvel is about Kamala Khan. Kamala is a 16-year old Pakistani-American girl from New York. The Muslim teen has two best friends: science nerd Bruno (Matt Lintz) and teen leader Nakia (Yasmeen Fletcher). Kamala herself isn’t the most accomplished youngster; she’s clumsy and confused. But which teen isn’t? If she has one passion, it’s her adoration for the superhero-in-chief, Captain Marvel (Brie Larson).
On a fateful day, Kamala becomes more than a superfan when she discovers a family heirloom. The mysterious bracelet gives her superpowers, turning her into a neighbourhood hero almost overnight. Call her Ms. Marvel.
Iman Vellani, who plays the titular heroine, is a national treasure. And America’s next sweetheart. Astonishingly, Ms. Marvel is Vellani’s acting debut. It’s hard to believe, considering the 19-year old actor’s magnetic persona and charm. That, combined with her adorkable awkwardness and expressive eyes and smile, make her a totally irresistible addition to the Marvel Universe. The young actor can hold her own against older, seasoned actors. We must protect her at all costs.
Vellani’s charisma is matched similarly by her co-stars, Matt Lintz and Yasmeen Fletcher. The friendly dynamic between the three oddballs is sweet and fun to watch.
But above all, the Disney+ show shines the brightest when it delves into Kamala’s unique identity, and Pakistani-American culture in general. They make for rich, hilarious and heartfelt moments. A highlight is the flashback sequence of the India-Pakistan partition. Filmed by Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, the episode will leave every desi viewer teary-eyed as the story focuses on the plight of Kamala’s grandparents.
The production crew leave no stone unturned in transforming a Bangkok film set into a Karachi train station and street market.
The choices for the soundtrack are – excuse the pun – marvellous. Eclectic, audacious and punchy, the tracks include everything from M.I.A., Raja Kumari and Pet Shop Boyz to Mangeshkar, Bhonsle, Pritam and AR Rahman.
However, the pilot episode feels cluttered and rushed. Proceeding at a breakneck speed, the show sometimes forgets to pause and take a breath. But it’s understandable. It’s tough being slow and steady when one’s first outing has so much to cover and establish.
Moreover, the writing feels occasionally confusing. In one scene, investigators at a mosque ask for all young, brown men to stay behind for a check up. Then an old lady is heard saying, “but that description fits literally all of us!” It’s supposed to be a witty, “a-ha!” moment. But the issue is… she doesn’t fit the investigator’s description.
The investigator in question is Damage Control agent, Sadie Deever (played by Alysia Reiner). Deever is meant to be a cold foil to our teen hero. But the agent’s hostility towards the likes of Ms. Marvel is left unexplored. She ends up being overwhelmingly boring and underwritten. Deever is nothing more than a child chasing grown-up-that-represents-suppressive-authority archetype that is done to death.
Then there’s the popular highschool girl, Zoe (Laurel Marsden). Zoe appears when needed by the plot and disappears when she’s not.
Inconsistency is also apparent in the parents’ (Zenobia Shroff and Mohan Kapur) reaction to daughter Kamala revealing her secret powers. The mom and dad who – throughout the course of the season – berated Kamala for talking back, breaking curfew, and sneaking off to an Avengers’ Convention, whole-heartedly embrace their daughter’s superhero status…. With little to no resistance. Would two conservative Asian parents really accept their daughter’s double life – with all of its dangers – that easily? It’s unlikely.
These plot holes and inconsistencies snowball into major obstacles that hinder our experience of the show. But Ms. Marvel remains charming and fresh because at the heart of it, it’s a teen show about teens. The show (and comic) go back to its target audience. School kids and teens. The talented cast, led by Vellani, carry the show on their shoulders and make it worth a watch.
Ms. Marvel sees cameos from Bollywood star Farhan Akhtar and Pakistani filmstar Fawad Khan.
The show is now streaming on Disney+ and Hotstar.
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