Jaime Reyes is a superhero...whether he likes it or not.
Blue Beetle is a 2023 superhero film directed by Ángel Manuel Soto, written by Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer, produced by Warner Bros. Pictures, DC Studios, and The Safran Company, and distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures. The film is based off of various Blue Beetle comics by DC Comics. It stars Xolo Maridueña and Bruna Marquezine. This is the sixteenth installment in the DC Extended Universe, being the fifteenth film. It was preceded by The Flash and will be followed by Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom and Superman: Legacy.
"The universe has sent you a gift. You have to figure out what to do with it." - Rudy Reyes
Jaime Reyes is a recent grad student who returns home to find that his family is losing their house. To help his family, Jaime searches for a job with the Kord Industries, a luxurious tech company helmed by the cunning Victoria Kord. When Jaime encounters Victoria's niece, Jenny, he is connected with the Scarab, an ancient alien artifact that turns him into a massively powerful super-weapon. Jaime now must protect his family and figure out what to with the Scarab while powerful forces search for him to take back the alien weapon.
I had really, really low expectations walking into Blue Beetle. I don't know much about this character, and DC has been in a really bad place recently with the whole reset and their last few movies being below average CGI action globs.
And I walked out completely surprised, because I think Blue Beetle may be my favorite DCEU film.
Now, that's a pretty low bar, because I wouldn't say I love any of the movies in the DCEU, but there are definitely some solid films in there, and I did not expect Blue Beetle to come even close to the top.
The reason that this movie is so good is because it incorporates this family element that is the heart and soul of this movie. The Reyes family is so charming and so likable. All of the members of the family (with one exception) are incredibly memorable and fun. The actors all have great chemistry with each other. The story really puts all of them in the spotlight, not just Jaime. It has tons of great, funny moments with them, but it also has some powerful emotions that make you feel the love of this family and the hardships they endure together. It feels like this is what Fast & Furious wants to be. This is family.
I want to point out that this movie has a budget of $100 million. A $100 million budget is still a solid budget for an action superhero film, but compared to other movies like The Flash or Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, which are $250 million movies, Blue Beetle has a clearly smaller budget. And it looks so much better, because the filmmaking team is forced to use more practical techniques than digital effects. The Blue Beetle suit is a practical suit. Xolo Maridueña actually wore the suit that is on display in this movie, and it looks incredibly cool. There is still a lot of CGI, but it doesn't look like trash, because it's used sparingly. This is just a trend I have noticed in these recent movies that haven't been very good. They often have ugly visual effects, and Blue Beetle used cooler practical effects, which I really, really appreciated.
I also really liked that this movie is so personal and small stakes. Every single superhero movie we have gotten so far this year (Quantumania, Shazam 2, Guardians 3, Across the Spider-Verse, The Flash) are these epic, sprawling stories. THREE of those movies involve the multiverse. Blue Beetle does not have the weight of the world on its shoulders. It is simply about a family trying to deal with one of their family members gaining incredible powers and the danger that comes along with that. It feels like a breath of fresh air, because it isn't huge in scope or scale.
Relating to that, Blue Beetle felt like the most Marvel DC movie, and I mean that in a positive way. Marvel movies often are light-hearted superhero adventures with hints of darkness, but are able to maintain this optimistic, fun tone that most of the family can enjoy (they have leaned too hard into light-heartedness recently, so I don't mean that). DC often struggles with being too dark or too serious, where Marvel can hit that line perfectly. Blue Beetle feels like it hits the more Marvel side of things. Even the story is reminiscent of Iron Man and Ant-Man.
And, much like the film not having big, universe-ending stakes, I also liked that it wasn't trying to set anything up. Another huge, glaring problem with modern superhero movies is that they do feel like episodes of a TV show, where each one is setting up the next one or has to connect back to a previous episode. Blue Beetle namedrops Batman and Superman and then shows LexCorp in the background. That is the extent to which it connects to the larger DC universe. Without all of this outside DC crashing in on this film, I can just focus on the Reyes family and their story, which, like having small stakes, feels like a breath of fresh air.
Finally, I really dug the score for this movie. It has the usual pulse-pounding throb soundtrack that a lot of superhero movies have, but it combines it with this crazy synth score that made it feel very unique. Every single person who has noted this as a positive says it reminds them of Stranger Things, and that makes sense, because Stranger Things is the only other piece of modern culture that really uses synth, but Blue Beetle does it to nice effect.
I still cannot say I quite loved Blue Beetle.
As great as this movie's heroes are, the same cannot be said about the villains. To be honest, I think Blue Beetle has one of the worst superhero movie villains...ever. It's not a huge deal, because the film focuses much more on the Reyes family and not her, but Susan Sarandon's Victoria Kord is about as generic and bland as you can possibly get. It feels like the writers copy-pasted a bunch of lines from villains of the past and just gave the person that said all those lines a name. All she does is dump exposition or say shockingly cliché lines that will have you rolling your eyes.
Likewise, I think the mom was not given enough to do, and it feels very awkward. Every member of the Reyes family sticks out except for her. They all have something memorable or unique about them...except for her. She has the least screentime and the least to do. It's like they made her a last-second addition to the movie because they decided that Blue Beetle needs a mom.
I also think the big thing that is going to turn everyone off from Blue Beetle is that it's familiar. This is not a unique experience. This is not a ground-breaking superhero movie that will be talked about for generations to come. This is a movie that follows a formula while adding a few of its own fun twists in there. It executes the formula extremely well while providing a great family element, but, at the end of the day, you've likely seen Iron Man and Ant-Man and Shazam! and Spider-Man: Homecoming, and Blue Beetle has stuff that is very similar to all of those movies. I had a ton of fun with it. I think it's one of the best DC movies in years. But I concede that it is not a unique film. And it's not trying to be, so I don't really care that much, but if you are truly fatigued by the oversaturated superhero genre, this movie might not be for you.
Final Thoughts and Score
Blue Beetle is an absolute win for DC. It's a heartfelt, funny, entertaining ride that I think most people will have a blast with.
I will go Savory here. Age range is 8+.
SWEET N' SOUR SCALE
Sweet (Great) Savory (Good) Sour (Bad) Moldy (Terrible)
Fun Factor: 9/10
Directed by Ángel Manuel Soto
Rated PG-13 for superhero violence and action, language, disturbing themes and images, thematic elements
Released on August 18, 2023
2 hours and 7 minutes
Xolo Maridueña as Jaime Reyes / Blue Beetle
Bruna Marquezine as Jenny Kord
George Lopez as Rudy Reyes
Damián Alcázar as Alberto Reyes
Belissa Escobedo as Milagro Reyes
Adriana Barraza as Nana Reyes
Elpidia Carrillo as Rocio Reyes
Susan Sarandon as Victoria Kord
Raoul Max Trujilo as Ignacio Carapax / O.M.A.C.
Harvey Guillén as Jose Francisco Morales Rivera de la Cruz / Dr. Sanchez
Becky G as Khaji-Da