Hero origin stories can become a little formulaic — where the hero thinks of themselves as a “nobody” but through the power of his loved ones and emboldened by tragedy, they prevail. The thing is that these formulas work. Everybody likes seeing the little guy win. Jaime Reyes (Xolo Maridueña) as Blue Beetle is no exception.
In Angel Manuel Soto’s Blue Beetle, Jaime is the first of his Mexican American family to receive a college degree. Unfortunately, in this economy, that means nothing and struggles to find a job to keep the family afloat. After defending rich businesswoman Jenny Kord (Bruna Marquezine) from an argument with her aunt (and his boss), Victoria Kord (Susan Sarandon), Jaime is fired from his job. Jenny feels guilty for that and offers him a job at the Kord tech company. He visits Jenny the next day, only to be given a box from her to protect and to never open under any circumstances.
Of course, Jaime opens it — at the behest of his family — and is taken over by the scarab – a piece of alien technology that has grafted itself onto his spine. He hears the voice of the scarab, named Khaji-Da (Becky G), and must work together with it in order to protect his family from Victoria Kord, who wants to use the scarab to create super soldiers for “the greater good.”
Though Jaime is Blue Beetle, his family — father Alberto (Damián Alcázar), mother Rocio (Elpidia Carrillo), sister Milagro (Belissa Escobedo), uncle Rudy (George Lopez), and Nana Reyes (Adriana Barraza) — are the real heroes in supporting Jaime and even rescuing him at times. They may not have superpowers, but they have brains and gusto.
There was a moment in the film when the family is under attack and the family’s anxiety and fears dominate the entire scene. It was only when one of the characters tells the family that ‘now is not the time for tears. It’s time to fight’ that there is a tonal shift to one that is empowering. Maridueña, Lopez, and Barraza are the standouts in the film, despite Lopez’s lines sometimes going a little too much.
Soto also brings a realistic Mexican American family through the Reyes, filled with Vicks Vapor Rub and the immigrant experience. After Jaime finds out the only way to separate himself from the scarab is through death, Uncle Rudy explains to him that they — as people — have been through worse, working multiple menial jobs for “16 hours a day” to survive in America. If they can get through that, they can get through anything. There is something so emotional and motivational about seeing a Mexican American superhero for those who never truly had one. Throughout the film, there are instances of the Mexican superhero in clay-mation form, Chapulín Colorado, who is seen as a weak hero compared to American heroes. The purpose in the film is shown as a comparison of the heroes of the past for Mexicans to the strong and capable Blue Beetle as the hero of today.
Though Blue Beetle succeeds in its heroes, it fails its villains by the one-dimensional Victoria Kord, whose plot seems to be only doing horrible things to people for the “greater good.” There is a brief mention of her being overlooked by her father, but not enough to excuse her nefarious plans with the scarab. Her henchman, Conrad Carapax (Raoul Trujillo), actually has a motive for being the way he is, but it is sadly rushed in the end, giving little room for sympathy or any sort of growth for the character. He has an interesting and important backstory, but is never really given the time to explore it.
The CGI / VFX is an improvement from the previous DC films, but does at times feel like a video game. But, for the most part, the film does a pretty good job keeping the VFX smaller than its predecessors.
Overall, Blue Beetle is a fun and action-packed film filled with heartwarming moments, especially with the Reyes family, which is the film’s greatest strength. In one of the scenes, Jenny tells Jaime that she may have a big house and a lot of stuff, but he has a “house full of love” because of his family. Blue Beetle is just that — filled with love, while also being an exciting superhero movie.
Grade: 4 / 5
*This review was written during the WGA and SAG/AFTRA strike. To support the strike, please donate to the Entertainment Community Fund.*