‘The Marvels’ Squanders Iman Vellani’s Kamala Khan

The latest Marvel film doesn’t take advantage of uniting three powerful storylines, including that of its first Pakistani American superhero.

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Iman Vellani as Kamala Khan / Ms. Marvel, Brie Larson as Carol Danvers / Captain Marvel, Teyonah Parris as Monica Rambeau in 'The Marvels' (2023, Marvel Studios)

Snigdha Sur


November 11, 2023


5 min

A group of Kree soldiers are on a distant planet, looking like what paleontologists did centuries ago, as they extract a futuristic-looking sarcophagus. But their leader isn’t interested in the encasement; she quickly shatters the figure, revealing an intricate bracelet inside — all too familiar for Ms. Marvel fans. The woman, Dar-Benn (Zawe Ashton), is panicked. The bracelets were forged as a pair, she declares. Where’s the other one? Well, it must be elsewhere, one of her minions reasons. “Elsewhere? Like where?” she bellows.

Cut to New Jersey and Kamala Khan’s bedroom. Instead of doing her science homework, Kamala (Iman Vellani) is doodling comics featuring herself as Ms. Marvel and Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) fighting evil together, as music with heavy subcontinental influence plays. Kamala’s mother (Zenobia Shroff) dutifully calls out: “This doesn’t sound like science to me.”

The Marvels (2023) follows Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel, Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris), and Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel as they counter the Kree, who are wreaking havoc on the galaxy. Though the film opens by centering Kamala, her Pakistani-ness, and her family, the latest installment from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) fails to take advantage of the uniqueness of her story, and that of Monica Rambeau, a scientist who works with Nick Fury. This is especially a shame when the film has a lot to say about long wars, peace treaties, and refugees, eerily prescient themes in light of current events.

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