BLUE BEETLE review by Mark Walters – the fan-favorite DC Comics superhero comes to the big screen

BLUE BEETLE review by Mark Walters – the fan-favorite DC Comics superhero comes to the big screen

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This weekend, Warner Bros. Pictures and DC Comics is releasing a new superhero movie that might take some folks by surprise. This isn’t a household name like Batman or Superman, rather one of the comic imprint’s lesser-known heroes, but one that is still a favorite among comic book readers. BLUE BEETLE follows a young man who accidentally acquires a super-powered scarab that “chooses” its host, and gifts them with incredible abilities and strength. It’s important to note, Blue Beetle is a character that has gone through multiple iterations through the years, some of them played more silly and comical, but the more recent version (designed by Keith Giffen and Cully Hamner) appeals to a younger and Latino audience, and the film makes great use of those ideas.

Jaime Reyes (Xolo Maridueña) is a college graduate living in the fictional city of Palmera (think a futuristic El Paso), trying to hold down a job side-by-side with his rebellious sister Milagro (Belissa Escobedo), and hoping to make his loving family proud. His father and mother and grandmother support him, and his conspiracy theorist uncle Rudy (George Lopez) does his best to give him sometimes odd advice. Victoria Kord (Susan Sarandon) is a corporate big wig at a tech company, running things after her husband’s disappearance, and annoyed by her stepdaughter Jenny Kord (Bruna Marquezine), who thinks Victoria is moving the family company in the wrong direction by developing weapons. Jaime meets Jenny, who says she might be able to help him get a job within her company, but when Jaime shows up for an interview, it happens to be when Jenny is stealing something from the company’s lab, and she ends up handing it off to him to avoid getting caught. When Jaime inspects the item later, as his family watches, he realizes it’s a high-tech scarab, a sort of bug-like device that appears to be alive. The scarab attaches itself to Jaime, and he transforms into a blue beetle-like creature, covered in a sort of exo-suit, and he begins to discover incredible powers and abilities. Victoria becomes aware Jaime has the scarab and wants it back, and isn’t afraid to hurt anyone in her way. Now Jaime must figure out how to control his new powers, protect his family and himself, and maybe become a superhero in the process.

BLUE BEETLE is directed beautifully by Angel Manuel Soto, who seems to understand the importance of keeping things fun and exciting. This is a very different sort of film from the dour Zack Snyder attempts with Superman and Batman, and eventually Justice League, movies that seemed to define the DC cinematic universe in a depressing and violent way for several years. This movie is much lighter and more of a crowd-pleaser, and effectively a sort of family superhero movie, both literally and figuratively. I liken it to something like SPY KIDS, only more mature and perhaps more self-aware. Jaime’s family here aren’t just background characters, they actually get in on the action and really help Jaime in his quest. Sometimes their “jumping into action” borderlines on silly or excessive, but the fun factor is always there.

Xolo Maridueña is a very likable lead here, finding a nice balance of inexperienced and unlikely hero, and being a man who is sometimes too concerned with protecting those he loves to the point of it making him vulnerable to evil forces. This film should definitely make him a star, and I’d very much enjoy seeing him play this character again. Susan Sarandon seems to be having fun sinking her teeth into the villain role, and makes for a good antagonist in the story. Raoul Max Trujillo plays her henchman Carapax, who goes from being a grimacing baddie into having a surprising;y emotional back story, and he’s really good going head to head against our hero. Bruna Marquezine is good as the romantic interest for Jaime, and I liked that she seems strong and confident and not a damsel in distress type, plus the script does a good job at setting up some potential back story for her for future installments, where they could really delve into her family history. George Lopez, Belissa Escobedo and the family cast members are pretty good, though as I mentioned before there are a few moments where the screenplay feels like it’s trying too hard to involve them in the action. It’s always played for laughs, but not all of those jokes land perfectly, though it’s forgivable since the overall product is still really satisfying.

BLUE BEETLE finds some unexpected emotional moments that really make the presentation endearing and fresh, while at times feeling like very familiar superhero territory. I especially admired how the movie made efforts to include some pretty strong references to the comic book lore, and not just as minor easter eggs for the hardcore fans. There are events in this film that really set up possibilities for sequels that could expand the lore of this Blue Beetle, both past and future. Another aspect I really liked was the 1980s-esque synthesizer score by The Haxan Cloak, which helps make the movie at times feel like a 80s style action flick. There are also some strong Anime and video game influences here, especially in the fight scenes, which are intense and powerful. My only major complaint for this production is the run time, which at two hours and 7 minutes feels a little long at times, but I never felt like any scene overstayed its welcome.

I always like it when studios are able to take a sort of underdog character from comics and do something really cool with it, and in addition to being a wonderful tribute to Latino culture and the importance of family, BLUE BEETLE is a great example of how to make a superhero movie that is just a fun and pleasing experience, even if it never seems to outshine what’s come before it. It’s a solid entry in the genre, and could potentially be the start of a great franchise. Make sure to stick around through the credits for a terrific stinger.

BLUE BEETLE opens August 18, 2023

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About the Author

Born and raised in Dallas, Mark has been a movie critic since 1994, with reviews featured in print, radio and National TV. In 2001 he started the Entertainment section of the Herorealm website, where he contributed film reviews and celebrity interviews until 2004. After three years of service there, he started, which has become one of the Dallas film community's leading information websites. Bigfanboy hosts several movie screenings in the Texas area, and works closely with film and TV studios and promotional partners to host exciting events and contests. The site also features a variety of rare celebrity and filmmaker interviews, and regularly covers the film festival circuit as well. In addition to Hollywood reporting, Mark has worked for many years as an advertising and sci-fi/comic book artist. Clients have included Lucasfilm Ltd., Topps Trading Cards, The Dallas Mavericks and The Dallas Stars. From 2002 until 2015 he managed the Dallas Comic Con, Sci-Fi Expo and Fan Days events in the DFW area. He currently catalogs rare comic books and movie memorabilia for Heritage Auctions, and runs the Dallas Comic Show conventions, but remains an avid moviegoer and cinema buff.