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Movie review: Brie Larson a ‘Marvel’

Published March 27. 2019 12:34PM

“Captain Marvel” has all that a Marvel Cinematic Universe fan might want: epic battle scenes, zooming spaceship chase scenes, a motley crew of intergalactic creatures, a buddy-film storyline, and, action, action, action.

“Captain Marvel” wouldn’t be as good as it is without Brie Larson in the title role.

Marvel and most producers of superhero movies and animated feature films make smart casting choices. The filmmakers try to get the best acting and voice talent possible.

One example is the reboot of “Wonder Woman” (2017) with the exceptional Gal Gadot, the Israeli actress who made the role her own.

As Captain Marvel, Brie Larson fills the bill and more. Larson is an Oscar actress winner for the exceptional “Room” (2015). Larson’s square-jawed gravitas elevates “Captain Marvel” from the pages of a comic book and the screen of a superhero movie.

Since “Captain Marvel” is an origin story movie, Larson has a certain seriousness that lingers throughout most of the scenes. Her face conveys a cynical quizzical expression and often a sourpuss countenance. Her body language, in walk and stance, projects a solid toughness. When she smiles, she lights up the scenes.

Larson’s approach is understandable. No spoiler alert here, but as Captain Marvel, aka Carol Danvers (nicknamed Vers), she’s in for a heckuva surprise that is nothing less than a betrayal.

Larson’s scenes with Jude Law (Yon-Rogg), who is Danvers’ mentor and commander of Starforce, are effectively prickly. Law seems to be relishing the role, which he interprets with brio and gusto.

Even more interesting, and fun, are Larson’s scenes with Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury, before he’s director of S.H.I.E.L.D.). Here’s where the buddy-cop aspect of “Captain Marvel” is in evidence. As is typical for the trope, Danvers and Fury meet as semi-antagonists and the challenge of the opposition cements their friendship.

Jackson is portraying Fury as a younger person. Not only was Jackson “digitally de-aged by 25 years,” he has hair and no eye-patch. The film is set in 1995. The visage of a younger Jackson takes some getting used to. Jackson brings his usual insouciance to the role and mostly carries it off.

“Captain Marvel” has a “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014) sensibility, which shouldn’t be surprising because the film builds toward that film, among others in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Cast standouts include Ben Mendelsohn (Talos-Keller, the shape-shifting leader of the Skrull, who are invading the Earth). Mendelsohn manages to act through the heavy mask and body suit. The character design for the Skrull characters is wanting, a throwback to the comparatively low-budget TV “Star Trek” (1966-1969). Money was apparently no object, so it’s kind of surprising, since “Captain Marvel” had a budget of $150 million.

Annette Bening is not an obvious casting choice as the Supreme Intelligence, aka Mar-Vell-Dr. Wendy Lawson. Lashana Lynch is Maria Rambeau, a friend of Danvers going back to their service in the United States Air Force. Gemma Chan is Minn-Erva, a Starforce member and a Kree.

There’s also Djimon Hounsou (Korath), Lee Pace (Ronan the Accuser) and Clark Gregg (Phil Coulson).

Directors Ryan Fleck (director, “Half Nelson,” 2006) and Anna Boden (co-director with Fleck, “It’s Kind of a Funny Story,” 2010, “Sugar,” 2008) work from a screenplay they wrote with Geneva Robertson-Dworet from a story they wrote with Robertson-Dworet and Nicole Perlman and Meg LeFauve. The screenplay has a “some assembly required” unfinished feel to it.

Fleck and Boden navigate the necessary “Captain Marvel” origin-story points with a minimum of fuss, even though, early on in the movie, a “her previous life flashes before her” sequence is a confusing mash-up of moments in the life of Carol Danvers.

That said, “Captain Marvel” provides Marvel fans with another entertaining ride, the 21st in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Based on the success of “Captain Marvel,” there will be many more.

“Captain Marvel,” MPAA rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. Parents are urged to be cautious. Some material may be inappropriate for pre-teenagers.) for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and brief suggestive language; Genre; Science Fiction, Adventure; Run time: 2 hrs., 3 mins.; Distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

Credit Readers Anonymous: In “Captain Marvel,” Carol Danvers’ comic book cat Chewie (named for “Star Wars” Chewbacca) is renamed Goose, after the “Top Gun” (1986) character Nick “Goose” Bradshaw. The end credits state that Goose is four different cats: Reggie, Archie, Rizzo and Gonzo. The end credits include two separate scenes, one that presages “Avengers: Endgame” (2019). The opening credits include a montage of Marvel film Stan Lee cameos and the statement: “Thank you, Stan.” There’s also a Stan Lee cameo during the movie. No fewer than 15 special effects companies are listed in the credits.

Box Office, March 22-24: Moviegoers wanted to become one of “Us” as Director Jordan Peele’s follow-up to his hit, “Get Out,” opened with a better than expected $70.2 million, one week, dropping “Captain Marvel” one place to No. 2 after two straight weeks at No. 1 with $35 million, $321.4 million, two weeks.

The weekend opening for “Us” is the biggest for a live-action, original film since Avatar ($77 million) in 2009. The “Us” opening is the biggest for an original, R-rated film, surpassing “Ted” (2012, $54.4 million) and biggest for an original horror film, passing “A Quiet Place” (2018, $50.2 million).

3. “Wonder Park” dropped one place to No. 3 with $9 million, $29.4 million, two weeks. 4. “Five Feet Apart” dropped one place, $8.8 million, $26.5 million, two weeks. 5. “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World,” dropped one place, $6.5 million, $145.7 million, five weeks. 6. “A Madea Family Funeral” dropped one place, $4.5 million, $65.8 million, four weeks. 7. “Gloria Bell” moved up 11 places, $1.7 million, $2.5 million, three weeks. 8. “No Manches Frida 2” dropped two places, $1.7 million, $6.6 million, two weeks. 9. “The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part” dropped one place, $1.1 million, $103.3 million, seven weeks. 10. “Alta: Battle Angel” dropped one place, $1 million, $83.7 million, six weeks.

Unreel: March 29:

“Dumbo,” PG: Tim Burton directs Lucy DeVito, Eva Green, Colin Farrell and Danny DeVito in the live-action remake of the Disney animated classic with a few new plot tists.

“The Beach Bum,” R: Harmony Korine directs Matthew McConaughey, Snoop Dogg, Isla Fisher and Stefania LaVie Owen in the comedy about a surfer named Moondog.

Three popcorn boxes out of five popcorn boxes.

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