At long last: a female-led Marvel hero origin story. And what a hero she is. Brie Larson’s Vers/Carol Danvers is a photon blast of fun. There’s a teasing mischief to her humour which is worlds away from someone like, say, Tony Stark, for whom wit is just another weapon to use in his competition with the rest of the universe. And she has fists that shoot pure energy, which is neat, even by Marvel standards. It’s just a pity that the movie that introduces her is so unremarkable.
Vers is an elite warrior on the frontline of a galactic battle when an ambush brings her to Earth in 1995, where she encounters Nick Fury and fills the gaps in her missing memories. I had hoped that the involvement of Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (Half Nelson, Sugar) as directors might bring a fresh energy; perhaps a grounding in realism. But there’s little sense of a distinctive directorial voice here. Boden and Fleck have been chewed up and digested by the Marvel machine. And the rigid formula of the origin movie – essentially finding creative ways of hiding chunks of exposition, a bit like disguising vegetables in a toddler’s meal – means that there’s not much leeway for originality.
Still, there are pleasures – Jackson going to mush over a cute kitty is one; the film’s embrace of its mid-1990s setting is another. But the main strength is a core of female friendship: Carol Danvers is the only Marvel hero you could imagine getting hammered and belting out songs by No Doubt. And for that, at least, you have to love her.