As we enter the strange grey area between the cinematic Flashpoint-inspired Flash movie and James Gunn’s reshaping of the DC cinematic universe, it can be hard to feel excited about another superhero movie without knowing how it actually fits or if it’s going to be retconned away. But that should in no way discourage anyone from watching Blue Beetle, because it’s honestly one of the best movies we’ve seen from the studio in a while.
Well, if you were wondering if this was going to be a positive review, we can cut to that chase pretty quickly. Yes, it is a great movie, and you should go see it.
With that established, we can delve into the details and see what works and what falls short for Jaime Reyes’ theatrical debut.
Story-wise, most viewers know what to expect, even if they haven’t read any “Blue Beetle” comics. The Blue Beetle movie follows Jaime Reyes (Xolo Maridueña), a young Mexican-American man who accidentally bonds with a superweapon scarab (voiced by Becky G) that transforms him into a beetle-themed superhero. Subsequently, he’s hunted down by Victoria Kord (Susan Sarandon), who wants to use the powers of the scarab to create new super soldier technology for the military. It’s a pretty basic storyline, but it works well for introducing the character to a wider audience.
At the same time, this movie is unafraid to tackle some serious topics throughout its two-hour, seven-minute runtime. It touches on themes of gentrification, displacement, the military-industrial complex, the immigrant and minority experience (including plenty of micro-aggressions), and more, making them key aspects of the movie in a way that contributes to and drives the plot forward. We see Jaime’s family struggling to stay afloat, losing their house and business while massive, deluxe skyscrapers rise into the skyline from across the street. We see how Victoria’s Kord Industries is willing to use and trample over anyone (but primarily people of color) in the pursuit of profit and power, writing it off as “for the greater good.” And most of all, we’re made to feel for Jaime and his family as they support each other throughout all of it.
One of the most important elements of this movie is Jaime’s family. While many heroes may struggle with keeping their identities secret from those close to them, that is not the case for Blue Beetle, and the character and movie alike are all the better for it. The Reyes family forms the heart of the story, showing their love and unity as a family even between the occasional bickering. Of course, this makes it even more nerve-wracking when they’re inevitably put in danger, leading to one of the most genuinely heart-wrenching moments I’ve seen in a superhero movie for quite some time.
Also, Nana Reyes (Adriana Barraza) is perhaps the greatest granny on this side of the comic book universe, for reasons I won’t spoil. But she brings no small amount of gravitas and emotion to the role, along with a healthy helping of badassery down the line. Jaime’s younger sister, Milagro (Belissa Escobedo) also plays a large role, nicely capturing both a sense of jaded disillusion and familial affection, as well as a heartbreakingly emotional scene down the line. And their parents, Rocio (Elpidia Carrillo) and Alberto Reyes (Damián Alcázar), provide a pillar of support for Jaime in both his life after graduation and his heroics.
With that said, George Lopez’s Rudy Reyes was the only member of the family that didn’t quite land right, bringing a “comedic relief” that mostly consisted of yelling in surprise a lot, while still also being the resident tech guy. But even he managed to get some good moments along the way.
Outside of the family, the supporting cast was solid all around. Susan Sarandon’s Victoria Kord is chilling in the nonchalant way she cheerily carries out increasingly despicable acts, while Bruna Marquezine’s Jenny Kord works as a solid foil for her and strikes a decent level of chemistry with Xolo’s Jaime. Raoul Trujillo’s Conrad Carapax strikes a properly imposing physical foe for the Blue Beetle, who blends elements of his comic book counterpart (Carapax the Indestructible Man) and O.M.A.C. And as a fan of What We Do in the Shadows, I was also pleased to see Harvey Guillén, who was given a great moment to shine near the end.Continued below
Becky G as Khaji-Da (the scarab) came as a surprise when I first heard her voice in the trailer, especially when compared to Young Justice, where Eric Lopez voiced both Jaime and Khadi-Da. Giving the scarab a more feminine voice still works well, though, as the actress brings a cold, professionally robotic tone at first, while adding more personality and emotion as the scarab bonds with Jaime.
Of course, as this is a superhero movie, there’s bound to be plenty of action, and there were moments battles Blue Beetle gave us some fight scenes with fun choreography. There were times when the fights came down to “bullets and blasts everywhere,” but once Jaime got the hang of his powers, we got some wonderfully composed fights. Some standout moments came when Jaime could embrace his own nerdy side, creating overly-large “Final Fantasy” style swords and calling out “Get over here!” as he pulled enemies in, or even channeling his rage in a way very reminiscent of Dragon Ball Z.
The CGI, while plentiful, still looked good overall, capturing the design of the Blue Beetle suit nicely. The fact that it is an advanced technological suit meant that the CGI elements weren’t too distracting, but there was still a practical version of it as well, and the fact that it had slight Kamen Rider vibes to it makes things all the better.
But now for the question that readers of the “Blue Beetle” comics have been wondering: how comic-accurate is it?
Pretty dang accurate, all things considered. There are, of course, some changes that come with any adaptation, but enough elements remain accurate that it’s still faithful to the source material. Jaime’s family life, his powers, his personality, and (of course) the suit design are all adapted with a clear amount of love for the character.
Yes, Jaime is now a college graduate instead of a high school student on the cusp of graduation (and Milagro was aged up with him), but that works quite well in this case, as it positions him wonderfully at a young man at a crossroad in his life, trying to find his place and purpose as he comes of age.
The downside to that is that Paco and Brenda, his best friends from the comics, don’t play a role in the movie. However, since the main focus is on his relationship with his family, it’s an understandable omission. Hopefully, they’ll play a role in future movies, because this movie truly deserves one.
Another challenge facing Blue Beetle as an adaptation is the character’s role as a legacy hero. There were two other Blue Beetles before Jaime – Dan Garrett and Ted Kord. The movie doesn’t shy away from this, as Ted’s old Blue Beetle legacy plays an important role for Jaime and Jenny, including much of his old tech making an appearance. (And, without spoiling anything, it looks like he’s going to have an even larger impact on the sequel, should we get one.) Dan Garrett’s legacy gets less of a focus, but his name still gets dropped, and his suit appears alongside Ted’s.
And yes, their suits are incredibly comic-accurate, down to the gear and iconography. It’s a delight to see the old costumes come to life.
Another question is: where does this fit into DC’s cinematic continuity? Is it part of the DCEU, or does it fit more into the new cinematic universe James Gunn is bringing us? And honestly, it can fit wherever it needs to, because this isn’t a story tied down by the overall continuity. After all, Superman has Metropolis, and Batman as Gotham, but that doesn’t impact Palmera City at all. Yet it’s still placed solidly within the DC setting, as characters like Superman, the Flash, and Batman still get name-dropped. It’s enough to establish it’s set in that world, without needing to tie it into any past or future movie events.
In short, Blue Beetle is everything fans had been hoping for. It captures the core essence of the comics and characters wonderfully, introduces the character while still recognizing his role as a legacy hero, and it’s just plain fun. At the same time, it features some important thematic and story elements that mirror our own world, all to the betterment of the story and characters. Plus, it has an amazing family dynamic, which forms the heart of the film, which is absolutely essential for Jaime Reyes’ Blue Beetle. This is the kind of DC movie I want to see more of.
(Oh, and for those wondering: there’s a mid-credits and post-credits scene, although only the mid-credits scene is important for the story.)