'Blue Beetle' Review
August 18, 2023
Blue Beetle is the best DCEU film in years. But that’s not much of a statement, as it would take a monumental amount of skill to make something lesser than Black Adam, Shazam: Fury of the Gods, or The Flash. It's like a student got three straight F's on their exams and then got a C-, or Shaquille O’Neal finally making a free throw. The act itself isn’t noteworthy, but the context makes it a landmark moment.
There’s also not much fun to be had with Blue Beetle’s competence, as every story element and character decision is pulled directly from the “How to Make a Superhero Origin Story For Dummies” textbook. Take a shot each time a sentence in the subsequent paragraph reminds you of another superhero film.
Jaime Reyes (Xolo Maridueña) is just a kid from Palmera City who’s the pride and joy of his immigrant family. He’s returning home after obtaining his college degree, but family hardships prevent him from unlocking his true destiny. He and his wise-cracking sister (Belissa Escobedo) take jobs as part of a mansion cleaning staff. There he crosses paths with Jenny Kord (Bruna Marquezine), the niece of tech billionaire Victoria Kord (Susan Sarandon). Jenny asks him to hide something called The Scarab, which quickly decides to attach itself to Jaime, making him a world-killing supersoldier (he’s DC’s Iron Man, to put it bluntly). He didn’t choose to have these powers, but he’ll need to learn to put them to good use as people like Victoria want to use them to take over the world.
Blue Beetle wears its heart on its sleeve when it comes to the family dynamic within the cast. For the most part, it greatly succeeds in establishing that special bond. Jaime’s uncle Rudy (George Lopez, doing a pretty good job spinning gold out of the lead he’s given) is the “Mexican Doc Brown,” and he always fears that the government is tracking them. But it’s not like the Reyes family would just lie down and take it, as Nana (Adriana Barraza) has a secret revolutionary past, a joke that tries to go on longer than its shelf life. This is a tight-knit group, providing both the most emotional and entertaining moments of the film.
Unfortunately, writer Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer put all his skill points in that area. Besides the family, there’s not much of any reason to care about what’s going on. There’s very little introduction or explanation into what The Scarab actually is, why it chose Jaime, and what Victoria’s evil plan is supposed to accomplish. Although I’m sure the answers to these questions would have been just as clichéd as everything else, I still would have appreciated the courtesy of having them addressed.
Director Ángel Manuel Soto doesn’t do much to make up for those problems with the action. It’s the usual “overpowered hero takes out tons of goons before fighting the final boss, who has the same powers they have” that we’ve come to expect (again, the comparisons to Iron Man are uncanny). At least Tony Stark felt like a person in a suit, unlike the poorly rendered CGI creation that Maridueña just ADRs over. The Cobra Kai has the charm and looks to be a superhero, but those seem to be his only assets.
It’s hard to nail down where Blue Beetle lands in this whole DC shakeup, not only because of the wishy-washy answers from head honcho James Gunn but also because it feels so much like a product of the old regime. If it’s meant to cap off this decade-long run that started with Man of Steel, I guess we could have gone out with something worse. If this is the start of something new, then there’s not much to get excited about. Same shit, different day.