When Disney’s Black Panther was released millions around the globe felt seen. At last, little kids had a superhero that looked, walked and talked just like them. Words will never begin to describe how amazing that moment in time was for an entire culture. With Warner Brothers’ cinematic release of this DC Comic superhero, it suffices to say that another cultural milestone and phenomenon is about to be born.
When an alien scarab is given to college graduate Jaime Reyes (Xolo Maridueña) for safekeeping, the object chooses him as its symbiotic host. As a result the teen is laden with a suit of armor capable of extraordinary and unpredictable powers, forever changing his destiny as he morphs into the superhero known as Blue Beetle. There’s much to unpack from the racist, dismissive attitudes toward Latino people, assumptions that poor people aren’t bright, to the blatant disrespect regarding name pronunciations, Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer gets it right while popping a little humor and heart in along the way. One of the funniest lines is when Batman is called a fascist, tells you everything you need to know about Alcocer’s in your face style.
Aside from Xolo in the title role, the star and literal heartbeat of this film is the Reyes family and how they rally around their loved ones no matter what. Between comic legend George Lopez as a Mexican Doc Brown, the scene stealing prowess of Ariana Barraza as the revolutionary Nana Reyes and the deliciously villainous Susan Sarandon audiences learn that a house is just a house full of stuff until it is filled with love and a family that loves unconditionally by any means necessary. Yet, illustrating how dangerous corporate entities can become when greed and personal vendettas permeate their consciousness.
Giving me a Latino Ironman vibe, Blue Beetle is not short on action, fight sequences and the typical superhero tropes that fans of this genre have come to know and love throughout generations. However, this film thrives best staying true and authentic to a culture that often times is portrayed as linear without heart or realism. Needless to say, it all begins at the top and director Angel Manuel Soto’s leadership is stamped throughout from the bilingual dialogue, musical choices to everything we love and experience from the Latino culture on a daily basis. Hell, I wanted to be adopted by the Reyes family by the end of the film!!!
Can we just have Susan Sarandon as a villain forever? Her comedic timing mixed with a stoic, menacing demeanor provides Victoria Kord with the perfect dash of vitriol to make this character interesting and loathsome simultaneously. Yet, Damián Alcazár’s portrayal as Jaime’s dad is heartbreaking and inspiring illustrating a parent whose love permeates to the core no matter what. Snaps and claps should be given to all below the line talent from production designer Jon Billington to the hundreds of artists creating the costumes, computer graphics and more taking audiences on this journey of another ordinary man made extraordinary by virtue of his heart, the heart of those he loves and who love him.
Looking forward to the next chapter and know that Blue Beetle will give you hope that the world can change if only through one person and one experience at a time.