Justice League Blue Beetle

Review by Rich Cline | 4/5

Blue Beetle
dir Angel Manuel Soto
scr Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer
prd Zev Foreman, John Rickard
with Xolo Mariduena, Susan Sarandon, Bruna Marquezine, Adriana Barraza, George Lopez, Belissa Escobedo, Damian Alcazar, Elpidia Carrillo, Raoul Max Trujillo, Harvey Guillen, Modesto Lacen, Becky G
release US/UK 18.Aug.23
23/US Warners 2h07

sarandon barraza lopez
See also:
Shazam Fury of the Gods (2023) The Flash (2023)

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For a comic book superhero blockbuster, this movie has an unusual sense of peril in its action scenes, largely because it takes the time to develop its characters and their connections with each other. This may be the usual effects-laden tale of a nice guy who unexpectedly finds himself with superhuman powers, but the Latin American setting makes it freshly engaging, especially in scenes involving a boisterous extended family.
Returning home Palmera City, essentially an amped-up Miami, Jaime (Mariduena) is the first member of the Reyes family to finish university. His parents (Alcazar and Carrillo), sister Mili (Escobedo), Nana (Barraza) and Uncle Rudy (Lopez) welcome him with a party. Looking for work, he gets a lead from Jenny (Marquezine), the niece of Kord CEO Victoria (Sarandon), who is using an alien blue scarab to create a one-man-army fighting suit. But the sentient scarab chooses to bond with Jaime, giving him surprising, powerful abilities. And now Victoria's augmented sidekick Carapax (Trujillo) is on the warpath.
Despite the straightforward plot, the script holds its focus on the people, creating a lively, complex family dynamic that is tested by a series of enormous challenges. By contrast, Jenny is clashing with Victoria about the family business developing military technology, and even Victoria's top scientist (Guillen) doubts her ruthless ambition. Meanwhile, Jaime's sister, uncle and grandmother show more than willing to dive into the action mayhem, which is as digitised as expected but only tips over into cartoonishness a couple of times.

Mariduena is a terrific young leading man, mixing Jaime's intelligence with an endearing haplessness. It takes a while for Jaime to find his footing, and Mariduena refreshingly resists making him cool from the start. He also has terrific chemistry with everyone around him, from sibling rivalry with the irreverent Escobedo to a spark of attraction with the intrepid Marquezine. Sarandon brings steely edge to Victoria, while Trujillo gets a surprising twist in his story. And both Lopez and Barraza steal scenes with pure charisma.

At its core, this is a strong reminder that having a house full of love always trumps having a house full of stuff. And the film also comes with a nicely understated message about living in the present and taking opportunities as they come without being paralysed by worries. It's also a lot of fun, with plenty of happy and even goofy sequences that simply let us see how these people care for each other. So we look forward to catching up with them.

cert 12 themes, language, violence 18.Aug.23

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© 2023 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall