Action Adventure

Review: ‘Blue Beetle’ is a Comic Book Crowd-Pleaser Bursting with Spectacular Action, Humor and Heart

August 17, 2023Ben MK

The films of the DC Extended Universe — or, as it's soon to be known, the DCU — haven't always panned out according to moviegoers' expectations. And with the recent box office disappointment of the Flash's much-hyped solo adventure, it's become even more difficult for audiences to gauge whether the next superhero epic will do justice to their favorite characters. Whether it's anti-heroes like Harley Quinn and Black Adam, or the Man of Steel himself, the road to DC's big screen present day has been a rocky one, to say the least. But with Blue Beetle, DC fans can rest easy, as the debut of the franchise's first Latino superhero doesn't just meet expectations — it surpasses them with flying colors.

Set sometime in the near-future, the story follows 22-year-old Jaime Reyes (Xolo Maridueña), a recent graduate of Gotham University who has returned home to Palmera City to visit his mom and dad, Rocio (Elpidia Carrillo) and Alberto (Damián Alcázar), sister Milagro (Belissa Escobedo), nana (Adriana Barraza) and uncle Rudy (George Lopez). A crumbling community on the outskirts of the sleek metropolis that is Edge Keys, Palmera City is the last vestige of affordable real estate that the Reyes and other Mexican immigrants like them can call home. However, if ruthless tech billionaire Victoria Kord (Susan Sarandon) has her way, there'll soon be no place for Edge Keys' lower-income population to find refuge. The CEO of Kord Industries, a multinational conglomerate with its tentacles in everything from mining to health care, Victoria plans to tear down Palmera City and rebuild it in the rest of Edge Keys' image, with absolutely no regard for the well-being of its residents. In spite of that, though, it's her military defense project known as the One Man Army Corps. that proves distinctly more worrisome.

A heavily armored exo-suit with a fully-loaded arsenal of weapons, the O.M.A.C. taps directly into its wearer's central nervous system, allowing one single soldier to wield the might of an entire squad. However, to complete her groundbreaking new weapon, Victoria will have to unlock the power of a mysterious alien relic called the Scarab. A world-destroying weapon with infinite potential, the Scarab was also the obsession of Victoria's brother Ned, whose alter ego, the Blue Beetle, took it upon himself to defend Edge Keys from crime and corruption over a decade earlier. Somewhere along the way, though, Ned went missing. And now, with his daughter Jenny (Bruna Marquezine) attempting to keep his legacy alive, there's only one thing that stands between Victoria and world domination. Along with her right-hand man, Carapax (Raoul Max Trujillo), Victoria will stop at nothing until she achieves her ultimate goal. What she doesn't count on is Jaime, who, after crossing paths with Jenny one day, finds himself unwittingly chosen by the Scarab to become Edge Keys' newest — and most reluctant — superhero.

Directed by Angel Manuel Soto and written by Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer, the result fuses the state-of-the-art superhero themes of the first Iron Man with the cultural focus of Black Panther and wraps it in the comedic aesthetic of Robert Rodriguez's Spy Kids movies, as Jaime must learn how to use the powers of the Scarab while also coming to terms with the newfound responsibilities that come with that power. At its core, however, it's the dynamic between the various members of the Reyes family that helps Blue Beetle stand out amid the increasingly crowded field of comic book films. From Nana Reyes, whose undisclosed past as a revolutionary comes into play hilariously during the movie's climax, to Uncle Rudy, who's always quick to come up with a quip bursting with grumpy cynicism, there's no shortage of humor and heart. Still, it's Maridueña's charismatic and extremely likeable performance as the film's titular protagonist that will leave viewers wanting more once the credits start to roll.

Suffice to say, audiences won't be disappointed with Maridueña's portrayal, nor will they be let down by how the movie manages to cram in several decades of comic book mythology while still remaining consistently engaging and light on its feet. Either way, it's a testament to the filmmakers' passion for the character. And even though its tongue-in-cheek tone is a far cry from DC's most recent big screen crowd-pleaser, The Batman, it's impossible to fault Blue Beetle for delivering exactly the fun ride from start to finish that it promises.

Blue Beetle releases August 18th, 2023 from Warner Bros. Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for sequences of action and violence, language, and some suggestive references. Its runtime is 2 hrs. 7 min.

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