Reviewed by Cliff Homewood
“My biggest fear is not an alien invasion but Homeland Security. That haunts me. Not being able to put food on the table, that’s a real villain” Angel Manuel Soto, Director.
Blue Beetle was originally meant to be a HBO Max film but Warner Bros liked the Director’s vision and decided to tax write-off a Batgirl movie and increase Blue Beetle’s budget for a cinema release.
Blue Beetle features the Mexican version of the character who debuted in 2006. It’s a handing down of the mantle. To not obliterate but add to what came before is the right way to update. Soto wanted to birth the character in a Latino family, as they are all in your junk, knowing everything about you. Which would be fresh for a Superhero movie, hence he transforms in front of them. Damaging the family home in the process reminded of Black Adam, which had a similar but funnier start.
The family makes the film work, when he is entrusted with something, you know his sister is not going to leave him alone. Although her meddling opens pandora’s box she is quick to blame someone else. The family’s lack of culpability makes them feel real. Uncle Rudy Reyes (George Lopez) is the eccentric inventor/computer whizz enabling our hero’s antics. His character’s passion is a highlight of the film. A bit far-fetched that he’s invented what’s needed, but hey, we’re used to it. The Director had the actors share their highs and lows before making the film, helping to bond them as a family.
The main story is a stereotypical affair, with Susan Sarandon playing the bad CEO archetype. We’ve seen it all before and know where it’s going with its bish bash bam finale. The film has an 80s/70s vibe with Gundam style suits & Guardians of the Galaxy style song choices. Rudy puts a song into the player showing us the artist and title before it plays as they go into battle, surely an advertising first? 80s style synth music is also used. Alan Moore based Watchmen’s Night Owl on Blue Beetle which is why his ship looks similar. The Simpson’s Bumblebee Man was inspired by El Chapulin Colorado, a Mexican Superhero we see animated clips of throughout the film and after the end credits.
Whilst there is some nicely developed backstory and reason to the finale it feels like a 2-dimensional film with a 3-dimensional family. Stylistic choices made me feel like this film was designed for 3D with great camera shots establishing a vibrant city or moving with or around the action, including the obligatory sword into camera. It was never given post-production 3D.
As the Mexican family and culture makes Blue Beetle let’s delve into it. First taking joy in the fact they got unsubtitled Spanish vulgarity past the censors.
The soap opera they are watching Maria la del Barrio (Maria from the Ghetto) is from 1995 and one of the most successful TV shows in the world having been shown in 180 countries. It’s a remake, the 1979 original was aired on a central TV channel in Russia during the 90s and was the second foreign TV series shown, it is said every Soviet watched it.
Latinos have grown up with the Mexican Blue Beetle. There was a backlash to this film as the comic’s set in El Paso, a real Mexican border-town in Texas. Soto visited the city then created his own stating, “The vision was to have Blue Beetle be on the same level as someone like a Superman or a Batman who have Gotham or Metropolis or cities that are the beating hearts of the themes of the comics, and to create a world for Jaime.” The comics had that with El Paso. Latinos said it made the character feel real and relatable and were pissed when it was abandoned for Palmera City. It doesn’t help that Palmera City is also based on Miami, Florida and Akira.
I appreciate the film opening us up to the Latino lifestyle. It made a seen it all before film enjoyable. If successful Blue Beetle will be incorporated into the new DC Universe which officially starts with Superman: Legacy.