For the moment, Blue Beetle is the most entertaining superhero flick for 2023. A winner that uplifts and doesn’t forget to have fun.
Blue Beetle (Film) Synopsis
Fresh graduate Jaime Reyes returns home to Palmera City and discovers everything has worsened. His family is impoverished. The futuristic city continues to be completely dominated by the militaristic Kord Industries. As Mexican immigrants, there seems no way for his family to escape poverty too. A chance meeting with Jenny Kord, though, provides Jaime with a bizarre chance at improving his life. While heading to Kord Industries in hopes of getting a job, Jaime encounters a frantic Jenny and is given a strange mechanic scarab. The scarab subsequently transforms Jaime, but not at all in the way hapless Jaime expects.
Superhero movies are a mixed bag nowadays. While they were once synonymous with astronomical box office takings and glamourous fandom, the magic appears to have completely fizzled out, hasn’t it? At least with certain circles of movie-goers.
For these viewers, in place of gleeful anticipation, the cool thing to do nowadays is to dismiss an upcoming show before the final trailer is even released. As spiteful as this is, it’s not entirely unjustified given the overall quality of Marvel and DC movies we’ve been getting over the last two years. While I wouldn’t say any is downright awful, few evoke the sort of cinematic euphoria we’ve come to associate with the genre. For the moment, it seems “tired” is indeed the word to describe what superhero movies have devolved to.
Blue Beetle is not free from this weariness; “predictable” and “formulaic” are not unfair words to describe its story. Despite that, this latest DC movie turns out to be a surprisingly indulgent and enjoyable watch because it never forgets to do one important thing. The movie does not forget to have fun. In fact, it embraces fun through and through.
I mean, we’re talking about a run-of-the-mill story about a kid who gained superhuman powers after discovering an alien artefact that looks like a bug. The spiritual predecessor of said new hero wears a bug suit, flies a bug ship, and uses bug-inspired weapons like bug fart. How do you present such a story other than to revel in the inherent silliness, and in doing so, slyly spread the joy?
Blue Beetle does exactly that. The movie gleefully spins from boisterous family comedy to explosive superpowered battles to over-the-top hysteria. The supporting cast relishes their characters and ensures you are aware of it every moment. Adriana Barraza’s Nana Reyes is especially a riot.
Lead Xolo Maridueña, all grown up from his angsy Cobra Kai days, shines too. Not so much his good-natured charisma but how he convinces you that his Jaime is bewildered, maybe even embarrassed, by all his flashy newfound powers. But this is also a reluctant hero who wouldn’t hesitate to use those powers if it helps his family. He wouldn’t forget to have a bit of fun while at it too. (Don’t get ahead of yourself! His scarab warns)
What’s most impressive about the show is furthermore how scathing social commentary suffuses the story without weighing down everything. Blue Beetle seizes every opportunity to highlight immigrant plight and corporate exploitation but never once do these critiques dominate. Instead, the story focuses on the uplifting power of hope, change, and family.
I feel this is a prudent storytelling approach. An effective one too because it got me interested in the tribulations of a community that I’m geographically far removed from. It’s also an approach that is opinionated but not preachy.
Naturally, it uplifts too, which is the other important thing that I feel all superhero movies should do. (That’s the reason why flicks like Eternals didn’t quite work) Other than ebullient joy, such stories must uplift—that’s what they were created for. As far as lifting your spirits is concerned, Blue Beetle does a helluva splendid job of it.
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