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REVIEW – A Mexican Family of Heroes Gets the Spotlight in ‘Blue Beetle’

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With the arrival of Blue Beetle, the new DC Universe has begun…sort of. Warner Bros. Pictures’ latest superhero feature introduces Jaime Reyes for the first time on the big screen. And while DC Studios Co-CEO James Gunn’s Superman: Legacy will officially be the DCU’s first film, Gunn has confirmed that Reyes’ Blue Beetle is the first DCU character.

That’s excellent news for the first blockbuster film about a Mexican American superhero and starring Xolo Maridueña, who is of Mexican, Cuban and Ecuadorian descent. As we’ve seen with films like Black Panther, Captain Marvel and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings in recent years, there is substantial interest in seeing superhero films with characters who are women and/or from marginalized communities. And while the Latinx community has the highest moviegoing rate among ethnic groups, they are severely underrepresented on-screen.

Blue Beetle is a desperately needed breathe of fresh air for both the Latinx community that has been clamoring to see themselves take center stage in the superhero film genre, and for DC comics films, which has been in a seemingly constant state of transition for the last several years.

Director Ángel Manuel Soto has crafted a highly entertaining film that lovingly spotlights the Reyes family and their Mexican American culture and allows Maridueña to shine as a hero that everyone can cheer for.

Blue Beetle premieres in theaters August 18th. Light spoilers below.

This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn’t exist. To support the WGA and SAG-AFTRA, donate to the Entertainment Community Fund.

Blue Beetle Theatrical Poster
Blue Beetle Theatrical Poster

Official Synopsis

From Warner Bros. Pictures comes the feature film “Blue Beetle,” marking the DC Super Hero’s first time on the big screen. The film, directed by Angel Manuel Soto, stars Xolo Maridueña in the title role as well as his alter ego, Jaime Reyes.

Recent college grad Jaime Reyes returns home full of aspirations for his future, only to find that home is not quite as he left it. As he searches to find his purpose in the world, fate intervenes when Jaime unexpectedly finds himself in possession of an ancient relic of alien biotechnology: the Scarab. When the Scarab suddenly chooses Jaime to be its symbiotic host, he is bestowed with an incredible suit of armor capable of extraordinary and unpredictable powers, forever changing his destiny as he becomes the Super Hero BLUE BEETLE.

Starring alongside Maridueña (“Cobra Kai”) are Adriana Barraza (“Rambo: Last Blood,” “Thor”) as Jaime’s grandmother, Nana, Damían Alcázar (“Narcos,” “Narcos: Mexico”) as his father, Elpidia Carrillo (“Mayans M.C.,” the “Predator” films) as his mother, Bruna Marquezine (“Maldivas,” “God Save the King”) as Jenny Kord, Raoul Max Trujillo (the “Sicario” films, “Mayans M.C.”) as Carapax, with Oscar winner Susan Sarandon (“Monarch,” “Dead Man Walking”) as Victoria Kord, and George Lopez (the “Rio and “Smurf” franchises) as Jaime’s Uncle Rudy. The film also stars Belissa Escobedo (“American Horror Stories,” “Hocus Pocus 2”) as Jaime’s sister, Milagro, and Harvey Guillén (“What We Do in the Shadows”) as Dr. Sanchez.

Soto (“Charm City Kings,” “The Farm”) directs from a screenplay by Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer (“Miss Bala”), based on characters from DC. John Rickard and Zev Foreman are producing, with Walter Hamada, Galen Vaisman and Garrett Grant serving as executive producers.

The director’s creative team behind the scenes includes director of photography Pawel Pogorzelski (“Midsommar,” “Hereditary”), production designer John Billington (“Bad Boys for Life”), editor Craig Alpert (“Deadpool 2,” “The Lost City”), Oscar-nominated costume designer Mayes C. Rubeo (“Jojo Rabbit,” the “Thor” films), visual effects supervisor Kelvin McIlwain (“The Suicide Squad,” “Aquaman”) and composer Bobby Krlic (“Midsommar,” the “Snowpiercer” series).

A Warner Bros. Pictures Presentation, a Safran Company Production, “Blue Beetle” soars into theaters only internationally beginning August 2023 and in North America August 18, 2023. It will be distributed worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures.

(L-R) Rocio Reyes (Elpidia Carrillo), Uncle Rudy (George Lopez), Jaime Reyes (Xolo Maridueña), Milagro Reyes (Belissa Escobedo) and Alberto Reyes (Damián Alcázar) in Blue Beetle Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures
(L-R) Rocio Reyes (Elpidia Carrillo), Uncle Rudy (George Lopez), Jaime Reyes (Xolo Maridueña), Milagro Reyes (Belissa Escobedo) and Alberto Reyes (Damián Alcázar) in Blue Beetle
Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

THE GOOD

Xolo Maridueña is a star. While audiences who have watched him on five seasons of the hit show Cobra Kai already knew this, Blue Beetle is Maridueña’s first starring role in a feature film and the first time he’s #1 on the call sheet. The Miyagi-like apprenticeship he experienced on the campy martial arts show has suited Maridueña well, as he steps into the dual roles of recent college graduate Jaime Reyes, and sudden superhero Blue Beetle, with confidence and grace.

For those who aren’t familiar with the character from the comics, the trailers make the film seem like DC’s answer to Tom Holland’s plucky Spider-Man, and in many ways, that’s true. If there’s one thing that’s been missing over the course of recent DC films, it’s a lovable and relatable hero amidst all the god-like beings in the universe. As much as fans appreciated Henry Cavill’s Superman and enjoyed Jason Momoa’s spin on Aquaman, those characters aren’t exactly easy to connect with on a human level.

Jaime Reyes on the other hand isn’t a god. He’s a young man with his whole future ahead of him, facing the harsh reality that the future may not be as bright as he expected. Jaime comes home from college to the fictional Palmera City, which feels inspired by Miami, to find that he can’t get a job, his family is losing their home to gentrification, and his father Alberto (Damián Alcázar) is dealing with health issues. Jaime isn’t worried about saving the world; he’s worried about saving his family. Like many children of immigrants, Jaime carries the hopes and dreams of his parents. So much so that they hid Alberto’s heart condition so as not to distract Jamie from his studies. Unfortunately, even a good college education isn’t enough in a world where corporate tech giants like Kord Industries own all the land and resources.

At first, Jaime thinks that pursuing a position within the corporate machine is the key to success. However, after a chance encounter with the young heiress of the Kord fortune, Jenny Kord (Bruna Marquezine), he’s left with a mysterious scarab that fuses itself onto Jaime’s body and gives him otherworldly powers.

What makes Blue Beetle unique is how the rest of this superhero origin plays out. Unlike the predictable formula of having the hero destroy the evil corporation, Jaime actually gets captured. Kord Industries’ evil head honcho, Victoria Kord (Susan Sarandon), plans to use Jaime’s scarab to develop, and sell, suits of armor to the military. With Jaime held captive by Victoria, it’s up to his little sister Milagro (Belissa Escobedo), his mother Rocio (Elpidia Carrillo), Uncle Rudy (George Lopez) and Jaime’s grandmother Nana (Adriana Barraza) to save the day.

The ensuing adventure is full of nostalgic, crowd pleasing moments, which are balanced by the sobering reality of racism and classism that the Reyes family have to deal with constantly.

Jaime Reyes (Xolo Maridueña) in Blue Beetle Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures
Jaime Reyes (Xolo Maridueña) in Blue Beetle
Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

This story really is about the Reyes family as a whole, as each of the members get their moments individually, and shine together as well. The venerable George Lopez and Adriana Barraza provide standout performances, as Jaime’s tech savvy uncle and his tougher-than-she looks grandmother. Both provide heart, humor and depth to the story that is often lacking in other superhero films. Lopez’s Rudy is a nice departure from stereotypical depictions of Latinx characters, who are often presented as uneducated or unsophisticated. Here, Rudy is a tech genius, who has created several notable inventions that prove critical to the team’s success.

Barraza’s Nana embodies the heroic spirit that pervades the entire family. We find out that Nana was a revolutionary in her home country, and is no stranger to fighting for justice against overwhelming odds. I appreciated the grounding of Jaime’s superhero DNA beyond the powers, and tying them to real-world experiences. Many immigrants had to fight incredible odds just to get to the United States, and brought with them a toughness and grit that is often overlooked. Blue Beetle makes it clear that Jaime Reyes is not a superhero because of his powers or his weapons; he’s a hero because of his family.

There are several other references to real world experiences that are authentic to many Mexican American and immigrant families, including issues with undocumented status, microaggressions, and a chilling scene that is reminiscent of an ICE raid. These elements aren’t the point of the film, they’re just part of the family’s everyday reality.

Not all of the references are as sobering as an ICE raid thankfully. There are a variety of nostalgic throwbacks to pop culture, including video games, animation and music, that fans will love. In our interview with Soto, he specifically mentioned Akira, Mortal Kombat and Final Fantasy among some of the Easter Eggs to look for in the film.

Carapax (Raoul Max Trujillo) in Blue Beetle Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures
Carapax (Raoul Max Trujillo) in Blue Beetle
Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

THE BAD

As much as Blue Beetle highlights the Reyes family, it suffers from the all-too-common case of disappointing villain syndrome. Susan Sarandon’s Victoria Kord is a one-dimensional villain who seems solely focused on making money. She’s the face of corporate greed which, while accurate, isn’t presented with any uniqueness to make her interesting or memorable. Sarandon’s enforcer is the menacing Carapax (Raoul Max Trujillo), who does little for the majority of the film, aside from sneering at our heroes.

Carapax’s story does have an intriguing twist, with the revelation that he too is a victim of imperialism and a product of the Escuela de la Americas, a real military institution that was run by the United States army and was criticized for being “a school for dictators, torturers and assassins.”

Ultimately, both the heroes and the villains of this story are victims, but the revelation comes too late in the film and isn’t fleshed out enough to make Carapax more than another armored villain who looks imposing.

Victoria Kord and Carapax both feel like starter villains to let Jaime get his superhero legs under him. Hopefully going forward, we’ll see him face more interesting antagonists, because a great hero is often defined by great villains.

THE POC-Y

As mentioned above, Blue Beetle is another positive step forward in terms of representation for marginalized communities in blockbuster films. Latinx children will not only get to see themselves depicted as heroes in a major studio film, but they will see their families as heroes as well. All of the small cultural things that can make children of immigrant families feel embarrassed among their peers will hopefully start to become a source of pride.

One of the elements of Blue Beetle that really stand out are the numerous scenes where the Reyes family members speak Spanish and there are no subtitles. With the little Spanish I’m able to understand, I was mostly able to follow along, and there are no major plot points lost without the subtitles, but those moments felt like an intimate wink to the film’s Spanish speaking audience. Blue Beetle is for everyone, but it’s very much for the Latinx community.

THE RATING – 4/5 Pocky

Pocky Rating 4
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Ron is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of POC Culture.  He is a big believer in the power and impact of pop culture and the importance of representation in media.

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