Sunday, November 26, 2023

Blue Beetle

Movie Name:
Blue Beetle
Year of Release: 2023
Director: Angel Manuel Soto
Starring: Xolo Mariduena, Bruna Marquezine, Damian Alcazar, Elpidia Carrillo, Adriana Barraza, George Lopez, Belissa Escobedo, Susan Sarandon, Harvey Guillen, Raoul Max Trujillo, Jorge Jimenez, Gabriella Ortiz, Modesto Lacen
Genre: Action, Adventure
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6
View Trailer

Synopsis and Review
Though Warner Bros. and its comic book arm specifically tied with DC comics is currently going through a complete overhaul, "Blue Beetle" is one of the projects that gestated before this rethinking of those properties began. The narrative of the feature focuses on Jaime Reyes, who is a recent college graduate and is returning to his hometown of Palmera City. His family shows up at the airport to pick him up and he soon realizes that they are dealing with serious financial challenges. His sister Milagro finds him a job doing menial tasks around Victoria Kord's mansion. Victoria is the CEO and co-founder of Kord Industries, a huge corporate entity, employing thousands of people and is currently at odds with her niece Jenny, who disputes the direction the company is taking. Following a heated argument between Victoria and Jenny, Jaime decides to intervene, which results in him getting fired. Jenny asks him to show up at the corporate headquarters, since she'll find him a different job. The following day an eager Jaime shows up at Kord Industries, while Jenny is becoming aware of what her aunt is doing with an alien artifact by the name of Scarab. Refusing to let that technology be used for armament, Jenny steals the alien device, and seeing little options in escaping with it, she gives it to Jaime, and asks him to leave, not to check what it is, since she'll pick it up at his place later on. However when Jaime gets home and upon much discussion with his family, they play around with the Scarab, until it latches itself on to Jaime and actually fuses with his body. The device has all sorts of technological enhancements and capabilities, which renders Jaime completely surprised. He seeks out Jenny for answers on the Scarab and how to get rid of it, only for Victoria to realize what has happened, and for her and her team to start chasing him and his family.
"Blue Beetle" is Angel Manuel Soto's sophomore directorial effort, following his well received feature debut "Charm City Kings", and a series of varied shorts he directed since 2011. And for the most part, it's a film that is watchable and fairly engaging, since while operating within the confinements of the super hero genre, it still manages to have its own identity and fingerprint. It is a genesis story for this super hero, but this time around the screenwriter Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer, focuses on the latest incarnation of a super hero character that was originally created in 1939. The most successful aspect of this film is the fact that it ties the experience of this central character and his coming around to being a super hero, to the fact that he experiences all these events while being closely guarded by his protective family. There are plenty of clichés that are thrown around (such as the passing of a loving family figure which distills in the hero the sense of responsibility and perseverance), and the characters themselves are thinly rendered, including the villainous opponents, but overall the film manages to have a sense of humor and benefits from the chemistry that exists between all the actors playing the family unit. There are limitations in terms of the arc the characters experience, and of course the clichés they all get to embody (the uncle who is a comic relief, the grandmother who is more than she seems, the snarky sister, the list goes on), but there's something particularly interesting about this particular film: the family may be a cliché, but they have a heart and there's a sense of bonding between them all. Also the fact that this is a Latino family, and therefore this is a story told from their point of view, also gives this hero a distinct and unique point of view. The cast for the most part manages to bring this story to life, particularly the combination of Adriana Barraza, George Lopez, Damian Alcazar and Elpidia Carrillo. And while the younger actors aren't particularly memorable, neither is Susan Sarandon't unfortunate presence as the villainous figure (she doesn't really bring anything particularly memorable to the role, why not try an unexpected presence such as Marcia Gay Harden or Olivia Colman). The production team is impeccable, including the impeccable score from Bobby Krlic, cinematography from Pawel Pogorzelski, costume design from Mayes C. Rubeo and production design from Jon Billington. It's an unpretentious and watchable action film.