Despite being the victim of review bombers in its first week of release, Disney Plus series Ms. Marvel has been hailed as a fresh addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Its star, Iman Vellani, plays the defiantly Muslim teenage superhero of the title (Kamala Khan by day) and says she feels like she’s ‘totally lived Kamala’s life’.
Ms. Marvel started streaming on Disney Plus on June 8 (new episodes each Wednesday) and has become a hit with fans and critics, with Screen Rant saying it is ‘a delight to watch, from its energetic style, exceptional camerawork, and fantastic performances, especially from lead star’.
But the series launch was damaged by a concerted campaign of negative one-star reviews on sites like IMDb.com by some MCU fans, who criticised it for being childish (well, it is about teenagers) and worse, as being ‘woke’ because it has elevated a Muslim actress and dynamic to the foreground of an MCU series.
Before the launch, its Pakistani-Canadian star Iman, now 19, told BBC Asian Network how happy she was to be a role model: “Feels fantastic just knowing that Marvel trusts me to hold this title and to kind of bring character to life. And aside from that we’re bringing in an entirely new diaspora of fans into the MCU and I’m excited to see their reaction.”
She added: “All my family back in Pakistan are so excited and so that’s been really heart-warming to hear. But honestly, I don’t really think about it too much and all the pressure that comes with being the first of anything.”
Iman was 17 when she was cast as the 16-year-old Kamala and says her character on screen has so much of her own life in her story (and back story).
“We had so many conversations, the directors and I, just incorporating so much of my real-life and real-life experiences. I feel like I totally lived Kamala’s life.”
Ms. Marvel co-star Rish Shah (Kamran) echoed her enjoyment of being in such a diverse production, saying ‘it’s not often he got to go onto a set where he felt like he ‘belonged’ so much.
He hoped it would ‘pave the way for more opportunities like it’ and said it was a privilege to tell a heroic superhero story within a Muslim frame.
The six-part series is a precursor to the big-screen MCU movie, The Marvels, due for release in summer 2023, which will reportedly star Iman reportedly alongside Captain Marvel herself, Brie Lawson, Samuel L Jackson and British star Zawe Ashton, with a script written by WandaVision screenwriter Megan McDonnell.
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Patrick McLennan is a London-based journalist and documentary maker who has worked as a writer, sub-editor, digital editor and TV producer in the UK and New Zealand. His CV includes spells as a news producer at the BBC and TVNZ, as well as web editor for Time Inc UK. He has produced TV news and entertainment features on personalities as diverse as Nick Cave, Tom Hardy, Clive James, Jodie Marsh and Kevin Bacon and he co-produced and directed The Ponds, which has screened in UK cinemas, BBC Four and is currently available on Netflix.
An entertainment writer with a diverse taste in TV and film, he lists Seinfeld, The Sopranos, The Chase, The Thick of It and Detectorists among his favourite shows, but steers well clear of most sci-fi.