As the penultimate chapter to a short-lived cinematic universe, it is perhaps fitting that Blue Beetle starts to wrap things up on a high note by being the refreshing superhero origin story that younger audiences have been missing out on.
In a take that brings to mind the fun of Iron Man (2008), The Amazing Spider-Man (2012), and Men In Black (1997), Blue Beetle tells an earnest story of a teenager Jaime Reyes who inadvertently gets hold of an alien scarab, and forms a symbiotic relationship with the artifact that forms a powerful and high-tech armour around Reyes, imbuing him with an arsenal of powerful and advanced weaponry.
But his journey of discovery isn’t a solo adventure, as the Latino lad is surrounded by his family, which includes his father, Alberto (Damián Alcázar), grandmother Nana (Adriana Barraza), mother Rocio (Elpidia Carrillo), younger sister Milagro (Belissa Escobedo) and uncle Rudy (George Lopez).
They are joined by new friend Jenny (Bruna Marquezine), the niece of film villain Victoria Kord (Susan Sarandon) and if the name sounds familiar to comic book fans, it’s because Puerto Rican director Ángel Manuel Soto (Charm City Kings, 2020) has embraced every aspect of Blue Beetle’s rich legacy and put them in the film.
Victoria is the mother of Ted, who, in the comics, was the second person to take on the mantle of Blue Beetle but he used his own tech inventions to aid himself in crime fighting, as the scarab didn’t work on Ted. And how did Ted get his hands on the alien war machine? It was given to him by his archeologist friend Dan Garrett, the first Blue Beetle who gained abilities from an ancient sacred scarab.
It might not mean much to audiences not familiar with Jaime, but for comic fans, the links that Soto draws are a refreshing take, compared to many other comic book adaptations that refuse to share stage time with others, preferring to ignore legacy. It’s also interesting that Blue Beetle is used here as a transition to Warner Discovery’s soft reboot of its cinematic universe, as the original comic character didn’t start off as a DC Comics character, but was acquired by DC, who later ‘inserted’ the legacy character into the established DC Comics stable of superheroes.
DC Studios head James Gunn has also stated that Blue Beetle will be the rebooted DC Universe’s first character, but not the first movie, which hints that while the character will fit into the studios’ new plans, not everything from the film will carry over.
This is unfortunate because there is so much to embrace about the Reyes, the way their Nana defends and protects them, and how Alberto and Rocio will do anything for their children. And comedian George Lopez plays the government-fearing, conspiracy theorist Rudy to a T, with all giving the family a sense of identity and belonging, like a version of Crazy Rich Latinos, but one of them has superpowers.
From taking flight after the scarab latches on to Reyes, to exploring the secret headquarters of the original Blue Beetle, to the final act where the Reyes hijack the Blue Beetle Bug to save Jaime, the 127-minute film moves along at breakneck speeds, pausing along the way to establish a romance between Jaime and Jenny, demoing some of the cool aspects of the Blue Beetle armour under combat, and playing up on the sense of humour and family that the Latino community is famous for.
Granted, some parts of the film are a little campy and over the top, including the funny but eye-rolling moment when elite soldiers are killed… by Nana holding on to an RGB-inspired gatling gun that is played for laughs more than as an emotional or narrative need.
Also, superheroes should be able to kill, not because we want to show their less than Godly actions, but because we cannot root for a teen who doesn’t want to kill and his inaction inadvertently causes his family pain, and also the death of his father.
Cobra Kai’s leading man Xolo Maridueña is a natural fit as Jaime, hitting the nail with his take on the clueless teen who is earnest and sincere, but wants to do good.
It’s likely that any future appearances by Blue Beetle in the new DCU will depend on how this movie performs, and while parts of the narratives are predictable, you’ll definitely walk away from this movie wishing that there were more such fun superhero films by Warner before.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
Filled with plenty of heart and a balance of humour, Blue Beetle is the superhero movie that should have come out at the start of a new cinematic universe, and not the end of it. Unless it still counts with the new DCU.
Story - 7/10
Direction - 8/10
Characterisation - 8.5/10
Geek Satisfaction - 8/10