What does it take to be a hero? A hero exhibits passion, innovation, strength and the desire to make the world a better place. Heroes aren’t just for comic book pages. These qualities can be found in extraordinary people every day. Disney+ doubles down on feel-good content with ”Marvel’s Hero Project,” their latest non-fiction offering. In total, the show spotlights twenty inspiring, real-life superheroes. These are kids who have overcome obstacles to make heroic differences in their communities. While the Marvel branding threatens to overpower, the stories on each episode are strong enough to stand alone. Every episode guarantees to warm the heart of even the coldest cynic.
The first episode, “Sensational Jordan,” follows Jordan, a teenager with limb differences who uses a passion for STEM to design a more accessible world. Jordan achieves viral fame for Project Unicorn, a prosthetic arm that shoots glitter. In her episode, Jordan’s family champions her ability to problem solve from an early age. “Disability is an opportunity,” her mother remarks. Jordan uses her differences for good as she works with other children with limb differences on designing new tech. Jordan makes an important point. There is an immense opportunity to employ and consult people with disabilities on ways to make everyday items more accessible. Jordan proves that being able to see the world differently is a strength, not a setback.
The show features a diverse array of human interest stories to keep it away from being only about people overcoming their disabilities. The second episode profiles “Incredible Elijah,” a motivated eleven-year-old preacher who has led marches and rallies, raising awareness of child abuse in his community. It’s tremendous to see empathy and passion rewarded in Elijah’s story. What makes him heroic is his caring heart and unstoppable desire to make the world a better place.
In the final episode screened for critics, we learn about Adonis, a football prodigy who became blind at age five. He uses his natural competitive energy to become a star running back for his high school team. Through his unflinching belief in himself, he sets his sights on college football.
The episode structure falters a bit once it switches gears to shoehorn Marvel into the proceedings. After spending the bulk of the episode showcasing each kid’s amazing accomplishments, we go back to Marvel HQ. A team of branding big shots spitball how to turn each subject into a Marvel superhero. The limited edition comic books they create are certainly empowering works of art. By the end of each episode, it warms one’s heart to see the kids overcome with emotion at their customized Marvel comic. Still, the branding feels a bit more forced, especially since the five to ten minutes of brainstorming never comes off as compelling as the actual subjects.
Still, Disney never misses a good chance for corporate branding. However, the Marvel-ness of the project doesn’t overshadow the incredible accomplishments of the kids being profiled. Each of the three subjects screened for critics had different challenges placed in front of them. They also each had unique, inspiring and touching solutions. They all are worthy of the title of “Marvel Superhero.”