Captain Marvel ★★

Brie Larson reminds me very much of one of my closest friends — and that is true even here, when she's engulfed in special effects and noise and the relentlessly uninteresting tyranny of MCU narrative beats. Whenever the movie quiets down and lets her speak, or slows down enough to look at her, I'm awake and grateful for her presence.

Samuel Jackson is a winning sidekick, reminding me of how much fun he can be when he's not playing Fierce and Loud. I don't know if I've enjoyed him so much since he was Willis's sidekick in Die Hard With a Vengeance.

And, under layers of makeup, Mendelsohn gives one of his funniest performances. I haven't seen an actor triumph over his disguise so completely since Jim Carrey in The Grinch. (Okay, that was a terrible movie, but Carrey was amazing anyway.)

I'd allowed myself to hope that this might be one of those rare Marvel movies that's worth seeing more than once, primarily because I never imagined Boden and Fleck, the team that made Half Nelson, would ever make a Marvel movie. Alas, this movie would've been better if it had been (forgive me) Half Larsen. Alas, even though she's the star, the movie doesn't have nearly enough of her. The wearying onslaught of the oh-so-unimaginative action, and the entirely unremarkable nature of her superpowers, kept me straining to find reasons to keep watching, until I started checking the time with 45 minutes to go.

Has Spider-verse completely spoiled me, so that the few flickers of amusement I've found in this live-action universe won't be enough to hold my attention anymore? I don't know. The only thing I find myself hoping for is an absolutely bonkers Doctor Strange 2. And after that, can we just give this genre over to the animators? It serves the source material so much better.