Captain Marvel

Oscar winners often struggle after their nights of glory. The little statue simply  means they become too valuable to appear in good movies again and are thrust into high-paying blockbuster shlock by the Hollywood system which can’t afford for its newly-anointed star to be mucking about in worthy indies.

I can’t see it happening to Olivia Colman, but I do now expect to see her in a sci-fi spectacle or at least in a super hero movie. But I was worried about Brie Larson. 

Baselessly, it proves, because she’s wonderful in Captain Marvel, and has amazing hair.

She carries this run-of-the-mill superhero universe stuff through on smiles, wit, physicality, smarts and attitude. She’s radiant. I don’t really know what Capt Marvel’s power is, and neither does Brie, so she simply ramps up the star wattage and makes it all work.

It’s a fun film, set in the mid 90s, so lots of gags about Blockbuster Video stores, dial-up internet, Alta Vista search engines and TLC and No Doubt on the soundtrack. It’s got a Top Gun vibe, as Larson’s interplanetary soldier Vera tries to work out what’s going on with her flashback memories as she hurtles from the sky to planet Los Angeles, pursued by Kree captain Jude Law and a shape-shifting  fish-creature played by the ubiquitous and now amphibious Ben Mendelsohn.

Yes, it’s really silly, but plays it straight enough for it to work – praise to indie directing pair Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden, who’ve made a giant leap from their cool stuff like Half Nelson and Sugar.

On earth, Vers  – who is really called Carol – teams up with agent Nick Fury, played by Samuel Jackson using the face he had in Pulp Fiction and Jungle Fever. Literally. They put his old face on. What worrying wizardry is this? It’s odd, certainly, somehow less expressive than his usual self, but then most actresses work that way these days, jacked up on botox and other such miracle gunk. He still sounds cool and gets the best lines – just not on his face.

Look, the better superhero movies for me are the ones where you know what the power is and how it’s summoned up and what the hero can do in a fight – spin webs, turn green, fly, have a cool belt – but Carol Marvel’s all about finding out what she can do. So there’s a limit to excellence. It all exists within the strict Marvel universe and flits about too much for me  – Black Panther worked so well because it just didn’t feel part of the whole franchise machine.

Anyway, congratulations to Brie Larson – she’s terrific and a major star. I hope she gets a great dramatic part again soon. And a shampoo commercial.