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Front Page - Friday, March 15, 2019

Critic's Corner: Larson’s a marvel trapped in the wrong universe

Marvel released “Captain Marvel” at the perfect time. With excitement brewing for the release of “Avengers: End Game” next month, Marvel could have released a cooking show starring Captain America and people would have lined up around the block to buy tickets.

Instead, it serves as an origin story for Carol Danvers, aka Captain Marvel, a female hero who’s more powerful than any champion or villain in the 20-plus films that make up the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

I might be wrong about that, but the visual effects she makes while fighting bad guys suggest I’m right. Not even Tony Stark has been able to glow with the heat of a thousand suns while flying through an alien ship as if it’s made of hot butter.

This begs a question. “Captain Marvel” takes place in the 1990s. We know this because upon arriving at Earth, Danvers crash lands in a Blockbuster Video, where an ad in the window says “Five Movies. Five Nights. Five Dollars.”

At the end of “Captain Marvel,” Danvers gives Nick Fury a pager he can use to contact her across the cosmos. “For emergencies,” she says before darting off to the other side of the universe.

The attack on New York City, which occurred many years later in the first “Avengers” film, was not an emergency? Ultron was not an emergency? OK, that was two questions, but it seems Marvel didn’t quite think things through.

Apparently, the casting department didn’t, either. Brie Larson is a fine actress, as the Academy Award she won for her performance in the 2015 independent drama “Room” suggests, but her performance is off by a few notes in “Captain Marvel.”

There’s a blandness to her work, a lack of charisma.

I don’t believe this is Larson’s fault. Rather, I think she was miscast. Whatever the reasons, Larson falls far short of becoming and inhabiting her character, and the film suffers as a result.

Truth be told, the entire movie is rather banal until the climax. The action in particular seems obligatory and stirs up little excitement. Maybe the co-directors, Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, a filmmaking duo with five small independent dramas and comedies under their belts, were miscast behind the camera.

As long as I’m complaining, I should mention the story, which is downright confusing during the first 30 minutes or so. The script, which Boden and Fleck co-wrote, throws a lot of information at viewers in a convoluted manner, as though the writers wanted to get through the hard stuff all at once, from the get-go.

After watching “Captain Marvel” a second time with the knowledge of what was taking place, the film mostly made sense to me, but Boden and Fleck essentially throw first-time viewers into a maelstrom without giving them anything to hold on to.

“Captain Marvel” is not without merit. Sam Jackson seems to have a lot of fun as a younger (and remarkably de-aged) Nick Fury, and he in turn is great fun to watch.

Also, the humor (or what my daughter derisively calls the “jokiness”) holds up better than in other recent Marvel pics.

I also appreciated the lack of a villain hellbent on destroying mankind, the universe or whatever, as Marvel has overused this timeworn comic book trope in its films.

And when you peel away the muddy plot, compulsory action scenes and jokiness, “Captain Marvel” essentially serves as an origin story and thoughtful character study.

That origin story is not revolutionary. Some are saying it is simply because Captain Marvel is a woman rather than a man, as originally written in the comics.

But DC Comics already broke that ground with “Wonder Woman,” and Marvel’s Black Widow has been mixing it up with bad guys since “Iron Man 2.”

Grrl power is awesome, but no longer radical.