Monday, June 27, 2022

Ms. Marvel is bold, tolerable, and very much made for kids

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Everyone knows that fictional superheroes need a good title. From Professor X and Doctor Strange to Mr Incredible and Captain Sir Tom Moore, comics have pretty much exhausted the entire drop-down menu of possible ranks. It’s perhaps no surprise, then, that we’re entering the second tier of slightly clumsier titles with the release of Mrs Miraclethe latest 35mm by-product of the box office sweeping the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Mrs Miracle follows Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani), a 16-year-old Jersey City girl who grew up in a semi-strict Muslim household. She’s obsessed, to put it lightly, with Captain Marvel, Brie Larson’s crew-cut athletic superhero who took a slap in the face avenger Super villain Thanos. Much to the chagrin of her parents (“I come from a long line of fanciful, unrealistic daydreamers,” her mother gloomily announces), Kamala is far more interested in the superhero world than her schoolwork or her brother’s wedding. Only her best friend – and practical genius – Bruno (Matt Lintz) believes in her. “It’s not really the brown girls from Jersey City who are saving the world,” she tells him. “You are Kamala Khan,” he replies. “You want to save the world? Then you will save the world.”

I’m not here to scrutinize good intentions – Marvel is such a rampant commercial venture, in fact, that there are undoubtedly cynical motives at play here – but it’s refreshing to see such dedication to creatives of South Asian descent running a high-profile project conduct. It’s not just because of the outstanding cast: the series was written by British-Pakistani comedian Bisha K Ali and directed by Belgian duo Adil & Bilall. The creative influences are far more Michel Gondry and Edgar Wright than anything else in South Asian film, but a deep love of South Asian culture nonetheless permeates the whole thing.

But I suppose the only real question is whether this will work as a superhero trait. Kamala lives in a world where “the Battle for Earth” (meaning the events of Avengers: Infinity War and endgame) actually happened, and yet Iron Man and his gang are treated more as celebrities than figures of great historical importance. Although Thor and Captain America are essentially the protagonists of World War III, they are celebrated more like Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie than Churchill and Eisenhower. But this trick allows it Mrs Miracle living in two worlds: the world of Marvel and the world of Marvel fandom. And on a secret trip to AvengerCon, Kamala discovers a mysterious bracelet she inherited from her grandmother that grants her magical powers. “Cosmic,” she whispers with a smile as the McGuffin rays swarm up her arm.

While there are elements of the show’s visual kinetics that spring to mind The green hornet and scott pilgrim vs the world, Mrs Miracle is clearly aimed at a younger audience than all existing Marvel objects. And as far as I know, CBeebies’ integration of animation and CGI into real-life Jersey City sets is ubiquitous. Older viewers will likely struggle to get much out of the show’s very youthful stakes (failing a driving test, hitting a dodgeball in the face, sneaking out after dark) and the tone is much brighter than in stranger things, the other “Kids save the world” show of the present. On the other hand, it would help the health of our collective psyche if older viewers didn’t watch so many superhero shows in the first place.

bright, bold and bold, Mrs Miracle is another tolerable entry in the studio’s ever-growing list of TV spin-offs. “Fantasy is fun,” says Kamala’s adviser, Mr. Wilson (author and internet personality Jordan Firstman), “but now you have to pull yourself together and embrace reality.” Despite everything Mrs MiracleIt’s hard not to feel the same about our current cultural moment.

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