August 18, 2023
Xolo Maridueña, Adriana Barraza, Damían Alcázar, Elpidia Carrillo, Bruna Marquezine, Raoul Max Trujillo, Susan Sarandon, George Lopez
Recent college grad Jaime Reyes (Xolo Maridueña) returns home full of aspirations for his future, only to find that home is not quite as he left it. As he searches to find his purpose in the world, fate intervenes when Jaime unexpectedly finds himself in possession of an ancient relic of alien biotechnology: the Scarab.
When the Scarab suddenly chooses Jaime to be its symbiotic host, he is bestowed with an incredible suit of armor capable of extraordinary and unpredictable powers, forever changing his destiny as he becomes the Super Hero Blue Beetle. He must learn to control his new powers, protect his family, the world, and save the day from the government that wants him dead.
Written By Darren
Rating 4 out of 5
Blue Beetle may have all the familiar aspects of a superhero origin story, but DC’s latest film soars high thanks to the screenplay’s Latin representation and emphasis on family, creating a pleasing and enjoyable origin story anchored by a truly outstanding performance from Xolo Maridueña.
Superhero films over the decade have shown audiences that men can fly, taught them that with great power comes great responsibility, and introduced audiences to some of the greatest heroes to have ever graced the silver screen. Every hero has an origin story, and for the most part they follow a similar pattern. Even though Blue Beetle follows the superhero origin story blueprint very closely, it wears its heart on its sleeve with an emphasis on family and Latin heritage that makes it a winner for DC. And it could not come at a better time as the film is the first film in James Gunn’s new DC Universe, showcasing that optimism and hopeful energy on the genre that made audiences fall in love with it decades ago.
Jaime Reyes finds himself in the crossfires of a quest for power when an ancient, alien scarab chooses him to be its symbiotic host. Granting Jaime super strength and powers, Jaime must master his new abilities to protect his family and prevent the nefarious CEO of Kord Industries from creating an unstoppable army, all while changing his destiny forever as he becomes the hero known as the Blue Beetle.
When it comes to the story of Blue Beetle, you know the story beats. They are all familiar, having been covered in countless superhero films before it. There are hints of Superman: The Movie, Tim Burton’s Batman and Miss Marvel sprinkled throughout the film the screenplay, at times feeling like the greatest hits of the superhero origin story with the obligatory sequel tease during the credits, but it executes these hallmarks of the origin story so well that it is easy to overlook its familial nature. And despite the film lacking a strong villain or a full explanation of the powers of the Scarab and its history, the story ground itself in a wonderful showcase of the Reyes family. From the second you meet Jaime and his family, you instantly fall in love with their vibrant personalities, squabbles and quirks. Whether it be the sibling banter and teasing between Jaime and Milargo, Uncle Ruddy’s loud and humorous one liners, or Nana Reyes’s seemingly quiet demeanor with a past that makes her a scene stealing character come the third act, you immediately know everything you need to know about these characters as they leap right off the screen. The discussion of Latin heritage and the authentic representation truly energizes the film, following in the footsteps of Black Panther and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, giving the spotlight to a culture that has not had its time to shine within the superhero genre yet.
Without a question, Xolo Maridueña makes the film a true winner in the lead role of Jaime. Before your eyes, a star is born with a heartfelt, warm and heroic performance that encapsulates everything that makes a superhero inspire audiences as Maridueña gives Jaime the big screen debut that the character deserves. Digging deep during the more emotional moments of Jaime’s origin tale and finding a vulnerability that tugs on your heart strings, while having that magnetic personality to create the scrappy, underdog that you can’t help root for, it truly is pitch perfect casting for the role as Maridueña was born to be Jaime. Bruna Marquezine is great as Jenny Kord, not for a second being typecast as the love interest, but crafting her own strong female character that does not need the hero to save her. Her chemistry with Maridueña is infectious, crafting the will they, won’t they romance between Jaime and Jenny that audiences can root for over the course of the film that sparks from their first encounter. And the supporting cast is full of great performances, with George Lopez and Belissa Escobedo having tons of fun as Uncle Ruddy and MIlargo respectively and generating tons of laughs, while Adriana Barraza is a scene stealer as Nana Reyes during the third act when she unleashes the wild and daredevil side from her character’s past. Sadly, Susan Sarandon and Harvey Guillén are wasted in their villainous roles, diminishing them to play stock villains and not getting to showcase their true talents as actors.
From a directorial standpoint, Angel Manuel Soto has done a wonderful job with the film. The pacing is quick, but never rushed, allowing the characters to develop over the course of the film and restraining from endless action scenes. Soto allows the story to breathe, spending time capturing the human emotions of each scene and building the world for the characters to play in. The third act is a ton of fun, showcasing the action and emotional stakes that have become synonymous with the superhero genre. Without hesitation, Blue Beetle’s suit is excellently designed, allowing the craftsmanship to stand out in creating this practical suit rather than a CGI based suit we too often see in this genre. The cinematography captures the colourful world that Soto has designed, creating an 80s aesthetic which is a lot of fun. And even though there are some CGI moments that are a little rough, overall it’s one of the better looking superhero films to be released this year. Underpinning all of this is Bobby Krlic’s musical score which uses synthesizers and electronic sounds to create a good theme for Jaime, while creating a distinct soundscape for the film that follows in the tradition of exemplary musical scores from DC.
If you aren’t a superhero fan, odds are Blue Beetle is not going to connect with you. But for fans who have been waiting for a good DC film to get excited about or young Latino boys wanting to see a hero that looks like them on the big screen, Blue Beetle is exactly what the doctor ordered. Creating an infectiously entertaining experience from start to finish, Xolo Maridueña’s star-making performance as Jaime Reyes combined with the emphasis on family and representation makes Blue Beetle an instant hit that promises a bright future for the new DC universe launched by this film.