Film and TV

Reviews For The Easily Distracted:
Blue Beetle

Title: Blue Beetle

Describe This Movie In One Young Guns Quote:
DIRTY STEVE: We're in the spirit world, asshole! They can't see us!
Brief Plot Synopsis: Jewelry of unknown origin

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: 3.5 Gad Hassans out of 5.
Tagline: "He's a superhero, whether he likes it or not."

Better Tagline: "Batman's a fascist."

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Jaime Reyes (Xolo Maridueña) is the first in his family to graduate college. But when he returns to Palmera City, the only job he lands is working at a resort with his sister Madrigal (Belissa Escobedo). The outlook improves — or so he thinks — when he meets Jenny Kord (Bruna Marquezine), niece of ruthless magnate Victoria Kord (Susan Sarandon), who's just discovered an artifact with the potential to create an army of super-soldiers...or one singular superhero.
"Critical" Analysis: If you're like just about any moviegoer these days, the idea of sitting through yet another comic book movie in the Year of Our Loki 2023 is enough to make you light a cigarette with Action Comics #1.

For every Across the Spider-Verse, there's a Quantumania. For every GOTG3, there's a Flash (or Fury of the Gods): another render-by-numbers effort with worn story arcs, punctuated by increasingly subpar CGI. Superhero fatigue has been written about plenty, and not just by me. After the mixed (to put it charitably) output of the post-Endgame MCU and the just plain depressing "SnyderVerse," why would we give another spandex-clad head case their hard-earned money?

The short answer is: because Blue Beetle is pretty damn good.

And the thing is, it's good *in spite* of being yet another of those formulaic origin stories I was just bitching about two paragraphs ago. For all his hollering, Maridueña-as-Reyes is a solid lead. Escobedo and George Lopez — yes, that George Lopez — steal most of their scenes as Jaime's sister and uncle Rudy, respectively. And there are some genuinely surprising character reveals, mostly thanks to Adriana Barraza (Amores perros, Babel) as Jaime's grandmother.

Director Ángel Manuel Soto (Charm City Kings) understands there's an outline he's required to follow, so instead of butting up against it, he works his own imprint in. Jaime's family is the real core of this movie, and not just as a construct requiring his coming to their rescue. There's a raid on the family home by Kord's private army that's easily the most emotionally devastating scene in any 21st century DC movie (you heard me, Martha), and would stand toe-to-toe with many of Marvel's as well.

And man, just wait for all the crybaby assholes posting furiously on Twitter X, saying, "Why did they have to speak so much Spanish?" Because that cross-cultural approach is one of Blue Beetle's greatest strengths: the inside jokes, the Latino references (Maria del Barrio, El Chapulin Colorado, and probably a dozen I didn't get), the distrust of the government (Rudy is appreciably paranoid, and Nana's no slouch), and yes; some jokes (what young folk don't josh about weed and boners?) that might seem a trifle out of place.
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Superhero or not, your family's still going to give you shit.
It's Soto's movie, but how much input new "DCU" co-CEO Jame Gunn is anybody's guess. Gunn has said Blue Beetle is "disconnected" from the previous regime, and expects Maridueña to play Blue Beetle again. If that's the case, he and Soto have delivered a movie as bright as the SnyderVerse was dark, and as funny as any comic movie since Thor: Ragnarok, while still maintaining an emotional thread most of these movies stumble over.

Watching the rather generic trailers for this, it's hard to understand why Warner Bros. didn't lean harder into the movie's Latino focus. The audience I saw the movie with laughed uproariously and applauded the ending harder than I've heard in the theater since "On your left." The oversight is understandable if the studio is planning on once again caving to those aforementioned crybabies, but ignoring the market Soto is clearly aiming for seems ... counterintuitive.

Is the villain's main henchman's name ("Carapax") dumb? For sure. Is his final form unfortunately reminiscent of The Black Hole's Maximillian? Yeah. But the energy and emotion are enough to elevate even the expected third act CGI crapfest.

And between this and Wakanda Forever, there seems to be a pretty good argument to be made that maybe Western colonialism was a bad thing.

Blue Beetle is now playing in theaters.