The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been stuck in an awkward transitional phase in recent months, scrambling to find its way in a world post “Avengers: Endgame.” As the MCU expands exponentially into new territory, what better character to mark these growing pains than Kamala Khan?
As the titular Ms. Marvel, Khan shines as a brand-new heroine struggling to navigate maturity, just as her creators are doing the same. Her timing couldn’t be better, as “Ms. Marvel” looks to uphold some of the most critically scrutinized MCU projects to date, offering a much-needed breath of fresh air to the franchise.
“Ms. Marvel” follows Khan (Iman Vellani) as she discovers that a seemingly ordinary family heirloom actually gives her the power to manipulate interdimensional matter. Khan, a Captain Marvel diehard, uses her newfound abilities to create a superhero persona, which she keeps secret from all but her best friend Bruno Carrelli (Matt Lintz). As she explores her adolescence and works to earn her family’s respect, Khan must also face the threat of the Clandestine, an exiled group of interdimensional peoples who need Khan’s powers to return home.
“Ms. Marvel” rides at the intersection of the superhero and coming-of-age genres, and despite leaning into both worlds, the show is consistently able to flaunt its unique perspective within the MCU. The show’s creator, Bisha K. Ali, fully embraces Khan’s Desi heritage and leverages it as one of the show’s key strengths, further separating “Ms. Marvel” from the tired tropes of its parent franchise.
Khan’s journey also remains authentic and rooted in family, a necessary anchor for a story set in a universe that too frequently feels impossible. This is the beauty of “Ms. Marvel,” and gives hope for the future of the MCU: prioritizing meaningful storytelling over muddled theatrics.
While audiences continue to flock to the theaters for big-budget CGI blockbusters, the secret ingredient that has kept the franchise watchable for so long is its foundational commitment to its characters. “Ms. Marvel” is a shining example of this, while many other Phase Four projects have lost this touch.
On top of the careful attention to its characters, the representation and inclusion in the show’s cast can’t go unrecognized. With Khan being the first female Muslim superhero in the MCU, “Ms. Marvel” takes a big leap toward a superhero franchise that values diversity, though this isn’t a shallow portrayal for the sake of representation. The show diligently proves its understanding and love for the cultures it chooses to showcase, and ties them in smoothly with the overall arc of its characters. This is where the heart of the show lives.
Visually, the show’s cinematography distinguishes the series from any the MCU has launched thus far, setting a tone that perfectly complements the dual maturity and immaturity of its titular character.
“Ms. Marvel” creates a beautiful contrasting visual mood to represent the two halves of Khan: a teenager trying to do what’s right versus a young adult forced to make tough decisions. On screen, this manifests as bright and colorful motifs scattered throughout shots, juxtaposed by much more somber sequences detailing generational tragedies. This keen eye keeps “Ms. Marvel” feeling fresh and unlike anything the MCU has attempted before.
That said, there are certain technical aspects that don’t always meet the high standards set by past MCU projects. The visual effects in many sequences appear plastic and unpolished, while in others they appear outright poor. This is especially disappointing given the impressive VFX work present in many of Marvel’s other recent showings. Similarly, some action sequences come across ill choreographed and executed. Luckily, “Ms. Marvel” has enough soul in its story to overpower these flaws.
All in all, “Ms. Marvel” refreshes as a much welcomed entry into a continuously stale phase of the MCU, radiating with a vivacity that audiences haven’t seen from the franchise before. Will it be enough to stave off critics and audiences underwhelmed by recent Marvel endeavors? Possibly. Yet, even as a standalone project, “Ms. Marvel” is sure to be a hero for those seeking a wholesome, heartfelt binge this summer.