Friday 18 August 2023

Blue Beetle (Movie Review)


As the DCEU prepares to end its run with Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom later this year, one might rightfully wonder if it is even worth investing in yet another last-minute entry. But yet here we are with Blue Beetle, a comparatively lesser-known character from the DC pantheon of superheroes. Originally scheduled to make its debut on HBO Max, the movie has been cleverly positioned by James Gunn as the first and possibly only character to make the jump from the older cinematic universe into the rebooted one. But does the new film give any meaningful glimpse at what we can expect from the DCU or was it merely a marketing ploy to get some butts in seats?

The film stars Xolo Maridueña as Jaime Reyes, a young man who inadvertently gets hold of an ancient alien artifact called the Scarab. This would end up transforming him into the titular Blue Beetle, an androidlike being that is highly skilled in combat and capable of a number of superhuman feats. But when the original finders of the Scarab come knocking, seeking to weaponize his newfound abilities and profit off of them, Jaime will have to do whatever it takes to ensure that the other members of his close-knit family don't wound up as collateral damage.

Heading into Blue Beetle, my expectations were about as low as they could get. Not only was the movie coming in the wake of a number of high-profile DC flops, but the overall quality of the films in the DCEU had been hit or miss as well. The marketing leading up to its release had also done nothing to get me on board. For all intents and purposes, the film looked like yet another generic superhero origin story with little to offer beyond hitting an arbitrary diversity quota. And while there is nothing wrong with studios endeavoring to have more diversity in their films, I still feel the films themselves and the stories they tell need to be able to stand on their own in terms of providing entertainment value.

And in terms of pure entertainment value, Blue Beetle ranks on the lower end of the scale. Right off the bat, we are introduced to a pair of villains that are about as cookie-cutter as they come. Susan Sarandon in particular comes across as villainous for the sake of being villainous with hardly any nuances to her performance. They might as well have given her a mustache to twirl around with the way that the character was written and portrayed. The same can be said for most of the cast members. Xolo was adequate in the role of Jaime and George Lopez was about as obnoxious as I felt he was in the trailers. He did manage to garner the most laughs from the crowd in my screening, so your mileage may vary.

The story in the movie itself is what I would refer to as aggressively okay. It ticks all the boxes one would expect from a superhero origin story but doesn't attempt to do much more than that. It offers very little in the way of surprises and a lot of its plot points were heavily telegraphed in overtly obvious ways. Perhaps some of this can be linked to its adherence to the source material but since I have never read the actual comic books the movie is based upon, I can only speculate. What I know for sure is that for someone who was not a preexisting fan, I came out of the movie feeling just as indifferent as I was going in.

There is still some fun to be had in Blue Beetle, of course, don't get me wrong. It has the right amount of set-piece moments and laughs to keep most people engaged. But the jokes that landed are few and far between and the action, while largely serviceable, fails to reach the heights of some of its predecessors or offer anything we haven't already seen before. The only thing that truly attempts to help the movie stand out was a late revelation made regarding the past of one of its two main antagonists. Unfortunately, this comes a bit too late into the movie and my brain had all but already checked out by that point.

Blue Beetle is a superhero origin story that barely manages to get off the ground. That it exists in a very strange middle ground between cinematic universes only further adds to the confusion regarding its wider significance. Whether or not we see any more of this iteration of the character would ultimately depend on how well it performs over the course of its theatrical run. But I honestly think it should have stayed as the direct-to-streaming movie it was originally intended to be as the final product simply does not do nearly enough to justify the price of admission.

6 comments:

  1. That's too bad. I read some of the comics when Jaime Reyes first appeared and enjoyed him in the second season of Young Justice where he was a pivotal character. I suppose the original plan of going to streaming with it lessened some of the things they might otherwise have done. It makes me wonder why they chose to put this in theaters and shelf the Batgirl movie for a tax break.

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    1. Batgirl must have been shaping up to be truly irredeemably bad but I guess we'll never know for sure.

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  2. What marketing? I think I've seen one commercial. Shame the old DC has to go out on a whimper.

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    1. Well, we still have Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom to look forward to so fingers crossed that it delivers.

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  3. I saw an ad for this when I was going to the theater earlier in the summer. I loved your review of it, especially the "aggressively ok", its both kind and brutal at the same time. I might want to see it based simply upon your review. When I saw the trailer I thought that maybe this was supposed to be for Hispanics what Black Panther was for the African American community. Anyways just wanted to say hello.

    Joaquin from Find Meaning in Adversity

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    1. Yeah. The studio definitely tried to tap into its cultural significance similar to Black Panther. Unfortunately, it didn't have nearly enough narrative depth.

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