Principal Cast : Xolo Mariduena, Adriana Barraza, Damian Alcazar, Elpida Carrilo, Bruna Marquezine, Belissa Escobedo, Harvey Guillen, Susan Sarandon, George Lopez.
Synopsis: An alien scarab chooses Jaime Reyes to be its symbiotic host, bestowing the recent college graduate with a suit of armor that’s capable of extraordinary powers, forever changing his destiny as he becomes the superhero known as Blue Beetle.
With the impending revamp of the DC cinematic universe under the creative auspices of former Marvel wunderkind James Gunn, the studio’s solo origin story for one of the brand’s second-teir character faced, or rather faces, a difficult sense of place within the wider pantheon of heroes from that stable; Blue Beetle is a character I never really got into as a long-time comic reader, and was actually surprised when DC announced they were giving him his own stand-alone feature film, and now that the Snyderverse DCEU is soon to be wrapped up and respawned with the new DCU (yes, it’s hella confusing), I was left to wonder exactly where in this brave new cinematic world Ted Kord – or rather, this film’s lead character in Jamie Reyes – would fit.
In the remote tundra of Antarctica, members of Kord Industries, led by the company’s co-founder and CEO Victoria Kord (Susan Sarandon), locate an ancient alien artefact known as the Scarab. Jaime Reyes (Xolo Maridueña), a recent graduate from Gotham Law University, returns to his hometown of Palmera City only to learn that his family is facing eviction due to financial difficulties1. Jaime’s sister Milagro (Belissa Escobedo) manages to get him a job at Victoria’s mansion. However, both are fired after Jaime stops a confrontation between Victoria and her niece Jenny (Bruna Marquezine). Jenny later tells Jaime to meet her at Kord Tower the next day to discuss a “job opportunity”. The next day, Jenny finds that Victoria is using the Scarab for her One Man Army Corps (OMAC) projects. She steals the Scarab and avoids security by giving it to Jaime, hidden inside a Big Belly Burger to-go box. At home, Jaime’s family convinces him to open the Scarab box. When Jaime touches it, the Scarab activates and fuses with him, encasing him in an armoured exoskeleton. Jaime later finds Jenny for answers, rescuing her from Victoria’s armed forces. But Victoria is determined to steal the Scarab technology for herself, and pursues Jaime and Jenny ruthlessly, until they are forced to confront each other for ultimate control of the powerful weapon.
One of the most compelling elements of Blue Beetle is its exploration of family dynamics. The Reyes family is portrayed with such authenticity that you can’t help but become emotionally invested in their journey. The chemistry between the family members is nothing short of remarkable, drawing the audience deeper into their world and making their well-being of paramount importance. The family theme is not confined to the Reyes household; it extends to the broader narrative as well. We witness the way in which cultural heritage, especially in the context of a Mexican-American family, plays a significant role in shaping their experiences. The film boldly addresses the challenges that come with being a person of colour in contemporary America. Jaime’s Mexican-American identity is an integral part of his character, and the film doesn’t shy away from confronting racial tensions. It presents a reality that many face, capturing the complex interplay between identity, cultural heritage, and the pursuit of justice. It’s commendable to see a superhero film engage with these critical social issues, making it more than just another action-packed adventure.
Let’s take a moment to appreciate the technical prowess that Blue Beetle brings to the table. The visual effects in the film are nothing short of exceptional. From the transformation sequences to the thrilling action set pieces, the film dazzles with its visual splendour. The scarab’s intricate design and the manifestation of Blue Beetle’s powers are a visual treat for fans of the character and newcomers alike. The film’s music and cinematography deserve a standing ovation. The score, composed by Bobby Krlic, seamlessly weaves itself into the narrative, enhancing the emotional impact of each scene – it is quite the superhero composition, rising with heroism and diving with despair at key moments of the film. The cinematography, under the capable direction of Pawle Pogorzelski, captures the essence of El Paso beautifully. The vibrant colours and evocative camera work give the film a distinct visual identity, making it stand out even more in the superhero genre. And speaking of direction, Angel Manuel Soto deserves a special mention. His enthusiastic and creative direction breathes life into the characters and the story. The pacing of the film is spot-on, ensuring that there’s never a dull moment. Soto manages to blend intense action sequences with intimate family moments, creating a well-rounded and engaging cinematic experience.
But, no film is without its blemishes, and Blue Beetle is no exception. One of the main shortcomings is found in its antagonist. Susan Sarandon, a talented actress, does her best with the role, but the character she portrays falls into the category of a ‘forgettable villain.’ The absence of a truly compelling adversary somewhat diminishes the tension and stakes in the film. Moreover, the plot structure of Blue Beetle follows a somewhat generic superhero origin story formula. It’s a tale we’ve encountered before, where a seemingly ordinary person gains extraordinary powers and must navigate the responsibilities that come with them. The film’s narrative structure, at times, feels reminiscent of Marvel’s Iron Man, and the comparison is hard to ignore.
Blue Beetle stands out as a significant addition to the DC Universe. It skilfully addresses themes of family, cultural identity, and racial tensions, all while offering a fresh perspective on the superhero genre. It might not have a standout villain or the most original plot, but its heart is in the right place. The film’s charm is rooted in the chemistry of the Reyes family, the striking visual effects, and the overall fun factor. If you’re in the mood for a vibrant and exhilarating superhero flick that introduces you to a new character, Blue Beetle is well worth the watch. Despite its flaws, it manages to soar with style, heart, and a refreshing dose of diversity. Definitely add this one to your watchlist – I’m already amped up for word of any sequel.
Note: This review was written by the author with additional material provided by ChatGPT.