Blue Beetle excels with its cultural representation and sticks the landing with a truly bombastic soundtrack to deliver a movie that rejuvenates the superhero genre
Blue Beetle has finally arrived to inject new life into the DC Universe. After the lackluster box office performances of Shazam: Fury of the Gods and The Flash, the odds are stacked again DC’s first Latino superhero. But given that Jaime Reyes’ big-screen debut has been earmarked as the starting point for James Gunn’s newly minted DC Studios, the eyes of the world are watching. So can this new superhero unite the fanbase and relaunch the DCU in a flamboyant fashion? Or is Blue Beetle another run-of-the-mill adventure destined to disappear into the bargain bin?
Fear not DC fans because Blue Beetle is a triumph. And although the film is not without its flaws, the first movie in the new DC Universe is a solid jumping-off point. One that serves as the perfect foundation for the relaunch that is to come. Sadly, the formulaic origin story has been done a thousand times, and in finer fashion. But overall, director Angel Manuel Soto has done more than enough to ensure that Jaime Reyes debuts in a DC triumph. It’s fresh, fun, poignant, hilarious, and packed with action! It excels with its cultural representation and sticks the landing with a truly bombastic soundtrack to deliver a movie that rejuvenates the superhero genre. But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s jump in and unpack this sucker.
After establishing the ever-impressive Susan Sarandon as the film’s villain, Angel Manuel Soto quickly introduces us to the characters that will carry this bold adventure forward. And leading the charge is our new DC hero Jaime Reyes (Xolo Maridueña). The eager young dreamer returns home after graduating from college to find his family in financial turmoil. Their family home is in peril, their businesses have been forced to close, and the sinister weapons manufacturer Kord Industries is using the situation to swallow vast swathes of their land. It is here we meet the Reyes family – in all their magnificent glory.
Instead of treating the family as token background characters, the creatives have worked tirelessly to give each of them a legitimate story arc. From the scene-stealing Nana (Adriana Barraza,) to Jaime’s equally impressive sister Milagro (Belissa Escobedo,) every family member has their chance to shine. And the pay-off is worth its weight in gold. Especially from Jaime’s uncle Rudy Reyes (George Lopez,) who brightens every scene he is in. At times he’s a comedy relief. In others, he’s the voice of reason. But Lopez is on fire here, and the film is all the more impressive because of his contributions.
Back to the story, and after discovering his family’s financial distress, Jaime gets a job cleaning the mansion of the villainous leader of Kord Industries, Victoria Kord (Susan Sarandon.) Desperate to have some income to support his family, Jaime is willing to do anything. And while getting into some hijinks with his sister, he stumbles upon a conversation between Victoria and her Niece Jenny (Bruna Marquezine). He quickly learns that Victoria is creating a weaponized super suit designed to become the evolution of warfare. Jenny on the other hand is eager to uphold the principles of her father’s company. And she yearns to steer it away from her Aunt’s warfare profiteering. But their different ideals force a confrontation. One that results in Jaime losing his job and in the firing line of Victoria’s henchman Conrad Carapax.
Feeling sorry for Jaime, Jenny offers him a position within Kord Industries and sets up an interview. But before he can impress his would-be employer, she presents him with a burger box that conceals precious cargo. One that has the power to change the course of his life forever. And soon, Jaime is thrust into a world of superheroes as the heroic Blue Beetle.
A NEW HERO
Seen from the perspective of the Reyes family; led spectacularly by Xolo Maridueña’s energizing performance Soto frames the film as a fresh coming-of-age story. One packed to the brim with comedy, cultural representation, poignant moments, epic action, and an equally bombastic soundtrack that ticks all the boxes. Although the origin story often feels formulaic, the film maintains its freshness through the Reyes family dynamic. It grounds the film with enough weight to give it an appealing freshness. Instead of using the film as a vehicle to set up a dozen other projects, Soto centers the film on the family. And it’s here where the strength of the project lies.
The main focal point of the adventure is the strength of one family’s struggle against the pitfalls in everyday life. And it is a narrative that we can all relate to. Yes, the film goes the extra mile to cement Reyes as the first Latino superhero. Yes, Reyes slips into the superpowered super suit to become the Blue Beetle. But at its core, this is a film about family, and it’s all the more poignant as a result.
The strength of any major blockbuster hinges on the brilliance of its cast. And I am delighted to report that every member of the cast is up to the challenge here. Relaunching the DC Universe with a secondary character to the mighty trio was always going to be an uphill battle. But Soto manages it effortlessly. And we are instantly invested in the Reyes family. Aside from the impressive Xolo Maridueña, the entire cast turns in a solid performance. Over its fast-paced 2 hours and twelve minutes, we witness them growing with confidence as they emerge as the new first family of the DC Universe. A long may they reign.
Susan Sarandon meanwhile, reminds us of why she is regarded as Hollywood royalty with an outstanding multi-layered performance as the greedy war profiteer. She takes to the villain role with spirited passion and offers a truly compelling baddie. And she is supported by the menacing Raoul Max Trujillo who delivers a reliable performance as the wounded henchman Conrad Carapax. Instead of being a token villain, Carapax is rewarded with a weighty backstory. One that will only gain him more appeal as the credits roll. And although his screen time is nowhere near as plentiful as it should be, his performance is enough to leave us wanting more.
But make no mistake, the true star of the show is the unswervable Adriana Barraza as Jaime’s Grandmother Nana. Here Barraza delivers a scene-stealing performance that deserves to be applauded. Every scene she’s in is elevated by her comedic timing, passion, and energy. Which is a shoo-in to make her a firm fan favorite. And she is on hand to deliver the best lines of the film. This is a triumph considering George Lopez is oozing with witty dialogue here. And between them, they had me in stitches every step of the way.
For me, the DC Universe leads the way in the field of practical costumes. And I’m pleased to report that the costumes in Blue Beetle are exquisite. The team from Nine B Collective has done a bang-up job of creating Jaime Reyes’ super suit. Of course, the suit is littered with CGI effects for some of its more audacious sequences, but overall the practical suit leads the way, and it’s all the more tangible for it. The design is sleek, the armor looks realistic, and the weaponry is exceptional.
Soto revealed that Jaime’s fighting style was inspired by his appearance in the Injustice video game, and it shows. All the big moves are here for all to see, and the range of weaponry he uses throughout the film is lifted from the game. It delivers a truly wonderful experience eerily reminiscent of the original Iron Man. But thankfully, with the suit being of alien origin, Soto and his impressive team can push the boundaries and go even further.
The same can be said for Conrad Carapax. The suit he employs is more CGI than practical, but it hits all the right notes. And although the finished version reminded me of Maximilian from The Black Hole, the visual representation only added to his menace.
The winning score from franchise newcomer Bobby Krlic is an absolute joy. The British composer infuses his music with symphonic energy that gives his soundtrack a similar sound to Tron: Legacy. The synthesized/techo cues deliver a punchy, pulse-pounding score that hits all the right notes. And it leaves us with a fresh soundscape to enjoy. As a result, the action sequences are all the more intense. And the heroics on screen are heightened by the music – as all good soundtracks should. And if this is a sign of things to come from the composer, I cannot wait to see what he tackles next.
Overall, I had an absolute blast with DC’s Blue Beetle. Instead of feeling like another run-of-the-mill adventure designed to set up the next project; Blue Beetle delivers a truly wonderful standalone story that can fit anywhere in the wider DC Universe. It’s a legitimate love letter to the character; strengthened by the energetic performance of Xolo Maridueña. It’s a hugely entertaining and fresh rollercoaster ride that delivers everything a comic book movie should. It excels with its long overdue cultural representation and effortlessly rejuvenates the increasingly tired superhero formula. And that is a joy to behold.
With its pulse-pounding score, fresh, fun, poignant, hilarious, and action-packed story, the film is a winner!
Welcome to the new DC Universe. Bring on Superman: Legacy!
DC’s Blue Beetle is distributed by Warner Bros and is playing in cinemas everywhere from Friday. Subscribe to our newsletter at the top of our homepage to stay up-to-date with all the latest news and reviews from Future of the Force.
Phil Roberts is the Owner, Daily Content Manager, and Editor-In-Chief of The Future of the Force. He is passionate about Star Wars, Batman, DC, Marvel, Star Trek, Indiana Jones, Ghostbusters, King Kong, and the Ray Harryhausen movies. Follow him on Twitter where he uses the force and babbles frequently!