I usually like to jump back and forth in movie time according to my mood and without any particular logic, still, today, I want to talk about one of the most mistreated movies of 2023, the new DC superhero Blue Beetle.
Okay, we are definitely not talking about the most revolutionary plot on the subject, yet I was very surprised by the harsh criticism towards a movie that I found instead quite enjoyable and with some distinct gripping points.
It begins in the most predictable of ways, with young recent graduate Jaime Reyes gaining great power and responsibility when, without even knowing it, he steals an essential piece of technology from the evil Victoria Kord, the undisputed boss at the helm of Kord Industries.
Indeed, Victoria’s granddaughter, Jenny Kord, takes a precious alien artifact essential to the weapons division, the Scarab, a kind of artificial beetle capable of interfacing with the brain and modifying human bodies into a weapon of mass destruction.
Later, surrounded by guards, Jenny entrusts the artifact to the unwitting Jaime, who brings it to his home in an ordinary hamburger box.
However, his family cannot stand curiosity and opens the box, freeing the Scarab, which physically grafts Jaime’s body, turning him into a sort of Iron Man in a blue beetle suit.
Of course, the ruthless Victoria immediately retaliates to the theft, trying to kill Jenny and then chasing Jaime to his home, where the new superhero fights back using his new bizarre alien technologies, also discovering that a conscious entity named Khaji-Da lives in the Scarab.
Yet in the raid by the armed group, Jaime’s father dies, and he ends up a prisoner of Victoria, while his family and Jenny must free him before Kord Industries can build a new, unstoppable army.
Over-the-top irony for ordinary characters
In the crowd of superhero movies that come out every year, what particularly interested me about Blue Beetle compared to other representations of the genre in 2023?
First of all, the choice of director, Angel Manuel Soto, whom I remembered for his touching debut with “La Granja” and never thought I would see at the helm of a DC movie.
Soto lets go of trying to be realistic but instead wisely chooses over-the-top irony, which increases exponentially with the progression of the story’s pace.
This is the most outstanding merit: never taking anything too seriously, without meaning to be silly, but rather managing to make the secondary characters more interesting than the heroic protagonist.
The small Mexican family unit is a lot of fun, certainly not lacking in the usual clichés and without the social criticism being so heavy-handed, but providing an excellent context to the fantasy/action evolution of all the story moments.
Although I enjoyed the numerous fight scenes, I always have the usual problem with accepting the overdose of special effects that often need to be more balanced in the superhero genre.
Indeed, using too much CGI detracts from the very muscular physicality that should be the benchmark if one wants to show this kind of power beyond the human.
As for criticism, I can understand the fans of the comic book, who have seen the character so radically transformed from a police recruit to a young, unemployed, college-educated guy of Mexican descent.
But in this case, the change was healthy, finally proposing another point of view with a guy who, for much of the story, really refuses to fight despite the super cool, invincible armor he randomly gets by luck/unluck.
A multifaceted family of madness
Despite his young and cheerful face, certainly appealing to the girls in the audience, of all the characters in the movie, Xolo Maridueña is precisely the one that convinced me the least.
Although they are less central to the story, all the other members of his family are more multifaceted and fascinating.
We can start with crazy Uncle Rudy, excellently played by George Lopez: a brilliant misfit inventor who seems to have no direction in life, always unkempt and doing nothing.
But in his time of need, his heroic side comes out, as with the crazy (and my favorite) grandmother Nana with the mysterious revolutionary past, which he doesn’t talk about but prefers to show with facts.
Her sister Milagro (the likable Belissa Escobedo) is also not bad in her aloof and ironic way, pairing up with destructive gadgets with the wealthy Jenny Kord (the sexier, but perhaps corny, Bruna Marquezine) during the final fortress assault to save her brother.
Of course, this being a superhero film, we must consider the villain side, and without a doubt, we position the brilliant Susan Sarandon, CEO, with illusions of power, who possibly needed a few more minutes and conversation on the scene.
However, the actress, as always, performs fantastic even when she has to portray such a massive and obnoxious bitch, but I believe that Raoul Max Trujillo as the soldier Ignacio Carapax makes the most difference in the evil team, a super-warrior who appears trite and stereotypical until we learn about his past in a short but exciting flashback.