Ms. Marvel Review
Ms. Marvel comes leaping out of the gate with a great first episode.
If you spend long enough on TV Critic Twitter, you’ll find a phrase that’s a frequent bugaboo: the show that’s like an “X-hour movie.”
It’s traditionally come from interviews where TV showrunners try to zhuzh up their show by emphasizing how cinematic their show is. But the first episode of Ms. Marvel works as well as it does precisely by not being a regular Marvel movie.
It doesn’t have to look like a Marvel movie
With visual tricks like hand-drawn overlays and giant murals that spring to life in the background, Ms. Marvel’s visual palette is as energetic as one of Kamala Khan’s YouTube videos. The first episode’s imaginative shots and cinematography are a nice way to reflect Kamala’s (and the show’s) specific perspective—she’s not an Avenger, but a 16-year-old teenager who has to deal with the pressure of parents and high school.
The 2021 animated film The Mitchells vs. the Machines covered similar visual territory as Ms. Marvel. But in an interview with Polygon, producers Bilall Fallah and Adil El Arbi pointed to a Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) –adjacent inspiration for the show’s daydream-meets-doodle visual style: 2018’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.
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You don’t need an MCU degree to enjoy it
To be clear, the day Marvel stops doing mid-credit teasers is the day the sun explodes, and a look at the MCU’s Phase 4 slate means that one of these things won’t happen any time soon. But even if the self-referentiality of a Marvel TV show about a Marvel character who’s a hardcore fan of other Marvel superheroes makes the mind reel, Ms. Marvel’s benefits by following Phase 4’s laid-back table setting and letting the thing simply be the thing.
In her debut role, Iman Vellani brings ample charm to Kamala, echoing the teenaged relatability of Tobey Maguire in 2002’s Spider-Man. And outside of the first episode‘s mid-credits scene, the Ms. Marvel premiere works on its own merits as a high school comedy and doesn’t have to shoehorn in the denser MCU lore. (That said, we’d absolutely want to hear the This American Life–riffing Scott Lang podcast alluded to in the premiere’s cold open.)