‘Cap­tain Marvel’ does the Cin­e­matic Uni­verse proud

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It’s pos­si­ble that the phrase “fe­male em­pow­er­ment” never has been more lit­eral than in the case of “Cap­tain Marvel.”

Be­cause it’s the first fe­male-cen­tric Marvel su­per­hero movie, a lot of ex­pec­ta­tions are at­tached to the film – which can get in the way of sim­ply en­joy­ing it for what it is. And there is much to en­joy, in­clud­ing its time-pe­riod throw­back to the mid-1990s and Brie Lar­son’s work in the ti­tle role whose alias is Carol Dan­vers, a mil­i­tary pi­lot des­tined for even greater things.

Her back­ground makes her much more than the av­er­age U.S. Air Force can­di­date, giv­ing her su­per­pow­ers to go along with her courage and de­ter­mi­na­tion. It also in­volves an alien species known as the Skrull, and you just know from that name that they won’t mean any­thing good, for our hero­ine nor for the world at large if she doesn’t tri­umph.

While the movie is called “Cap­tain Marvel,” it also gives siz­able at­ten­tion to Sa­muel L. Jack­son as a younger ver­sion of his Marvel-se­ries sta­ple Nick Fury. For what­ever else the spe­cial­ef­fects masters achieve here, it is no small feat to shave nearly 25 years off that ac­tor and char­ac­ter and have the re­sult be com­pletely be­liev­able.

That’s just one of the achieve­ments of the “Cap­tain Marvel” di­rect­ing team of Anna Bo­den and Ryan Fleck, who get the li­cense to do things not seen in the Marvel Cin­e­matic Uni­verse be­fore. As the over­all brand has made clear, with great power comes great re­spon­si­bil­ity, and they use theirs well.

The pres­ence of Jude Law (as a men­tor of the ti­tle hero­ine) and An­nette Ben­ing (as some­one whose true na­ture is best left as much of a sur­prise as pos­si­ble) also lends cred to the movie. En­list­ing them is as key as the in­volve­ment of such ma­jor stars as Michael Dou­glas and Jeff Bridges was in ear­lier Marvel ven­tures ... but in the end, this pic­ture most needs a cred­i­ble Cap­tain Marvel.

As it turns out, “Room” Os­car win­ner Lar­son fills that bill neatly. Her nat­u­ral re­lata­bil­ity goes a very long way, par­tic­u­larly in the por­tions of the story that aren’t earth­bound. She keeps things grounded, and on that count alone, she earns her pay­check.

The over­all re­sult is an en­ter­tain­ing Marvel pack­age that sets new bound­aries while still de­liv­er­ing fa­mil­iar-feel­ing fun – and that may be the most mar­velous thing about “Cap­tain Marvel.” BY JAY BOBBIN

Brie Lar­son

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