September 27, 2023



Blue Beetle’ Film Review: Xolo Maridueña Gives Standout Performance in Emotional and Entertaining New DC Comics Movie

Blue Beetle’ Film Review: Xolo Maridueña Gives Standout Performance in Emotional and Entertaining New DC Comics Movie

Director Ángel Manuel Soto helms Blue Beetle, the first live-action superhero film to feature a Latino protagonist. The movie stars Xolo Maridueña as the title character, with Susan Sarandon playing the villainous military arms developer who seeks to control his powers. Blue Beetle marks a milestone for Latino representation in the superhero genre.

Blue Beetle harkens back to the early days of superhero movies like Iron Man and Spider-Man before the genre became overloaded with interconnected narratives and multiverses. Much like those fresh, enjoyable origin stories, Blue Beetle exudes charm, warmth, and heart.

At the core is the close-knit Mexican American family of the title character. Their humor and unconditional love infuse the film with humanity amidst the superheroes. This emphasis on family bonds and cultural representation gives Blue Beetle a buoyant spirit reminiscent of those formative superhero movies.

Rather than smug quips and CGI spectacle, Blue Beetle leans into humor and emotion driven by its Latino protagonist. In doing so, it recaptures the fun, humanity, and innocence of early comic book adaptations.

Blue Beetle has the potential to be a breakthrough superhero film for Latino representation. Puerto Rican director Ángel Manuel Soto clearly conveys his affinity for Latino culture, much like he did for Baltimore in Charm City Kings. This gives the film infectious charm on a blockbuster scale.

Moreover, Xolo Maridueña proves he has the charisma and talent to lead a new corner of the DC Extended Universe. His star-making performance as the title character will resonate widely with Latino audiences eager to see themselves reflected on screen.

For Warner Bros, Blue Beetle diversifies their superhero slate while introducing a compelling new hero. And for Soto and Maridueña, it represents a chance to bring Latino stories to a massive mainstream audience. The film promises to be both a commercial and cultural milestone.

Xolo Maridueña plays Jaime Reyes, a modern DC Comics character first introduced in 2006. His origin story cleverly connects to previous Blue Beetle iterations Dan Garret and Ted Kord from decades past.

Jaime returns home eagerly after earning his college degree, only to receive bad news. His working-class Latino family in the fictional town of Edge Keys is struggling – their rent has tripled, their auto shop closed down, and Jaime’s father Alberto recently suffered a heart attack.

The loving bonds between the Reyes family infuse the film with humor and poignant stakes. Their struggles to preserve their cultural traditions amid the challenges of American life give Blue Beetle touching humanity. Rather than solely saving the world, Jaime’s mission to protect his courageous family from a ruthless corporate foe carries emotional weight.

The care devoted to portraying this Latino family unit and their tight-knit dynamic gives Blue Beetle an affecting life, grounding the superheroes in a relatable family story. Their pride in Jaime’s accomplishments and his drive to defend them when threatened form the heart of this entertaining and culturally significant film.

Blue Beetle extends its heroism beyond just the super-powered Jaime to his entire ordinary family. They have gained resilience from the struggles of immigrant life, as seen in Alberto’s moving speech about the hardships that followed crossing the border. When their home comes under attack, the stakes feel heightened because it mirrors the real-world persecution of immigrants.

Jaime’s pragmatic mother Rocío, sarcastic sister Milagro, conspiracy theorist Uncle Rudy, and revolutionary grandmother Nana all fiercely protect their family. Nana hilariously annihilating an entire hit squad underscores how the Reyes’ courage and unity in the face of danger make them all heroes.

The threat comes from icy corporate titan Victoria Kord, who took over Kord Industries after her brother Ted’s disappearance. She shifted the company to weapons, opposed by her niece Jenny. Victoria treats her staff and family with indifference, making her a chilling antagonist.

By framing the Reyes family’s struggle as universally heroic, Blue Beetle provides uplifting Latino representation. Their kinship, humor, and perseverance in the face of lethal danger generate both cultural resonance and rousing entertainment.

The prologue reveals Victoria Kord on the cusp of obtaining an ancient alien artifact called the Scarab after 15 years of pursuit. She intends to exploit its unlimited power to amplify her revolutionary OMAC law enforcement robots, with henchman Carapax as the prototype.

When Jenny inadvertently causes Jaime Reyes to lose his job at Victoria’s company, she gives him the Scarab to protect, hidden in a burger box. But security triggers force her to hand it off before escaping the building.

Unable to resist, Jaime’s family peeks at the Scarab, which bonds to Jaime and transforms him, Kafka-style, equipping him with a high-tech suit. It blasts him into space, initiating him into its phenomenal capacities.

The intriguing opening efficiently establishes Victoria’s nefarious goals, the coveted alien relic, and Jaime stumbling into his destiny as the Scarab’s superhuman host. This propels the film’s epic comic-book conflict centered around the Reyes family protecting the Scarab from Victoria’s grasp.

The alien Scarab, calling itself Khaji-Da, informs Jaime it is designed to protect him and will generate anything he imagines. Still, a terrified Jaime just wants the invasive entity off his body.

Seeking help from Jenny Kord, he learns her father Ted became obsessed with the Scarab before his disappearance 15 years prior. In Ted’s secret lab, they try removing the Scarab from Jaime unsuccessfully before Victoria locates them.

Like Peter Parker, tragedy instills Jaime with great responsibility and acceptance of his superhero fate. Maridueña compellingly charts Jaime’s emotional arc from fear to wonder to rage, while retaining the character’s humanity and family devotion.

The supporting cast shines as well, especially the witty Escobado as Jaime’s sister Milagro and Marquezine as Jenny, whose nascent romance with Jaime is lovely. Lopez brings big laughs as the lusty Uncle Rudy, while Barraza is a standout as the tough, inspirational Nana.

Together, the cast makes the Reyes family bonds vibrant and moving. Their spirit in the face of adversity gives the film both humor and heart.

Sarandon brings chilling conviction as Victoria Kord, grounding the villain’s ruthlessness in resentment over her family’s company going to her brother. Her experimentation on hybrids and heartless manipulation of Carapax make her a tech-driven war criminal.

Director Soto adeptly balances action, comedy, and sentiment, aided by dynamic cinematography and score. The brisk pacing has an energetic youthful spirit without sacrificing emotional breathing room, especially in the moving exchanges between Jaime and his father.

While not reinventing the genre, Blue Beetle resurrects retro superhero movie charm largely absent lately. Its fondness for family bonds and Latino culture makes the film infectiously enjoyable.

Rather than the usual post-credits tease, a sweet homage to the Mexican TV parody hero El Chapulín Colorado encapsulates Blue Beetle’s affection for its cultural roots. This winning spirit rejuvenates the superhero formula with humanity and humor.

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Ralph Calaway