One can love or hate the Marvel films and their series but cannot dismiss their brilliant casting choices. Be it the original Avengers (I mean, can we even think of another actor for roles like Iron Man or Thor?) or the recently introduced characters like Shang-Chi (played by Simu Liu) or Moon Knight (Oscar Isaac), MCU’s tryst with casting has yielded career-defining roles for the stars and gratifying experiences for those watching them. Keeping in tradition, MCU’s latest series Ms Marvel once again knocks it out of the ballpark by introducing the brilliant Iman Vellani as its first Muslim superhero. But well-written characters don’t necessarily have to translate into entertaining content and Ms Marvel is here to prove the same.
Ms Marvel might look like yet another origins story/coming-of-age series about a friendly neighbourhood superhero but this story of Kamala Khan, a 16-year-old Pakistani-American high school student, is more than that as it’s the most relatable storyline for those from the Indian subcontinent. Who would have thought a Marvel series’ title credits would roll with interludes from the ‘Oh Nanba’ track from Rajinikanth’s Lingaa? Marvel and its parent company Disney have concentrated on repre sentation for a while now and that has resulted in products like Luca, Encanto, Shang Chi and Moon Knight that tell stories far from the shores of the USA. Ms Marvel is yet another feather adorning the cap as this series highlights not just the plight of Muslims in America but also the rich history of India and Pakistan and how partition affected the land and its people.
Just like how Marvel’s latest film had Gorr turning into a god butcher after getting his hands on the Necrosword, Kamala, a die-hard fan of Captain Marvel, gets hold of her grandmother’s golden bangle only to discover that it gives the ability to harness cosmic energy and create hard light constructs. As with any magical MacGuffin, there’s a sinister group named Clandestines that’s waiting to steal it from our young hero. How Kamala comes to terms with her new power/responsibilities, learns of her rich lineage and understands the dynamics of relationships inside and outside the family, all while foiling the plans of the baddies forms the rest of this extremely predictable yet fun ride.
Unlike Marvel’s recent releases, Ms Marvel has a lot of heart and warmth and given how the backdrop is closer home, it hits us stronger. We get a glimpse of Asian parenting which gives way to some humourous yet heart-warming scenes. Inter-racial relationships, interpersonal relationships between the Asian immigrant population and how it’s perceived by those on the home turf—there’s an extremely single-dimensioned baddie in the form of the Department of Damage Control —are all some of the series tries to touch upon and does a decent job at addressing too. The biggest strength of the series is how it uses stereotypes to avail laughter while also tearing down the negative ones.
There are references to Shah Rukh Khan films, Bollywood songs, people getting off their seats before the flight comes to a stop, bargaining and of course, cricket, and there are also mentions of discrimination at religious places based on gender, profiling, whitewashing and how mosques are always under constant monitoring. Apart from Iman Vellani’s impeccable rendition of the titular hero being the show stealer, we also have a good lot of Indian and Pakistani actors who deliver commendable performances. That alone steers this vehicle even when it transcends rocky patches later..
What doesn’t work in favour of our hero and her adventures is how dispensable the villains are. The series tries to establish the Clandestines and the DODC as formidable foes but both the groups are easily disposed of by a teenager coming to terms with her newly found powers and her bunch of social media-powered friends. Ms Marvel is far from being a flawless series but it has got its heart at the right place.
Series: Ms Marvel
Cast: Iman Vellani, Matt Lintz, Yasmeen Fletcher, Zenobia Shroff, Mohan Kapur
Creator: Bisha K Ali
Streaming on: Disney+ Hotstar