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Review: ‘Blue Beetle’ brings heart back to the forefront of DC movies

Xolo Maridueña stars in “Blue Beetle.” (Warner Bros. Pictures/TNS)

DC Comics movies as of late have garnered a reputation for being “dark” and “brooding.” As the company is going through a rebrand, it would do well to remember what makes “Blue Beetle” so good – namely, the heart at the center of the story. It is this heart that makes “Blue Beetle” stand out among a growing landscape of superhero movies, along with good humor and personal stakes.

“Blue Beetle,” released by Warner Bros. on Aug. 18, follows Jaime Reyes (played by Xolo Maridueña), a Mexican-American college graduate returning home in the outskirts of futuristic Palmera City.

Through a series of chance encounters, Reyes receives the MacGuffin (a trigger to the main plot) of the movie, a symbiotic exoskeleton that gives him remarkable powers.

Superhero stories are fantastical by nature. That’s why it’s so important for them to have an emotional center to ground the story. Much like its protagonist, what makes “Blue Beetle” special is its emphasis on family.

Losing a parent is one of the biggest tropes in the superhero genre. However, usually, it happens so early on in the film that the parent is scarcely defined as a character. Here, Reyes’ parents are active participants in the story, along with his sister, uncle and grandmother.

The Reyes family isn’t the only family in “Blue Beetle.” Jenny Kord’s tenuous relationship with her family serves as a contrast to Reyes’.

“Blue Beetle” has a lot of drama, but it also has a good amount of humor. Reyes’ conspiracy theorist uncle, Rudy Reyes (George Lopez), is absolutely hilarious. His mysterious grandmother, just known as Nana Reyes, also steals every scene she’s in, and his headstrong sister, Milagro Reyes, gets a few good one-liners in as well.

My favorite line was when Rudy saw the “Bad Boy” balloon that Milagro got for Reyes and said, “We already know he’s a boy.” I also liked when Reyes was trying to get a job and Milagro said, “He has a degree in pre-law. Need any pre-lawyers?”

Multiverse movies have taken the superhero genre by storm these past few years. “Blue Beetle” keeps the stakes refreshingly low by not having the entire universe be at stake, but rather just Reyes’ universe, his family.

The soundtrack is also great. Composer Bobby Krlic blends upbeat Latin music with Mötley Crüe and a cover of the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby.” And, let’s be real, it’s hard to dislike a movie with three different songs featuring the cowbell.

The visual effects were not bad, either. They were just as good as this year’s previous DC movie “The Flash,” which had twice the budget of “Blue Beetle.”

“Blue Beetle” is a story that is not all that groundbreaking. The hero fighting a mirror image of themselves with the same powers is also a common superhero trope, but the heart and Maridueña’s performance make up for this. The Cobra Kai star has so much charisma, it’s a wonder that he hasn’t been in a superhero movie until now.

Overall, “Blue Beetle” is one of my favorite superhero movies of this year, because of its heart, humor and grounded stakes. Future DC movies should follow in its footsteps.

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