If you've seen the ads for Captain Marvel, you might be curious exactly what type of movie it's going to be. Is it a candy-colored space opera like Guardians of the Galaxy, a mystery about a soldier caught between allegiances like the Captain America trilogy, or a comedy about a high-flying hot shot who doesn't plays by her own rules like Iron Man? It's actually all those things and more, because like its hero, the film has no identity of its own.
Make no mistake, Captain Marvel is a ton of fun, especially after the grim pillars of Infinity War and the upcoming Endgame. At times, it's like many films you probably enjoyed in the '90s, including The Fugitive and Forever Young, as well as older hits like Alien Nation, Top Gun and Superman. But for being such a big piece of the MCU puzzle – she’s a major factor in Endgame, as teased in a mid-credits scene – this is a movie that feels completely disposable.
Brie Larson is a great addition to the future Avengers roster, but here it often feels like she's being held back a bit. There's a great moment when she's trying to escape a Skrull ship and snarls back at a henchman. That's the character right there, but she gets too few moments of outright silliness. She has some sarcastic quips, but that about it, as if there's a fear we won't buy her as a badass "noble warrior hero" if she's allowed to be goofy. She's also got serious trust issues, made all the more believable by the supporting cast. It's absolutely perfect to have Jude Law play her Kree commander, with Ben Mendelsohn as the leader of the shape-shifting Skrulls. Both men have made careers out of playing untrustworthy scumbags.
But the real heavy hitters are Annette Bening, whose identity is practically a spoiler in itself, and Samuel L. Jackson, reprising his role as Nick Fury. The de-aging effect that Marvel has toyed with for years finally works and it's pretty spectacular (although its less effective on Clark Gregg, playing Agent Coulson as a fresh-faced recruit). Jackson, who already looks much younger than his 70 years, looks like he just wrapped shooting on Die Hard with a Vengeance.
Much has been made of the fact that this is not only Marvel's first film with a female lead, but also one with its first female co-director. As a fan of Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck's very human dramas about feeling lost, there's nothing here that would lead you to seek out their earlier tiny indies. Whatever your varying opinions on Doctor Strange, Thor: Ragnarok and Black Panther, at least there's an authorial stamp there. This feels like a very by-committee MCU entry. At least they actually shoot in daylight at some honest-to-god recognizable locations in this one.
Captain Marvel is a long-overdue chance for its star to shine, and to focus on a female superhero. Had this happened four years ago, I might be more impressed. In 2019, there's nothing to make it stand out.