Brie Larson deserves better. She’s a rare performer whose innate charisma can smooth over a film’s rough edges. Captain 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 forgettable set-piece, the film 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 pulled me out of the narrative. We have a scene where Annette Bening, blue blood trickling from her temples, struggles to pull a ray gun from her bomber jacket to “blast the core.” Ugh.
Or Ben Mendelsohn—in full alien makeup—sitting at a dinner table in rural Louisiana trying to invoke gravitas regarding 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. But Captain Marvel fails to mesh its comic book escapism with its earnest aspirations regarding female empowerment and imperial condemnation. Tonally, it’s all over the place and the shifts are jarring.