The latest film in the DC cinematic universe, Blue Beetle, is an outlier in many ways, least of which is that it has no connective tissue to the other movies in the ultra-convoluted DC catalog. It also stands alone in that it is better and more fun that most of its previous film brethren – and that’s good.
The goofy-named character of Blue Beetle has been around almost as long as Superman, originally created in the late ’30s by Charlton Comics. The hero has gone through a couple of remakes over the years, with the most recent iteration being the focus of the new film (although the story does touch on the Blue Beetle predecessors.)
Directed by Angel Manuel Soto with a story by Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer and with an almost entirely Hispanic cast, this movie has similar ethnic and family feels to the recent Disney+ Ms. Marvel series in that la familia plays a huge part in this hero’s journey.
While trying to escape her late father’s industrial complex, with a box containing a mysterious ancient scarab beetle in hand, Jenny Kord (Bruna Marquezine) passes the artifact to a bystander, recent college graduate Jaime Reyes (Xolo Maridueña), who takes the item home.
Jaime (hay-meh) was warned not to open the box, but his family encourages him to take a look anyway. To their horror the beetle comes to life and grafts itself to Jaime’s back, envelops him in a beetle-like exoskeleton, and then shoots off towards the stars with the young man inside.
The story soon turns into a beetle battle between Jaime, Jenny and Jaime’s family and Jenny’s Aunt (Susan Sarandon) and her Kord corporate minions, including a cyborg named Carapax (Raoul Max Trujillo).
It turns out Jenny’s Aunt wants to tap the beetle scarab’s power to fuel her OMAC robots, starting with Carapax as a Guinea Pig. (Note: the OMAC (One Man Army Corp) robots have nothing to do with the original OMAC comic character created by Jack Kirby in the mid-seventies.)
As if it were an old-school wedding, this film has some things old, some things new, some things borrowed and, well, you know the blue part. If you are a comics fan or comic-book movie fan, you’ve seen pieces of all this before. The originality here is in the way the family comes to the hero’s aid (and even that seems somewhat borrowed from the recent Shazam! movies.)
Of particular note is Jaime’s Uncle Rudy (George Lopez), a Hispanic hippie who doesn’t trust any of the Kord corporate bullsh!t. And Jaime’s Nana Reyes (Adriana Barraza) is a special delight (but I’m not going to ruin the surprise.) These characters help to raise this film a notch above the run-of-the-mill superhero story it would otherwise be.