Blue Beetle (2023)
Blue Beetle (2023)

Genre: Superhero Running Time: 2 hrs. 7 min.

Release Date: August 18th, 2023 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Angel Manuel Soto Actors: Xolo Mariduena, Bruna Marquezine, Susan Sarandon, Raoul Max Trujillo, Elpidia Carrillo, Adriana Barraza, Damian Alcazar, Belissa Escobedo, George Lopez

 


 

W

hen Jaime Reyes (Xolo Maridueña) returns home from college, he’s greeted by his loving family – including father Alberto (Damian Alcazar), mother Rocio (Elpidia Carrillo), sister Milagro (Belissa Escobedo), Uncle Rudy (George Lopez), and Nana (Adriana Barraza) – as well as the tragic news that the family business has been lost. Desperate to help his loved ones, Jaime acquires a janitorial job at the residence of Victoria Kord (Susan Sarandon), the wealthy CEO of Kord Industries, a company on the brink of revolutionizing biotechnology with their O.M.A.C. (One Man Army Corp) symbiotech. When the ambitious graduate inadvertently makes a connection with Jenny Kord (Bruna Marquezine), the philanthropic troublemaker daughter of the organization’s former leader, he agrees to guard a highly sensitive piece of technology for her. Unbeknownst to both of them, the ancient blue scarab device under Jaime’s protection is actually a sentient alien weapon. And when it unexpectedly attaches itself to the young man, granting him a range of powers with massive offensive and defensive capabilities, Kord Industries will stop at nothing to get the beetle back, including killing Jaime and his entire family.

Why can’t Jaime be a billionaire inventor and do-gooder? He’s certainly not much different from Iron Man. But instead, perhaps to speak to its target audience, he’s a naive, misguidedly optimistic, prospectless recent grad, whose hopes for a bright future are dashed by his family’s considerable financial woes. He might be more sympathetic for his stereotypical societal hardships, but it’s still a tremendously oversimplified vision for a bold new Mexican superhero. “I was supposed to get all of us out of here.”

Plus, this curiously commonplace establishment is immediately shattered by the O.M.A.C. – a RoboCop-like policing revolution – that places everything firmly in the realm of science-fiction (that, along with the magical scarab, of course). Furthering the nonsensical nature of the tech is the lack thereof in subsequent scenes; apparently, there are no cameras in the top-secret lab that houses Kord’s discovery of the century, while there are also no security guards monitoring the premises directly after that invaluable artifact is pinched (one that, despite being of alien origins, is understood so well that the antagonists know how to immobilize it, co-opt it, and even download its genetic code). It doesn’t take much at all to sneak into the Kord skyscraper repeatedly. But regardless of the lax safekeeping, Jaime’s reality is irreparably deteriorated by the verbal mentioning of Superman, the Flash, and Batman; in a world in which these superheroes’ exploits have already been witnessed countless times, no one should be incredulous of the existence and appearance of otherworldly curiosities. And yet, that’s exactly what happens: anything slightly uncanny is met with extreme disbelief. “That wasn’t made on Earth.” “No way!”

None of that matters, however, when the story is uninteresting to an astonishing degree. And “Blue Beetle” almost seems to go out of its way to be bland. Its plot is conspicuously derivative of practically every superhero tale that preceded it, from major DC productions like “Shazam!” to obscure entities like “The Guyver.” Escobedo is intermittently amusing, though her jaunty persona has been done before; her comic relief is perpetually overshadowed by Lopez, whose character steamrolls through scenes in increasingly implausible ways, always quick with humorless quips and just the right skills to pull off stunt driving, computer hacking, and even the orchestration of intricate ambushes. Sarandon is modestly fun to see as a villain, even if she’s never given a line worth speaking. And Raoul Max Trujillo’s henchman (Carapax, which sounds stupidly insect-like) is entirely one-note until his anticipated resolution. The leads, Maridueña and Marquezine, are so indistinctive that it’s difficult to say what went so wrong with their characterizations (it’s continually disappointing to see them make irresponsible, hasty decisions that routinely get people hurt); by the end, it seems as if all of the roles didn’t go wrong so much as they never started with enough originality to have the potential to become compelling in the first place.

“It’s some kind of world-destroying weapon.” The action sequences prove to be just as weak and ineffectual as the characters – fueled by unimpressive CG duels, humdrum fight choreography, and an unthinkable lack of tension. The creators of this picture, clearly excited to present the first big-budget Latin superhero (based on a comic book originally invented in the late ‘30s), forgot to bother with a story first. The finale boasts a couple of decent emotional moments, but surprises – and entertainment value – are nonexistent. In general the creativity is at an all-time low (which fits the weirdly uninspired tagline of “Jaime Reyes is a superhero whether he likes it or not,” a notion that sums up nearly every preternatural warrior before him). “Something’s happening!”

– The Massie Twins

  • 3/10


The DC Extended Universe


Man of Steel (2013)

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

Suicide Squad (2016)

Wonder Woman (2017)

Justice League (2017)

Aquaman (2018)

Shazam! (2019)

Birds of Prey (2020)

Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)

The Suicide Squad (2021)

Black Adam (2022)

Shazam! Fury of the Gods (2023)

The Flash (2023)

Blue Beetle (2023)

Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom (2023)