Saturday, February 24, 2024
Culture

Blue Beetle… A Vibrant and Culturally Rich Entry Into the DCEU

Where to Watch: In theaters 

Release Date: August 18

Runtime: 1h 41m

Rated: PG-13

Director: Angel Manuel Soto

Starring: Xolo Maridueña, Adriana Barraza, Damián Alcázar, Elpidia Carrillo, Bruna Marquezine, Raoul Max Trujillo, Susan Sarandon, George Lopez, Belissa Escobedo, and Harvey Guillén. 

Synopsis: Recent college grad Jaime Reyes (played by Xolo Maridueña of Cobra Kai) returns home full of aspirations for his future, only to find that home is not quite as he left it. As he searches to discover his purpose in the world, fate intervenes when Jaime unexpectedly finds himself in possession of an ancient relic of alien biotechnology: the Scarab. When the Scarab suddenly chooses Jaime to be its symbiotic host, he is bestowed with an incredible suit of armor capable of extraordinary and unpredictable powers, forever changing his destiny as he becomes the superhero Blue Beetle.

Blue Beetle is one of the most eagerly anticipated DCEU films of 2023, and it’s safe to say this film was a genuinely good time. With a commendable performance by Xolo Maridueña as Jamie Reyes/Blue Beetle, this film delivers an engaging and culturally resonant journey that will keep viewers entertained. It’s filled with nods to comic book lore, pop culture, and the vibrant tapestry of Latino heritage; Blue Beetle emerges as a revitalizing gem within the superhero realm.

The Story

The narrative of Blue Beetle keeps the audience interested from its opening moments to its grand finale. Naturally, there are a couple of moments where the film lags a bit, but it’s not too distracting and lends to necessary character development. Each character, driven by personal aspirations and challenges, weaves a compelling thread throughout the story. Jamie Reyes’ transformation from a hopeful college graduate to a young adult confronting the disillusionment of the “American Dream” strikes a chord universally. The film demonstrates courage in addressing hurdles faced by the Latinx community in the United States, exploring themes of discrimination and isolation. While these instances may evoke strong emotions, they also offer a window into pertinent societal issues with which many can identify. The film also acknowledges other popular heroes within the DCEU (like Superman and Batman), so it will be interesting to see where James Gunn (Filmmaker and co-CEO of DC Studios) will take the franchise.

The Characters

Xolo Maridueña’s portrayal of Jamie Reyes stands as the movie’s emotional core, capturing the essence of the character’s evolution. If I had to describe Jamie/Blue Beetle, I’d say he is a blend of Iron Man, Spider-Man, and Venom. He emerges as a relatable figure for young individuals from diverse backgrounds navigating the journey from childhood to adulthood in a world where racism and prejudice persist, all in pursuit of a brighter future.

The Reyes family dynamic (rich in love, support, and humor) forms an empathetic backdrop against which the narrative unfolds. George Lopez’s Rudy adds a charismatic layer with his conspiracy theorist persona and technical prowess. Adriana Barraza’s Nana imparts warmth and wisdom, serving as a reassuring presence that guides Jamie through his tribulations. Belissa Escobedo as Jamie’s sister, Milagro, was spot on as a younger sibling with her humor and small jokes. I’m interested to see more of her in the film. Each character contributes a distinctive hue to the tapestry of the story, enriching it with depth and authenticity and finding their moments to shine through riveting action sequences.

The film was so family-focused that I expected Dominic Torretto from The Fast and Furious franchise to pop in and say, “There’s nothing stronger than family”.

Antagonists

Susan Sarandon’s portrayal of Victoria Kord is commendable, though her character’s motives could have been further developed to enhance her villainous arc. On the other hand, Raoul Max Trujillo’s Conrad Carapax/Indestructible Man captivates with his commanding presence and fully fleshed-out motivations in the climactic act. His tale is a captivating revelation that draws parallels to astonishing real-life stories unfolding worldwide. Plus, his arsenal and attack methods are brutal but cool to watch on screen, especially when he becomes a bigger threat to the lead character Jamie and his family. Hopefully, the film will get sequels, and we can eventually get to see Black Beetle, who is a badass and even more villainous than Carapax.

The Suit and Direction

The Blue Beetle suit is a triumph, seamlessly drawing inspiration from comics and animated adaptations. Notably, the sonic blasters wielded by Blue Beetle evoke nostalgic vibes for fans of the source material. The metamorphosis of Jamie into Blue Beetle, with the armor enveloping him as protection against threats, is visually captivating.

Directorial prowess is evident in Blue Beetle‘s visual splendor. The vibrant color palette, dominated by turquoise, blue, and purple tones, aligns the emotional tone of each scene. The interplay of light, especially during intimate conversations, magnifies the characters’ perspectives and feelings, enhancing the storytelling experience.

One scene that drew my interest was when Jamie engages in an intimate conversation with Jenny Kord about the concept of family. As the camera frames Jamie looking at Jenny from over his shoulder, a radiant light bathes her from behind, symbolizing the optimism and positivity that Jamie perceives from his standpoint. Conversely, when the perspective shifts to Jenny’s viewpoint with the camera trained on Jamie, a subtle glimmer of light reflects off him. This delicate play of light suggests the faint traces of positivity that she may detect or experience from her own vantage point.

Another particularly poignant moment arises in the film, potentially evoking strong emotions in viewers, as the Kord organization floods the Reyes family home, leaving destruction in its wake. This unsettling scene resonates eerily with real-life incidents where government enforcement raids have disrupted the lives of innocent individuals.

Another profoundly moving scene unfolds when Jamie finds solace atop his home’s roof, accompanied by his sister Milagro. The expansive shot captures the stark contrast between the humble, dimly lit, and worn-down neighborhood they call home and the towering, contemporary structures bustling with activity and vibrant lights. This visual juxtaposition poignantly illustrates the disparity between poverty and privilege. A subtle yet impactful detail is the careful attention to the setting, revealing Kord’s pervasive influence, even extending to owning the very home the Reyes family inhabits.

The Music

The film’s soundtrack, featuring tracks from Latino artists, harmoniously complements the story’s atmosphere. Personal favorites like Selena bring a delightful nostalgic touch, while the inclusion of Cypress Hill’s “I Ain’t Going Out Like That” heightens the impact of action sequences, particularly during Jamie and his family’s battle against sinister forces.

In Conclusion

Blue Beetle shines as a captivating and culturally significant addition to the DCEU. Staying faithful to the character’s heritage, the film probes both individual and societal trials with genuine authenticity. The storyline’s evolution sustains audience engagement, and the film’s resolution is gratifying. With Xolo Maridueña’s compelling lead performance, a relatable family dynamic, and visually arresting direction, Blue Beetle asserts itself as a promising cornerstone of the DCEU. A must-see for aficionados of the superhero genre and those seeking an immersive and pertinent cinematic voyage, Blue Beetle undoubtedly earns its well-deserved 8/10 rating. As the credits roll, one can’t help but anticipate more thrilling exploits from Blue Beetle and his spirited companions.

Dapper Dr Feel

Felipe Patterson aka Dapper Dr. Feel, #BlackLoveConvo & Entertainment | @fdapperdr Dapper Dr. Feel is a Entertainment journalist and member of the Critics Choice Association and African American Film Association.

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