Friday, August 25, 2023

Blue Beetle: La Pellícula

 I saw Blue Beetle today, and enjoyed it.

Some of the beats were a bit worn for me. "!FAMILIA!" is nearly inevitable for a film with Jaime Reyes at the center, but has "FAMILY IS EVERYTHING!" beaten to death as a pop culture message in the last 15 years, or what?

Pictured: The Supreme Importance of Family

Even WITHOUT "The Fast & Furious" films. Really, you can't have followed any longer-form pop culture saga without this theme having been anviled on your head incessantly.  Gods help you if you don't Have Family, because It's The Only Thing That Matters, and so most popular narrative is designed to make you feel like you have NOTHING.

When you love your family so much,
you have to marry them.
BTW, only two of three people in this picture survive the ceremony.

It's convenient for long-form narrative, because it lets writers define their cast of characters As A Family and then justify anything around that.

And you don't abandon family,
even if they aren't perfect.

This is why it is so overused.  BUT it's a theme that actually DOES belong in Blue Beetle, where it is handled, well, not subtly, certainly, but solidly.  

As for the rest of the film, 

The CGI was good and believable, which is impressive given how difficult the Blue Beetle III concept is to visually represent.  The film also has the coolest set of stairs since The Exorcist.

Which are quite vertiginous, btw.

Jaime and the other characters were likable and (broadly) believable (except for the villains, who were neither).  

Having a likable and believable hero as your protagonist should not be taken for granted.

The characters are pleasant enough, if a bit stock-y: the Saintly Supportive Father, the Weepy Attentive Mother, the Perky Nana, the Sassy Sister. I missed Paco Testas and Brenda Del Vecchio, who I (and even CBR) think of as Jaime's real supporting cast.

They were sacrificed in favor of family, because family is all.

The plot was pretty tight (if vague: the Scarab doesn't seem to me like something Whose Code You Can Download, but many hands were waved in the making of this film) and proceeded at a good clip; I never felt the movie dragging at any point.  Except in the Afterlife, but you know how leisurely people in the Afterlife are.

Blue Beetle history fans have every reason to be pleased, given how accurately and respectfully Dan Garret (Blue Beetle I) and Ted Kord (Blue Beetle II) are incorporated into the plot.  

I mean: Ted Kord foe CARAPAX? Who expected THAT?!

Delightfully, even though Ted doesn't appear, his tech DOES and it is very satisfying, because it represents him perfectly. It's goofy, amazing, impressive, and not always reliable.  As one of the characters says, "He was like Batman, but with a sense of humor."  Ted Kord doesn't cast a shadow on the movie, he shines a light on it.  This is perhaps the film's most impressive feat.

Fans of broader Ted Kord lore should pay very close attention to where his daughter is from.  True fans will understand the significance of it.

It's pretty sweet.

The film even climaxes on Pago Island.  I didn't expect that amount of comics-accurate respect.

That one; in the DCU.
Not Pago Pago; that's in Samoa.

Mercifully, while the film includes much Blue Beetle history, it spares us any mention of The Reach or The Bleed, which have always been tedious with their Invader Zim bit. The Scarab is "alien combat tech", period.

There are plenty of familiar (and familial) aspects of Latin culture (even more specifically, Mexican) that those in the know will be tickled by (I was slain when the film embraced The Red Grasshopper).  It also does a good job of reminding us that the old people in your life have entire decades of living underlying them that you just know nothing about.  

At the cinema I saw the film at

The Alamo Drafthouse, which has really made Going To The Movies a special treat again.

a trailer interview with Blue Beetle's director (Angel Manuel Soto, famed chronicler of Menudo) ran before the film that was elucidating.  What struck me most was his understanding that shifting the setting from El Paso (where Jaime originally was in comics) to a fictionalized version of that city ("Palmera City") is a "promotion" for Blue Beetle, because tentpole heroes in the DCU have Their Own Cities and lesser ones generally do not.  It's one of the most clear reinforcements of one of my favorite concepts, the idea that The Fictionopolis matters and it's one of the DCU's advantages over the Marvelverse.

Palmera City was created FOR the film, but appeared in comics at least half a year earlier, because comic books not written by Frank Miller come out faster than movies do.

P.S. Because sometimes The Fat Funny Friend is FAMILY, the film has George Lopez in it. Prominently. But I still recommend that you see it, which is high praise, indeed.

Tragically, his character survives.  
Truly, a failed promise.


Robert said...

I read BB for a while...but obviously not current on the lore, as I don't understand the reference you hint at, re: where Ted Kord's daughter is from. "True fans will understand the significance of it."

Can you please elaborate/explain for me? :)

Scipio said...

In the film Ted's daughter is described as being Brasilian and since Ted is not Brasilian that means her mother, who is mentioned but not named or pictured, was Brasilian.

One of Ted's colleagues in Justice League International was Brasilian; the implication is that she was the mother.

Robert said...

Oh, Fire (I think!)? Of Fire and Ice? I remember them but didn't remember if there was some romance/pursuit there. Was Booster into Ice as well? I can kinda picture it in my head, maybe a false memory? :)

Thanks for the reminder!

Scipio said...

There was no in-comics romance between Ted and Beatriz, no.

Bryan-Mitchell said...

I saw it this afternoon and I thought it did a good job. I didn't like the voice of the suit when I saw the trailer and I still don't.
I'm torn on giving Jaime his own city. They handled it really nicely and gave it its own feel (and even included a Lexcorp building). Other than that, the changes they made from the comic were mostly good. I did miss Paco and Brenda. My head canon is that they were out of town that week.
I think the mention of the daughter of Ted Kord being Brazilian was mostly because that's where the actress is from.
I liked this less than I did The Flash but more than Shazam 2 (I will never not hate that name). It is a shame that they weren't more successful so they won't get any followup (although Blue Beetle is suppoed to be the first New DCU movie so who knows if he will show up again.

Anonymous said...

"It's convenient for long-form narrative, because it lets writers define their cast of characters As A Family and then justify anything around that."

Drives me nuts. I mean, even Jesus said he'd turn father against son, daughter against mother, etc. By that I'm at least 80% sure he didn't mean sowing needless conflict, but that following Christ's way means not putting family first when family is wrong.

Not that I'm advocating following Christ in particular, but you get the idea: at some point, you'll probably have to choose between "support the family" and "do what's right"; please do what's right. (And as for the people who claim to follow Christ, well, I wish more of them would actually try. They might be greatly improved if they tried practicing love.)

- HJF1

Scipio said...

" you'll probably have to choose between "support the family" and "do what's right"; please do what's right.
And what's RIGHT is ALWAYS: keeping the truth from them So They Don't Get Hurt. This is what television has taught me.

Honestly, I can only assume that these narratives are written BY and FOR people who:
don't really have families and imagine that this is what they are like, or:
DO have families that are not at all like this, and this is what they wish they were like.

Cisco said...

I think Ms. Kord is Brazilian just to wave away Marquezine's iffy accent work, or perhaps simply because, in 2023, characters are not allowed to be anything their actors are not as well. That said, she did better than I expected.

Here in Brazil, the theater was packed, lots of people cheered when her name came up in the credits, some when she appears for the first time and the moment she speaks a single line of Portuguese, plus some clapping at the end.

Also, Ted Kord should absolutely be lost in time, and a Skeets drone with artificial intelligence be the best selling toy of 2026.

Scipio said...

"in 2023, characters are not allowed to be anything their actors are not as well. "
Ain't THAT the truth. Americans are averse to actual ACTING; they want the movie stars to be as much like the characters they portray as possible 9which is, you know, the opposite of acting).

I assumed Marquezine was hired SO THAT Ted's wife could be Brasilian, not the other way around. Would they really plop in a Brasilian actress just to hook the BZ audiences?

Bryan-Mitchell said...

My head cannon is that Ted Kord has been trapped in the Nightshade dimension and they want to introduce the Charlton characters as their own team. Of course that is very unlikely but it is still fun to imagine.