Sometimes it's hard to be a woman. It's less about learning to master new powers than it is about learning to accept already being powerful. (Fortunately, she will have another shot at it when the character returns to be the wrench in Thanos' world-destroying machine in Avengers: Endgame this summer.) Jackson, perhaps hampered by playing a character who is roughly 35 years younger than his actual age, gives a less full-blooded performance than we've grown accustomed to. So do her scientific mentor and her best friend, also women. "It's got great dance songs, great ballads, I love Ariana". She's a little bit cocky and very competitive.
There's no gawking down the lens at her curves, there's barely a trace of sexual tension, and no innuendo.
The directors, Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, have made terrific small films, including Half Nelson, with Ryan Gosling, and Mississippi Grind, a gambling buddy-movie with Mendelsohn and Ryan Reynolds. I loved you as Captain Marvel, because I thought you were such an empowering female role figure.
In the lead, Larson is a zesty mix of impudence and introspection as a member of a crack team of intergalactic enforcers. She always dreamed that she could fly and be a superhero.
Dressed for work in a hi-tech bodysuit and sporting hair with bounce - she might look like a typical, nearly banal Marvel heroine without much of an inner life (Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow comes to mind), but it's immediately clear she has much more to offer.
The pressure of her role and the popularity of the film has certainly weighed heavy on Larson, something she can't wait to get off of her back. Over the past few days, Marvel fans have been buzzing about the prospect of a gay character to be introduced in the upcoming film, The Eternals.
But please think about all of this when your buddy starts trashing Captain Marvel at dinner, looking at the women present as if it's their job to defend the film. With the exception of a mid-credits scene that takes place after the events of 2018's Avengers: Infinity War, the primary connection here is Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), largely pre-eye patch and sporting a full head of hair, who shows up when Larson's odd being crashes to Earth claiming to be a soldier engaged in a massive alien war, many galaxies away. A cat named Goose that manages to find Nick Fury's soft spot is a treat. That opening sets up the film's otherworldliness, its personal mystery - what is happening in that memory? - and above all, its action.
Because the internet is a unusual place that turns cultural objects into artefacts of a never-ending cultural war, the issue of whether or not Captain Marvel is good has been waged online with the passion and dedication that people used to reserve for their families. When Fury asks her how they know she isn't one of these Skrulls, she tells them "congratulations Agent Fury, you have finally asked a relevant question".
"It's war", someone offers by way of sympathy. That's tens of millions more than the initial estimates, so it looks like Brie Larson's Carol Danvers is quickly going to quickly join the club of Marvel Studios superheroes who prove to be a reliable draw at the box office.
But what lingers most in the film's final moments is not the fog of war, but a vision of friendship and solidarity.
This is a book about women working together to remove the boundaries in their way. His incredulous-but-game acceptance of a situation involving aliens and superpowers nearly makes you wonder what this film would be like if it were willing to be less of a superhero film and more of a buddy-cop comedy.