Review: Blue Beetle


At this point, I really don’t know what to say about DC’s attempt at a cinematic universe anymore. You would think that with James Gunn at the helm there would be some clarity and direction for the franchise, and while there initially was, that has dissipated and we’re still left confused as to what’s going on. I guess Wonder Woman 3 is happening, but actually not really? Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom is theoretically still set to come out this year despite seeing nothing about it four months from release. Plus, despite being developed before he took over, somehow Blue Beetle is a part of James Gunn’s plan? Maybe? Possibly? Frankly, I don’t know and I don’t care.

In a year that gave us some bad DC movies, saying that Blue Beetle is better than Shazam! Fury of the Gods and The Flash isn’t really saying much. Those films had deep structural issues that I don’t think could have been spun into a good film. Blue Beetle has the potential to be good and it reaches that threshold a couple of times before being saddled by poor decisions and textbook superhero tropes. It makes the film competent, which is something I guess.

Blue Beetle – Official Trailer

Blue Beetle
Director: Angel Manuel Soto

Release Date: August 18, 2023 (Theatrical)
Rating: PG-13

Jaime Reyes (Xolo Mariduena) is a Mexican college graduate who has returned to his hometown of Palmera City to help support his family. He learns that his dad, Alberto (Damien Alcazar), has had a heart attack, lost his job, and is going to lose his house. While trying to get a job, Jaime encounters Jenny Kord (Bruna Marquezine), who is trying to steal a piece of alien technology from her aunt, Victoria Kord (Susan Sarandon), and gives it to him for safekeeping. This artifact, known as the Scarab, bonds to Jaime and turns him into the Blue Beetle, a superhero with alien weaponry at his disposal, weaponry that Victoria wants to use to create her own line of one-man soldiers called OMACs. So it’s up to Jaime to stop Victoria from getting a hold of the Scarab tech as he tries to find a way to remove it from his body.

Right from the beginning, family is one of the defining elements of Blue Beetle. I’m grateful that the film doesn’t try to bother with the trope where Jaime has to keep his identity a secret from his family and loved ones, something which has worn out its welcome as audiences see it more and more. His family knows right from the outset, whether they wanted to or not, that he has superpowers and is supportive of him and willing to help him stop Victoria. It helps to distinguish the film from its contemporaries and offers up a supporting cast that all feel, for the most part, unique and distinct. Plus, I like how the film really does contain a lot of Mexican representation, something that is distinctly lacking in Hollywood movies, by having a primarily Mexican cast. Say what you will about the representation itself, which can be stereotypical at times, it’s representation that still has a positive impact in my humble opinion.

But when it gets down to brass tacks, Blue Beetle only feels distinct in those early moments before the super heroics kick in. Once Jaime becomes the Blue Beetle and gains his power, the film stops trying and plays things by the book. It doesn’t try to innovate whatsoever and is content to be just another superhero-origin movie. Jaime takes the exact actions you’d expect him to take, he develops a romance with Jenny that doesn’t feel earned and gets into a big CG battle at the climax which had me laugh at how clunky Jaime’s opponent was designed. It was boring and the person next to me literally fell asleep right at the standard end of Act 2 low point. This has been done to death since 2008 when Iron Man popularized almost all of the tropes, so why are we still experiencing them 15 years later?

Review: Blue Beetle

Copyright: Warner Bros.

The tone is a lot lighter than most other superhero movies and I respect wanting to keep it light, but it does so via humor that never amounts to anything more than a few chuckles. George Lopez has a surprisingly large role in the film as Jaime’s uncle who seems like he was told to just ad-lib until a joke was made, and Jaime’s abuela, Nana (Adrianna Barraza), has moments that are so predictable they lose any and all impact. I can tell that they were trying to make her into, for lack of a better comparison, a comedic role much in the same way that King Shark was funny in The Suicide Squad. They hardly speak and they don’t do much, but when they do it’s supposed to be funny because of how unexpected it is. If anything, the brighter and more colorful aesthetics do more to sell the movie’s tone than the actual humor.

And then you have the antagonists who are as generic as generic comes. Susan Sarandon feels half awake here and never fully commits to the role, instead just coasting along until the credits. It’s impressive how little of a presence she has in the film despite being the central antagonist with the concepts she represents, modern-day colonialism and imperialism, being more interesting than her character. Then her aggressive hitman, the one who is serving as the prototype of the OMAC units who is so boring I don’t even remember his name, has even less personality and just blurts out the movie’s theme repeatedly like that’s supposed to supplant any actual character development. There’s just very little to gravitate to that actually makes Blue Beetle something special to watch.

Review: Blue Beetle

Copyright: Warner Bros.

The exception to all of this is Xolo’s performance as Jaime. He seems to be genuinely excited and happy to be in this role, giving it his all in his first theatrical leading role. He’s plucky and energetic, usually has the best lines in the film, and is overall just a likable guy. Again, he loses some of that charm when he’s going through the standard “WHOA I HAVE SUPERPOWERS NOW” phase of the movie, but his reactions are usually what makes a lot of the comedy bearable throughout the film. He’s a good actor and I hope more work comes his way that’s beyond this.

There’s a scene in the trailer of the movie when Jaime is walking into a building and his family is embarrassing him in a car behind him. They think they’re being supportive of him and helping him out, but Jaime just wants to get away from them as fast as humanly possible. That scene is the perfect metaphor for the movie. Jaime is the best part of the film and the bright optimism he has makes him stand out from the rest of DC’s slate of films, but he’s forcibly saddled with things that just distract him from what he wants to do. The lame comedy, generic plot, and weak antagonists are all right behind him and he just has to put up with them. Much like how you can’t choose your family, I can’t choose to watch Blue Beetle without these factors present.

There are rumblings, I guess, of this being the first part of a trilogy if this does well, and I’m actually hoping that’s the case (though that doesn’t seem likely). I think there’s something here that can work and be refined, but given the state of DC at this moment, I wouldn’t get my hopes up about it. I wanted to like Blue Beetle more than I did, but as it stands it’s a serviceable action movie that can hopefully sell itself on its potential rather than the finished product. As it stands, while it’s not the worst DC movie in the past couple of years, that statement is worth so little now that it may not even matter.




Despite having a good leading actor and a brighter tone, Blue Beetle has trouble standing out from the crowd with its generic plot, antagonists, and weak humor.

Jesse Lab
The strange one. The one born and raised in New Jersey. The one who raves about anime. The one who will go to bat for DC Comics, animation, and every kind of dog. The one who is more than a tad bit odd. The Features Editor.