"You are a superhero, cabron!"
As of late, DC has been in a transitional period, trying to identify where their comic book superheroes fit in a world seemingly inundated with superhero fatigue. Peeling off layers of Batman and Superman in the last few years has resulted in other heroes getting their time in the sun, including Wonder Woman, The Flash, and even the ragtag team of The Suicide Squad. Now, the latest installment of boy-meets-traumatic-experience-turned-superhero lies in the able hands of "Blue Beetle."
"Blue Beetle" stars handsome Jaime Reyes (Xolo Maridueña), a 20-something mama's boy hailing from Palmera City and the first of his family to graduate college. Upon returning to his hometown, Jaime is faced with the terrible news that his family is losing their home. While attempting to get a job at the behemoth company Kord, Jaime is tasked with holding onto a mysterious Scarab stolen from Kord by his eventual love interest, Jenny Kord (Bruna Marquezine).
The Scarab is obviously alien in nature and highly coveted by Kord's villainous leader, Victoria Kord (Susan Sarandon). While in his possession at his family's home, Jaime activates the beetle-like artifact, which fuses with Jaime as its new host. The Scarab tries to become one with Jaime, creating an armored suit that attempts symbiosis. His life is forever changed as he is entrusted to take down Victoria's plans to weaponize the Scarab's technology.
Events in "Blue Beetle" make it difficult to follow, but regardless of plot details, the film is a refreshingly sensible approach to the comic book movie genre. This genre has historically been met with young boys and girls changing into superheroes and gaining responsibilities they aren't ready for. Jaime is surrounded by a supportive and loving family, which exemplifies his natural tendencies as the superhero Palmera City didn't know it needed.
The film is aided by charming and hysterical performances from Belissa Escobedo, George Lopez, and Adriana Barraza, who embody Jaime's sister, uncle, and grandmother. Unlike comic book movies in recent decades, "Blue Beetle" succeeds by involving Jaime's extended circle, making his fight against Victoria Kord much more of a family affair than mano a mano. His entire family witnesses his transition into a superhero, leaving no room for an alter ego or secretive plans. Watching Nana Reyes wield heavy artillery in climatic moments is worth the 2-hour runtime.
At the heart of "Blue Beetle" are themes of family, community, gentrification, and corporate greed, all rolled into one unoriginal but fun flick. Many tropes of the genre peek into focus throughout the film, and Susan Sarandon isn't exactly as menacing as she intends to be. There are some fun supporting players like "What We Do in the Shadows" star Harvey Guillén, a doctor at Kord who has a crisis of faith in the organization he's devoted his life to. These scenes are simply insignificant compared to those involving the Reyes family. Director Angel Manuel Soto has established himself as a forbiddable director with a diverse cast and a gorgeous synthesized score by The Haxan Cloak. Xolo Maridueña is effortlessly charismatic and fun to watch, but the romantic sequences with Bruna Marquezine are a bit convoluted and possibly unnecessary.
There are some great parts to root for and some scenes that fall flat, but overall, it is a worthwhile effort that sits much more comfortably than recent DC movies.
Ticket Rating: 🎟🎟🎟