This summer, Disney+ is rolling out the new Marvel mini-series Ms. Marvel. The show centers around a young girl, Kamala Khan, in the MCU who is obsessed with the Avengers (particularly Captain Marvel). However, her interests make her feel like an outsider at home and school. Then one night, Kamala discovers superpowers of her own.
With Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah directing the series, and Bisha K. Ali serving as writer, Ms. Marvel highlights the complexities of being a teenage girl and family expectations in a personal, sentimental way. Ali’s writing expertly crafts a universal story for those coming of age in 2022- yet she combines these powerful elements with the hero origin story. It’s a surprisingly refreshing take on what some may argue is the overdone Marvel universe.
In the first episode of Ms. Marvel, titled “Generation Why,” Kamala faces the typical school challenges of bullies, chemistry grades, and driving tests. She never comes across as cliche or immature, and every character in the series gives an excellent performance. Played by Iman Vellani, Kamala is a completely loveable nerd who also happens to be a Muslim American teenager growing up in Jersey City. This role is Vellani’s first as a professional actor.
The themes of family and passion particularly stand out in “Generation Why.” At the center is Kamala’s attempts to persuade her parents to let her go to Jersey City’s first AvengerCon. Kamala plans to cosplay as her favorite hero, Captain Marvel, but her parents don’t understand this passion for gaming, fan-fiction scribing, and being a superhero megafan. In one heartbreaking scene, they try to connect with her interests, but Kamala’s embarrassment at their attempts creates further distance.
In typical rebellious teen fashion, Kamala sneak out to AvengerCon, taking along an accessory that links directly to her family heritage. This action proves pivotal as it sets up future chapters of the story. Kamala’s first use of her powers might feel familiar and boring (as we’ve all seen this hero origin story before). Still, Vellani sells the wonderment one would feel upon realizing she now has abilities beyond her imagination.
One powerful aspect of Ms. Marvel is how the episode shows Kamala’s unadulterated passions with care. She is not a token nerdy girl character in the storyline or one trying to do a job better than the boys. She’s herself, a girl who loves her family, friends, dreams and wants to be the best version of herself while also trying to determine who exactly that is. All very relatable (especially to other pre-teens/teens who are the series’ intended audience). Bisha K. Ali has shared she considers Kamala as an avatar for all viewers who have grown up with the MCU.
From an artistic standpoint, “Generation Why” has some exciting standouts. The cinematography features dynamic and colorful themes. The editing is engaging and reminiscent of the Spider-Man films (think animated comic images appearing in the background as characters move through the city). When texting her best friend Bruno, Kamala’s messages appear coincidently in found objects like emojis painted on the sidewalk or neon signs ashing “LOL.” It’s a creative and engaging solution instead of cold text bubbles popping up on the screen. Little details like this give the show a distinct aesthetic amidst a sea of teen dramas and Marvel films/shows.
Based on the first episode, Ms. Marvel is a show worth watching with the family. It’s especially engaging for any youngster who might be feeling out of sorts while navigating their adolescent years.
Written by Addison Vaughn
Images provided by Disney