Film Review: Blue Beetle
Director: Angel Mauel Soto
DC Studios and The Safran Company
In Theaters: 08.18
A string of high-profile films flooding from Marvel and DC have left the seemingly invulnerable superhero movie in dire need of rescuing. Blue Beetle isn’t going to be the breakthrough film that makes the genre skyrocket back to its full glory, but it may help slow the descent just a bit. Blue Beetle isn’t going to be the breakthrough film that makes the genre skyrocket back to its full glory, but it may help slow the descent just a bit.
Blue Beetle is the story of Jaime Reyes (Xolo Maridueña, Cobra Kai), a college grad who returns to his home in Palmera City to find his family has fallen on hard times. When Jaime and his sister Milagro (Belissa Escobedo, Hocus Pocus 2) get jobs working at the mansion of tech billionaire Victoria Kord (Susan Sarandon, Dead Man Walking), a chance encounter with her niece Jenny (Bruna Marquezine, Breaking Through) leads to Jenny giving Jaime a mysterious package and telling him to guard it with his life. When Jaime’s family talks him into opening the box, he finds an ancient relic of alien biotechnology known as the Scarab. When the Scarab suddenly chooses Jaime to be its symbiotic host, it covers him in a suit of armor that gives him amazing and highly unpredictable powers. Victoria Kord will do anything to get the Scarab, and Jaime finds himself in the fight of his life to save his family and keep this awesome power from falling into the wrong hands.
Blue Beetle follows a lot of familiar super formulas, and there’s plenty from both the Iron Man and Spider-Man films recycled here. Thankfully, there’s also a fresh sense of fun that comes from three key ingredients: Maridueña, a true star in the making, Director Angel Manel Soto (Charm City Kings), whose obvious enthusiasm for making the kind of film he’s loved since he was a kid shines through in every frame, and, above all, a proud element of positive Latin representation that makes Blue Beetle a genuinely important film. Soto has given the film a sci-fi, ’80s vibe, complete with a bouncy, synthesized score, and both the action scenes and the family character dynamic are quite appealing. There’s also a surprisingly sophisticated edge to Blue Beetle, as Soto and screenwriter Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer (Miss Bala) touch on issues ranging from racism and immigration to past political revolutions in Latin America.
Maridueña gives a true movie-star performance, bringing innocence, charisma and sincerity. Escobedo is given a few too many over-the-top “obnoxious teen sister” moments as Milagro, though the two young actors bring enough chemistry and heart to really sell it. Marquezine is charming, and while Jenny may not be Captain Marvel, she’s a far more empowering character than the standard superhero love interest. Sarandon brings her expected presence and little else to the role, with Victoria making for the weakest of the major characters, though George Lopez does a lot to make up for that as Jaime’s Uncle Rudy: Lopez adds a steady stream of lovable comic relief that rarely feels forced, and he brings a surprising amount of dignity to what could have been just a generic, goofy-uncle character.
Blue Beetle isn’t in the same league as Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, though it’s an overall-successful mix of comedy, action and heart that gives you more for your money than most of the big comic book films have been able to do in a while—and it does so at half the budget. It’s a perfect Saturday-matinee kind of movie, a hopeful sign that there’s still some buried treasure to be found in the overmined world of comic book movies. –Patrick Gibbs