It’s been an interesting year to be a DC fan, beginning with James Gunn’s announcement of the all-new DCU back in January. With his announcement, the end of the decade-long era known as the DCEU had reached its conclusion, with just a few movies left before DC officially rebooted its superhero world. Back in June, The Flash premiered, to varying levels of success depending on who you asked, ending its box office run with a dismal amount of profit. While The Flash was only the most recent film, the pattern of profitability and general appeal to the audience seems to have dwindled since Gunn’s presentation, bringing the investment down greatly for many fans. However, with the newest DC release, Blue Beetle, perhaps that pattern’s about to change. Read on to find out exactly what I thought!
[Warning: Spoilers from DC’s Blue Beetle are below!]
Ánimo Jaime & Reyes!
After what feels like a lifetime (or mine at least) we’ve got our first full outing of a DC Latino superhero on the big screen. Xolo Maridueña is a stand-out as the scarab-infused Jaime Reyes also known as the Blue Beetle. The film follows him on the journey of growing from a no-name into his own. It’ll ignite your insides just like your abuela’s pozole on a lazy Sunday and then follows up with the big hug they’re known for giving.
While Jaime is only a recent addition to comic book characters (2006!), this adaptation should inspire a wave of fans to discover him.
La Llegada (del Escarabajo Azul)
There are no mincing words – Xolo Maridueña is a star. Dare I say, perfect casting for Jaime Reyes. The rest of the family cast were equally incredible and the changes for Milagro (Belissa Escobedo) from a kid to a teenager are welcome.
Filling out the parental roles are Damian Alcazar and Elpidia Carrillo as Alberto and Rocio Reyes, and Adriana Barraza as Jaime’s grandmother. As a Latino myself, family is so important and the director Angel Manuel Soto was masterful in incorporating all the distinctive flairs of a standard household. So often there were little moments between Jaime and his family where I could mentally drag and drop myself into it with my own relatives.
Un Cachito de lo Nuestro
Truly what elevated the feature for me were these exact relationships. While Jaime is of course the lead of this story, every one of the Reyes were equal pillars holding up their meager yet loving home. What is a Latino household if not full of family?
This of course means they added a fun element in the form of Uncle Rudy, portrayed by famed Mexican-American actor and comedian, George Lopez. Every young man needs a good Tio and Rudy is amongst the best. While he shoulders the lion’s share of the comedic relief, Lopez provides a couple of powerful and emotional inspirations through Jaime’s journey. Whether it’s deploying El Chapulin, (a red and yellow jammer machine named after an esteemed comedy show from Mexico) or hacking into Ted Kord’s personal Bug Lair and personal computer, Rudy is always there for Jaime.
Beyond the Reyes, there’s another family that is integral to the story: the Kords. So much mystery is wrapped up within Ted Kord’s disappearance and the handoff of Kord Industries. At times I feel as if Victoria Kord (Susan Sarandon) was behind it but this feels like a theory topic for later on down the road.
As soon as she came on screen, I was smitten with Jenny Kord (Bruna Marquezine) embodying her father’s values. Being a thorn in the side of her Aunt Vicky might be standard, but Jenny’s paranoia pays off when everything she fears is already happening. Namely, the militarization of technology powered by the code from the Scarab to make O.M.A.C. (One Man Army Corps) machines.
Dale Mas Gasolina
While I found a lot to love about this origin story, it does suffer from some of the similar repetitive tropes that we’ve seen many times over. Does it do them any better? At this point, it’s just partially re-hashed but the injected flavors of the family do help them smooth over the roughness. I’ve lost count of how often we’ve had: interrupted kisses with a joke, a villain who wants to scorch the Earth because they were wronged, and a physically imposing villain who is similarly outfitted as the protagonist. So, these are things we’ve seen before many times. Does it impact the overall delivery? Sometimes.
I had the worst taste in my mouth with what they did with Victoria Kord, as I recall they wanted Sharon Stone initially. I’m left wondering how much of an improvement it could have been for the character and subsequent changes to the script. There were some parts that I liked about her character, mostly her “I’m in charge here!” demeanor that had the employees of Kord Industries scrambling.
The pivot of using Kord Industries as an analogy of imperialism had my jaw on the floor. It’s even further explored when you see Jaime’s Nana take a final stand and say “DOWN WITH THE IMPERIALISTS!” and provide cover for her grandson. Another simple but effective nod was the statue of Christopher Columbus right outside where Jaime fights Ignacio Carapax (Raoul Max Trujillo) for the first time.
Another hugely missed opportunity was the lack of personality with Khaji-Da! They went as far as casting Becky G to voice it and yet Siri on my iPhone shows more emotion than her. Truly a shame as we’ve seen AI/Hero (Jarvis, F.R.I.D.A.Y., E.D.I.T.H.) interactions before and they at least had some OOMPH with their deliveries, sad to say that they phoned it in.
While on the topic of what was lacking, at times yes the score could hit hard during action scenes. But Jaime’s theme reminded me more of a Call of Duty lobby sequence with the big orchestrated cyberpunk-inspired beats. Ultimately I did find it refreshing since it did lend itself well to the fact that the technology is “Alien”.
One symptom that’s been persistent is odd angles when it comes to flight scenes, make no mistake, we get that here too. While I understand the need to translate Jaime’s inexperience and lack of control over the suit, it has become ridiculous to see scenes that remind me of a GoPro in a front-loaded laundry machine.
Overall, Blue Beetle was a nice breather. Although the stakes were huge, there is a sense of relief from being so disconnected from DC’s past. Even though there are mentions of other heroes and their cities, they are throwaway lines that don’t force any type of impact. Many finer details such as the practical Blue Beetle suit and nods to Latin culture are respectfully presented.
While the story may be another slightly predictable origin story, it has enough corazón y alma (heart and soul) to really bolster a need for more of the Reyes’ in Jaime’s future. Multiple subtle cameos and references throughout the movie empower the impact brought forth by the collaboration of many Latin creators. Ánimo Xolo, Angel, George, Damian!
I do understand that due to many factors, including distrust in the DC brand and overall fatigue with CBM properties, Blue Beetle absolutely deserves a watch in theaters, especially with as much family as you can take with you.
What do you think about Blue Beetle?
Blue Beetle is now in theaters! Make your way with prisa (hurry) and enjoy a captivating footnote of a swan song of the old DC. Have you seen the film yet? Will you check it out on National Cinema Day this Sunday? (8/27/2023) Let us know on social media or in The Cosmic Circus Discord.