In a long-overdue move, Marvel Studios has made a film with a female headliner in Captain Marvel. The results are mixed, but the film has enough going for it that Marvel fans will likely enjoy themselves.
When the film (partially shot in Louisiana) begins, Vers (Brie Larson) is a member of a humanoid alien race fighting a war against shapeshifting aliens. The catch is that she does not remember her past beyond a few years earlier. After a clunky and muddled first act, the movie gets some momentum going after Larson ends up separated from her comrades and on Earth. Soon, she teams up with Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson).
Directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (who co-wrote the script with Geneva Robertson-Dworet) are better known for their solid character-driven films Mississippi Grind and It’s Kind of a Funny Story. Their background shows. Captain Marvel is at its best in its smaller, character-based moments. Larson and Jackson have an easy chemistry, and at least one supporting character is given more depth than it initially appears he will be given. But Boden and Fleck are less skilled with the action scenes, which largely come off as mundane.
The rest of the film is also a mixed bag. Like many other Marvel movies, the bad guy here is somewhat of a dud (Black Panther’s success owed a significant debt to Michael B. Jordan’s strong villain). The technology used to make Jackson and Clark Gregg seem younger (the film is set in the mid-90s) is not distractingly bad, but still feels a bit off. On the bright side, there’s a funny cat sidekick named Goose, and the late Marvel creator Stan Lee’s cameo is one of his funnier ones in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.