So, of course, she's in talks to play a superhero.
If "early talks" are to be believed, Larson is going to join the ranks of Marvel's superheroes. She'll play Captain Marvel, starting with her own movie in 2019. This is hardly unexpected: Marvel attracts top talent from Robert Downey Jr. to Scarlett Johansson, and Larson's career is hotter than ever.
For Marvel, Larson is a stellar choice. But for Larson, Marvel is a potentially bad one.
Flash back to 2011, when Jennifer Lawrence was 20 years old and nominated for her first Oscar. She was up for her role in the gritty indie Winter's Bone, which remains one of her most interesting performances to date. Just three weeks after the Oscars, she was cast as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games, a series that would absorb four years of her life. That wasn't even her first franchise — later that year, she made her debut as Mystique in X-Men: First Class, a series she's still in (and may not leave any time soon if director Bryan Singer gets his way).
Since the first Hunger Games, 11 films featuring Lawrence in lead or supporting roles have hit theaters. Two were X-Men movies, two were forgettable thrillers, three were Hunger Games sequels and three were David O. Russell films (to diminishing returns, unfortunately for the pair). The 11th was Serena, a critical and commercial flop.
Why are we talking about Lawrence? Because she's the closest comparison we have to Larson — and a bit of a cautionary tale.
Lawrence was 22 when she won her Oscar for Silver Linings Playbook, while the average age of a best actress Oscar winner in the past decade is just under 41 years old. Larson and Lawrence were two of only three actresses to win the award in their 20s in that time. (The third was 29-year-old Natalie Portman — funny enough, also a member of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.) For better or worse, because of their similarity in ages, Lawrence is the best guidepost for understanding Larson's likely career trajectory.
Lawrence tied herself up in franchises quickly after her Oscar win, leaving little room for other work. Because of a Hollywood system that chews up young actresses and quickly turns against them, early 2016 was in many ways the peak of Lawrence's career — and she's still just 25.
The same fate would be a disappointing one for Larson, who has some interesting projects coming up (including the film adaptation of Jeannette Walls' The Glass Castle) but is also already involved in one potential franchise (Kong: Skull Island). If she also elects to join Marvel's ranks, she'll have chosen exactly as Lawrence did: one superhero role, one other long-running series.
Larson could pursue a career outside of those franchises, of course; some of the Avengers have managed impressive roles while still serving their Marvel duty. But it's worth looking at which; sure, Mark Ruffalo has a great filmography, but he's also never appeared in a standalone Hulk movie. Same for Johansson and Black Widow. Meanwhile, there's a whole lot of Marvel on Downey Jr.'s recent filmography.
Make no mistake: Marvel movies are not intrinsically bad. They're huge hits that often satisfy critics too. Doing Captain Marvel, were she not involved in any other franchises or fresh off an Oscar win, would be a genius move for Larson.
But Larson has a rare chance to work with the very best directors and co-stars right now. She's shown to be adept at comedy, drama, television and, yes, even comic book films. Marvel means little time to do the other genres. It may be a financial boon, but she's got plenty of time to make money. This is her time to explore who she wants to be as an actress — and, yes, as a star.