HomeMoviesReview: Blue Beetle Should Be the Future of the DCU

Review: Blue Beetle Should Be the Future of the DCU

XOLO MARIDUEÑA as Blue Beetle in Warner Bros. Pictures’ action adventure “BLUE BEETLE,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures/™ & © DC Comics

With the fate of current DCEU characters and projects unclear, it’s hard not to feel confused about where it’s heading and what’s important. The DCEU’s latest offering, Blue Beetle, sadly embodies that confusion but delivers more than enough heart, humor, and heroics to be a total crowd-pleaser and possibly gain a necessary fanbase for its characters to continue.

The film introduces Jaime Reyes (Xolo Mariduena), a young college grad who returns home to help his struggling family. After Jaime and his sister (Belissa Escobedo) get fired from their jobs by Kord Industries CEO, Victoria Kord (Susan Sarandon), Jaime ends up having a chance to earn a better position at Kord Industries through Jenny Kord (Bruna Marquezine), Victoria’s niece. Unfortunately, instead of a fancy new job, Jaime ends up obtaining a mysterious scarab that attaches itself to him and gives him incredible powers. Not only does Jaime have a suit that’s nearly indestructible and controlled by a powerful AI called Khaji-Da (voiced by Becky G), but he also can conjure nearly any weapon that he can think of. So, with this newfound power, Jaime must come into his own as a hero before Victoria and her powerful henchman Carapax (Raoul Max Trujillo) enact their plans and hurt Jaime’s family in the process.

While Jaime and Blue Beetle have appeared across various live-action and animated DC series and movies, this is the first time the characters have gotten a major spotlight outside of the comics. So, it’s a little disappointing that the film relies on cliché story formulas—especially when it comes to origin stories. The structure and execution of certain scenes and the story direction can come off overly familiar at times. There are moments that are near carbon copies of similar scenes from other comic book movies. For instance, there’s a tragic moment for Jaime and his family heading into the third act that feels painfully predictable and totally typical for superhero origin stories. Even a moment that happens towards the end of the film that expands on this tragedy feels too much like similar moments in Spider-Man 2 and Deadpool 2.

In terms of Jaime’s hero arc, it’s not too different from other underdog superhero stories we’ve seen before. There are interesting moments that come from Jaime and Khaji-Da having to find a balance in their relationship, but even that’s been done with films like Venom. There are also parts of Blue Beetle that aren’t as fleshed out or as clear as they should be. It’s established early on that Khaji-Da will do anything in its power to keep Jaime alive even if it means hurting someone else. Yet the limitations of Khaji-Da’s ability to protect Jaime never feel clear and it’s a little confusing why Khaji-Da suddenly can’t keep Jaime safe in certain moments. Khaji-Da is honestly an unexplored part of the film—which is a shame since its alien origins are such an intriguing part of Blue Beetle’s comic lore.

There’s such a rich history and story depth to Blue Beetle that’s not touched on in the film. It’s cool that both Dan Garrett and Ted Kord—two characters who portray Blue Beetle before Jaime—are acknowledged, but it still feels like the film is leaving a lot of lore on the table. Sure, the origins of Khaji-Da and Blue Beetle’s heroic lineage could be easily touched on in a sequel. But with the future of the DCEU being so shaky, it’s hard to truly believe that these lingering elements could ever be further delved into. So, for now, these aspects feel like hanging threads that could’ve used more attention.

Not to mention, the mystery around the DCEU’s future ends up making Blue Beetle a film that’s a little too safe. Given that we only get mere mentions of Superman, Batman, and The Flash and no real pictures or identifiers of what role they have in this world, it’s kept purposefully ambiguous what universe Blue Beetle is meant to be a part of. Now, Warner Bros. likely did this to keep Blue Beetle’s future more versatile. If Blue Beetle ends up being incredibly popular, it could join Gunn’s reboot. Or, if it isn’t, then it could be cleanly scrapped. However, this decision backfires on them since it leaves nothing for audiences to be excited about with the introduction of a new DC hero and creates an awkward introduction if Blue Beetle ends up being a part of Gunn’s DCU.

There are definitely some issues in the storytelling and ambition of Blue Beetle, but they aren’t what define the film. What really defines it is its excellent characters and performances that are driven by the film’s strong cultural backbone. Jaime and his family will absolutely steal audiences’ hearts just within their first few scenes for the fun banter and warmth in their chemistry. At times, it literally feels like you’re watching a real-life family on-screen and it makes their interactions engaging, relatable, and fun. It’s always a blast to see Jaime’s family poke fun at him and have them hilariously rag on him—even when he’s become this powerful superhero. It emphasizes how their view of him doesn’t change even when he takes on this massive new role and it makes them an incredibly endearing bunch.

Blue Beetle likely features the strongest family supporting cast we’ve seen in a DC superhero movie outside of the Shazam! films. Everyone in Jaime’s family is incredibly likable for the genuine bond they share on-screen, and the performances carry this real emotion that viewers will connect with. Even the clear roles everyone has in the Reyes family will make audiences relate to them more and be a big reason that their love for these characters grows throughout the film. Escobedo and George Lopez (as Uncle Rudy) undoubtedly stand out the most for their sharp comedic line deliveries and the funny personalities they give their characters. But everyone—most notably Damian Alcazar as Jaime’s father—still brings some good heart to their roles and deliver memorable performances that elevate the film.

Frankly, even in those tragic yet familiar moments mentioned earlier, the performances and how good the film is at making you really care about this family make them tear-jerking and crushing. These characters have a raw power that surpasses some of the generic material the film works with and it’s honestly impressive. Even the way they organically bring out their Mexican background and make references to different instances and iconic moments of Latinx pop culture gives so much depth.

Certain conversations/lingo and a pretty rad reference during Uncle Rudy’s distraction techniques highlight Latinx pop culture in fun ways and are a key part to the film’s engaging atmosphere. Even if you’re not someone who’s up on what’s being talked about and shown in Blue Beetle, the execution and atmosphere is so inviting that you kind of want to be in the know. So, both Latinx and non-Latinx viewers can get something out of the film’s nods and tributes.

The film’s Latinx DNA runs much deeper than just simple homages and references, though, as it’s a pivotal part to the film’s strengths. With Jaime and his family having conversations about issues and lingering feelings that reflect real-life issues within Latinx communities, the film offers a great perspective. There are thematic conversations tied to how these characters are ostracized and subtly stripped of their culture in Palmera City, as well as dissections of how they view themselves and their aspirations that are grounded and impactful. The film finds great ways to emphasize its Latinx lens to add meaningful layers to Jaime’s family and their story. The film’s Latinx cultural depictions and thematic importance are what gives it a distinct identity—something more important than ever in a crowded superhero genre. Admittedly, it’s a shame that the film’s villains and supporting characters outside of the Reyes family don’t have the same depth and often represent generic tropes.

However, the vision that director Angel Manuel Soto and writer Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer bring is simply unmatched. The way the film embeds Latinx culture naturally into its characters, story, and atmosphere is flawless. Soto also shows some strong prowess in creating great action scenes, as Blue Beetle is a ton of fun when Jaime is forced to fight. The fights can be incredibly swift and thrilling and the numerous weapons that Jaime can conjure through the suit add some great variety. More importantly, it feels like Soto uses the options that Blue Beetle has as a hero well and constantly builds on what he can do in battle. There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing Jaime go from using an anime-inspired sword to Megaman-like blasters—which is what Blue Beetle is all about.

The biggest and most undeniable takeaway from Blue Beetle is that Mariduena delivers one of the best breakout performances of the year. He caught fire with his role as Miguel in Cobra Kai, but his performance here as Jaime elevates him to star status. The great mix of vulnerable emotion and immense comedic charm he brings will have audiences swooning and he just fits so perfectly with how Jaime is depicted in the comics. When the film asks him to be a little more raw and real as Jaime, he doesn’t waiver in the slightest and it’s what makes the more emotionally driven parts of Jaime so impactful and hard-hitting. Mariduena totally excels as Jaime in every scene and really gets better as the film goes on—which is what will make Blue Beetle such a missed opportunity if it gets tossed aside in DC’s reboot.

Sure, Blue Beetle isn’t perfect, often relying on overdone formulas and clearly constrained by DC’s cinematic stand still. But it presents lovable characters, strong cultural ties, excellent directing, and a star in the making performance that’ll be tough to find again. Blue Beetle honestly represents what DC should strive to do with their big screen adaptations—0especially when it comes to establishing engaging characters and a unique identity. Hopefully it can find a place in DC’s future since it both deserves and earns it.

Blue Beetle is now playing in theaters.

Tom Moore
Tom Moorehttps://mooreviews.com/
Tom is always ready to see and review everything horrifying and hilarious that hits theaters, television, and video games...sometimes. You can check out his other reviews and articles on his blog, Mooreviews.

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