dir: Ángel Manuel Soto
It wasn’t as terrible as I thought it would be.
That’s not saying much, admittedly. The new low bar that was created when they released that awful Flash movie earlier this year (unless it was all just a bad dream) means that some things just have to be passable, and have nice people delivering dialogue in an okay manner in order to be pretty good in comparison.
This flick doesn’t have Ezra Miller in it, not even a tiny cameo. Not even a picture of him. So that’s extra points right there. It has a charming and eager young chap in the lead role of Jaime Reyes / Blue Beetle, in the form of Xolo Maridueña. He has a lovely / embarrassing family surrounding him, and truth be told all the best bits of the film are or involve Jaime and his family.
That being said, even with all the elements of Latin / Mexican culture wedged into it, this kind of cultural cringe comedy is as generic as can be, whether it’s My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Fresh Off the Boat or whatever the hell they’re doing here. They say that you can’t be what you don’t see (representation), but I wonder how well they do with representing aspects of Latin culture in specific ways (but generic enough not to alienate the gringos), since I’m not from that culture.
Unfortunately, there’s also George Lopez. George fucking Lopez. If you don’t know who he is, and you haven’t endured his stand-up, or seen him in terrible things, you might think “who is this old man shouting at clouds all the time?” If you do know who he is, well, I feel your pain.
The plot is so generic. The villain, Victoria Kord, played by Susan Sarandon, is so generic and unmemorable that I feel like saying “that’s nice, dear” whenever I think of her on-screen moments. The villain’s henchman is also very generic, in that it’s a shouty chap called Carapax (Raoul Max Trujillo), but he at least looks terrifying regardless of what armour he’s wearing.
He’s a mean looking motherfucker, and so always plays mean looking motherfuckers. If he and Danny Trejo had a baby together, it would look like Tommy Lee Jones.
The special effects and action and such…well. I think the animations for the Blue Beetle outfit look pretty good. I think the way almost anything else looked was ugh, terrible. Embarrassing. I cannot accept or believe that 100 million dollars was spent on this, and it still looks terrible, just sub-standard cartoonish bullshit.
We are so accepting of this insanity – that so much money can be spent for nothing gained, with such rising inequality in the world, for something that would have looked crap even if it was released in the 90s.
Since all DC films are set in made up cities, this one is set in Palmera City, which adds to the long list of made up places that are still thinly veiled stand-ins for actual American cities. Gotham and Metropolis we know, but there’s National City, Star City, Jump City and Coast City. Palmera City, near as I can figure out, is Miami, and yet the central family is Mexican-American, rather than Cuban-American. But let’s not split hairs of ethnicity, there’s no value in that. We should just be grateful that someone other than a bland white guy called Chris something is playing another hero.
Jaime is not only a graduate from Gotham Law University, he is a young person from an undocumented background who needs to earn money to save his family and make sure Immigration never get involved. So, in other words, prime human resources for exploitation by uncaring employers. Of course the villain is not only a megalomaniacal capitalist hellbent on ruling something something, but the villain is probably racism as well. So of course people are casually and openly racist towards Jaime, his sister Milagro (Belissa Escobedo), and all members of his family.
It isn’t the naked, vicious racism of, say, having a referendum on acknowledging the existence and humanity of the First Nations people of a colonised country, to which a majority of the population in ignorance or hatred voted a resounding NO; it’s the casual racism of not bothering to remember people’s names or thinking of them as anything other than an undifferentiated mass.
Jaime accidentally gets attached to something called a scarab, which is really alien technology, which really is a precursor to some other alien species taking over the world (that’s a sequel we’re thankfully never going to see), and doesn’t really do anything other than fight his destiny until someone important dies (I am getting flashbacks to thousands and thousands of Uncle Ben’s dying, but unfortunately they don’t kill the uncle they should have fucking killed).
So as far as a hero’s journey, it’s not really much of one. Jaime doesn’t do things in the suit, the suit does the things. It has a sentience to it, a program or consciousness called Khaji-Da, which does all the stuff. Jaime is just along for the ride, and has to accept stuff, and come to terms with stuff, before he can be the Hispanic hero his community have apparently been waiting for.
It’s all fine. I mean, parts are terrible, but overall I actually felt a feeling of goodwill towards this comically and ethnically diverse family. There are jokes here so dated that they feel like they were lifted from old episodes of The Simpsons (except that in that context, they were being satirical of generic action movies), but here it’s a major laugh that the grandmother character who is only referred to as Nana (Adriana Barazza), only speaks in Spanish, and somehow was a Cuban revolutionary back in the day, gets a major laugh in a scene with a gigantic machine gun.
I feel like there should have been a scene where she gets onto a motorbike and says “I’m hauling ass to Mexico” before riding into the sunset. Missed opportunities all around.
There is an obligatory love interest, in the form of the villain’s niece, Jenny (Bruna Marquezine), and she’s fine in her (thankless) role. Of course I know that the hero is Jaime Reyes, but there is zero reason why she gives the scarab to Jaime. She is after all the daughter of the much referred to but never seen original Blue Beetle, being Ted Kord, so… Well I guess since DC isn’t getting anywhere with any of its properties / movies, there was no way they were going to take a quadruple risk (on something that didn’t pay off anyway), by making a 100 mill film with a little known character with an unknown lead who’s also Hispanic and a *girl* as well.
No, perish the thought. I wouldn’t say what she and Jaime have is chemistry, because they look like two people who bumped into each other on a bus and don’t know what to say to each other. But at least they made her character Brazilian, so that someone could point out that people from Brazil don’t necessarily speak in Spanish, since their language is Portuguese. It’s funny when it’s Jaime’s family making that mistake, as opposed to a woman in front of a counter yelling at someone making minimum wage about wanting to speak to their manager.
I enjoyed it, I laughed, I cried, I was happy when Susan Sarandon got her comeuppance, I rolled my eyes so much I think I strained something, and I can virtually guarantee they will never, ever make a sequel. These are mostly good things.
Again, I never said it was a good movie. Just that it was okay, and at least it’s not at all like the faux-serious bullshit Zack Snyder was serving up when DC movies were still something people cared about. Now it’s like watching the collapse of Twitter. You marvel at all the bad decisions made by people who think they’re visionaries and geniuses.
And it’s nowhere near as terrible as The Flash
6 times I would love a Snyder cut of this movie that replaces George Lopez with Werner Herzog out of 10
“It’s like Batman’s stuff.”
- “Batman is a fascist” – Amen, hermano - Blue Beetle