"...a warm and charming blend of family drama, action, ethnic observation, and comedy"

Blue Beetle Flies High

(083123) Blue Beetle is the new family friendly superhero film featuring one of DC’s many minor C list heroes. This character is no Batman or Wolverine, and he’s not a particularly important character in the comics, although the original Charlton version was the supposed inspiration for Alan Moore's The Watchman’s Owl Man. Not many people are dying to see a film using this particular incarnation. This and the fact that DC isn’t exactly killing themselves to promote it (I’m sure the writer’s strike doesn’t help) might explain why the film is performing below expectations at the box office. But good films don’t always break box office records or turn a profit in the theatrical run.

This film doesn’t even spotlight the best (in my opinion) of the three incarnations of the title character. My favorite of the three Blue Beetles in the comics was Ted Kord, the goofy millionaire Batman wanna-be who was often an embarrassment to the JLA, and he was usually only a borderline competent hero. But his comedic hi-jinks with the immature Booster Gold enriched my favorite ever run of Justice League; the run that was created by J. M. De Matheis, Keith Giffen and Kevin Maguire in lat latter half of the 80's. But fans of those issues may be as delighted as I was with the cameo in this film’s surprise ending.

Blue Beetle is a warm and charming blend of family drama, action, ethnic observation, and comedy. Blue Beetle comes close to capturing the light, pleasurable tone of the first
Shazam! film. I hope that it brings back some of the audience members that saw that film but stayed away from the silly Shazam: Fury of the Gods and the cold, joyless Black Adam.

The film uses some of the best aspects of several older superhero films. Blue Beetle restores the sense of wonder of the early Spiderman and Superman films. Also, like Black Panther the film manages to tell an engaging story in a non-Caucasian environment using a mostly minority cast and film employees without any big stars.

Blue Beetle was directed by Angel Manuel Soto who has done some film shorts that played at the Chicago Latino Film Festival as well as the self titled film "Soto", which was a big hit at Sundance. He will also be working on a future Transformers film which is less promising and seems beneath him.

The main character is hardly original, and he combines elements of different characters. Like the early Spiderman Peter Parker, he is a good hearted and kind, but naïve and inexperienced young man. Like Venom, Blue Beetle is a hero whose outfit has a mind of its own, and the personalities come at odds at times. And his vast mechanical powers are similar to those of Extremis Iron Man or Cyborg. Nothing about the hero’s powers or origin is particularly fresh or original, but the film’s focus on family distinguishes it from other superhero films (compared to this family the Ant Man clan are boring stiffs.)

The film stars Xolo Mariduena (known for his work in Kobra Kai) as Jaime Reyes, who was the first person in his family to graduate college. His father (Damian Alcazar) feels like a failure, his mom and grandmother are loving but tough, and his sister (Belissa Escobedo) is a bit of a rebel. Best of all is Uncle Rudy (played by George Lopez) who serves as the film’s comic relief and family tech expert.

At its core, unlike most other superhero films (although Ant Man Quantumania tried and failed to achieve something similar) this film is from start to end a touching celebration of family. The only reason Jaime survives as long as he can is because of the support of his loyal (although occasionally annoying) family members.

The film also explores some social justice themes without hitting you over the head with a social message. Jaime is shocked to learn when he comes back from college, that his family is about to lose their home and business. This ties to the shows’ main villain, a heartless Lex Luther like CEO who is gentrifying the neighborhood and destroying all the local culture to get ahead. She is played by Susan Sarandon and it’s a shame that one of the greatest actresses of the 80’s and 90’s is wasted on such a nothing role that could have been played by anyone.

Part of the fun of the film is that his family are likeable underachieving lower-class losers (they reminded me of the characters in the This Fool show on Hulu) When they succeed it’s like every stepped-on audience member is revolting against the corporate elite and the forces that would keep them down or oppress them. At one point the seemingly benign grandmother, Nana Reyes (played with charm and spunk by Adriana Barrazo) gleefully shoots the corporate stooges with a high-tech futuristic weapon as she yells, “Death to the imperialists.”

Xolo is fired by the evil CEO of Kord industries (Sarandon) for doing a noble act. But he attracts the attention of Jenny (played by Bruna Marquezine) the kind and attractive daughter of Tec Kord, the last Blue Beetle who has gone missing. Jenny is moved by his chivalry and promises him a job. Jenny is the second in command and she steals a scarab shaped weapons prototype because she doesn’t want the company to rent or sell out the alien technology to evil dictators.

When Jaime goes to Kord Corporation to get a job, Jenny has just stolen the exterritorial scarab weapon that gives its owners a costume with superpowers. Jenny asks Jaime to help her hide it while she escapes the authorities, but it ends up attaching itself to him. The scene in which the scarab merges with Jaime’s face is a horrendous act of violation and it reminded me of the larval xenomorph attaching itself to a man’s face in the original Alien (1979). One critic called this scene “Cronenberg for kids.” Although this isn’t as bad as having the alien on you and its effects are mostly positive. The scarab gives Jaime a costume that comes with such powers as super strength, laser weapons, and force fields. Speaking of aliens there is a funny scene when another character refers to the suit as “alien” and George Lopez’s character objects to the term as if he had trouble with the immigration officials.

The film can either be seen as the second to last film in the current DC film universe or a precursor to the new James Gunn run DC film universe. Gunn has been saying ambiguous things about it, and maybe it all depends on how well the film does at the box office. There is not too much connecting the film to either universe although we do hear people mentioning Batman and Superman, so we know they at least exist in this realm.

To be honest, the main reason I saw Blue Beetle was that I wanted to update my best comic book films column (which should be on these pages soon unless I wait for the release of The Marvels). But I was pleasantly surprised and delighted by the film, and it was much better than it could have been. Blue Beetle is not The Dark Knight or Iron Man, but superhero film fans and action flick aficionados should find much to love in it. Although I liked the first hour of
the Flash better, this is surely the most purely entertaining DC film since Shazam!

Directed by:    Manuel Soto
Written by:    Gareth Dunnet Alcover. Based on the DC Comics
 character created by Keith Giffen, John Rogers,
 Cully Hamner
Starring:    Xolo Mariduena, Bruna Maruezine, George Lopez
Released:    08/18/23 (USA)
Length:    127 minutes
Rating:    PG-13 for scenes of action and violence, language
 and some suggestive references
Available On:    At press time the film was playing at local 

For more writings by Vittorio Carli go to and His latest book "Tape Worm Salad with Olive Oil for Extra Flavor" is also available.

Come to the next session of the Monthly Poetry Show on the first Saturday of every month at Tangible Books in Bridgeport from 7-9 at 3324 South Halsted hosted by Vittorio Carli.

-Upcoming Features-
September 2: Jae Green, Aga La Magica, Adrienne Sunshine Nadeau, Bronmin Shumway and Jacqueline Wolk
October 7 -Charlotte Hart and Michael LP

BLUE BEETLE © 2023 Warner Bros Pictures
All Rights Reserved

Review © 2023 Alternate Reality, Inc.


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