Turning Cosmic: Our Review of ‘Ms. Marvel’

Posted in Disney +, What's Streaming? by - June 08, 2022
Turning Cosmic: Our Review of ‘Ms. Marvel’

The latest Marvel television project to debut on Disney +, Ms. Marvel owes a big nod to not only the original source material, even though the series does make a few kay changes. The series also very much feels reverential, or at least familiar,  to another recent Disney project, the great Pixar film Turning Red. Both character leads are strong girls who  are struggling to fight between new world obsessions and old world beliefs.

Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani) is a Muslim teen growing up in the streets of New Jersey, but her head is sky bound with her idol Captain Marvel. Obsessed with the massively powered superhero, Kamala even focuses a school project about her involvement in dispatching Thanos, all with a pretty cool looking animated power point. Kamala is determined to go to a Superhero Convention with the help of her friends Bruno (Matt Lintz) and Nakia (Yasmeen Fletcher). She tries to convince her ultra strict and traditional parents Muneeba (Zenobia Shroff) and Yusuf (Mohan Kapur) to allow her to go, but to no avail. Kamala hatches an elaborate sneak out plan to make it to the event which goes wrong at almost every turn, including her suddenly developing real cosmic powers after putting on an old bracelet that originally belongs to her maternal grandmother.

Of course, in the comics, Kamala’s powers are linked with the Inhumans storyline, but that has  been reimagined here likely due to the failed attempt at telling the Inhumans story in the ill fated ABC television series back in 2017. Choosing not to link the series to one of Marvel’s biggest failures is very much the right move here, but with Anson Mount returning as Black Bolt in the newest Doctor Strange movie certainly means that could change at any time. Nonetheless, comic purists may have a hard time getting past this new origin story, or the fact that Kamala’s powers are now more cosmic based and much like those of DC’s Green Lantern as opposed to ‘comic accurate’. Or at least that’s how things look like with the 2 episodes we were provided to watch in advance.

Speaking of the 2 episodes, the 2nd one ends with a note that really sets the action forward in the series after a lot of set up. The effects work looks fine here, once you adjust to the change in the style of Kamala’s powers, and the action features all the stumbling and bumbling it should from a novice superhero. But the series has a lot to explain after the first 2 episodes, and all evidence points to the 3rd episode being a little exposition heavy.

The family dynamic works very well, almost mimicking that of Turning Red with the free spirited, semi outcast daughter, her tight friends group, plus an overprotective and meddling mom with a less than forceful father. The major difference here is that Kamala does have an ally in the house with her soon to be married brother Aamir (Saagar Shaikh) who does his best to help her manoeuvre around their mom from the background. The actors all work very well with each other in the family dynamic as well, lending the series another feel of authenticity.

While Turning Red may have a teen girl growing up in Toronto, it’s funny to note that Ms. Marvel has a teenager from Toronto playing its lead. Vellani does an admirable job espousing the energy and creativity of young Kamala, but the first time actress hasn’t really had to do much heavy lifting acting wise through the first 2 episodes, so let’s hope she’s up to the task when it’s needed. Her friends Bruno and Nakia are both very competently acted, with Fletcher’s flashing a ferocity as Nakia that’s an utter delight to watch. I was also very impressed with the chemistry in the Khan family, which is palpable from the very beginning.

Blasting off the very first episode to the familiar sounds of The Weeknd blasting through an animated credit sequence, Ms. Marvel immediately strikes a different tone from other Marvel shows. It’s packed with colour and vibrance and is clearly the most humorous of all the Disney + shows to debut so far. Directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, whose previous film Rebel also dealt deeply with the Muslim faith, immerse us into Kamala’s world. Much like Mohamed Diab did with Moon Knight and the Egyptian culture, Ms. Marvel isn’t afraid to take us right into the mosques and neighborhoods of the Muslim population of the film, steeping us in culture all around.

In the end, Ms. Marvel appears to be setting us up for something that will be wildly different from the previous MCU based TV series, and that’s likely for the best. After 2 episodes we still have a lot to learn about Kamala, but the series starts off strong enough that we actually care about what’s to come. There’s also the matter of how this film will lead into next year’s The Marvels film which is allegedly set to star both Ms. and Captain Marvel, and how that will translate onto the theatre screen.

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"Kirk Haviland is an entertainment industry veteran of over 20 years- starting very young in the exhibition/retail sector before moving into criticism, writing with many websites through the years and ultimately into festival work dealing in programming/presenting and acquisitions. He works tirelessly in the world of Canadian Independent Genre Film - but is also a keen viewer of cinema from all corners of the globe (with a big soft spot for Asian cinema!)
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