Wednesday, March 6, 2019

'Captain Marvel' mixes fun origin story with big blasts of empowerment

Girl power rules in "Captain Marvel," which introduces a new/old character to the comic book-turned blockbuster screen universe and Oscar-winner Brie Larson ("Room") nicely grasping the title role.

Larson opens the proceedings opposite a somewhat mysterious Annette Bening in an equally curious and foggy setting, and closes things out two hours later with a few top-of-the-world poses that certainly might make DC superheroes Wonder Woman and even Superman proud.

Before becoming "Captain Marvel". . . .
In between, there's an embarrassment of sci-fi action, especially during an initial half-hour filled with three F's that have become the trademark of movies such as this. Those would be FX, flashbacks and a fiery feast of fighting.

Much of the latter is inspired by Jude Law, as "Yon-Rogg," an intellectually superior Kree warrior/mentor/boss to Larson, who is still searching for her real identity at this point, Their foes easily become the apparently villainous and continually shape shifting Skrulls. Fortunately, Larson's character, going by the Kree-given name of Vers, escapes all the early mayhem in a space pod that crash-lands into the roof of an L.A.-based Blockbuster Video store, circa 1995.

After a few decent sight gags and a long-distance call to Yon-Rogg from a phone booth, CGI-doctored faces belonging to familiar, if young-looking S.H.I.E.L.D. agents Coulson (Clark Gregg) and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) are among the first to greet Vers on Planet Earth (or "C-53," as precise space aliens call it). Fury and Vers quickly hit it off by exchanging barbs and a little personal history, although the lass who would-be Captain Marvel has a hard time recalling much, if any of it.

Enter a few key players: most significantly Ben Mendelsohn, as an intel-rich Skrull, and big-screen newcomer Lashana Lynch, as a former BFF, and Vers finally discovers her life-changing moment exactly 70 minutes into it all. That experience again boasts Bening's all-knowing presence and leads to a somewhat fluffy final act that still offers enough distaff derring-do in plenty of time for Friday's celebration of International Women's Day.

. . . . Larson gets help from (a younger) Jackson to find her true identity.
Meanwhile, plot inclusions of a kitschy lunchbox, featuring a portrait of the popular "Fonz" (from TV's old "Happy Days"), and a house cat, which could be a leftover from the original "Men in Black," might produce some smiles. So will quick nods to how the Marvel Universe and the Avengers got their names, as well as a couple of bits on why Fury always wears an eye patch in most of the franchise's other films.

Finally, during the middle of the end credits, there's a no-surprise sneak peek at where the heroine of this piece will appear next, then one more segment at the very end that's cute, though not extremely revealing. Certainly more enduring will be the movie's opening logo tribute to comic-book creator and mainstay Stan Lee, who passed away in November at age 95. His "Captain Marvel" cameo is a hoot, too.

Rated "PG-13": sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and brief suggestive language; 2:10; $ $ $ and 1/2 out of $5

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