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Review: Blue Beetle (2023)

Blue Beetle (2023)

Directed by: Angel Manuel Soto

Premise: Based on the DC comic book. A down on his luck college graduate (Xolo Maridueña) discovers an alien technology that fuses with his body and turns him into the superhero the Blue Beetle. A military weapons manufacturer wants the technology for its own purposes. 

What Works: The aspect of Blue Beetle that makes it unique is the focus on family. The story of Jaime Reyes becoming a superhero is largely told through his relationship with his family. The Reyes are a Hispanic family living in a working class neighborhood outside of the metropolitan district of Palmera City and they are in danger of losing their home. The family’s ethnicity and the emphasis on home and place distinguishes Blue Beetle from other superhero movies. All the family members are distinct and get things to do. Especially notable are Belissa Escobedo as Jamie’s sister and George Lopez as his uncle as well as Adriana Barraza as the grandmother with a colorful past. The family’s lineage gives the film a specific cultural texture and informs the way they respond and unifies the narrative. Blue Beetle works in references to the United States’ military interventions in Latin America in ways that deepen some of the conflicts. The familial and ethnic aspects of Blue Beetle also give the movie a lot of humor. It’s quite funny in a way that is endearing and humanizes the characters. Blue Beetle also looks good. The digital effects meld with the real-world setting, giving the film a concrete and credible look. The neon colors of Palmera City are quite beautiful and give Blue Beetle a visual style that is unique among recent comic book movies.

What Doesn’t: The super heroics of Blue Beetle are not nearly as interesting as the family story. Aside from the family aspect, this is a standard superhero origin story with the main character accepting his new identity and rising to the occasion. There’s very little unique or interesting about this part of the film. Susan Sarandon is cast as the villain and she’s not very threatening. Sarandon projects authority but not menace. One aspect of the film that doesn’t make much sense is the alien technology itself. We’re told that the beetle possesses its own consciousness and Jamie can hear the voice but unlike the parasite of Venom or even Jarvis of Iron Man, the operating system of Blue Beetle has no personality. There’s little sense of Jamie and this alien consciousness becoming allies in order to work together.

Bottom Line: Blue Beetle is a mostly straightforward superhero origin story but it has elements of family and culture and politics that distinguish it from similar movies. It doesn’t reinvent the genre but Blue Beetle does it well and the film is sufficiently entertaining.

Episode: #962 (August 27, 2023)