The DC cinematic universe has primarily focused on established characters. Superman. Batman. Wonder Woman. Aquaman. The Flash. Harley Quinn. Joker. Shazam used to be incredibly popular before falling out of the mainstream completely. Suicide Squad relied on big name actors. And Black Adam’s hype was entirely a byproduct of Dwayne Johnson’s involvement.
That makes Blue Beetle a pretty important step for DC. He’s the first outside-of-pop-culture character they’ve given an individual feature film. Not only that, they didn’t cast someone like Will Smith, Dwayne Jonson, or Margot Robbie to hedge interest. They went with a young TV actor. In some ways, that makes Blue Beetle the most interesting movie DC has made. Also the riskiest. So, that leaves us with the question, is Blue Beetle any good?
The good things about Blue Beetle
The cast makes Blue Beetle worthwhile. Everyone crushes it. Xolo Maridueña in Netflix’s Cobra Kai had already demonstrated for years that he had the charisma and ability to be a movie star. Blue Beetle is confirmation. There’s something infinitely likable about him. He grounds the film and allows the rest of the cast to have their moments. And boy do they take advantage of them.
George Lopez shows up and shows out as Rudy Reyes. I used to watch The George Lopez Show and always liked him but it was easy to just think of him as “the dad who could be funny” or as a stand up guy doing some extended bits in a movie like School Dance. Seeing him as the unhinged uncle? Man. It was a revelation. Good on him. Pretty much stole the movie.
And Damián Alcázar as Jaime’s father broke my heart.
I also need to see Belissa Escobedo star in more things. As of writing this, she doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page. Which is absurd.
I loved how Blue Beetle is essentially a giant vehicle for so many actors to make a name for themselves with American audiences.
I feel like Bruna Marquezine stepped out of a Tom Ford movie.
“Representation” has been the big Hollywood buzzword for the last decade. And Blue Beetle is exactly why it’s important, necessary, and great. From embracing, presenting, and celebrating Hispanic and Latino culture to the opportunities for filmmakers in front of and behind the camera and what this means to audiences around the world—Blue Beetle is awesome.
It succeeds as an origin story told through a unique lens and will have people excited to see what the character does next.
The bad things about Blue Beetle
There isn’t one thing that I want to point to as particularly egregious. It’s mostly a death-by-a-thousand-cuts kind of situation. Less flaws and more imperfections. For example, I didn’t find any of the action sequences particularly compelling or interesting. Especially the fight choreography. Maybe the coolest thing was the Beetle ship stomping on the Kord security force. But even then there’s not much to the scene aside from the ship rampaging for a bit. It’s not some dynamic set piece with micro-narratives like in Pirates of the Caribbean.
Or the scope and scale can be silly at times. For example, when Jaime, Rudy, and Jenny go to the abandoned Kord mansion. Jaime has to fly back home to help his family. And I mean he literally flies there as Blue Beetle, leaving Rudy and Jenny to drive back. We cut to the family and the Kord team rounding them up, then Jaime arrives, fights for a few minutes, then ends up captured. Less than 10 minutes after Jaime gets there, Rudy and Jenny arrive. That mansion was seemingly pretty far away. Maybe not 2 hours away. But definitely not less than 10 minutes. It’s one of those nitpicky things that most people don’t care about. And it wouldn’t bother me if it was the one moment like that. But the whole movie had a lot of those moments where I had to go “Okay, sure. I guess I won’t think too hard about it.” At a certain point, the intrusive thoughts win.
Another issue for me. We have that whole systems check scene where Khaji-Da flies Jaime to outer space then through Palmera City. He causes car wrecks and cuts a bus in half and damages a bridge and buildings. But we never hear anything about it. How’s the city feel about this character appearing? How does the Edge Keys feel? He even has that public fight with Carapax. No broader reaction to that? It’s not like exploring these things is “necessary” and not exploring them is a dealbreaker. But not exploring them makes the movie feel a lot smaller than it should. Like at the end, Jaime’s mother mentions how the entire neighborhood showed up for an event. But we see 20-30 people. That’s a good number of people but definitely not the neighborhood.
I also found it kind of ironic that Blue Beetle released in the middle of a WGA and SAG-AFTRA strike that primarily involves conflict around the use of AI in the creation of films and TV and the hero of the movie relies on a sentient suit that essentially acts as an AI assistant. The cherry on top was that the villain also had a suit but no AI. Obviously that wasn’t intentional and isn’t some subtextual drama. It’s just a timing thing that amused me.
The last thing that tripped me up was the messaging about killing. There are multiple scenes where Jaime stops Khaji-Da from killing. Typical superhero stuff. “We don’t do that.” Except everyone else does. Nana uses a gatling gun on Kord forces. Jenny purposefully crashes a helicopter with multiple people on board who we don’t see escape. And Rudy impales a Kord soldier on the leg of the Beetle ship. Seeing other people so casually dispatch the random henchman without any pushback from anyone else or seemingly any self-reflection about it makes the fact that Jaime’s such a boy scout feel kind of silly. Maybe even a bit forced?
I’m also not a fan of the hero sparring the villain only for the villain to sacrifice themself in a final act of redemption. That’s always struck me as trying to have your cake and eat it too.
So you have a cast doing an awesome job with a story that’s often taking some short cuts as it weaves its way through what’s become a very familiar origin plot. I don’t need these movies to be The Godfather. I just don’t want them to rely so much on the “well, it’s just a comic book movie” excuse.
The ugly things about Blue Beetle
SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER
So Jaime’s dad has a heart attack and dies. It’s devastating. Dude was awesome. But 10 minutes later we get the scene where the family invades the Kord base in the Beetle ship. What song plays? Motley Crüe’s “Kickstart My Heart”.
There’s a part of me that can kind of justify it? After this heart-attack-based tragedy the family’s trying to keep going and so “Kickstart My Heart” is actually this empowering choice.
But there was something about it that didn’t land for me. Maybe if he had passed 20 minutes in and this scene happened at the 100-minute mark? Enough time would have elapsed so that we’re ready for the family to find their spark in the aftermath of tragedy. When it’s only a few scenes later… I was sitting there thinking “Damn. He just died. And you’re playing this song?”
This is another thing that won’t bother 99% of people. I just found it jarring. Because if it’s supposed to have this symbolism to it, I don’t think that scene necessarily supports it? I have to jump through some mental hoops to make it have the heft and weight that it could. And if it’s not supposed to have that symbolism, then it feel like a poor choice. I could see it working if this was a dark, hyperbolic comedy. I’ve been watching Twisted Metal and it would fit right into the humor of that show. But with how heartfelt and earnest Blue Beetle was, that song selection struck me as kind of callous rather than fitting.