Brie Larson stars in “Captain Marvel,” the first Marvel comic book movie to be built around a female hero. (Marvel Studios)

Brie Larson stars in “Captain Marvel,” the first Marvel comic book movie to be built around a female hero. (Marvel Studios)

‘Captain Marvel’ brings feminist touch to usual Marvel action

The superhero’s origin story is smaller in scope than its kin, and mercifully shorter.

The ending of last year’s “Avengers: Infinity War” set up the imminent arrival of Captain Marvel, a character previously sidelined in the Marvel Comics movie sweepstakes.

The sequel, “Endgame,” comes out on April 29, at which time the Cap’n will presumably deal with issues of global destruction, the demise of half the Earth’s population and the triumph of evil. I wonder how that will turn out?

In the meantime, here’s a starring vehicle of her own, because we can’t move forward without the origin story in place. It comes as a relief that “Captain Marvel” is smaller in scope than the top-heavy “Avengers” plotline.

There’s a galactic war raging, and our main character — here known as Vers, played by Brie Larson — is blessed with special powers. If you want the technical description, she packs a lot of boom-boom in her fingers, and can hurl electric beach balls across the room.

Vers finds herself transported to Earth in the mid-1990s, which allows the film to make jokes about Blockbuster Video, CD-ROM drives and maps made out of paper. She is tormented by memory flashes about who she might have been in the past — she’s got no memory of her youth or how she got the electric boom-boom.

She’s aided by one Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), the recurring Avengers character. Jackson has been made digitally youthful, which is impressive, I guess, except that he’s always looked oddly ageless.

While searching for clues about her identity, Vers is caught between opposing forces: her warrior mentor (Jude Law), a mystery woman (Annette Bening) and a shape-shifting Krull (Ben Mendelsohn, late of “Darkest Hour”).

I’m not sure it’s a good sign that the movie is stolen by an orange cat named Goose, but this feline performance is top-notch. Please bring Goose back in “Avengers: Endgame.”

The usual fights, special effects and Marvel in-jokes are all in place. (Stan Lee’s cameo this time is truly meta-meta.) But most of this is at a scaled-down level, presumably due to the influence of directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, whose previous films include the indie gems “Half Nelson” and “Mississippi Grind.”

Boden and Fleck leave room for quiet one-liners and sidelong glances — Mendelsohn is especially good at throwaway expressions, even in his space-lizard guise. This suits the style of Brie Larson, the Oscar-winner from “Room.” We’ve grown accustomed to superheroes being played by actors who bring a theatrical flair to their oversized characters, so it’s interesting to watch someone underplay it.

Her performance mostly works, although I missed a little of that theatrical flair, which is not a bad thing to have when you’re blasting holes in the sides of spaceships with electric beach balls.

“Captain Marvel” doesn’t hammer you into submission the way most Marvel movies do (it clocks in at just two hours, wonder of wonders), and for that I am grateful. This is this current Marvel cycle’s first female-forward movie, and it gleefully includes moments where the heroine turns the tables on sexist jerks. As for the rest of it: You already know what you’re getting.

Lashana Lynch (left) and Brie Larson in “Captain Marvel.” (Marvel Studios)

Lashana Lynch (left) and Brie Larson in “Captain Marvel.” (Marvel Studios)

“Captain Marvel” (2½ stars)

A serviceable vehicle for introducing Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) to the Marvel Comics movie saga, smaller in scope than the other Avengers pictures but otherwise the usual superhero shuffle. Joining the action is Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson, digitally de-aged to suite the mid-1990s setting) and a scene-stealing orange cat. With Jude Law, Ben Mendelsohn.

Rating: PG-13, for violence

Opening: Alderwood Mall, Cinebarre Mountlake Terrace, Edmonds Theater, Everett Stadium, Marysville, Stanwood Cinemas, Meridian, Seattle 10, Thornton Place, Woodinville, Blue Fox, Cascade Mall

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