Genre: Action/Superhero
Director: Angel Manuel Soto
Cast:  Xolo Maridueña, Bruna Marquezine, Belissa Escobedo, Harvey Guillén, George Lopez, Raoul Trujillo
Runtime: 2 hr 8 mins
Rating: PG13 (Some Violence)
Released By: Warner Bros
Official Website: 

Opening Day: 17 August 2023

Synopsis: Recent college grad Jaime Reyes 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 Superhero BLUE BEETLE.

Movie Review:

Like this summer’s ‘The Flash’, ‘Blue Beetle’s’ arrival is clouded by the unfortunate perception of being an irrelevant left-over from a now defunct cinematic universe currently undergoing reinvention by new DC studio heads James Gunn and Peter Safran. That is despite being the first superhero movie for the Latino community – and we dare say, a pretty good one at that – and a solid origin story for a not particularly well-known character.

Much of its appeal stems from its lead star Xolo Maridueña (from ‘Cobra Kai’), who carries the titular role with real charisma. As the bright Mexican-American kid Jaime Reyes, whose path crosses with a mysterious scarab that turns out to be a sentient ancient alien tech with a mind of its own, Maridueña makes his character’s helplessness endearing and relatable. Even though the path Jamie treads from human to superhuman is pretty damn familiar, it is still one with plenty of charm and wit.

That credit however also belongs to the lively supporting cast that form Jaime’s lovable Mexican family, including Damían Alcázar and Elpidia Carrillo as his parents, Belissa Escobedo as his sassy younger sister, Adriana Barraza as his Nana, and George Lopez as his oddball Uncle Rudy. While Lopez provides plenty of cynical humour in the film, especially with his anti-government, anti-establishment, anti-superhero views, Barraza steals the last third of the movie when she transforms into a revolutionary to tot a huge disco-coloured mini-gun.

Kudos to director Ángel Manuel Soto and screenwriter Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer for bringing the whole Reyes family along for the ride. In particular, the finale, with its clean but unremarkable action, would have been a lot less interesting if not for the chaotic ensemble, which prove to be both delightful and unexpectedly poignant. Though it is hardly the first superhero movie to fall back on family for pathos ( ‘The Flash’ just did likewise), it is probably one of the very few in which the family saves the superhero, and the even fewer to give each member his or her own distinctive personality to let us truly get into every one of them.  

The involvement of these supporting players also reinforces its embrace of Mexican American culture – from the frequent Spanish dialogue to references to their culture, such as the telenovela ‘María del Barrio’ and the cartoon character ‘El Chapulin Colorado’, there is admirable effort to capture the authenticity of these characters as well as their lived-in experience, even though the larger setting is in fact a fictional immigrant suburb known as Edge Keys within a make-believe Texas coastal metropolis called Palmera City.

Even with Oscar winner Susan Sarandon happily hamming it as the meglomaniac villain Victoria Kord, too much of the rest of the movie feels awfully familiar. There is how foolishly naïve Jaime first turns out to be, thinking that he can appeal to Victoria’s henchman Ignacio Carapax’s (Raoul Max Trujillo) better side. There is also the cliché of the tragic death, which without giving too much away, ends up being a inflexion point for Jaime whether to fully embrace a killer instinct. And last but not least, there is the obligatory love interest in chic heiress Jenny Kord (Bruna Marquezine), whom Jaime joins forces with to oppose Victoria’s ambition to harness the power of the scarab to develop a private police force of cybernetic goons called the One Man Army Corps.

To be sure, what is familiar, even formulaic, doesn’t take away from what is fresh, and ultimately, ‘Blue Beetle’ remains a generally solid origin story for a lesser known superhero character. Is that enough for it to overcome scepticism from the general audience, given its fate and future in the DCEU? We doubt so, and would go so far as to say we now know why a reboot of the whole DCEU was inevitable. Yet for a late summer offering, and one that was initially meant for HBO Max, ‘Blue Beetle’ is definitely a worthy popcorn offering that packs humour and heart.

Movie Rating:

(An agreeable, if ultimately unremarkable, origin story that gets its charm and wit from a magnetic lead and a riotous supporting ensemble)

Review by Gabriel Chong


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