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Blue Beetle – Film Review

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blue beetle film review
Blue Beetle Film Review

It’s hard to know whether Blue Beetle arrives at the best or worst time for the DC cinematic universe. Everything around it is dying. Gal Gadot and Henry Cavill are gone as Wonder Woman and Superman. James Gunn has taken the reins from, nominally, Zack Snyder. A refresh is coming, with (almost) every role being recast, and we’re left with the death-throes: the final films from the old times. 

With that in mind, it sounds like a terrible time to launch Blue Beetle. That’s echoed in its box office, which is the worst of any DC film in the current status quo. People simply don’t care about connecting this film to other films that are spiralling down the plughole.

But the counterpoint we’d like to offer is that Blue Beetle seems oddly freed from all that. This isn’t a film that is grasping for other films to give it relevance. It doesn’t feel like an overblown epic with an entire universe on its shoulders, like The Flash did. This is a quirky side-project that exists for its own reasons. It’s no real surprise, then, that James Gunn has chosen Blue Beetle as one of the few characters who will persist in his dismantling of the old DCU.

What Blue Beetle is about is clear almost as soon as it starts. It’s about the power of family – not the adopted one that the Avengers creates, but the biological family. It’s about blood, and the strength that comes from fighting for each other. If you’ve got a family that will do anything for you, well, you’ve got the greatest power in the world. 

Oh, and it’s also a stage for a Latin American hero to shine. Much has been written about Blue Beetle side-stepping the norm and bringing us a hero whose background isn’t from the US or UK and is most definitely not Anglocentric. In Palmera City, it has a backdrop that also brings us some futurism that isn’t based on something Northa American or European. 

These new powers combine to create one of the most warm-hearted superhero movies of recent years. It’s got the camaraderie of Ant-Man’s criminal buddies, and the good-natured ribbing of the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie. When Xolo Maridueña gains his powers, it’s notable that he’s not alone: he’s in front of his family. They’re in this together from that moment on, and how they’re going to resolve the situation is a united effort. It might have Blue Beetle’s name on the title, but this is the Reyes family show. 

Cobra Kai’s Maridueña is the glue who keeps it together. His optimism is contagious, and he’s got a Peter Parker-like innocence that makes you root for him when things get surprisingly dark. He didn’t choose this for himself, but he’s not letting it get him down. But while he’s the family’s core, the other family members are just as memorable. Belissa Escobedo as his sister is all snark and eyerolls, George Lopez as Uncle Rudy is magnetic as a conspiracy nut, and Damián Alcázar is a father that we would all secretly want for ourselves. The whole family gets their five minutes to shine, but you just want to pull up a chair and spend a moment with them all. 

But as solid and magnetic as this core is, Blue Beetle still falters and spins out of control on occasion. Its biggest problem is familiarity. Blue Beetle is the quintessential superhero origin story: it’s the tale of an unassuming man who gains powers and struggles to learn how to use it. Then he’s caught in a plot that’s bigger – and more dangerous – than he can fathom, and ultimately he learns the secrets of the power, just in time to defeat that plot. 

It’s a template that’s so tattered, old and covered in ink that we’re surprised it’s got any structural integrity left. But Blue Beetle enthusiastically grabs it, and it can’t help feeling like countless other movies as a result. The battle against Kord Industries in Blue Beetle feels near-identical to the heist against Pym Technologies in Ant-Man, down to Bruna Marquezine taking the Hope Van Dyne role. As much as Xolo Maridueña tries to make the role his own, there’s the shadow of Spider-Man looming over Jason Reyes. And conversations with the Blue Beetle suit can’t help but make us reminisce about Iron Man. 

Perhaps as a result, Blue Beetle felt more like a Marvel joint than a DC one. There’s none of the middle-distance staring and deeply serious tone of Snyder’s films, and there’s plenty of the humour, warmth and colour (Blue Beetle adopts an ‘80s palette and soundtrack that only really makes sense about two-thirds in) of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We can see why it being attached to the new DC rather than old DC makes a kind of sense. 

But while Blue Beetle feels like a fun tribute band to other movies, it still finds moments that stand apart. A dorky looking vehicle gets its own fantastic sequence, while a plot twist with echoes of The Watchmen works far better than expected. By-the-numbers baddies and some unbelievable moments (particularly in the last act) might test your patience, but the good bits far outweigh the bad. 

You will have seen Blue Beetle before. It’s a scrapbook of all the superhero origin movies you’ve seen before. There’s some Tobey Maguire Spider-man here, some Tom Holland Spider-man there. Large swathes of Ant-Man are cut and pasted in. But while it might feel weakened by a pervasive sense of deja vu, it’s strengthened by its central family. Forget about the rubbery suit, it’s the Reyes family that powers Blue Beetle, and they’re so ebulliently endearing that they make Blue Beetle worth watching.

SUMMARY

Pros:
  • It’s all about the Reyes family
  • Love the latin-inspired futurism
  • Some laugh-out-loud moments
Cons:
  • Yet another superhero origin story
  • Reasonably bland baddies
  • Some unbelievable moments, even in superhero terms
Info:
  • Purchased by TXH
  • Running time and release date - 2hr 7mins | 2023
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<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>It’s all about the Reyes family</li> <li>Love the latin-inspired futurism</li> <li>Some laugh-out-loud moments</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>Yet another superhero origin story</li> <li>Reasonably bland baddies</li> <li>Some unbelievable moments, even in superhero terms</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Purchased by TXH</li> <li>Running time and release date - 2hr 7mins | 2023 </ul>Blue Beetle - Film Review
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