Brie Larson deserves better. She’s a rare performer whose innate charisma can smooth over a film’s rough edges. Capitan Marvel has many. Consider the film’s first quarter. An exposition-laden opening meanders to a surprisingly cheap-looking set piece on an alien world. The script proffers a mystery around Larson’s character’s identity, but it doesn’t engage. Larson does.
After another set piece, the film finally finds its feet. Larson crash-lands in 1990’s Los Angeles and teams up with Samuel L. Jackson who’s reprising his role as super-spy Nick Fury. The Larson-Jackson pairing proves inspired. Their scenes together provide the film’s best moments.
But about those rough edges. Like skips on a record, their incongruity pulls you out of the narrative. We have a scene where the great Annette Bening, blue blood trickling from her temples, struggles to pull a ray gun from her bomber jacket to “blast the core”. Or Ben Mendelsohn in full alien makeup sitting at a dinner table in rural Louisiana explaining his people’s plight. The Marvel movies usually nail this sort of thing, whether it’s a talking raccoon, or a Norse God exiled to Earth, by finding the right tone—whether it’s comedic, sci-fi adventure, or heroic epic. This film fails to mesh its comic book escapism with its aspirations of being an earnest parable of female empowerment and imperial condemnation. Tonally, it’s all over the place and the shifts are jarring.