Entertainment

'Ms. Marvel' Has the Heart the Rest of the MCU Needs

The Disney+ series is one of the best things Marvel has produced in its rocky Phase 4.

Disney+
Disney+
Disney+

After watching the first episode of Ms. Marvel, the latest in the Marvel Cinematic Universe‘s ever unwieldy television offerings, I wasn’t sold. The visual style was interesting, if perhaps a little too busy, and star Iman Vellani was charming, but it just felt too self-referential. When we’re introduced to Kamala Khan, a teenager in New Jersey, the first thing we learn about her is she’s a HUGE Marvel fan. She’s desperately trying to get to a Marvel fan convention so she can cosplay as her favourite hero, Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel. After so many hours of MCU programming, I was wary to invest in a show that seemed less invested in its new character than it was in her obsession with the exhausting lore of the franchise.

I’m so glad I didn’t quit. Ms. Marvel, developed by Bisha K. Ali, is one of the rare products to come out of Marvel’s messy Phase 4 that feels truly special. The finale of Ms. Marvel dropped this Wednesday, just a few short days after Thor: Love and Thunder was released in theatres. While the highly anticipated follow-up to Thor: Ragnarok, directed by Taika Waititi, made a boatload of money, it has also ignited debate as to whether it’s good, bad, rushed, or worthy of its predecessors. Love and Thunder does feel a little tossed off, like no one really cared enough to make the jokes land or the characters coherent. Ms. Marvel, on the other hand, is all heart, but has not received the viewership it deserves.

In Ms. Marvel, Kamala starts to discover the extent of her powers, which emerged thanks to a family heirloom bangle, and the series evolves into one of the most deeply felt sagas this world has yielded yet. Ali created a story that is packed with superhero mysticism, but also thoroughly rooted in the Pakistani diaspora. Sure, there’s some confusing backstory involving the ClanDestines, a group of Djinn who have spent decades wandering the Earth trying to get home to their dimension; and, yes, there’s a big wink to the X-Men in the final minutes that feels like a studio note. (Kamala learns about a “mutation” in her genes as the familiar X-Men guitar riff plays.) But Ms. Marvel truly shines when it’s about a girl learning that her family and community is an asset rather than something from which to hide. I can’t remember the last time something from Marvel made me well up with tears multiple times, and that’s something to celebrate.

Eventually Kamala learns that doesn’t need to just idolize superheroes, she can actually be one-a girl who shoots hardened light out of her hands. It’s after this shift that Ali and her writers hone in on the Jersey City Pakistani Muslim community with joy and tenderness. Ali gives us a Bollywood dance sequence at a wedding, and a subplot about Kamala’s friend Nakia (Yasmeen Fletcher) running for the board of the local mosque, a detail which becomes important during the series’ big showdown. At the same time, Ali finds time to weave in typical teenager stuff set to a banging soundtrack. There’s an adorable, squee-inducing love triangle between Kamala and her Duckie, the inventor whiz kid Bruno (Matt Lintz), and the magic-possessing Kamran (Rish Shah).

But the absolute best part of Ms. Marvel is Kamala’s relationship with her mother, Muneeba, played by the great Zenobia Shroff. What begins as a familiarly tense dynamic-the strict mother versus the rebellious daughter-transforms on a sojourn to Pakistan where a reunion with Kamala’s grandmother helps her learn about her new abilities as well as her history. This trip, which takes place throughout the fourth and fifth episodes, uses the background of the 1947 partition of India, where Muslims were exiled to Pakistan after the dissolution of British rule to deepen our heroine’s connection to her own past. All the while the show is anchored by the glittering performance of Vellani, a first-time actor who radiates a kind of genuine wonder as Kamala.

Ms. Marvel is by no means perfect. The villain arc is unnecessarily confusing, and, frankly, the narrative probably would have been stronger as a two-hour movie rather than a six-hour TV show. But it has something it feels like the rest of the MCU is missing right now: bald-faced emotion based on lived-in experiences.

Get the latest from Thrillist Australia delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe here.

Esther Zuckerman is a senior entertainment writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @ezwrites.

Entertainment

Where to Celebrate Lunar New Year 2023 in Australia

And what it means to be in the year of the Rabbit.

where to celebrate lunar new year australia

Starting with the new moon on Sunday, January 22, this Lunar New Year ushers in the year of the Rabbit. We’ve put together a guide on celebrating the Lunar New Year in Australia.

What is special about the year of the Rabbit?

As you might know, each year has an animal sign in the Chinese Zodiac, which is based on the moon and has a 12-year cycle. This year, we celebrate the year of the rabbit, known to be the luckiest out of all twelve animals. It symbolises mercy, elegance, and beauty.

What celebrations are taking place and how can I get involved?

There are plenty of festivals happening all around the country which you can get involved with. Here they are per state.

New South Wales

Darling Harbour Fireworks
When: Every year, Sydney puts on a fireworks show, and this year, you can catch it on January 28 and February 4 at 9 pm in Darling Harbour.

Dragon Boat Races
When: Witness three days of dragon boat races and entertainment on Cockle Bay to usher in the Lunar New Year. The races will commence on January 27 and finish on January 29.

Lion Dances
When: Catch a traditional Lion Dance moving to the beat of a vigorous drum bringing good luck and fortune for the Lunar New Year. The dance performances will happen across Darling Harbour on Saturday, January 21, Sunday, January 22, and Sunday, February 4 and 5, around 6 pm and 9 pm.

Lunar New Year at Cirrus Dining
When: Barangaroo’s waterfront seafood restaurant, Cirrus, is celebrating the Year of the Rabbit with a special feast menu. Cirrus’ LNY menu is $128pp with optional wine pairing and is available from Saturday, January 21, to Sunday, February 5.

Auntie Philter
When: Hello Auntie’s owner and executive chef, Cuong Nguyen will be dishing out some of the most classic Vietnamese street foods with his mum, Linda. All of Philter’s favourites will be on offer, as well as Raspberry Pash Beer Slushies and other cocktails being served at the Philter Brewing rooftop bar on Sunday, January 22 and Sunday, January 29.

Victoria

Lunar New Year Festival
When: Ring in the Lunar New Year with food, music, arts, and more on Sunday, January 22, from 10 am to 9 pm.

Lunar New Year at the National Gallery of Victoria
When: Celebrate the year of the rabbit at the National Gallery of Victoria’s festival of art, food, and art-making activities for everyone from 10 am-5 pm.

Queensland

BriAsia Festival
When: From February 1-19, Brisbane will come alive with performances, including lion dances and martial arts displays. There will be street food, workshops, comedy and more.

South Australia

Chinatown Adelaide Street Party
When: Adelaide is set to hose a fun-filled day celebrating the Chinese New Year on Saturday, January 28, from 12 pm to 9 pm.

Western Australia

Crown Perth
When: Across January and February, Crown Perth hosts free live entertainment, including colourful lion dances, roving mascots, and drumming performances. The restaurants will also throw banquets and menus dedicated to the Lunar New Year.

Get the latest from Thrillist Australia delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe here.


Related

Our Best Stories, Delivered Daily
The best decision you'll make all day.