Following a breakout in the entertainment industry with Bad Boys For Life in 2020, director duo Adil El Arbi and Billal Fallah broke into the superhero genre by signing with Marvel Studios to direct Ms. Marvel. It seemed to be a match made in heaven as they took on the MCU's first Pakistani hero and one of the youngest leading characters in Marvel lore, but it hasn't been the smoothest of rides after the first episode debuted.
Numerous Phase 4 projects have been subject to review-bombing from fans, largely including racist and homophobic language from fans, which has happened once again with Ms. Marvel. While many of the complaints surrounded the change in Kamala's powers, others blatantly claimed that Marvel was "bowing to the woke mob" instead of focusing on what Marvel fans actually wanted to see.
With Kamala Khan being such an exciting new character for Marvel Studios to introduce, it's certainly disappointing to see so much negativity based off something that shouldn't really be a talking point to begin with. This is an issue that the higher-ups at Marvel Studios see as well, but in a recent interview, Ms. Marvel's directing duo shared why it's not something they're paying much attention to in the long run.
Ms. Marvel Directors on Review Bombing
El Arbi looked at it as taking "the good and the bad," noting how the fandom is their biggest reason for being in the business in the first place. He and Fallah largely wanted to "focus just on the positive aspects" and make sure that the fandom sees the best things from the MCU, hoping that the younger fans in particular will enjoy diving into this new story:
"Well, I think fandom values are a reflection of society, you know, so you got to have the good and the bad. We believe that it’s overall good. I mean, fandom for us the reason why we make these TV shows and movies. They make Marvel MCU heroes big and that’s why we have AvengerCon. We try to do that homage to the fandom. That’s why Kamala Khan is a fan. You got to also respect the fandom because they’re so passionate about that. I think that we tend to focus just on the positive aspects of it, because the love and the care that they give. You will not have that in any other job and it’s a real pleasure. We hope that our humble contribution to the MCU will please the fandom everywhere in the world, especially the younger fandom."
El Arbi also noted how Ms. Marvel helped the duo tap into their own identity, as they had similar challenges working through that internal struggle just as Kamala Khan does:
"Well, for us when we discovered the comics we related to that character because we’re Moroccan, Belgian, and Muslim. Growing up as teenagers, we were looking for our own identity. You know, 'What is our place?’ Are we Muslim or Moroccans? Are we Belgian?' and not finding our place in either one of those as we were teenagers, that identity crisis and all that."
This same concept applied even further to Kamala Khan, and Iman Vellani fully understood that idea from her own Pakistani background.
El Arbi explained how he and Fallah used some of their own experiences in the show itself, especially ones that also happened in comics featuring Ms. Marvel. This was only the start of the parallels as well, as he looked at how much of a diehard MCU fan Vellani is while playing a character that idolizes Earth's Mightiest Heroes so deeply:
"And that’s the same as Kamala Khan between the Pakistani Muslim-American culture. Iman Vellani is a Pakistani Canadian so she understood that character so well. And we put a lot of our experiences, our cultural background, the relationship with the family, the parents—all the other cultural aspects, like going to the mosque was also present in the comic book, which was very recognizable. And Iman Vellani, just like the character, she’s the biggest MCU fan there is. She loves Kevin Feige and he’s her idol. Iron Man is her favorite movie. She never thought that she would be part of the MCU. And all of a sudden, she’s an actress. She’s the main character, a superhero! And that’s the same as Kamala Khan looking up to Captain Marvel. And all of a sudden, she has superpowers. So you see a lot of parallel between, our story, [Ms. Marvel comic creator] Sana Amanat’s story, and Iman Vellani’s story."
Fallah then spoke about the last scene in Episode 1, when Kamala sneaks back into her room and runs into her mother, which the director said happened to him when he was young as well. While making it clear that Kamala's experiences are the same ones that people go through in the real world, he explained that the show is meant to put on display how important friends and family are in Kamala's life:
"When I was young, you know I went out and my mother caught me in the middle of the night. All the stuff—all these things are so relatable and also that [common] conflict because my parents are traditional Moroccan and I’m young and I wanted to do that. So all that stuff was very relatable and personal to me. But just like in my life journey, chasing my dream, my family and my friends supported me. And it’s what you see, I think, in this TV show that the family and friends are the real superpower of Kamala Khan. And she has to go deep into her her roots to really understand from where she is and who she is."
Marvel Ignoring the Haters
Although the directors from Ms. Marvel can't completely escape the negative reviews for their show, they're making sure their attention is on the positives delivered so far.
Noting how the MCU fandom's values somewhat reflect society's values, it makes sense that Marvel Studios is bringing some of that real-world feel into the story, especially considering how much the franchise is looking to improve its representation on screen. It's also a chance to show just how big the fandom has become over the past decade, with Kamala Khan having the chance to embody that love for Marvel's heroes within the show itself.
Hopefully, Marvel's work with Ms. Marvel will be able to avoid the kind of commentary some fans blasted online after Episode 1, which is also happening with Star Wars as Obi-Wan Kenobi makes its concurrent run on Disney+. Thankfully, El Arbi and Fallah don't seem to have that kind of negativity on their mind whatsoever, as they take the chance to add a new layer of exciting storytelling to the MCU's growing legacy.
The first episode of Ms. Marvel is now available to stream on Disney+. Episode 2 will debut on Wednesday, June 15.