Following their success with Bad Boys For Life in 2020, filmmaker pair Adil El Arbi and Billal Fallah entered the superhero genre by contracting with Marvel Studios to helm Ms. Marvel. It looked like a marriage made in heaven when they took on the MCU’s first Pakistani hero and one of the youngest major characters in Marvel history, but things haven’t gone well since the first episode aired.
Numerous Phase 4 projects have been subjected to review-bombing by fans, with racist and homophobic rhetoric being used often, like with Ms. Marvel. While many of the concerns focused on Kamala’s new abilities, others complained that Marvel was “bowing to the woke mob” rather than concentrating on what Marvel fans genuinely wanted to see.
With Kamala Khan being such an exciting new character for Marvel Studios to present, it’s obviously disheartening to see so much hostility based on something that shouldn’t be a discussion topic in the first place. This is a problem that Marvel Studios executives recognize, but in a recent interview, Ms. Marvel’s directorial team explained why it’s not something they’re concerned about in the long term.
Review Bombing by Ms. Marvel Directors
Ms. Marvel filmmakers Adil El Arbi and Billal Fallah spoke with Gizmondo about fans engaged in online review bombing after Episode 1 broadcast.
El Arbi saw it as taking “the good with the bad,” saying that the fans is their main motivation for being in the company in the first place. He and Fallah primarily intended to “concentrate only on the good parts” and ensure that the fanbase only sees the best of the MCU, expecting that younger fans, in particular, would love digging into this new story:
“Well, I believe that fandom ideals are a mirror of society, so you have to have both the good and the terrible. We feel it is mostly positive. I mean, fandom is what drives us to create these TV series and films. They make the Marvel MCU heroes famous, which is why we have AvengerCon. We make an effort to pay tribute to the fanbase. That’s why Kamala Khan likes her. You must also appreciate the fanbase since they are so dedicated to it. I believe that we tend to concentrate only on the good parts of it because of the love and attention that they provide. You won’t find it in any other work, and it’s a tremendous treat. We hope that our little addition to the MCU will satisfy fans all across the globe, particularly younger fans.”
El Arbi also said how Ms. Marvel assisted the team in discovering their own identity, as they had similar issues going through that internal conflict as Kamala Khan:
“We identified with the character when we found the comics since we are Moroccan, Belgian, and Muslim. We were searching for our own identities as youths. ‘What is our place?’ you know. Are we Moroccans or Muslims? Are we Belgian?’ and not knowing where we fit in any of those as kids, with that identity issue and everything.”
This same premise applied to Kamala Khan, and Iman Vellani completely understood it because of her own Pakistani heritage.
El Arbi mentioned how he and Fallah incorporated some of their actual experiences in the program, particularly those that occurred in Ms. Marvel comics. This was just the beginning of the connections, as he considered how much of a passionate MCU fan Vellani is while portraying a character who idolizes Earth’s Mightiest Heroes:
“And this is similar to Kamala Khan’s encounter with Pakistani Muslim-American society. Iman Vellani is a Pakistani Canadian who completely grasped that character. And we included a lot of our experiences, our cultural background, the connection with the family, the parents—all the other cultural things, like going to the mosque, were also there in the very recognized comic book. And, like the character, Iman Vellani is the greatest MCU fan there is. Kevin Feige is her hero, and she adores him. Her favorite film is Iron Man. She never saw herself as a member of the MCU. And then she becomes an actress. She’s the primary character, and she’s a superhero! And it’s the same as Kamala Khan idolizing Captain Marvel. And then she gains superhuman abilities. So there are many parallels between our experience, the story of [Ms. Marvel comic creator] Sana Amanat, and the story of Iman Vellani.”
Fallah then discussed the last moment in Episode 1 in which Kamala sneaks back into her room and runs into her mother, something the filmmaker claimed occurred to him when he was younger. While emphasizing that Kamala’s circumstances are similar to those of individuals in the real world, he added that the program is intended to highlight the importance of friends and family in Kamala’s life:
“You know, when I was younger, I went out and my mother found me in the middle of the night. Everything is really relevant, especially the [common] issue since my parents are traditional Moroccans and I’m young and wanted to do that. So everything was incredibly relevant and intimate to me. But, much as in my life, my family and friends supported me while I pursued my ambition. And it’s clear from this TV program that Kamala Khan’s family and friends are her true superpowers. And she must go deep into her origins to really comprehend where she is and who she is.”
Marvel Ignores the Critics
Although the makers of Ms. Marvel can’t totally avoid the show’s bad critiques, they’re focusing on the positives that have been offered so far.
Given how much the MCU fandom’s ideals mirror societal values, it seems natural that Marvel Studios is incorporating some of that real-world vibe into the tale, particularly given how much the series is working to enhance its representation on screen. It’s also an opportunity to demonstrate how much the audience has grown over the last decade, with Kamala Khan having the opportunity to represent that passion for Marvel’s characters inside the program itself.
Hopefully, Marvel’s collaboration with Ms. Marvel will avoid the type of online comments that certain fans unleashed after Episode 1, which is now occurring with Star Wars as Obi-Wan Kenobi runs concurrently on Disney+. Thankfully, El Arbi and Fallah don’t seem to be thinking negatively, as they seize the opportunity to add a new layer of thrilling narrative to the MCU’s burgeoning heritage.