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Captain Marvel

A feminist superhero makes a strong debut 

© Walt Disney Pictures / Marvel Studios / Carol Danvers becomes Vers, one of the universe’s most powerful heroes when Earth is caught in the middle of a galactic war between two alien races.
      Long before Thanos snapped his fingers to eradicate half the universe, a female soldier in an intergalactic war was seeking her destiny. Vers (Brie Larson) has great power, in the form of powerful photon beams that shoot from her hands. But is the newest member of the Kree army ready for battle?
      Her commander, Yon-Rogg (Jude Law), fears she’s too emotional. Vers tries ever harder to impress him, with little success.
      Her capture by the enemy Skrulls floods her with odd memories of a place called Earth. Vers finds mounting evidence convincing her that she’s known on that alien planet as Carol Danvers. With the help of government agent Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), she seeks the secrets of her past.
     The first Marvel movie to star a female hero makes a welcome and highly entertaining addition to the Marvel Extended Universe. In telling Vers’ origin story, directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (Mississippi Grind) have packed an action comedy with nostalgia.
      It’s also a feminist manifesto. Larson makes her heroine unapologetically confident and competent. She has no need to posture before authority or ask permission. A woman with a clear goal, she is also capable of altering her plans when facts change. When knocked down, Vers refuses to admit defeat. All the criticisms lobbed at her — that she has to prove herself, that she’s too emotional, that she’s not ready for power — are platitudes many women will ­recognize.
      For all that, Captain Marvel isn’t preachy. It’s actually a buddy flick. A dynamic alien-fighting duo, Larson and Jackson play off each other well, Larson’s charm and gumption countering Jackson’s world-weary annoyance.
      The other star is orange cat Goose, who may be the best animal addition to the Marvel-verse since Rocket Raccoon.
       Though a breezy, fun ride, Captain Marvel has a few flaws. Fleck and Boden rely a bit too heavily on 1990s nostalgia with references to Blockbuster video and outdated telecommunications technology getting heavy-handed. The ending fight is also a cacophony of CGI chaos. But what superhero movie isn’t?
      Much like its character, this film is strengthened by its flaws. It’s also a great setup for Avengers: Endgame. Vers’ entrance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe should make Thanos plenty nervous. 
Good Action Adventure • PG-13 • 124 mins. 
~~~ New this Week ~~~
Captive State
      Ten years after an alien invasion, America is divided between collaborators and resisters. Caught by the collaborators, Gabriel (Ashton Sanders) will be executed unless he joins the Phoenix resistance group as a spy.
     A low-budget alien movie can go one of two ways: Sometimes it’s a brilliant social commentary, other times it’s a schlocky thriller. With a hackneyed story and silly dialogue, Captive State goes for schlock. Still, the cast features stalwart character actors John Goodman and Vera Farmiga, so performances should be redeeming.
Prospects: Flickering • PG-13 • 109 mins. 
Five Feet Apart
     Stella Grant (Haley Lu Richardson) lives in isolation, hospitalized for treatment of cystic fibrosis. Will (Cole Sprouse) helps her become the normal teen of her dreams. 
     Both are smitten, but as cystic fibrosis patients, they must stay at least five feet apart. Can teen love overcome imposed distance? 
      This weepy teen drama featuring gorgeous adolescents in love is designed for mass tissue consumption. If you’re in need of a good cry, Five Feet Apart should be worth the ticket. 
Prospects: Flickering • PG-13 • 120 mins. 
The Wedding Guest
     Jay (Dev Patel) travels to India for a lavish wedding. He’s not going as a guest. He’s hired by the bride-to-be’s lover to kidnap her from an arranged marriage.
     As Jay and the bride travel the back roads of India, the plot thickens.
     Despite its twists and turns, The Wedding Guest won’t make it as a pulse-pounding thriller. But Patel is a brilliant actor, and director Michael Winterbottom is a master of crafting atmosphere. 
Prospects: Flickering • R • 97 mins. 
Wonder Park
      Daredevil June (Brianna Denski) is designing a creative amusement park. Where she sees an adventure, her parents see rickety rides and the neighbors see a disaster waiting to happen. After a ride crashes, her parents convince her to give up her plan. 
      Flash forward. Older and less adventuresome, June rediscovers the park she designed long ago. She falls under its spell, joining with the magical creatures who inhabit it to repair the rides and restore its wonder. 
       An animated film with lots of slapstick humor and bright colors, Wonder Park should entertain younger viewers. But it lacks the depth of character and nuance to keep adults interested. 
Prospects: Dim • PG • 85 mins.