Let’s talk about Blue Beetle.
I was going to say that DC Films are in a mess at the moment, but that’s applied to them ever since they made Man of Steel. Having seen how much money Marvel made out of B-List superheroes like Iron Man and Thor, DC thought they could make mega millions as they have some of the most famous superheroes ever under their ownership. But they rushed things, tried to get to Justice League too quickly and ended up killing their own series by trying way too hard to get to the level Marvel were at. In the process they have angered many fans, some to the level of organised online boycotts and campaigns, and now are beginning a reset which is causing the films they have left to make less money than the village lemonade stand. So these last few films of the old regime have an odd feeling about them as you know they aren’t here for the long haul. But maybe Blue Beetle can be a bit of fun?
Jaime Reyes is doing what he can to try and save his home after his rent was increased. This leads to a series of events where he encounters an ancient scarab beetle that embeds itself in him and gives him super powers. However, a billionaire wants the scarab and won’t stop at anything to get it.
The reason Blue Beetle hasn’t got much buzz is simple. It looks like every other superhero film. Sure, it’s got a predominantly Latino cast and it’s set in a Miami-like city, but the core elements remain the same. It’s a young man who is accidentally plunged into a situation he is not equipped for, gets some superpowers on top of that and has to go on a journey to learn how to handle it as well as beat an evil villain. We’ve seen this a lot, heck we’ve had three different Spider-Mans since the start of millennium, and that doesn’t help the film because it doesn’t do much to really reinvent it. It’s still a basic origin story and it hits pretty much every beat you would expect from a film like this. In an era where superhero fatigue has properly hit, this is why many people will give this one a miss.
But it’s a shame that people will give it a miss as what they are missing is a film that executes all of it’s beats really well. You can see the film has really good intentions with it’s representation for starters. I feel like the pitch for this movie was ‘We’re going to do a Latino Black Panther’ and by that, I mean have a film that made the same cultural impact as Black Panther did for black people. Obviously it hasn’t, but the right ingredients are there. Not only does it have a large Latino cast but it touches on issues which should resonate in the demographic. It talks about gentrification forcing them further away from their homes, the importance of family and how far they feel off wealth, wealth they often can see from their homes. Of course, this affects non-Latinos as well, but it’s something that feels like it should hit home for many. Of course, I’m a white guy in England, so this is all theory to me, but it feels like it’s doing a good job.
The real strength of the film is just how likable the entire cast is. Jamie Reyes is played by Xolo Mariduena who you may know from Cobra Kai. This is the first time I’m seeing him, that I can remember anyway, and he is just a very charming lead actor. He instantly draws you in as Jaime as he seems to be an enthusiastic lad with lots of optimism despite the fact the world seems to be conspiring against him. His reaction to getting his superpowers is brilliant and he plays the role of slowly coming to terms with these new abilities and seeing them as a blessing and not a curse is done brilliantly by him as well. Yes, you’ve seen it before but you can’t argue when it’s done well. He gets a really nice romance as well and without spoiling too much, his nana is a proper dark horse.
In many ways it feels like an early Marvel film in both the good and bad ways. You get this really lively story with a likable cast that make a good case for a superhero that sounded really silly before the movie. But I did say it had the bad as well and that stays with the villains. Susan Sarandon is the main villain, the sister of the original Blue Beetle Ted Kord who wants to change the legacy of his business into one that sells weapons for incredible levels of profit. Yes, very Iron Man which this film does borrow from quite a bit. She is very underdeveloped and so is her henchman. Frustratingly, they do a scene at the end with the henchman that would be brilliant if some work had gone into establishing him earlier on but they don’t, so it isn’t brilliant. It is like all those underwhelming villains back in Phase 1 of Marvel, it’s almost nostalgic!
Blue Beetle is a really unfortunate film. Because of the fact the DC Universe is being reset and films like The Flash poisoning the well, this movie is going to get ignored. And in fairness, it isn’t special enough to grab any extra attention or really draw audiences. But it still is a very fun movie that is a nice way to cap off the summer. It delivers a really enjoyable cast, some daft action where the main priority is to make sure that you have as much fun as possible. It does remind me of early MCU films, and that is for it’s benefit, but here it’s actually going to be showing us the end of the DC Universe. Well, almost the end. We still have Aquaman 2 to go!