Representation Matters in Fun, Family-Centered ‘Blue Beetle’ (Review)

by | Aug 18, 2023


The first Latino-led live-action superhero film charms thanks to its cast and focus on culture that help shape the insect-named hero. 

In an era filled with superhero films that come out so often, it’s long overdue that we are finally getting one that’s Latino-led. Once the opening scene ends and right up until the credits roll, there is a noticeable level of care from director Angel Manuel Soto that can be seen throughout Blue Beetle that is trying to plant a flag for its cultural significance. The film’s most obvious glare is that it has an origin story that we’ve seen in almost every other superhero film getting their first solo outing.  However, what might look familiar from a story perspective is made up for in its focus on the family dynamic tied to its superhero that feels fresh, insightful, and often funny. Add in the great cast for the family, and Blue Beetle flies higher than one would expect.

Fresh out of college, Jaime Reyes (Xolo Mariduena) returns home to the fictional city of Palmera City to find that his family is struggling financially. His parents are about to lose their home, and the family business is now gone. Looking for a job in order to help them keep the home, Jaime gets acquainted with Jenny Kord (Bruna Marquezine), who asks him to come by her workplace at Kord Industries for a job after he helped step in when her aunt and CEO of Kord Industries (Susan Sarandon) was being threatening. Jaime takes Jenny up on the offer but gets caught up in a heist where Jenny steals the Blue Beetle scarab, an alien object that creates a host connection with a human and provides a powerful exoskeleton suit with unimaginable powers. When the scarab chooses Jaime as its host, Jaime’s world is turned upside down.

Despite exploring the same tropes all origin stories go through, writer Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer keeps Blue Beetle more grounded than you might expect. With low stakes and having no connectivity to a cinematic universe (for now), the film can breathe on its own and focus on its message, which helps shape its central character and the cultural heritage tied to them. While there are plenty of action sequences in Blue Beetle, and most of them are solid other than some in the film’s final act (which are also attributed to most superhero films these days), it’s the film’s smaller moments where the action stops that the film and its characters truly shine – especially in scenes where Jaime talks with family members, separately.

Notable from the hit Netflix series Cobra Kai, Xolo Mariduena takes center stage in the film as the DC Comics character Blue Beetle himself. Perfectly suited for the role of Jaime, Mariduena charms as one of the most likeable new protagonists we’ve seen introduced in a superhero film in recent memory. In an era where Hollywood is relying heavily on old movie stars to help draw crowds to theaters, Mariduena, who is only 22-years-old, is a shining example of an actor that Hollywood should be making into a movie star to lead the next generation of moviegoing. It’s obvious between his appearance here and his role in Cobra Kai that Mariduena has the talent to reach superstardom, and we are now in an era where the torch should be  passed to some of these young, gifted actors. Along with Mariduena, the entire cast playing the Jaime’s family is terrific. From Adriana Barraza as the grandmother, Damian Alcazar and Elpida Carrillo as the parents, Belissa Escobedo as the younger sister, and George Lopez as the tech-crazy uncle, the entire family helps keep the film entertaining and full of funny moments. Susan Sarandon and Raoul Max Trujillo play the antagonists and, unfortunately, are surface-level like most other origin story villains we’ve seen in years past.

It’s unfortunate that because the studios have yet to approach the actors (and writers) with a fair deal to end the on-going strike that has created a work stoppage for weeks, none of the actors for Blue Beetle can promote this groundbreaking film. For a film originally destined to be streaming only to have to switch to getting a theatrical release, Blue Beetle is a youthful, often enjoyable film that adds new juice to the ever-growing superhero origin film catalogue. Sure, it’s by no means perfect. But the family supporting its main character will latch onto audiences like the scarab does to its host.


RATING: ★★1/2

(out of five stars)