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Say hello to ‘Captain Marvel,’ a super hero who is the ultimate in female empowerment

Watch new ‘Captain Marvel’ movie trailer

Captain Marvel gets caught in the middle of a galactic war between two alien races. Starring Brie Larson, Jude Law and Samuel L. Jackson.
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Captain Marvel gets caught in the middle of a galactic war between two alien races. Starring Brie Larson, Jude Law and Samuel L. Jackson.

Well, it took them long enough.

“Them” being the honchos at Marvel. Took them long enough to unleash/unveil/uncork a full-on superhero. Super-duper strength. Able to fly faster than a speeding bullet — into space. No breathing apparatus necessary. Leap tall buildings … you know the drill.

DC got there decades before with their Super Guy, but their Supe doesn’t have the ability to zap people with heat rays shooting from bare hands. Cool, eh? Er, rather, hot.

And unlike that guy, this super being is a woman. The ultimate in female empowerment. Ladies and gentlemen, say hello to “Captain Marvel.”

The empowerment doesn’t happen all at once. In fact, it’s a gradual process that proceeds in fits and starts and takes the whole movie to arrive at its final full-powered destination.

It’s a process of self-discovery as the Captain, aka Carol Danvers, is baffled at the beginning by disturbing dreams/visions/flashbacks, she knows not what, that make her question who she is, really. Some of those visions show her to be a U.S. fighter pilot.

Wounded in combat, she leaks green blood. So, in the words of Nick Fury, her soon-to-be good buddy from the Planet Earth, she’s “not from around here.”

She’s an alien. A member of an outfit called Starforce, commando warriors from a world far from this one. By means combative (there’s a war on) and complicated, she winds up sent through time and space back to the 1990s on Earth. Crash-lands through the roof of a Blockbuster store. Seeks communications equipment from a Radio Shack outlet in a strip mall. Yes, the picture does have a nudge-to-the-ribs, jokey, nostalgia-fueled vibe.

That jokey vibe is reinforced in the relationship between Danvers/Marvel and Nick Fury. And that’s the main source of the fun in “Captain Marvel,” which is a very fun picture.

In the role of the title character, Oscar winner Brie Larson (“Room”) has an ease and naturalness that makes her very relatable. And returning to the role of Fury, agent of the super-secret agency S.H.I.E.L.D., Samuel L. Jackson seems to be having a blast playing the dude.

De-aged via CGI that gives his features a faintly waxworks look, Jackson is loose and droll as he trades gibes with Danvers. (And he gets along very well with a certain fuzzy butterscotch-hued cat, which plays a surprising role in the proceedings.) That is, once he gets over his initial skepticism when she tells him she is indeed “not from around here” and that she’s here to fight shape-shifting aliens named the Skrulls.

Disbelief melts away when a shape-shifter mimics a fellow agent, dies and then it’s alien autopsy time. About those aliens: Why, oh, why are they always greenish grotesque humanoid bipeds with pointy ears? The “Star Trek” influence is strong in this one.

The Captain is humanoid for sure and an amalgam of characteristics developed in the comics over the years by Marvel. When created by writers Gene Colan and the late iconic Stan Lee in 1967 (Lee is honored in the pre-credit opening sequence with snippets of stills and a title card reading “Thank you Stan”; he also has a final cameo in the picture), the character was a male called Mar-Vell. Succeeding iterations have been male and female under various names. The movie version is most closely linked to a 2012 series written by Kelly Sue DeConnick. The look and the costume of the character is derived from that iteration. With that background, it’s small wonder she’s confused about who she really is. One thing is for sure, though, she is a highly capable individual, though with a rebellious streak.

Under the direction of Anna Boden, the first woman to direct a Marvel Cinematic Universe blockbuster, and Ryan Fleck, and with a script by the directors and Geneva Robertson-Dworet, the female-centric theme is handled skillfully throughout.

There are plenty of chases and spaceship dogfights to keep audience’s adrenaline pumping. And though the 1990s is the time before the rise of the Avengers, at the end a select few of those guys appear to tease the upcoming “Avengers: Endgame,” due out in April. This Captain will be a member of the team by then.

And the Marvel Universe just keeps expanding.

‘Captain Marvel’

3 stars

Cast: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Jude Law, Ben Mendelsohn, Annette Bening, Clark Gregg

Directors: Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck

Running time: 2:04

Rated: PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action and brief suggestive language

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