Of late, I’ve approached reviewing superhero movies more out of a sense of duty than anticipation. Like so many previous subgenres that once ruled the box office by repeatedly dipping into the same well, the formula has become predictable and rote. As much as I enjoy Quarter Pounders, I don’t want to have ‘em for dinner every night. Sometimes I like to change things up, if even a little, and order a Big Mac.
Similarly, Blue Beetle doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but does dial back a bit on the apocalyptic implications and CGI spectacle that have become standard in the genre, making it a nice change of pace. There are still FX-heavy showdowns, but with the possible exception of the flying, farting “Bug Ship”, these are the most boring scenes in the film. The rest is a charming and funny look at a close-knit Hispanic family struggling to make ends meet in a city where they’re increasingly marginalized.
The Reyes family’s greatest strength is their unconditional love for each other, even when facing off against Victoria Kord (Susan Sarandon), a greedy corporate CEO obsessed with weaponizing a sentient alien device (called the Scarab) to power an army of supersoldiers…not to take over the world, but to make billions by selling her technology to the military.
|"It's no Batcave, but I'm working on it."|
Naturally, Kord wants it back and is ready to kill those who stand in her way, including Jaime and the entire Reyes family. The narrative includes the usual clashes and visual spectacle, particularly when Jaime/Blue Beetle squares off against Kord’s cyber-enhanced henchman, Ignacio (Raoul Max Trujillo), as well as a standard-issue CG-heavy climax. But in an interesting take on a familiar formula, the entire Reyes family gets involved, saving Jaime as often as he saves them. This endearing family dynamic is ultimately what makes Blue Beetle engaging, funny and ultimately heart-warming. The Reyes’ matriarch, Nana (Adriana Barraza), is especially amusing once she reveals her considerable combat skills.
Refreshingly, there’s nothing more at stake…no global crisis, nobody vying for world domination, no citywide destruction. Behind all the flash & fireworks is just a loving, tight-knit family who have each other’s back when things take a turn for the worst. I think a lot of viewers will find that aspect of Blue Beetle pretty relatable.
BLUE BEETLE GENERATIONS - This is a four chapter documentary (roughly totaling 40 minutes) that covers various aspects of the production. Features cast & crew interviews, as well as behind-the-scenes footage.
FEATURETTES - Scarab Vision (a visual breakdown of two FX-driven sequences); Blue Beetle’s Nana Knows Best (a charming featurette about the movie’s most amusing character and the actor who plays her, Adriana Barraza).