Blue Beetle official trailer
Blue Beetle is undoubtedly one of the best DC superhero films in years – but they don’t have a particularly high bar to clear.
Aside from Matt Reeves’ superb standalone The Batman last year, the DC Universe proper has delivered flop after flop, from Dwayne Johnson’s middling vanity project Black Adam to the disastrous multiverse mishap The Flash.
With this in mind, it’s easy to see why fans are approaching yet another superhero origin story for an untested character with caution, and Blue Beetle is already tracking to be another box-office disappointment.
However, Express Online recommends you give this one a chance.
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There’s no reinventing the wheel here. Director Ángel Manuel Soto plays things safe with a breezy origin story that harkens back to Sam Raimi’s original Spider-Man, with a little – but not enough – Cronenbergian body horror for good measure.
When struggling graduate Jaime Reyes (played by Xolo Maridueña) crosses paths with tech company Kord Industries he stumbles across the Scarab, a mysterious alien artifact that fuses with his body with horrific results.
He soon unveils a corporate conspiracy headed up by Susan Sarandon, who’s having a blast as mad scientist supervillain Victoria Kord, and tries to put a stop to it with a little help from his family.
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Jaime’s family – sister Milagro (Belissa Escobedo), mother Rocio (Elpidia Carrillo), father Alberto (Damián Alcázar), uncle Rudy (George Lopez) and Nana (Adriana Barraza) – are the real stars of the show.
Lopez especially gets the film’s biggest laughs and Soto’s dedication to highlighting Mexican and Latino culture within a family context makes the Reyes an instantly lovable ensemble.
As ever with DC heroes, the Reyes occupy the downtrodden streets of a fictional city – Palmera – and Soto brings it to life with a stark divide between its rich and poor inhabitants.
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Some strong, grounded scenes with the family aren’t quite enough to propel this superhero origin from good to great, unfortunately. Once the predictable fight to save the world gets going, the standard CG-heavy set pieces start to dominate, and there are only a handful of twists that help Blue Beetle stand out from the usual DC or Marvel fare.
There’s also an abundance of crude humor – some of it lands, much of it doesn’t. One fart gag that arrives at a pivotal moment in the third act is poorly timed, lasts far too long and leaves a powerful stench in its wake.
It’s particularly egregious as it comes just minutes after some of the most poignant scenes in the movie, where Jaime’s superheroing threatens his family with genuinely high-stakes and a heartbreaking reflection of the all-too-real experiences of Mexican families across the US.
These themes also carry through in Jaime’s physical rival Carapax (Raoul Max Trujillo), based on an obscure DC villain whose backstory has been bulked up to match his clunky red exoskeleton.
As far as supervillain team-ups go, though, Kord and Carapax are sadly more Poison Ivy and Bane in Batman and Robin than – well, has there ever been a good one?
Looking toward the future of DC, Blue Beetle is apparently the first new character in new CEO James Gunn’s vision for the revamped franchise, although it was in-development before this announcement.
It will continue with Superman: Legacy before fans are introduced to new versions of Batman, Green Lantern and more – but will Jaime Reyes factor in to yet another growing multiverse of heroes?
Time will tell, but Blue Beetle’s first flight will have fans itching for a bigger and better sequel.
Blue Beetle is out in theaters on Friday, August 18.
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