ADC Comics superhero, who has scurried his way through various forms over the years, Blue Beetle now gets his moment in the movie spotlight. The film brings us DC’s most recent iteration, Jaime Reyes, a Mexican teenager living in the fictional Palmera City. Played by Cobra Kai star Xolo Maridueña, Reyes is just back from college – the first member of his family to attend – when he discovers trouble is brewing. His father Alberto (Damián Alcázar) has serious heart problems and on top of that, they’re close to losing their home.
When Jaime joins his sister Milagro (Belissa Escobedo) working a poorly paid summer job, they soon cross ruthless tycoon Victoria Kord (Susan Sarandon) and her niece Jenny (Bruna Marquezine) – an encounter that sees them both fired. Jenny promises to help Jaime get work at Kord Industries, but when he arrives the next day she thrusts a burger box in his hand, asking him to guard it with his life and not look inside. His family – including his mother (Elpidia Carrillo), Nana (Adriana Barraza) and Uncle Rudy (George Lopez) – immediately open it.
Inside is a beetle-shaped Scarab, which comes alive, disappearing where the sun don’t shine and entering Jaime’s body. This transformation scene – one of the best you’ll see – sees blue armour grow around him, as he starts to synch with this high-tech weapon. Within seconds, he bursts through the roof, flies through the streets and – in one spectacular moment – cuts a bus in two. Soon enough, Jenny takes him and Rudy to her family estate. Her late inventor father Ted Kord, responsible for the Scarab, was an earlier incarnation of Blue Beetle. Like Superman or The Flash, says Rudy, “but not as good”.
Susan Sarandon stars as an evil tech tycoon in ‘Blue Beetle’. CREDIT: Warner Bros.
Meanwhile, Victoria is developing a private policing system called the OMAC, or One Man Army Corps. Her guinea pig is a scarred soldier named Lt. Carapax (Raoul Max Trujillo), but she needs the Scarab to make it work. Well, you can see where all this is going, as Carapax and Jaime are soon on a collision course. Problem is, the Scarab has fused itself into Jaime; if it’s removed, he’ll die. Thankfully, not only Jenny and Rudy lend a hand, but soon the whole family are on the move – including Nana who, it turns out, has quite a revolutionary past.
Directed by Puerto Rican-born Ángel Manuel Soto, at its best Blue Beetle is a rambunctious family comedy that makes the most of its Latino roots. It’s got some twisted moments (a bug-like vehicle that farts out clouds of gas at assailants), Mötley Crüe cranking up the soundtrack and a political undercurrent, as the script nods to American imperialists marching into Latin countries.
It’s shame that Sarandon’s character (dubbed “sexy in a Cruella/Kardashian kind of way”) isn’t more menacing, or the dialogue/narrative more free of cliché. As summer blockbusters go, it’s only ever really mildly diverting. But bringing us a first Latino superhero in a DC movie, ably played by the charming Maridueña, is still to be applauded.
- Director: Angel Manuel Soto
- Starring: Xolo Maridueña, Bruna Marquezine, Susan Sarandon
- Release date: August 18 (in cinemas)
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