Saturday, September 30, 2023 8:20 am

Keith’s Movie Korner: Past failures/fatigue squish ‘Blue Beetle’ at the box office

By Keith Walther | Rose Law Group Reporter

A disappointing opening weekend of $25 million is yet another signal to Hollywood that audiences have grown wary of these cookie cutter superhero movies. “Blue Beetle” is the latest film from the DC universe, and while it is charmingly entertaining, it is not the blockbuster they needed to turn this franchise around after the dismal performance of “The Flash,” “Shazam! Fury of the Gods,” and “Black Adam.” The erosion of audience trust and the lack of star power destroyed any chance this film had of success even before it released.

As a recent college graduate, Jaime Reyes (Xolo Mariduena), immediately goes on the hunt for a decent paying job in Palmera City to help support his impoverished family, leading him to the Kords. The Kord family are the major power players in the city, controlling many of the big businesses, led by their matriarch Victoria Kord (Susan Sarandon). Jenny Kord (Bruna Marquezine) is the rebellious one of the family who doesn’t like the direction Victoria is taking the family business. When Jenny steals a powerful alien artifact in the shape of a scarab from under her aunt’s nose, things take a drastic and dangerous turn.

The blue scarab turns out to be a sentient being who chooses to pair its essence with Jaime upon contact with the young man, transforming him into the Blue Beetle, a protective suit with limitless power. Victoria, craving the immense power it could bring to assemble an unstoppable army, uses her vast resources to try capturing the superhero in the making, even if it means going after Jaime’s family to get what she wants. Between learning and understanding his newfound powers, protecting his family, and fighting a paramilitary force with their own enhanced suits, Jaime Reyes has his hands full with more at stake than just his own life.

There is very little in the way of originality to be found in “Blue Beetle.” This is the typical comic book type of storyline, much like “Shazam!,” where a young man finds himself the unwitting recipient of superpowers, clumsily figuring them out, only to gain clarity when his family is threatened. Despite the predictable nature of the movie, director Angel Manuel Soto finds a way to infuse entertainment in the obvious, telegraphed plot by incorporating a heartfelt, family first type of mentality. He turns it into a celebration of Mexican American culture, emphasizing a family dynamic that is supportive, resourceful, and comically invasive.

Angel also creates captivating action sequences packed with incredible visuals (exceedingly better than “The Flash”) that create exciting moments of satisfying thrills throughout the film. Accentuating these scenes is a soundtrack that vibes perfectly with the emotion. However, the 14th film of the DCEU curiously does nothing to further the DCEU, making it a standalone picture and leaving audiences wondering what the future direction even is.

The cast is one of the film’s biggest weaknesses. George Lopez provides one of the only standout performances, which says it all. He brings that comical, high energy to his role as Uncle Rudy that makes him a fan favorite. Belissa Escobedo is the other bright spot among the cast as the main character’s sister with genuine line delivery that doesn’t feel forced like it does with the others.

Xolo Mariduena was serviceable in the lead role but a far cry from being great. The star of “Cobra Kai” on Netflix has never shown capable acting abilities, but he tries, and his passion brings forth some real emotion in the more dramatic scenes. In moments of levity on the other hand, his line delivery is cringe worthy, trying too hard to hit his marks rather than letting himself feel the scene and reacting more naturally. 

Oscar winner Susan Sarandon is the biggest disappointment of the cast. Her performance in the antagonist role was terrible, offering nothing but a typical B-movie villain type of character. She was completely ineffectual, robotic, and unbelievable, offering nothing of substance to her character.

Is “Blue Beetle” entertaining? Certainly, its heart makes viewers invested in the story, connecting through familial appeal. Is it the kind of film that will save the DC universe from the pit of desperation they find themselves in? Nope, it may be fun, but it’s the same old predictable comic book storyline that’s been done too much already. It may be time to shelve all future projects DC. 

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August 2023