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MOVIE REVIEW: Fighting against superhero movie fatigue, ‘Blue Beetle’ manages to stay fresh and delightful

'Blue Beetle' is fresh and delightful and does not try to be over ambitious in setting up its character. It’s grounded by its emotional core and never strays too far from it no matter how much fun the film tries to have.

I’ll be honest and say that I’m a little tired of superhero movies. There’s one or two every other month, if not in the big screen, there’s one on a streaming site and just the huge amount of it has started to make them all look and feel and sound the same. Now, every studio is trying to push for the next insert-minority-here superhero and so when the trailer for ‘Blue Beetle’ came out, with a very Latino-centric trailer, it really looked and felt to be just another attempt to cash in on the superhero craze and progressive trend of minority representation.

I came into the theater preparing to be bored, maybe even hate it, but I found myself charmed by the movie at the end of it.

And this had everything to do with the charm of its lead actor, Xolo Mariduena, and the way the film never strays too far from its emotional core, which is that of the importance of family. It balances the humor and the fun with all the dramatic beats that are necessary to propel an origin story into something that is enjoyable to watch, even if it’s the nth origin story of yet another superhero in a cinematic landscape that has been overrun by superheroes in the past decade.

‘Blue Beetle’ is the story of Jaime Reyes, the first from his family to graduate from college. He returns to Palmera City to reunite with his family only to discover that his father isn’t healthy and they’ve lost their family business and their homes. In an effort to help out his family, he finds himself working as cleaner for the Kord family, owners of Kord Industries who are heavily invested in developing hi-tech weapons for the army. He bumps into Jenny Kord, who offers him a job after he is fired by Jenny’s aunt, Victoria, when he tries to stop her from threatening her niece. When he tries to cash in on her offer, she ends up handing him an alien artifact that merges with Jaime’s body and turns him into the Blue Beetle.

The first ten to fifteen minutes, we are introduced to Jaime and his very boisterous family that is filled with characters that have their own quirks and eccentricities. It properly sets up Jaime’s idealism, his values (which he gets from his family), the tight and close-knit nature of Latino families (which is very, very similar to Filipino families – so it feels just right), and it amplifies the marginilization of the Latinos from the rich, financial district of Palmera City. Jaime is of working-class origins while the world of the Kords is full of high-rises and neon hologram signages plastered on buildings.

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When Jaime gains his powers, he’s against it. What is wonderful about his character is how much he doesn’t want it, exemplified by a very simple line halfway into the movie when he says, “I just wanted a job.” All the trouble he gets into is because Jenny Kord, without options, gave him the scarab to guard and the scarab, being a sentient entity of its own, chose Jaime to bond with.

For a good thirty or forty minutes, Jaime is learning how to use his powers and to differentiate himself and the alien entity known as Khaji-Da. But Victoria Kord wants it, and she threatens his family for it. And whether Jaime wants to be or not, he has to find it within himself to become a hero and save his family from a potential fascist.

What makes ‘Blue Beetle’ so enjoyable is that it sticks to the core values of its hero, and they are things that are very relatable. He’s not out there to save the world – even if his family, after they realise his potential, thinks he could/should – he only wants to keep his family safe. Through this, he bonds with Jenny, who doesn’t have the same close bonds with her family. Her aunt Victoria is ready to kill for the advancement of her company, and Jenny’s own father, Ted Kord, has disappeared and may have abandoned her.

While Jaime discovers how to properly use and work with Khaji-Da, we get some interesting superpowered fight sequences, but more importantly, we see such powerful imagery of Victoria’s plans of making a private security service that feels very fascistic and imperialist by imagery and ideology. No one outright says it, but it’s there for you to pick up on (and there’s a joke that comes out later that highlights the fact, by obliquely). 

Add to that is the imagery in one pivotal scene where the security force herd Jaime’s family out of their house, it has all the visual marks of American discrimination against Latinos and Hispanics. With Susan Sarandon playing Victoria Kord, she’s the only white character in the whole movie (Jenny Kord is half Brazilian and is played by Bruna Marquezine) and the white imperialist imagery is completed (though never forcefully underlined except in a joke or two).

All the politics are evident and at play but never highlighted because at its very core is the story of Jaime Reyes, who finds himself with a power that he must decide how he will use moving forward. He has a family to protect but with it, comes a community as well. And interestingly enough, the film also puts that same family at the center of it all. When Jaime needs them, they come running and they have their own moment to shine.

While there’s a lot of things to enjoy, ‘Blue Beetle’ does suffer from a few things as well. There’s a love story that never full develops and feels forced by the end of the film. The seeds have been planted, it could have been something that can develop over the sequel but rushing it in this movie felt forced. Sometimes, the family feels too much like a comic relief that it can get cloying (but that’s just a personal observation).

Overall, ‘Blue Beetle’ is fresh and delightful and does not try to be over ambitious in setting up its character. It’s grounded by its emotional core and never strays too far from it no matter how much fun the film tries to have. Xolo Mariduena has a charm that can hold an audience’s attention but is also supported by a supporting cast who are all willing to pull their weight.Even after superhero movie fatigue is in effect, ‘Blue Beetle’ still manages to be refreshing and enjoyable and that’s no easy feat.

My Rating:

5 stars - Don't Look Up review



BLUE BEETLE is now showing nationwide. Buy your tickets here.

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Blue Beetle
Action, Science Fiction
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