As a dedicated fan of DC comics, finding excitement in an upcoming project within the mainline DCEU (DC Extended Universe) can be challenging. However, I held onto a glimmer of hope for “Blue Beetle.” Departing significantly from the rest of the franchise, it highlights refreshing elements that aren’t present in most DC films. The narrative follows Jaime Reyes, the titular hero, striving to help his struggling family by getting a job at the megacorporation Kord. Inside Kord tower, a twist of fate unfolds, placing Jaime in possession of the Scarab, a device that selects him as its host. In an irreversible transformation, Jaime evolves from his once ordinary self into the crime-fighting, ultra-powerful Blue Beetle.
The less-than-favorable current state of the DCEU is no secret. As someone deeply invested in this universe, this journey has been marked by disappointment from day one. Zack Snyder’s “Man of Steel” painted a solemn portrait of a character that was once a symbol of hope and happiness. This led to online mockery and widespread criticism of the work as a whole (including RedLetterMedia’s humorous, if explicit, review).
On top of that, the subsequent DC films seemed to mirror the fate of “Man of Steel,” facing unfavorable critiques and near-universal ridicule. Only a few, referred to as ‘Elseworlds tales,’ managed to establish a connection with audiences – – The “Teen Titans Go” movie, Matt Reeves’ “The Batman,” and Todd Phillips’ “Joker.” While resonating with viewers, these films remained detached from the official cinematic universe. This backdrop sets the stage for understanding the enthusiasm generated when James Gunn took over the company.
James Gunn’s directing prowess has been most evident in his adaptations of superhero properties, such as the acclaimed “Guardians of the Galaxy” trilogy and the well-received “The Suicide Squad.” However, his new vision for the DCEU, known as “Gods and Monsters,” hasn’t met the fans’ expectations within the Gunn-run universe. The much-anticipated “The Flash” movie fell short, earning a 64% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and underperforming at the box office. The preceding lackluster response to David F. Sandberg’s “Shazam: Fury of the Gods” was particularly disheartening, given the success of the first “Shazam” film as a feel-good, upbeat DC experience.
As a result of these shortcomings, it’s become hard for me to be excited for the next installment of the DCEU. I clung onto a glimmer of hope for “Blue Beetle” if only because the superhero film landscape notably lacks diversity. The majority are led by white protagonists with narratives that disregard underlying privileges. “Blue Beetle” breaks this mold with Jaime Reyes, a Mexican-American character, bringing rich Mexican culture into the mix. The cultural infusion is most evident in the graphic novel “Blue Beetle: Graduation Day,” a primary source of inspiration for the film.
In it, untranslated Spanish phrases create an authentic atmosphere. The central storyline sees Superman grounding Jaime from being the Blue Beetle in response to the sudden return of an intimidating extraterrestrial supervillain. DC’s acknowledgment of this narrative’s influence on the film alludes to a potential dynamic akin to the Iron Man-Spider-man relationship in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this time involving Blue Beetle and Superman. This prospect is undoubtedly a source of anticipation for the future trajectory of this character.
In summary, the film adaptation of “Blue Beetle” defied my expectations. My trip to the theater was marked by unusually low expectations. Yet, within the familiar territory, I found myself thoroughly engaged with the film. Xolo Maridueña’s performance as the titular hero was exceptional, capturing a charisma reminiscent of Tom Holland’s Spider-man. George Lopez’s portrayal of Jaime’s Uncle added a humorous touch, and Belissa Escobedo’s performance as Jaime’s sister was unexpectedly impressive. This makes “Blue Beetle” stand out from the other DC films, which include infamously lackluster performances. The film also boasts an emotional core often absent in Zack Snyder’s DC ventures, offering a refreshing change of pace. Moreover, it has an eighties John Huges vibe with its straightforward politics and storyline.
While not groundbreaking aside from its representation and diversity (for a superhero movie), “Blue Beetle” promises an enjoyable time at the theater. So long as one doesn’t enter with grandiose expectations of a masterpiece.
Xolo Maridueña as Jaime Reyes/Blue Beetle
Bruna Marquezine as Jenny Kord
Becky G as Khija Da (Voice)
Damian Alcazar as Alberto Reyes
George Lopez as Rudy Reyes
Adriana Barraza as Nana Reyes
Belissa Escobedo as Milagro Reyes
Elpidia Carrillo as Rocio Reyes
Angel Manuel Solo
Blue Beetle (2023) – 2 Hours and 7 Minutes
Rated PG-13 for sequences of action and violence, language, and some suggestive references.
Exclusively in theaters, presumably on Max later this year.
3 / 5