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Tribune News Service
Tribune News Service
Peter Sblendorio

‘Ms. Marvel’ directors hope Marvel’s first series led by Muslim superhero inspires audiences

The makers of “Ms. Marvel” can feel the power of their new superhero series.

Muslim directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah can’t wait for audiences to experience Marvel Studios’ first project centering on a Muslim superhero, introducing the character Kamala Khan as a Pakistani American teenager from Jersey City who obtains cosmic abilities.

“It reminds me of my sister, my nieces, (Adil’s) wife, our aunties,” Fallah told the Daily News. “Now they have somebody that they can look up to that resembles them. I hope that it will inspire a lot of girls in the world, but at the same time, it’s also a very universal story and I think it’s going to touch everybody, no matter the race, gender or religion.”

Debuting Wednesday on Disney+, the six-part “Ms. Marvel” stars newcomer Iman Vellani as Kamala, who idolizes the powerful Captain Marvel but never imagines she could one day become a superhero herself.

That all changes when Kamala acquires superpowers from a magical bangle, beginning a whirlwind journey as she tries to understand her newfound strength.

“It’s an origin story, so we just follow this teenage girl who is between two worlds, between her American culture and Pakistani-Islamic culture,” Fallah said.

“At school, she’s trying to be cool but she’s clumsy and she doesn’t know who she wants to be. It’s like an identity crisis. Then all of a sudden, she gets this power, and now she’s between the superhero world and being a normal human being.”

“Ms. Marvel” marks the latest high-profile project for El Arbi and Fallah, who are of Moroccan heritage. The filmmaking duo previously directed the 2020 action-comedy “Bad Boys for Life,” and have the DC Comics movie “Batgirl” starring Leslie Grace due out later this year.

El Arbi, 33, and Fallah, 36, directed the premiere episode and the finale of “Ms. Marvel” and also served as executive producers on the series.

“When we were editing ‘Bad Boys for Life,’ we were talking to each other and saying, ‘What’s the next step?’ And the next step had to be Marvel, because that’s the biz so you’ve got to be part of the (Marvel Cinematic Universe),” El Arbi told The News. “We were joking around and saying, ‘But if we are going to do a Marvel show, it’s going to have to be a Muslim character, right?’ Not knowing that (one) existed and they were planning to do that.”

“We were also surprised by how authentic and how much they really went deep into that Muslim aspect and the subject matter,” El Arbi said. “It felt also just very relatable and realistic to us.”

Kamala first appeared in the Marvel comics in 2013, and became the company’s first Muslim character to lead her own comic book the following year.

El Arbi and Fallah aimed to capture the essence of the comics by mixing animation into the live-action “Ms. Marvel” episodes.

“The comics were a great base and a great source material to be inspired by,” El Arbi said. “We also had Sana Amanat, who was co-creator of the comics, to be there as a producer, so we had a really great guidance in that aspect.

“At the same time, we loved the vibrancy and the colors, on a visual level, of the comics. We loved (the 2018 movie) ‘Into the Spider-Verse,’ so we were always saying it would be cool to have a live-action version of that, and that’s how we came up with the idea of coming up with those animation sequences to really get inside the head, the fantasy moments, of Kamala Khan.”

The “Ms. Marvel” series is only the beginning for the title superhero. The Kamala character next appears in the 2023 movie “The Marvels,” which also stars franchise veterans Brie Larson and Teyonah Parris.

“She’s so young. There’s such a big future for her,” Fallah said. “I hope it will be like Peter Parker from Queens. That’s the bar, that she has this long, long future ahead of her.”


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