Ms. Marvel directors break down that delightful finale and hopes for a season 2

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·10 min read
Ms. Marvel directors break down that delightful finale and hopes for a season 2
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Warning: This story contains spoilers for the Ms. Marvel finale.

Ms. Marvel may be Disney+'s seventh superhero show, but it doesn't look like any other project in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The six-episode series follows Iman Vellani as teenage heroine Kamala Khan, and from the moment we meet her as an awkward New Jersey high schooler, she's got a vibrant imagination that sets her apart from other heroes. As Kamala gains superpowers and learns to navigate her new responsibilities, her playful creativity manifests around her: Her daydreams turn into street graffiti, her text messages pop up in neon signs. The result is a delightful origin story with a distinct visual style.

Much of Ms. Marvel's unique look can be attributed to directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, who directed the first and last episodes. The Belgian filmmakers, known professionally as Adil & Bilall, broke into Hollywood with 2020's Bad Boys for Life, and since then, they've landed plenty of high-profile projects. (Up next, they'll be making the jump to DC Comics, directing HBO Max's upcoming Batgirl movie.)

With the Ms. Marvel finale out now, EW caught up with the directors to break down Kamala's journey — and their hopes for a second season.

MS. MARVEL
MS. MARVEL

Daniel McFadden/Marvel Studios Matt Lintz as Bruno and Iman Vellani as Kamala in 'Ms. Marvel'

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: We finally get to see the full extent of Kamala's powers in the finale. How did you want to approach depicting that?

BILALL FALLAH: First of all, Kevin [Feige] didn't want to make a literal translation of what was in the comic book. It's an adaptation. We started off with this [idea] of "hard light," and from there, we started to create what that power would be — while still doing an homage of what is in the comic book. In the comic, she can't control her power at first. It's making her body bigger and smaller, which is a good metaphor for being a teenager. But towards the end of the comic book, she really controls it. So, we created that same thing. In the beginning, she can't control it, and step by step, the more she starts to know her history, she becomes Ms. Marvel. In the last episode, she has that big fist with hard light that can smash things, and then she's finally herself.

ADIL EL ARBI: "Embiggen" is one of the most important words in the comic book, so we knew right away that in the finale, we needed our version of "embiggen."

I love the entire sequence set in the school, with all of Kamala's friends setting traps. What went into designing that?

EL ARBI: Well, that was our big Home Alone sequence. [Laughs] We had a lot of fun with that. We also wanted to bring back the animation and the style that we had in the pilot. It was cool: The whole team was trying to figure that out, like, "Okay, what kind of traps could a bunch of kids do, and how could we get that humor?" We obviously watched Home Alone, so that was a big inspiration for us. Together with our VFX team and our DP, we came up with things that were visually interesting and funny that could maybe pause the bad guys, but not too much because it still needs to be realistic. That was a big challenge. But in the end, the sequence was a whole lot of fun to make and I hope fun to watch.

The show has all these wild Marvel action sequences, but I also love how grounded it is — like the scene where Muneeba gives Kamala her costume, or Yusuf gives her her name. As directors, how did you want to balance those intimate moments with all the crazy spectacle?

EL ARBI: We grew up not only with the Marvel stories, but also Steven Spielberg. Obviously, he's a master in doing this singular, very intimate story of family or kids and putting them in a larger-than-life spectacle kind of story. That's sort of what we wanted to do, and it's also what's present in the comic book, where the real story is how your family, your friends, and your community are the true superpower. We had a lot of fun making those intimate scenes where sometimes you even forget that you're actually part of the MCU and part of this larger superhero aspect. It's kind of refreshing to go smaller, more intimate, and more relatable, and then contrasting it with the big superhero aspects. It's all about the character, and you need a lot of heart to make those heavy VFX and CGI scenes eventually work.

I spoke to Kamala's co-creator Sana Amanat, and she said that she got particularly emotional watching the finale scene where Kamala sits on the lamppost. That's such an iconic moment from the comics.

FALLAH: Yeah, that was the iconic moment. That was something we were all looking forward to. When I read the comic books, I was like, "That should be one of the final moments of the show." When we were doing that shot, everybody felt goosebumps, like, "This is it." This is finally the moment where Ms. Marvel is sitting on the lamppost in New Jersey, looking at New York and ready to conquer the world.

Iman Vellani is so extraordinary as Kamala. When you think back to filming, what was your most memorable day on set with her?

EL ARBI: She is the biggest fan of the MCU. Iron Man is her favorite movie. She didn't believe that one day she would be an actress in the MCU and she would be part of it — the same way Kamala Khan didn't believe that one day, she would be a superhero. There are really a lot of parallels between her story and the story of Ms. Marvel.

I think one very emotional moment for her and for us was the rooftop scene we did, where she says, "It's not like the brown girls from Jersey City save the world." We had a deep, deep conversation about what we went through, being Moroccans from Belgium and eventually making Bad Boys For Life and being transported to Hollywood out of nowhere, and how she went through a kind of similar experience. I think that by the time we did the finale, she had really grown into a professional actress. It was really great to see that evolution between the first day of shooting, where she's this fangirl. By the last day, she really became a mature and very professional artist.

We have to talk about that moment at the end of the finale, where Bruno talks about Kamala having a mutation, and we hear the animated X-Men theme play. What went into that scene?

EL ARBI: Well, it's like national security kind of secret stuff. [Laughs] You get [the script], and you're not allowed to ask too many questions. Not even any questions! You're reading it, and you're like, "Oh, for reals?" We were like, "So, does this mean what we think?" and you don't get any answer from Kevin. He just said, "You shoot this, put the music there," and that's that. It was a big honor to have it in our episode. But we're like everybody. We have no idea what's going to happen in the future. We only hope we can be part of it.

There's also that great post-credits scene with Brie Larson as Carol Danvers, a.k.a. Captain Marvel. How did that come together?

FALLAH: That was actually shot by Nia DaCosta while she was doing The Marvels. She was already shooting with Brie Larson and Iman. It's kind of the same thing: She didn't know when she shot it that it would necessarily be used for our tag. We didn't know about the tag either until we saw the final color grading of the last episode. All of a sudden, after the credits, we're like, "Oh, what is this?" That's the genius way that Marvel keeps everything separate. They have a plan, but they don't tell you what it is. They're like, "Don't worry about it. You'll see."

So Kevin tells you a little bit, but not too much.

EL ARBI: Everything within the show we know, but everything outside or any connections, that's a mystery.

Has there been any talk of a potential Ms. Marvel season 2?

FALLAH: That'd be great. Very great.

EL ARBI: Awesome. A Ms. Marvel movie would also be awesome. If they ask us, we'll be there. We'll see what happens with The Marvels, where Iman is there, too. If we can get the chance to explore more of her world and her friends and her family, there are more elements to the story. We can go even further.

What has been your biggest challenge on this show overall?

FALLAH: I would say trying to get the visual style of the show right. I mean, there are a lot of challenges, of course, working with VFX. But with the animation aspect, there's the text messages and the environment that comes to life and all that. All those elements were not in the script. So first, we needed to convince them to allow us to do that. When they said okay, we had to be creative and try to design all these shots because you cannot improvise them. And we were trying to get that consistency throughout the show. That was difficult because we wanted this MCU show to look different than all the other MCU movies and shows that came prior to that.

I imagine that'd be so much fun, to get to carve out your own little corner of this giant universe and figure out how to make it unique.

FALLAH: Yeah, it's really like the personality of Ms. Marvel. You're really inside her mind as much as possible. And I mean, if we got the chance to do a second season or a movie, we're going to go all the way. It was sort of experimental, but apparently, [fans] really love that stuff. There's so much more you could do with that idea.

What's it been like for you guys to watch the reaction to the show? You worked on this for so long, and now it's finally out in the world.

EL ARBI: Yeah, it was two years. It was blood, sweet, and tears, and of course a lot of fun. To show this to the world, it's unbelievable. You see a lot of things that Muslims are picking up on. For me, the most beautiful thing is how it's a specific story about a Pakistani teenage girl from New Jersey, but it's also universal. There are a lot of people really recognizing themselves in that. That is, I think, one of the most beautiful things in the show, and that's why we make cinema.

FALLAH: I hope it keeps growing and that a lot of people will see it. I think Ms. Marvel has such a big future ahead of her. I think that as the audience, you can see her grow throughout her story. That, I think, is the beauty of Ms. Marvel.

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