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Captain Marvel

Brie Larson chases bad guys on a train in "Captain Marvel."

Now that we’ve gotten around to “Captain Marvel,” the question begs to be asked: What big-name actor doesn’t have a superhero franchise?

In this, the latest entry in the Marvel Universe, Brie Larson and Annette Bening join the fray. Can Meryl Streep be far behind?

Both Larson and Bening play Marvel women. The former gets the title, but the latter serves as her mentor, first in the Air Force, then in the space world that claims much of the film’s attention.

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A younger Samuel L. Jackson turns up in "Captain Marvel."

Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, “Captain Marvel” goes back in time to the 1990s, where Larson’s Carol Danvers is a hotshot pilot. (Think: “Top Gun” and you’ll get the picture.) There are also references to Blockbuster, Radio Shack and “Space Invaders,” which should get fans in the proper mood for a retro adventure.

Younger versions of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) are here also, offering the necessary advice to help Danvers figure out what it is that’s pulling her into another world.

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Jude Law plays mentor to Brie Larson in "Captain Marvel."

Quickly, the directors unravel an involved (and not that interesting) origins story that includes the shape-shifting Skrulls and the good-guy Kree. In one of those “where are we now?” moments, we learn Larson has been trained by Yon-Rogg (Jude Law, add another to the list) to fight the invaders.

Then, we get a lot of flashing back and forth between the two worlds until, finally, they somehow converge.

Because the directors don’t treat the world outside Earth with much detail, it’s every man for himself when trying to make sense of it all. Like a second-rate episode of “Star Trek,” “Captain Marvel” spends too much time on makeup and retro effects. (A hologram looks like something you’d find at Hot Topic.)

When we get to see what it is Captain Marvel is supposed to do, the film becomes a series of battles that, easily, could have been reduced in number.

Danvers pulls in a friend from her Air Force days (Lashana Lynch), her friend’s daughter and an orange cat that could be the Next Big Thing in the Marvel Universe.

There’s humor (thanks to the cat), some revealed secrets and weapons that give new meaning to the term “hand guns,” but there’s not enough to make this stand out next to Thor, Captain America and Spider-Man.

Yes, “Captain Marvel” is a great bump for female superheroes. But an extended stay requires greater purpose.

Larson is a fine actress, able to sell some of the film’s dumber moments; Bening should have been tapped years ago; and Jackson is probably the Avengers’ biggest secret weapon.

But “Black Panther” and “Wonder Woman” proved comic books could go deeper than two dimensions. It’s still early for “Captain Marvel,” but this film isn't at the "marvelous" stage just yet.

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REVIEW

‘Captain Marvel’

Rated: PG-13 for violence

Stars:

Bruce’s Take: Brie Larson is a good choice to play Captain Marvel but the film’s writers need to give her more humor and fewer “hand” gun moments.

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