Director Angel Manuel Soto (Charm City Kings) takes a script by Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer (Miss Bala) and brings audiences Blue Beetle, an often-overlooked character from the DC comics universe. Despite the hero being a third-stringer at best, the film is first-string entertainment, which lets the world know that even a little guy can be a superman.
Jaime Reyes (Xolo Maridueña) has recently graduated from college but comes home to discover his family has lost their business and is about to lose their home. When a last-ditch effort to get a job sends him on a collision course with the Kord family that is taking over the area, these issues become the least of his worries. Jenny Kord (Bruna Marquezine) puts a box containing an alien scarab in his hand, instructing him not to touch the artifact. But when he does, it joins with him in a symbiotic relationship, giving him incredible powers. He’ll need them because Jenny’s Aunt Victoria (Susan Sarandon) is determined to get the scarab back, and she doesn’t mind going through Jaime’s family to do it.
Dunnet-Alcocer presents a script that is often by the book and sometimes a little grating with forced humor but with solid entertainment value. Moving the location to a near-poverty neighborhood is a welcome change from an average guy knocking over a beaker at his menial lab job, but the story of an accidental superhero with stolen tech remains the same. Still, Maridueña and the rest of the cast manage to make this very entertaining, if not predictable. Two elements make this script better. First, this is neither a top-notch, out-of-the-gate superhero nor a bumbler with no heart for the job. Second, while this is a story of family ties, Jaime’s relatives aren’t just faceless victims. Each has their own sometimes exaggerated personality that adds value to the story. Soto does a great job of pulling these personalities out of the actors, and while all of them do a fine job, Belissa Escobedo is especially entertaining and realistic as Jaime’s sister, Milagro.
The sets show the stark difference between the island where Jaime lives and the mainland where Jenny dwells. One is depressing, but with its own color and pleasantness because the people that live there take care of their properties, and the other is tall, bright, and gaudy; both are rendered well, showing how vastly unrelated the two places are. The special effects are standard for comic book films, though some fight scenes are difficult to follow. To its credit, the film doesn’t rely on much gore, so audiences of all ages can enjoy the movie, though the violence might be too much for some very young filmgoers.
Blue Beetle is a fun motion picture that elevates a minor character, and a Latino one at that, to a significant role. As with most superhero films, the story leaves an opening for a sequel, which this movie deserves. It is dramatic, comedic, entertaining, and doesn’t have a bug up its butt about being popcorn fare.