Blue Beetle Review - Spared Lots Of Expense

  • First Released Aug 18, 2023
  • movie
Phil Owen on Google+

Blue Beetle doesn't do much to improve DC's bad year at the movies.

It's been a really bad year for DC Studios. Shazam 2 and The Flash were bad movies that both flopped. And now we've got Blue Beetle, a film that has the look and feel of a big Arrowverse crossover event on The CW. I'm sorry to say the state of DC hasn't improved at all with this movie.

Blue Beetle follows recent college grad Jaime Reyes (Xolo Mariduena) as he tries to help his family keep their house. Instead, he runs afoul of Victoria Kord (Susan Sarandon), the evil billionaire running a tech company called Kord Industries, and gets himself and his sister fired from their cleaning job. But then Jaime gets mixed up with Victoria's niece, Jenny (Bruna Marquezine), who doesn't love that Aunt Vicki turned the company into an arms manufacturer. And after a series of accidents and coincidences, Jaime ends up with an ancient alien device climbing up his butt and turning him into a superhero. And Victoria is going to send some armored super soldiers to get that Scarab back.

Blue Beetle has three really big problems. First: It was originally planned to be released directly to HBO Max, and the final product feels shows it. It looks cheap and bland, the cinematography makes use of only the most standard TV angles and framing, and the action sequences never look like much. Blue Beetle has the air of a broadcast TV show like The CW's Arrow or The Flash, rather than the introductory chapter of a DC hero on the big screen.

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Second big problem: Blue Beetle follows the almost-comedy superhero movie formula to a T, and that's mind-numbing at this point. Thanks to our real-world context of having spent the past 15 years watching comic book movies that have this exact tone, none of the humor has any real impact. There are some good jokes in there, but the relentless interjection of comedy into very heavy situations is just as exhausting here as it has been in the MCU for several years.

This problem disproportionately affects the characters who should be the low-key heroes of his movie: Jaime's family (his sister, his mom and dad, his eccentric uncle, and his grandmother). These folks have a Shazam family-esque level of involvement in the story despite none of them getting any superpowers. But they simultaneously function as comic relief, and since there's five of them, it's pretty rare for the jokes to completely stop. If I hadn't spent the past 15 years watching dozens of superhero movies that have this exact tone, it probably would have played better.

That said, props to George Lopez as the eccentric inventor uncle whose pluck and know-how rivals that of a megacorp like Kord Industries--he's the best and most entertaining part of every scene he's in. With the wrong actor, a quirky role like this could be quite annoying--but Lopez keeps it reined in just enough that he can switch between serious and silly without it being awkward.

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And the third major issue: The alien Scarab that gives Jaime Reyes the power of the Blue Beetle is supposed to be a sentient character named Kahji Da, and she fills the same role as the artificial intelligence in Tony Stark's Iron Man suit or the high-tech Spider-Man suits he made for Peter Parker. but she never manages even that much personality. She never demonstrates that she has any kind of will of her own--she's just Siri: not a real person. Despite this, the characters talk about her and to her like she is one.

If you haven't seen the movie yet, that last complaint might seem like small potatoes. But it's emblematic of the strange emptiness at the center of Blue Beetle. The opening scene of the movie sees Victoria at some kind of archaeological dig where Kord personnel are trying to open a building-sized orb that is holding the Scarab, which is from outer space.

But then, later in the movie, we learn that the Scarab had previously been in the possession of Jenny Kord's dad, Ted--a past iteration of Blue Beetle both in this film's universe and in the DC Comics. Ted has been gone for a long time, and nobody knows where he is. But this film has no interest in any sort of bigger picture--though it feels like content that was cut, rather than content that was never there--and we don't learn anything about what happened with Ted or why the Scarab would be in a big orb. And so at the heart of this story we have a major mystery that no one ever attempts to solve. I guess they're leaving all the explanations for the hypothetical next movie

If there is a next one, I hope it gets the treatment that the first headlining big-screen Latino superhero deserves.

Phil Owen on Google+
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The Good

  • George Lopez carries his scenes

The Bad

  • Looks and feels cheaper than the first headlining Latino superhero deserves
  • Follows the modern superhero formula to a mind-numbing degree
  • Feels like there was a big picture that was removed

About the Author

Phil Owen is a freelance writer. Warner Bros provided a screening of the film for the purposes of this review.