Maybe I am biased, but the new superhero movie from Warner Bros/DC is a prominent love letter to the Mexican-American experience. That main element made me enjoy this movie as much as I did. I am unfamiliar with the character’s comic origins, but what struck me most about this character adaptation is how similar it is to other comic-book superheroes. The origin story with the protagonist’s reluctance and fears of embracing his heroic status is typical for comic-book movies. And even the action here feels very carbon copied from other superhero stories.
So, DC’s new Blue Beetle movie suffers from the usual superhero tropes and cliches. Still, the filmmakers love and appreciate the Mexican-American experience, and there are enough unique elements to make this movie resonate with the culture. Blue Beetle is not the Black Panther for Mexicans, but it aspires to be even though it never achieves the same level of excellence.
Xolo Mariduena stars as Jaime Reyes. Jaime is the first member of his family to graduate from college and has returned home to help his struggling, working-class family. Once he has returned to his hometown of Palmera City, he quickly discovers that his parents have been struggling to keep their home, and his father, Alberto (Damian Alcazar), has suffered some health problems during Jaime’s absence. Desperate to help his family recover, Jaime manages to get a job through his sister Milagro (Belissa Escobedo), where he connects with the wealthy and powerful Kord family, particularly company head Victoria (Susan Sarandon) and her niece Jenny (Bruna Marquezine).
Jaime discovers trouble within the Kord family as Victoria uses the company’s resources to create powerful, high-tech weapons she hopes to sell to the US military. Unhappy with the company’s direction, Jenny Kord attempts to sabotage Victoria’s unethical plans by stealing the source of her recent projects, a powerful alien technology concentrated within a scarab. In an attempt to get the scarab far away from Kord, Jenny asks Jaime to take the scarab with him. However, the powerful and incredible scarab chooses to graft itself to Jaime, giving him extraordinary powers and abilities.
Written by Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer and directed by Angel Manuel Soto, Blue Beetle is a primarily enjoyable superhero movie despite its apparent reliance on other strikingly similar comic-book stories. The tech, the experiences of Jaime with the tech and his development into a hero are all too familiar. However, this movie is unique because Soto and Dunnet-Alcocer obviously have much love and appreciation for Mexican-American culture and the benefits and struggles of growing up within a Mexican-American family. That is the heart of the film, as well as its strength.
To the movie’s benefit, Soto and his casting department have selected a primarily great cast of talents with the same level of love and appreciation for the characters. Xola Mariduena is perfectly cast as Jaime Reyes/Blue Beetle. He is the Mexican-American version of Spider-Man/Peter Parker, a good-hearted young man trying to do what is right despite his family’s genuine struggles. As Jenny, Jaime’s love interest and Kord’s family member attempts to correct her family’s wrongs, Bruna Marquezine performs well with much conviction and compassion. Adding to the film’s comic relief is George Lopez, who portrays Jaime’s uncle Rudy, a wild and eccentric believer in government conspiracy theories.
Susan Sarandon, who portrays the power-hungry Victoria Kord, performs solidly, but her character needs more writing and development. Raoul Max Trujillo is perfectly menacing as the quiet but frightening muscle Ignacio Carapax, the bodyguard and primary recipient of Victoria Kord’s experiments. I also very much enjoyed Belissa Escobedo as Jaime’s sassy sister Milagro and Damian Alcazar, who put much heart into his role as the loving father, Alberto.
So, despite this movie’s shortcomings, it charmed me tremendously with its focus on the Mexican family unit and how this love is so genuine and undying. Blue Beetle may fall short for people looking for something dynamically different to rescue them from superhero fatigue. However, if one can appreciate the Mexican-American culture, this movie will win your heart like mine.