y now there really isn’t a superhero that hasn’t appeared on film in some form or fashion. Between Marvel and DC Comics the genre has been heavily mined over the years. Yet, as any comic book fan knows – there are always far reaches of the galaxy that hide vast treasures.
Enter Blue Beetle. Why is it a treasure? More importantly why does this superhero matter? In a world where many superheroes remain square jawed white males Blue Beetle is the first live action superhero movie with a Latino protagonist. Not only that, but the film is directed, written by and starring Latinos.
The Man Under the Mask
In this case it’s not the tights or flights that are noteworthy. It’s the person beneath the mask. A young man by the name of Jaime Reyes. A recent college grad, just looking to help his family make ends meet. Things seemingly go from bad to worse when Jaime encounters an ancient scarab that bestows him with super-powers turning his world upside down.
Xolo Maridueña, the breakout star of the Netflix series Cobra Kai plays Jaime Reyes. Although it’s too early to tell if he’ll follow in the footsteps of Chadwick Boseman with his portrayal, it is promising and remains a milestone for the Latinx community. Especially after seeing its hopes of a Latina superhero dashed when Leslie Grace Batgirl was cancelled.
The Cast & Crew
Perhaps of even greater importance is that our hero is not alone – at least as far as representation is concerned. One of the overarching themes of Blue Beetle is family. Jaime is not in this, nor can he do it, by himself. Enter the Reyes family. A brood that is authentically represented and not relegated to background status.
Hollywood veteran George Lopez plays Jaime’s Uncle Rudy, Adrianna Baraza is Nana Reyes, Damian Alcazar serves as the patriarch Alberto, Elpidia Carillo as the matriarch Rocio, Belissa Escobedo is the scene stealing sister Milagro and Bruna Marquezine as love interest Jenny Kord. Heck, even reggaeton star Becky G appears as Kaji-Da (just think of her as Blue Beetle’s Jarvis). Lest you think they are mere supporting players, think again. Without spoiling things, the Reyes family is very much a collab affair.
However, the Latinx talent is not limited to the cast. Puerto Rican director Angel Manuel Soto is behind the camera calling the shots and the film was written by Garreth Dunnet-Alcocer. The script and direction clearly demonstrate that the people behind the camera “get it”. Not just the superhero world, but Latino culture.
Every hero needs a worthy adversary. Blue Beetle has more than a few and they’re not on screen. The film finds itself being released during a period of transition for its studio. The Warner Bros.-Discovery corporate merger left many a project on the cutting room floor. Blue Beetle survived, but also finds itself in a period where the fictional universe it lives in is also in transition.
The DCU is headed in a new direction, reboot, reload…you get the picture. This has left many recent releases from the Snyderverse guard in tough spot. The Shazam sequel was dead on arrival. Despite positive buzz The Flash sputtered out of the gate only to crash hard. Although current DCU head James Gunn is assuring fans that Blue Beetle is part of his vision. The question remains, do the fans believe him? If that weren’t enough the current Writers Guild and Actors Guild strikes have put a halt to promotion. So, the cast can’t even go out a stump for the film ahead of its release.
Despite the challenges, word of mouth has been positive. Many describe the movie as the fun summer film audiences have been waiting for. Other accolades have noted “It’s perfectly cast”, “a great time at the movies” and “a love letter to Latino culture”.
Critics thus far agree. The film is currently scoring a 79% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, stating “Led by Xolo Maridueña’s magnetic performance in the title role, Blue Beetle is a refreshingly family-focused superhero movie with plenty of humor and heart.”
If your still pondering – why does Blue Beetle matter? Without giving away too many details. There is a scene where Jaime is still a reluctant hero viewing his new abilities as curse rather than a gift. His Tio Rudy shares with him the story of how the Reyes family crossed the border. That he says, “was the easy part”, twenty years in we are still fighting tooth and nail for a place at the table. So he tells Jaime, maybe now is the time that “we” had our own hero.
With Blue Beetle, we finally do…and that’s why it matters.