This was the first Marvel show that felt like a breath of fresh air in an otherwise stagnant pond. The formulaic pattern to all their shows and movies left one wondering if it was possible to interject new life into it all. Yet, there was a spark here, and it blossomed into a wonderful tale about a young, Muslim girl, who struggles to find her own identity as she clashes with a clandestine organization, a shadowy government agency and all that comes with growing up in a culturally rich household. The relationship of her character with her well-meaning Pakistani family and the culture clash that arises with the notion of superheroes, is given room to play out. At the center of all this, is newcomer actress Iman Vellani, in her first onscreen role, who is just a delight to behold.
Early on, across the six episodes that make up the miniseries, there’s a scene between Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani) and her parents. They want to take her to the comic-con she’s been wanting to go, on the condition her dad takes her. He’s so excited, and even dressed up as Hulk in an attempt to connect with his daughter. But in a typical teenage fashion, she bungles it up, disappoints her parents, and hurts her dad’s feelings. It was the acting of Iman in that scene that ultimately connected me with her character, and her depiction of the character. She expertly portrayed the various emotions that come in such a scene. Of feeling guilty, and about to cry upon the realization that you made your parents upset. That you directly caused the tears in your dad’s eye. Her acting here was nothing short of amazing, especially for a newcomer.
The story is not without its faults, such as having villains with not enough character development established to explain why’d they do things. This results in it feeling rushed, that the villains rushed through to try and get to their victory. It takes away from the excellent world building, and character development that’s happened so far. Yet even with all that, it manages to finish strong. Its strength lies in the familial story arcs. Of Kamala’s parents and their relationship to their superhero daughter or of being accepted by the community despite being a Muslim hero with a dazzling set of powers. And speaking of powers, the changes to her powerset from the comics is perfectly okay because this is a character that is all about her identity within the community, and her religion clashing with her identity as a superhero. Individuals don’t relate to the character because she can stretch her arms, or change into another person. They relate because they’ve known that struggle of being different, of being an ethnic immigrant struggling compared to your Caucasian neighbors. The culture clash that inevitably arises.
The CGI is on par with current Marvel miniseries outings, and the musical score was truly impeccable. I loved the fusion of Indian/Pakistani music and hip-hop beats to create this stylistic fresh take on the urban hero. It really helped add to her cultural identity. The creative use of CGI to demonstrate conversation also helped it to stand out. The supporting cast was good, especially Zenobia Shroff as Kamala’s mom and Mohan Kapur as Kamala’s dad.
Overall, I really liked the show. If I had to use one word to describe it, it would be “wholesome”. And it really helps that the lead actress, Iman Vellani is so endearing in her portrayal of Kamala Khan aka Ms. Marvel.