#NativeNerd review: Blue Beetle

The actors were funny and lovable, but the Blue Beetle’s real enemy in this movie was the stereotypical Hollywood trope

I really wanted to love Blue Beetle. I really did.

The movie had an impressive line-up of Indigenous actors and filmmakers that I am sure were at the ready to deliver a flood of Indigenous-oriented cultural story elements — but due to the insecurity of Hollywood, most of this possibility was all too likely snuffed out before it even began.

I felt robbed.

I left the film frustrated and empty, longing for what could have been. I do suspect, however, that George Lopez, who was the comedic star of the film, was able to deliver a lot more to the film because he has been up against the wall with Hollywood countless times, and thus dished out what he had in his dance card regardless of the forces that opposed him.

Blue Beetle Summary

Recent college grad Jaime Reyes returns home full of aspirations for his future, only to find that home is not quite as he left it. As he searches to find his purpose in the world, fate intervenes when Jaime unexpectedly finds himself in possession of an ancient relic of alien biotechnology: the Scarab. When the Scarab suddenly chooses Jaime to be its symbiotic host, he is bestowed with an incredible suit of armor capable of extraordinary and unpredictable powers, forever changing his destiny as he becomes the Super Hero Blue Beetle.

I grieve for what could have been. I in no way blame the actors, who delivered everything they had, and who bonded together even though the forces attempted to stop them. I felt as if the actors, who in the film battle against the mighty forces of the mega-corporation Kord Industries, were actually battling these similar forces within the film industry, who, instead of embracing storytellers within the Indigenous community, instead relied on those same sad, worn-out stereotypes of a superhero story: the hero at first hates his powers, has to find real meaning in his heart, and if the bad guy could only see the beauty of family and love, all will be right with the world.

My wife’s mother, Sharon (who saw the movie with me, and did like the family and other fun parts of the film), once told me something that rings true in so many instances. I’ll share it with you now.

At first, it saved my life, but now it’s killing me. 

I’ll explain. The world of television and film once survived and even thrived on telling the same hero tale it always told. You get powers, you struggle, you fight the bad guy, and in the end, the fight was always a personal battle against yourself.

I get it. These tropes worked for so long, they were the magical ticket to success. These stories were the formula for putting people in seats. 

But now, these same tropes which built Hollywood are now killing Hollywood. 

There were times in this film, where I literally said moments before they occurred as to what was going to happen. I didn’t know the exact words or the exact methodology, but I was able to predict at least 10 different moments in the film with an accuracy I didn’t want to have.

When the father said he had a heart problem, I knew it was a setup. When George Lopez, as Rudy Reyes, said he loved his truck, I knew it was a setup, insert several more moments.

And for all of this reason, though a statue of Columbus is toppled in the movie, it landed with a stereotypically hollow thud. I’m not complaining mind you, but it could have meant so much more.

My review 6.5/10

As a critic, I often think about the film I watch for a little while before writing my review. In the case of the Blue Beetle, I took it a step further and even created different scenarios in my mind, namely the grandmother Nana Reyes, portrayed by Adriana Barraza. I smiled quite a bit regarding Nana but was disappointed they invested in a false matriarchal power turning her into a Rambo-like comic relief. That’s fine, and her braid relief moment was truly fun, but I do wish it could have been more realistic. 

Perhaps Nana could have thrown a rock at the bad guy, (Carapax, excellently played by Raoul Max Trujillo) and after he yelled ouch, she would have run up, truly outmatched, but uncaring; and could have reamed him a new one, telling him to remember his roots. 

People underestimate the power of the matriarchs in the Indigenous community. I have seen the front lines of protests where Native elders march right up to the police or other persons of authority — completely fearless — and read them the riot act without even blinking. That fearlessness was missing, and instead was turned into a comic relief moment.

But I’m telling you, an angry matriarch in the Indigenous community truly terrifies me. Believe me, I never want to do anything other than be considered a “good boy” in my community. If a female elder ever told me to listen with a stern voice, believe me, I will freeze in my tracks and listen.

The actors delivered, but the storyline didn’t

Though the film struggles, I don’t blame the actors. I am just perplexed more culture wasn’t embraced in this film, though I saw elements of family, I ached to see more history or other thematic elements rich with Mexican or Puerto Rican ancestry. 

It was wonderful to see everyone in this film, but was sad to see the exact same story I have always seen. In no way do I blame the actors, I blame the insecurity of movie execs who stifle creativity and new ideas. 

More about Blue Beetle (Warner Bros. Pictures)

Director: Angel Manuel Soto

Writer: Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer, Based on characters from DC

Cast:  Xolo Maridueña, Adriana Barraza, Becky G, Damían Alcázar, Elpidia Carrillo, Bruna Marquezine, Raoul Max Trujillo, Belissa Escobedo, Harvey Guillén, with Susan Sarandon, and George Lopez