Forget the normal Marvel fanfare; Ms. Marvel’s doing things differently. Instead of the usual introductory Marvel Studios orchestral piece, The Weeknd’s ‘Blinded By The Lights’ blasts out over the montage of MCU heroes. Then, we head into a stop-motion recreation of Endgame’s Battle of Earth, made from colorful sketches – the work of Kamala Khan, who idolizes the Avengers, with a special focus on Captain Marvel. Khan’s a dreamer, fantasizing about flying away from her home and saving the world, just like her hero.
We’ve known for a while that Ms. Marvel would be different. Directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, previously best known for Bad Boys For Life, promised a show inspired by Tom Holland’s incarnation of Spider-Man, and the duo did not exaggerate. The premiere has more than a few shades of Homecoming, yet the episode forges a voice of its own thanks to Iman Vellani’s Kamala. Marvel Studios has a knack for casting brilliant leads, and Vellani feels instantly comfortable as the anxious teenager, the actor plays into the character’s dorky traits without becoming a caricature.
Vellani’s only part of Ms. Marvel’s vivid tapestry. Showrunner Bisha K. Ali leans into Kamala’s heritage, using the specificity of her story to tell a universal tale of growing pains, young love, and dealing with controlling parents. After all, how many real-world teenagers growing up today will idolize the Avengers? Judging by Spider-Man: No Way Home’s box-office numbers, the answer’s millions upon millions. And how many teens suffer from parents who don’t understand their passions? Millions upon millions more. That Ms. Marvel showcases a Muslim family, using appropriate language, makes this all the more brilliant, offering a slice of life rarely seen on such a blockbuster scale.
The premiere sets the story in motion with a candy-colored kick. Kamala’s desperate to go to AvengersCon, yet her controlling mother won’t allow it. Working with her best friend, Bruno Carrelli, a nerdy tech-type, she manages to break free and head to the event, leading to a whole heap of Easter eggs and references to the wider MCU. Unlike Moon Knight, which stayed away from anything connecting the show to other properties, minus a name-drop here or there, Ms. Marvel fully embraces its place inside the cinematic universe – and frankly, it’s about time a show like this did.
Ms. Marvel is a spectacular pay-off for everyone who is fully invested in this world. Yet, it’s also welcoming those who aren’t fully caught up. Anyone with a passing knowledge of the Avengers could jump on board and be swept into Kamala’s story, though they may be wondering why everyone’s obsessed with America’s Ass.
On a technical level, the direction of Ms. Marvel’s opener is superb. Every scene flows into the next, the sheer speed not letting up. Marvel’s Disney Plus shows have often lagged, but nothing about Ms. Marvel feels slow. The AvengersCon is, like real Comic-Cons, a sensory overload. When her powers take hold, it feels like everything’s coming together yet unraveling at the same time. It’s a wonderful pinnacle to the episode, and there’s more flair throughout, especially as Kamala’s thoughts and fantasies are projected onto the walls around her. One montage showing her escape plan to AvengersCon is fantastically done, while the text message exchange between her and Bruno is masterfully creative.
Perhaps what Ms. Marvel lacks is any real threat. There’s the tension between this instantly loveable protagonist and her parents, but there’s nothing daunting just yet. A post-credits scene brings in characters from the Spider-Man movies, but that’s not exactly a Big Bad in the way Ethan Hawke’s Arthur Harrow was in Moon Knight. Instead, Ms. Marvel’s comfortable telling a lower-stakes story that fully embraces its place in the MCU. Kamala’s an instant breath of fresh air and a superb addition to this forever burgeoning franchise.
Ms. Marvel is on Disney Plus now, with new episodes coming every Wednesday – check out the full Ms. Marvel release schedule for more. For more, check out our guide to Marvel Phase 4 and Loki season 2.