Blue Beetle (Rated PG-13)
By: Adam Freed
The answer has been right there the entire time. It certainly isn’t a secret, nor has it ever posed as one. Many of life’s greatest mysteries induce globe spanning quests for truth or introspective voyages into the mind, desperate to reveal long hidden revelations unlocking the human desire for understanding. For a decade spanning 14 film production marathon, DC studios has seldom been able to find critical traction or audience approval. How can this be? With control of some of history’s greatest superheroes, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, how is it that DC has been perennially perplexed by the rogue ingredient requisite to unlocking meaningful and memorable entertainment? Enter director Angel Manuel Soto, who with the help of Warner Bros. Studios and writer Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer present the answer, wrapped in a package that is Blue Beetle. With a steady hand unveiling Blue Beetle’s perfectly paced story, Soto discloses the power of DC’s long sought missing ingredient. Family.
Angel Manuel Soto, a Puerto Rican immigrant, wields his personal journey to the benefit of his project as he breathes a believability and authenticity into Blue Beetle, the post immigration story of La Familia Reyes de Mexico. At its apex, Blue Beetle walks the tight wire between family comedy and sentimentality admirably. The film introduces Jaime Reyes, a 22 year old college graduate doing everything he can to help his family avoid home foreclosure in fictional Palmera City. Through an often race based underemployment cycle Jaime and his sister Milagro demonstrate a warm sibling bond forged in hardship. Actor Xolo Maridueña (Cobra Kai) with his lovable and laudable performance as Jaime, stations himself to become the face of DC’s future. Maridueña’s performance echoes the warmth of Tom Holland’s youthful Peter Parker while carrying the social gravity of the late Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa.
Soto wisely allows Blue Beetle to take its time in presenting character and family dynamics. No family entity is more explosive than Tio Rudy Reyes, played with scene swallowing comedy by George Lopez. Most audiences will leave Blue Beetle reminded that the international crossover fame George Lopez has enjoyed is due to the immensity of his talent. Lopez saves the film on multiple occasions from tonal confusion, as behind his humorous delivery lies a man tormented by his tumultuous past. Multiple characters are delicately layered, morphing what could have been a throw away comic book offshoot into a seminal moment in cinematic representation. The degree with which Angel Manuel Soto keeps the rote superhero silliness to a forgivable level is due to his habitual reliance on the power of the Reyes family. In a film defining, tear jerking moment, family matriarch Nana Reyes cuts keenly through the orbiting absurdity to demonstrate a gravitational strength forged on a death defying passage of the Rio Grande with her family. Abuela Reyes demands of her family, and of audiences, acknowledgement of the oft forgotten strength that the eldest members of society possess. A trait magnified in those who have bravely overcome unspeakable dangers to reach American soil with nothing but their beloved children in tow. Finally, in its 15th iteration, the DC Entertainment Universe has come to realize that no alien antagonist or computer generated image will ever be meaningful without being rooted to a reality in which audiences can live. Let DC never forget the long and arduous journey that led them to family.
Target Score: 6/10 Superhero films are ready for the makeover that Blue Beetle offers. A film that balances deeply felt familial warmth with raucous humor.