Review: Blue Beetle

If this was released 15 years ago, opinions would be very different.

Young Jaime Reyes returns from university to find his family’s situation in disarray. When he is looking for work to save the family home, an alien artefact called The Scarab falls into his possession and changes his life forever.

Directed by relative newcomer Angel Manuel Soto, Blue Beetle is being advertised as part of the DC Comics cinematic universe. It has to be; they mention Batman in the trailer. Because heaven forbid a DC project is made without (at least) mentioning the caped crusader.

In the confusing state of DC on film, new head honcho James Gunn has previously confirmed that Blue Beetle was part of his new vision for the DCEU. Even though the film was originally confirmed before his tenure began. Soto’s film, starring Cobra Kai‘s Xolo Maridueña in the titular role, is mercifully void of expanded universe tethers, and mostly feels like a film of its own. But it does have problems. Some of them not of its own making.

The film is being generally destroyed by media outlets, fans, and critics. Its earnings are not that which Warner Brothers would want to see. But in actually watching the movie there isn’t masses wrong with it… It just doesn’t do anything new, and for every positive, there is a negative right beside it.

Which Mortal Kombat character is this? Oh wait…

To go into the positives first. Visually Blue Beetle is quite a striking movie at times. The CGI is competent for the most part. Maridueña puts a lot of energy and enthusiasm into the lead role of Jaime; quite visceral energy at times. At the film’s heart is a Latino family just trying to get by in an ever shrinking world as mega corporations and capitalism strangle the less wealthy. This is surely the film’s strongest element, and it is a worthy strength to have; a family unit that isn’t simply emotionally bonded together but also gets involved in the story and has agency in the hero’s story.

This is a lot more than can be said for Ant-Man: Quantumania.

We have a neat villain side story (not Susan Sarandon’s “super villain” Victoria Kord) in Raoul Max Trujillo’s Carapax (that’s a name only a mother could love) which was quite a nice touch.

Jaime’s grandmother is great as well. Special kudos there. Plus, there were a few kids in the cinema who weren’t bored or restless during the film, so obviously something was working?

But that’s mostly where the positives end. But for some, that small selection might seem surprising given the ribbing Blue Beetle is receiving.

Jaime’s family is kiiind of annoying, but also the best part of the movie.

Indeed, the film is… frankly… predictable. Entire character arcs are plain to see as soon as we meet the person. Scenes begin and we already know how they will end. The film has massive plot conveniences everywhere, with characters conveniently meeting or separating just when the story needs them to. It is eye-roll inducing.
A favourite one has to be Jaime’s uncle, a paranoid eccentric (and irritating) mechanical genius played by George Lopez helps our heroes infiltrate the city-based headquarters of our villain. While the massive, high-tech building is full of security cameras, they didn’t think to have security or cameras viewing the literal street beside the building. Sure, you can definitely park a giant truck outside a mega corporation and slowly set up an EMP device and no one will notice. Definitely.

It is a surprisingly adult movie at times. Jaime’s first transformation into the Blue Beetle is horrifying. Director Soto definitely has his eye in for horror; the scene plays out like a Raimi movie or something Scott Derrickson would make. Another nod to Raimi being Jaime’s suit getting torn up, allowing Maridueña to emote without the mask over his face – ala 2002’s Spider-Man. Don’t worry though; by the end of the film the transformation is much cleaner and nicer.

On top of that, besides some very literal sexual innuendos, is a very real subtext of Mexican immigration and the forced deportation of minorities from their homes.

Some of these things do give the film an identity. The Latin American styling and casting is a welcome change of scenery in the superhero genre, and definitely gives the film a different energy. The occasional darker imagery aligns it with other DC movies past and… maybe (?) future. The hero having such strong ties to his family is also a welcome sight in a genre of loners.

So it does feel like a film that has been made with good intentions. But superhero fatigue is real. We’ve seen people fly up into space. We’ve seen buses get cut in half. We’ve seen heroes fight villains with exactly the same powers before. Is it Blue Beetle‘s fault that we watch and only see the problems because at least those are unique?

Maybe. Maybe not. The reality is that the film simply didn’t… no… couldn’t inspire a tired audience.

One Comment Add yours

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *