This isn’t a Ms Marvel review. I didn’t finish Ms Marvel and so don’t think a full, ordinary review would be fair, although I suppose you could argue that one’s inability to finish something is a relevant part of the viewing experience and thus something I could be capable of reviewing… But I digress.
Ms Marvel killed me. Or, more specifically, my hope for Marvel going forward. And the truth is it’s not even that bad. In fact, the first half of the show is pretty good compared to 90% of Disney+’s other shows (admittedly not a high bar). It’s just an ordinary superhero origin story: Girl doesn’t fit in -> Girl gets powers -> Girl doesn’t know how to use powers -> Girl figures out how to use powers -> Girl realises evil stuff is happening… But the evil stuff is what killed me. If this had been just some low-level villain robbing banks in a stripey outfit, I think Ms Marvel would have been a cliche and derivative, yet honest and quality little superhero story. But instead, the villains are ancient genies who want to destroy the whole of reality and Ms Marvel goes on a big multi-country adventure to save the planet. It’s schlock. Typical Marvel schlock. Because, apparently, a low-stakes introduction to a pretty neat character can’t be done; THE WORLD HAS TO BE ENDING! SHE HAS TO PROVE HERSELF! WE HAVE TO CLAP WHEN SHE WINS HER FIRST FIGHT! WE HAVE TO CHEER WHEN SHE PUTS THE GENIES BACK IN THE LAMP!
And it’s lame. Marvel has this notion that character focussed or low stakes just aren’t marketable, despite the best of their new Spiderman films being not the one where he fights one million robots, not the one where he fights Willem Defoe, but the one where he just shuts down some dude’s weapon smuggling operation. In fact, I’d argue most of the MCU’s best movies are the low-stakes ones; Winter Soldier (by Marvel’s absurd standards) isn’t that high-stakes. They just stop a corrupt organisation. Civil War isn’t that high stakes – Captain America and Iron Man fall out because some normal dude manipulates them. The original Iron Man, that started the MCU, is just Tony Stark stopping illegal weapons trade.
That’s not to mention that the Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage Netflix series were all very well received specifically for the fact they told smaller, down to Earth stories with darker tones and mature themes.
And this extends outside of the MCU too; The Sam Rami Spiderman films are more caught up with Peter’s personal stuff than any of the dumb villains, and even then the villains all have personal stakes, not world-ending ambitions. The first handful of X-Men films are just about people trying to find their place in the world and stopping extremist parts of their group. Logan is just old Wolverine driving a kid from A to B. And all these movies are pretty good, and accepted as such in the much mainstream (at least compared to later MCU entries).
But now that Endgame and Infinity War have happened, the stakes have been set too high and Marvel can’t seem to accept that there is naturally going to be a dip. So now we have 101 people running around the multiverse to fight themselves, variants of themselves, people they know but actually don’t know etc. The same thing happened to X-Men; they made Days of Future Past and then the stakes never went down, leading to franchise-ending disasters, where mutants who can’t beat a guy who moves metal have to fight actual Gods and aliens.
I say this because I like Marvel. I grew up on it. Have a soft spot for it. But there’s no denying how awful it is now. I dread to think what they’re going to do when they inevitably revive Charlie Cox’s Daredevil for his own Disney+ show.
I don’t like being cynical, but the situation is just that; Disney and Marvel don’t seem to care. The movies and shows they’re making aren’t made for enjoyment anymore, they’re made for cash. Sure, cash has to come in regardless of one’s intentions, but any other intention aside from earning money seems to be gone now. I struggle to even call Multiverse of Madness, Love and Thunder, Ms Marvel or She Hulk TV shows and movies now, because they feel more like products. Shovelled down your throat. CLAP WHEN THE HERO WINS! CLAP WHEN THEY SAY THEIR CATCHPHRASE! CLAP AT THE CAMEO! CLAP AT THE QUIP! CLAP AT THE A-LISTER WE GOT TO PLAY THIS TWO-DIMENSIONAL ROLE! CLAP AT OUR PANEL REVEALING THE NEXT SIXTEEN FUNCTIONALLY IDENTICAL MOVIES AND SHOWS! CLAP AT THE TRAILER! CLAP AT THE MERCH! MAKE SURE YOU BUY OUR STUFF FOR CHRISTMAS!
And Ms Marvel killed me because the first 3-4 episodes were not cynical. They didn’t feel like schlock or some dumb product. They felt like someone wanting to make a bare-bones superhero show about a teenage superhero, with a lot of genuine care going into the depiction of her faith and culture. I also really enjoyed the whole cast. Of all the Disney+ shows I’ve seen, I think Iman Vellani does the best job as a lead character – her depiction of Ms Marvel is so fun and full of energy. She doesn’t feel like a 20-year-old pretending to be a naive teenager, she just feels like an honest-to-God teenager and I love it. But then the ugly head of the higher-up producers reeled in and the show devolved faster than I’ve seen any other TV show devolve before. The quality went off a cliff absurdly fast and I just couldn’t finish it. Of all the things to kill my suspension of disbelief and tolerance for the MCU… Genies? Really? Yes, I’m still hung up on it.
Anyway. I have had superhero fatigue for a while now, as noted in my more recent Marvel reviews. And this has cemented the fact that I’m not interested in the MCU or the DCEU (whatever the hell it is) anymore at all. It’s possible I might see the movies they make about heroes I particularly like from the comics, but I’m not going to be keeping up with it. I started She-Hulk recently but have no desire, based on the first episode, to expect anything more than the standard Marvel fare and don’t really want to keep watching.
So yeah… RIP superheroes. I guess I’ll just keep watching the movies and shows I liked when I was younger instead.