Blue Beetle

Blue Beetle
Original title:Blue Beetle
Director:Ángel Manuel Soto
Running time:127 minutes
Release date:18 august 2023
Fresh out of college, Jaime Reyes returns home full of ambitions, only to find that things have changed dramatically since he left. As he searches for his place in the world, fate intervenes: Jaime stumbles into possession of the Scarab, an ancient relic of alien biotechnology. As soon as the Scarab chooses Jaime as its host, the young man is clad in an extraordinary suit of armor that grants him extraordinary - and unpredictable - powers. Everything changes for Jaime, who becomes the superhero Blue Beetle ...

Mulder's Review

At a time when the superhero landscape is increasingly cluttered with convoluted narratives and sequels that no longer manage to capture the essence of their source material, Blue Beetle emerges as a breath of fresh air, infusing the genre with a unique blend of cultural richness, social commentary. Helmed by talented director Angel Manuel Soto, whose previous work on the critically acclaimed indie drama Charm City Kings demonstrated his talent for capturing authentic human experiences, Blue Beetle brings a sense of life, joy and vibrancy that has been missing from recent superhero outings.

At the heart of Blue Beetle is the journey of Jaime Reyes (Xolo Maridueña), a young Mexican-American college graduate navigating the twists and turns of early adulthood. What sets Jaime apart from the typical superhero protagonist is his unbreakable bond with family, a powerful theme that occupies a central place in the story. Unlike the lone vigilantes usually associated with the genre, Jaime's journey is intrinsically tied to the bonds he shares with his close-knit Mexican-American family, turning the traditional superhero trope on its head and offering a refreshing change from the norm.

By becoming the accidental carrier of an ancient alien beetle, Jaime is endowed with incredible powers that transform him into Blue Beetle. However, it's not just his new abilities that define his story; it's his family's unwavering support, steadfast love and fierce determination that add depth and emotional resonance to his character. Ángel Manuel Soto's direction deftly captures the dynamic interplay of the Reyes family, portrayed by an exceptional ensemble of actors, with Damián Alcázar and Elpidia Carrillo as Jaime's parents, Belissa Escobedo as his quick-witted sister Milagro, and George Lopez as the endearingly eccentric Uncle Rudy. Their interactions are genuine, heartwarming and often hilarious, grounding the film in a realistic human experience.

While Blue Beetle embraces its superhero origins, it also ventures into uncharted territory by tackling relevant and topical social issues. The film presents a nuanced exploration of gentrification, economic disparity and corporate greed through the prism of Kord Industries, a powerful entity responsible for disrupting the Reyes family's close-knit neighborhood. The conflict between the family's resilience and the forces of gentrification adds layers of complexity to the narrative, elevating the film beyond mere spectacle and providing a thought-provoking backdrop to the action.

Xolo Maridueña's charismatic portrayal of Jaime Reyes captures the essence of a young hero coming to terms with his dual identity. Maridueña deftly navigates the character's emotional journey, from the initial shock of acquiring superhuman abilities to the final acceptance of his role as protector. His chemistry with the Jenny Kord (Bruna Marquezine, the film's revelation) adds a touch of romance, although the pace of their relationship sometimes seems rushed in the midst of the larger narrative.

One of the film's defining elements is its celebration of Latin American culture, woven seamlessly into the fabric of the story. Soto artfully integrates cultural references, language and traditions, creating an immersive, authentic environment that resonates with audiences. This attention to detail goes beyond superficial representation, infusing the film with a richness that reinforces its overall impact.

Visually, Blue Beetle impresses with its meticulously crafted practical effects and well-choreographed action sequences. Blue Beetle's costume, while sometimes bordering on the clumsy, demonstrates a level of craftsmanship that adds to the character's appeal. Maridueña's martial arts training shines through in his dynamic performance, enhancing the authenticity of his action scenes. What's more, the film's CGI effects are generally well executed (a welcome change from the many other cinematic adaptations of the DC Universe), contributing to the overall spectacle without overshadowing the emotional core of the story.

While Blue Beetle excels in many areas, it is not without minor flaws. The pace sometimes oscillates between light family moments and more intense action sequences, resulting in occasional tonal shifts. Susan Sarandon's portrayal of Victoria Kord, while convincing, sometimes veers into caricature, diminishing the impact of her character's motivations. There are also too many similarities with films from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, such as Iron Man, as well as scenes reminiscent of Spider-Man adaptations. 

In a landscape dominated by weary franchises and uninspired sequels, Blue Beetle is a testament to the superhero genre's potential for fresh, captivating storytelling. It embodies the essence of heroism, whether superhuman or everyday, and celebrates family, unity and resilience. While the film doesn't completely reinvent the superhero wheel, its sincere commitment to cultural representation, social commentary and authentic storytelling makes it a laudable and enjoyable addition to the genre. Blue Beetle reminds us that heroes come in all shapes and sizes, and that sometimes all it takes is a splash of color, a dash of humor and a heartfelt family dynamic to capture the true spirit of heroism.

Blue Beetle
Directed by Ángel Manuel Soto
Written by Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer
Based on Characters from DC
Produced by John Rickard, Zev Foreman
Starring Xolo Mariduena, Adriana Barraza, Damián Alcazar, Elpidia Carrillo, Becky G, Bruna Marquezine, Raoul Max Trujillo, Susan Sarandon, George Lopez, Belissa Escobedo, Harvey Guillen
Cinematography : Pawel Pogorzelski
Edited by Craig Alpert
Music by Bobby Krlic
Production companies : DC Studios, The Safran Company
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
Release date : August 16, 2023 (France), August 18, 2023 (United States)
Running time : 127 minutes

Seen on August 16, 2023 at Gaumont Disney Village, Imax Room seat E19

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