Posted on August 17, 2023 at 11:17 amB +
|Lowest Recommended Age:||Middle School|
|MPAA Rating:||Rated PG-13 for sequences of action and violence, language, and some suggestive references|
|Profanity:||Some schoolyard language|
|Alcohol/ Drugs:||Some alcohol|
|Violence/ Scariness:||Extended comic-book-style action peril and violence, guns, knives, fire, explosions, torture, characters injured and killed, two very sad deaths of parents|
|Diversity Issues:||A theme of the movie|
|Date Released to Theaters:||August 18, 2023|
Yes, a cool, bulletproof super-suit that can fly you to space and manifest any weapon you can think of is great, but “Blue Beetle” makes it clear that the real super-powers here are a devoted family and a culture of resilience and make-do. Jaime Reyes, played by the very charismatic Xolo Maridueña (“Cobra Kai”) is the fourth version of this character, originally from Charleton Comics, later DC. And he is the first to be a character of color, in this version, from a financially struggling but devoted and optimistic Mexican-American family. They include his mother, Roicio (Elpidia Carrillo), his father Alberto (Damián Alcázar of “Narcos”), his sister Milagro (Belissa Escobedo), his grandmother Nana (Adriana Barraza), and his uncle Rudy (George Lopez).
That whole family is at the airport to meet Jaime when he returns home, the first member of his family to be a college graduate. He is very happy to see them, but dismayed to learn what they have been keeping from him. Alberto is recovering from a heart attack. And the family is about to lose their home because they cannot pay the rent. Jaime is determined to do whatever he can to take care of them. He is fired from his first job as a pool boy because he stood up for Jenny Kord (Bruna Marquezine) when she was being bullied by her aunt, the formidable Victoria Kord (Susan Sarandon), the head of the huge conglomerate, Kord Industries. Jenny was objecting to her aunt’s plan to create an army of cyborg super-soldiers. She did not want to be in the weapons business.
Jenny thanks Jaime and says she will find him a job at Kord Industries. His whole family drives him to the headquarters to cheer him on. But when Jaime sees Jenny, she is again in distress. She hands him a fast food box and tells him to help her hide it, and not to look inside. He brings it home, the box gets opened, and the blue scarab inside attaches itself to Jaime and then enters his body, turning him into a cyborg superhero. The super-suit is fully integrated into his system, but it also operates kind of like Tony Stark’s Iron Man contraption. It has its own consciousness. It talks to him.
So, off to some superhero stuff, including that classic, the villain’s secluded island with the secret lab. But along the way there are some funny and warm-hearted family moments that make this as much about them as it is about the gadgets and stunts. Unlike other comic book heroes like Batman, Superman, Shazam, the X-Men, and Spider-Man, Jaime’s background and motives are not rooted in tragedy, grief, and trauma. This gives the story a buoyancy and humor, even when there is a terrible loss. His uncle Rudy is goofy, but he also demonstrates the ingenuity and persistence that poor and marginalized people need to survive. “We’re invisible to ,” a character says. “It’s our superpower.” Jaime’s family is strong and loving, and have some unexpected skills. They respond to devastating loss by compartmentalizing, as we can see they have done before: do what needs to be done, then grieve, then start to rebuild.
Even by comic book standards, some of the violence is too much. Jaime begins by insisting he will not kill anyone. The shift to cheering when people — even a bad guy’s henchmen — are blown away is abrupt, even at one moment played for comedy. The film’s weakest link is its villain. Susan Sarandon does her best to show Victoria’s ability to switch from cooing manipulation to single-minded, dictatorial EVIL BAD GUY stuff “in a Cruella Kardashian kind of way,” like racist mis-naming a lab worker. Unfortunately, her dialogue (“harness the power of legions!!!” “Finally the power of the scarab will be ours!”) falls more into over-the-top but pronouncements that still manage to be dull.
But that makes the non-Victoria parts of the film even more engaging by contrast, and they more than make up for the thin characterization of the villain with the heartwarming portrayal of the family, initially comic but ultimately exemplars of courage and loyalty that give the film its heart.
Parents should know that this is a superhero movie with extended peril and violence including knives, guns, fire, and explosions. Characters are injured and killed and there are two very sad deaths of parents. Some characters begin the film as anti-weapon and anti-killing but switch into pro-weapon and at least not as anti-killing very quickly. Characters use some schoolyard language (s-word, a-word), there is non-sexual, non-explicit nudity, and there are references to private parts and how they operate.
Family discussion: How did Jaime’s family and culture affect his decisions? Which member of his family was your favorite and why?
If you like this, try: “The Flash” and the Christopher Reeves “Superman” movies and some of the other work from these actors including “Cobra Kai”