Let’s be blunt here. I have no idea what’s going on with the DCEU, DCU, or whatever is coming up next. Case in point, this movie I’m about to review has been stated to be both part of the DCEU AND DCU, depending on who you talk to. It’s all as clear as mud. As such, we need to look at each DC Comics movie that arrives through the singular lens of “Is this movie good?” As my Blue Beetle review will tell you…yes, this movie is good. Not great, but still good.
There are many ways I could start out this review, but I’ll focus on one of the key things here: the legacy of Blue Beetle. In the opening credits and throughout the film, the team made sure to acknowledge the two heroes who preceded Jaime Reyes in Dan Garrett and Ted Kord. For me, and others, this is a vital thing, as Jaime was never the first Blue Beetle, and part of his story is living up to those who came before him while also making his own way. And while some things are fairly obvious in terms of those characters (like how “Ted Kord is missing” when we all know he’d pop up if a sequel happens), the way their histories are interwoven into the main storyline is great.
The other key thing that’s important to point out immediately is the Latino representation in this film. Director Angel Manuel Soto made it clear from the outset that the movie would be a true glimpse into the Latino culture and what they go through, both good and bad. That included the focus on family, their desire to do more and be more at times, and the struggles that get forced upon them. While we have had Latino heroes in the past, like with America Chavez, they weren’t the focus of the film like Jaime Reyes. I won’t be so bold as to say this is as impactful as Black Panther was when it debuted in 2018, but I have no doubt it’ll leave a mark on some because they’ll get to see “their hero” on screen.
Speaking of whom…
Like a true hero origin story, much of the film is about Jaime Reyes and the circumstances that led to him getting the scarab that would change his life. Trust me when I say if you enjoy nothing else about Blue Beetle, you will enjoy Xolo Maridueña as Jaime. He is the perfect embodiment of a young adult who’s trying to do right by his family, change their circumstances, and then has to deal with all the madness that gets thrown his way.
While that may sound “typical” in a hero film…actually think about the hero-origin movies we’ve seen across both DC Comics and Marvel. Very few of them have “negative reactions” to their powers. Heck, the tagline of this film was “Jaime Reyes is a superhero whether he likes it or not,” and they play that up in many ways. That’s important because that’s how it is in the comics and other interpretations of the character, like in Young Justice. Jaime has to not only deal with his powers but also controlling the Scarab and find a true bond with it. Xolo depicts that perfectly in various ways, and having his family in the know about his situation from the start adds yet another wrinkle to a premise we’ve all seen before.
To that end, I applaud the team for deciding to make a real-life version of the Blue Beetle suit for Xolo to wear. It would’ve been SO EASY to go the CGI route and hope it looked good, but instead, they made all but a few parts real so that Xolo could be seen in the suit many times, and they could not overload their VFX team (Take notes, Marvel!!!). And guess what? It looks great!
Moreover, the action scenes featuring Blue Beetle were really fun. The team noted that they used Injustice 2 for inspiration on some of Jaime’s moves, and it shows in the best way. A key thing to remember about Blue Beetle is that the Scarab can make whatever he wants, and the team had fun using that variety in the action beats. Cannons, swords, using scarab legs for strikes or wings to cut busses in half, etc. They made it clear that Jaime wasn’t a one-trick pony, and if he were to return, I’m sure they’d show him getting even more clever with his abilities.
Sticking with the positive elements, the third act of the film is incredible in multiple ways. Long story short, the Reyes get attacked, resulting in the loss of Jaime’s father, Jaime himself gets kidnapped, and it’s up to the family (and Jenny Kord) to save him using Ted Kord’s old Blue Beetle teah. I personally loved this because it flipped the script on the “finding your inner strength” or “using the power how you want it” trope and showed that even the heroes need saving at times.
Don’t worry, we still get that “hero motivation speech” that pushes Jaime to new heights, but it led to another unexpected thing that I adored. The Scarab is alive, as I noted, and we see it interact with Jaime throughout the film. But after truly bonding with it, not only does it speak Spanish, it stops him from killing one of the villains because “We are not killer, Jaime.” Something he said to it previously. I LOVED that and honestly wished we had gotten even more of them interacting because that’s yet another unique thing tied to Jaime’s character.
Speaking of the Reyes family, I appreciated the levels they went to show their bond and why they would risk it all to get Jaime back when the chips were down. “Nana” taking charge was great, and when you learn about her secret history…you’ll wish you had a Nana just like her. It’s also through this family that we see the harsh truth about Latino families and what they do just to survive or to be with their family in the first place. Some will think it’s a “bit on the nose.” But sometimes, you need to be very realistic and blunt about bad things for people to understand what’s been happening for a long time.
Now, if you recall my intro to this Blue Beetle review, you’ll recall I said this film was “good” but not “great,” and I will maintain that. It’s a good film with a lot of heart and passion, but it has many pitfalls that will turn off some people. For example, the first act is REALLY slow and, at times, cheesy to a fault. Yes, we do get great moments with Jaime and his family, and the reveal of the Scarab, the Kord family (and legacy), and so on, but the pace at which it crawls to set everything up before Jaime even gets the Scarab is a bit much.
Second, while I do adore the Reyes family (especially Nana), they were a bit much at times. Milagro, at the beginning, was…a bit over the top. She got better by the end, but some of those opening scenes were just…eh. While I’m a fan of George Lopez and his style of comedy, he was allowed to go “all out” too many times, and some of the lines he said really made me roll my eyes. Yes, I have no doubt that there are families just like this, including a “conspiracy theory uncle that hates the government,” but this is one of those times where you walk the line and not go over it so you don’t lose your audience in senseless comedy. Sadly, that applied to Jaime too, at times, including when he literally chased Jenny Kord down to get a job…it was really weird.
Third, while I appreciated the focus on Latino culture and the real-life struggles they go through…they also took things in the opposite direction and relied on storytelling tropes to help try and sell certain things. Like how Jaime (a poor Latino young man) was going to fall in love with the rich (but also Latino) woman who gave him the Scarab. The family even broke the fourth wall in a way to point out how it was like a TV show they watched! I’m not saying they didn’t have chemistry because they did, but it could’ve been fleshed out more than they did.
Ironically, my biggest problem with the film comes from one of its biggest name stars: Susan Sarandon. She’s been doing movies for decades, and yet…she was as one-note as possible. They tried to make it seem at times that she was a woman “overlooked by the system because she’s a woman,” but they rarely had her emote that. Instead, she kept saying, “Sacrifices must be made for the greater good,” and simply acted like a bigot to various people, including the Reyes family and some of her own workers. Again, yes, there are definitely people who act like that, but in superhero films, you MUST have a memorable villain or much of the plot will feel hollow, and I definitely had that here.
However, I will say that how she died was great, and I’m pretty sure something unique in superhero films. You can correct me if I’m wrong on that.
Oh, and Jaime’s suit burns his clothes off every time he transforms? Really? Do I have to spell out the problems that would cause long-term?
As I wrap up my Blue Beetle review, I must state once again that this was a good film. You can tell the actors, writers, and director had a blast making this love letter to Jaime Reyes, the Blue Beetle legacy, and the Latino culture. I truly believe that if it were to get a sequel, it could easily build on what was established here and make an even better film. So if you get the chance to watch this in theaters or on Max when it arrives, I definitely recommend it
Blue Beetle Review
The Blue Beetle was a strong introduction to Jaime Reyes and the world he lives in. It won’t blow your mind like other hero films, but it will amaze you in certain ways and you’ll want to see more by the time they’re done.