The DC comic universe – or as some like to call it, the dark cinematic universe – returns again with a new movie for a yet unseen hero on the silver screen: Blue Beetle. The first live-action superhero film with a Latino lead, anticipation has been high for this feature, placing pressure to create something fresh and original on director Angel Manuel Soto’s shoulders.
Newly out of college, Jaime Reyes (Xolo Maridueña) dreams of raising his family above the poverty line where they find themselves and strives for a job where he can do so, but fate has other plans for him. Suddenly he finds himself in possession of an ancient artefact of alien biotechnology, known as the Scarab, stolen from Kord Industries by insider and family member Jenny (Bruna Marquezine). Upon being selected by the Scarab to become its symbiotic host, Jaime is granted an awe-inspiring armour, which has the potential to bestow him with extraordinary and unpredictable powers, thus transforming his life and propelling him on a heroic journey as Blue Beetle – but Kord’s leader Victoria (Susan Sarandon) is determined to get the Scarab back at all costs.
As the first opening scenes roll out, it becomes clear that Blue Beetle offers more of the same and little else. It is an origin story like all the others we have seen before, where the action and ending are entirely predictable. It really isn’t the fault of Soto or the cast, who deliver some entertaining moments with a lot of heart and courage, but the fact remains the story structure has been exhausted over the years. You have to wonder if origin stories for some superheroes are even required: Blue Beetle could genuinely be a fully formed hero introduced into the DCU without the extra movie and it would be accepted. Reyes appears to be the DCU’s answer to Spider-Man, with his plucky attitude and confident and cheeky battle approach, but the magic isn’t quite there this time.
Sarandon is evil alright as the Victoria Kord, but heavily underused in this film, relegated to a cliché suit-wearing villain. The world is very small in this adventure and the CGI really isn’t great, which, following some of the backlash over scenes in The Flash, doesn’t bode particularly well, but it must be mentioned that this movie has a lower budget than some of its predecessors, as it was originally intended to go straight to streaming. It is actually more enjoyable than some other big-budget counterparts, with some devastating combat sequences and expertly witty and humorous moments, so that is a small win.
Blue Beetle is fine, but that is as far as it goes. The character of Nana, played by the brilliant Adriana Barraza, is the true saving grace and real hero of this story. This writer would rather watch a two-hour movie on the adventures of Nana than another Blue Beetle CGI battle, and others will no doubt feel the same.
Blue Beetle is released nationwide on 18th August 2023.
Watch the trailer for Blue Beetle here: