Blue Beetle

Blue Beetle
Blue Beetle
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The DC Universe finally received a superhero origin story that is based on family values, and has a lot of Mexican blood. Blue Beetle is a comic book adaptation that treats its young Mexican hero as a blockbuster popcorn cinema subject. Xolo Maridueña is delightfully endearing and awkward on screen, lighting it up with his personality. He gets some narrative help from busybody relatives who come through when times get tough. It also works against the movie, as one character in particular veers too goofy and annoying for me. Still, an appealing lead, solid action scenes, and sharp visual effects make for a fun summer ride.

Jaime Reyes (Maridueña) arrives at Palmera City airport excited to see his beloved family. The recent college grad is smothered with hugs, kisses — and bad news. His sarcastic sister Milagro (Belissa Escobedo) tells him they’re losing the house; their dad Alberto (Damián Alcázar) had another heart attack.

A stunned Jaime promises to do anything to help his dad and keep the house. So Rudy (George Lopez), Jaime’s ponytailed conspiracy-theorist uncle loads everyone into Taco — his tricked-out Toyota Tacoma — cursing Kord Industries along the way for pushing the poor out of their homes.

Meanwhile on Pago Island there’s another complicated family plot going on: Victoria Kord (Susan Sarandon) lands at a secret base with gleeful nefarious intentions; her cyborg henchman Conrad Carapax (Raoul Max Trujillo) has finally tracked down the Scarab — an alien device with extraordinary powers.

Her brother Ted Kord — the company’s missing former CEO — went to great lengths to hide it from her; finding it will revolutionize military defense systems and make Kord Industries the world’s biggest arms manufacturer. Her biggest obstacle? Jenny Kord (Bruna Marquezine) — Ted’s daughter and Victoria’s pacifist niece — who vehemently opposes the company’s transition into weaponry.

Back in Palmera City, Jaime can’t find work despite his degree. He’s forced to take a job with Milagro as an attendant at Victoria’s palatial waterfront mansion. Jaime stumbles upon a tense argument between her and the beautiful Jenny. He interrupts their showdown when Carapax lurks threateningly over Jenny’s shoulder … Chivalry gets Jaime and Milagro fired on the spot by Victoria. But he gets an unexpected reprieve before being escorted off … Jenny promises to get him a new position at the company’s headquarters.

“Blue Beetle” incorporates the classic comic’s lore into a modern storyline. Screenwriter Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer (“Miss Bala”) keeps the focus on Jaime’s incredible transformation but pays homage to previous costumed heroes. Die-hard fans (if they exist for this character) will be tickled by nods to Dan Garrett, the first Blue Beetle, and Ted Kord, his student who replaced Dan but never got to use the Scarab.

Ted’s influence is particularly important as Jaime and Jenny try to understand the Scarab’s abilities’ scope. Pop star/actress Becky G voices Khaji-Da, the artificial intelligence that controls the Scarab and picks its human host; her role is purposely limited so some alien aspects remain mysterious for future installments.

The appearance of the Blue Beetle is similar to that of Iron Man from Marvel and Iron Spider nanotech armor made by Tony Stark for Spider-Man. The Scarab lodges itself into Jaime’s spine like a symbiote and creates a metallic exoskeleton under stress. The suit forms over his skin with a digital interface in the helmet. He fights to control Khaji-Da and keep the Scarab from killing people.

These scenes are reminiscent of Spider-Man: Homecoming and Avengers: Infinity War, where Peter Parker messes around with gadgets. It’s imitation as flattery, which works here. Jamie takes a lot of lumps as he learns how to use the Scarab; it’s not an easy process.

An underlying theme in this movie is fighting against imperialism and unchecked capitalism. Victoria combines Lex Luthor with Elon Musk — she values profits over people. If anyone gets in her way, she won’t hesitate to kill them. Jenny means nothing to her because they’re only related by blood. Dunnet-Alcocer also brings up the School of Americas (SOA) that trained Latin American guerrillas in brutal warfare tactics for the US military. This stops being funny when the film takes a sharp turn into showing what happens after SOA has its way with countries.

Throughout all this, one thing remains constant: family matters most in Blue Beetle . Nana (Adriana Barraza) is Jamie’s badass grandmother who steals every scene she’s in — you’ll love her! Uncle Rudy, on the other hand… well let’s just say George Lopez hasn’t always had great success outside his stand-up routine(s). I could have done without Rudy entirely; he distracts from Jaime’s journey at key points during this story while adding nothing relevant back elsewhere along said journey(s). There’s lots otherwise positive about these flicks but Rudy’s buffoonery should’ve been cut down some more imo, especially given how pivotal certain parts of the plot are. Stay seated through (and past?) credits!

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