I’m sick and tired of superhero movies. I really am. I enjoyed The Flash quite a bit, and Shazam 2 well enough, but the fact of the matter is that whenever a superhero movie starts, I tend to glaze over something fierce. Because no matter how different the title character, their powers, or even the general plot are, the fact of the matter is that they’re all ultimately the same thing. There are outliers in both directions, but the time when anyone who considers themselves a cinephile could find excitement about the next DC/Marvel property has very much passed. And did you see Secret Invasion?!? Yuck.
Disney and Warner Brothers have each done the impossible. They’ve somehow taken Marvel, DC, and Star Wars and made them not just boring, but exhausting. That should be impossible, but here in the land of more more MOOOORE, I guess it was inevitable. So where does that leave DC’s latest, Blue Beetle?
Well, a little background before we begin what is sure to be a short review. Ahem. Blue Beetle is either part of the now defunct Zack Snyder-era of the DCEU or it’s part of the burgeoning James Gunn-era of the DCEU. My guess it’s that box office receipts will be the determining factor as to which universe becomes its home. As such, this puts Blue Beetle in a refreshingly old school position: it exists wholly on its own. Short of a passing mention of Batman (someone refers to the Caped Crusader as a fascist), there is no tangible connective tissue to any other superhero movie. This is an origin story for the titular character, paired with a one-off adventure. No more, no less. And all things considered, it’s not bad.
It doesn’t clear the ever-heightening hurdle of superhero fatigue, but it’s not bad.
Xolo Maridueña plays Jaime Reyes, a college student who, upon coming home for break, discovers that his family is on the verge of losing their home. Jaime, ever the optimist, refuses to let this happen and gets right to working alongside his sister Milagro (Belissa Escobedo) at a resort owned by tech/weapons-CEO Victoria Kord (Susan Sarandon). While on the job, a small heroic effort gets Jaime and Milagro fired, placing them both on Kord’s shit-list. But Kord’s altruistic niece Jenny (Bruna Marquezine) takes a shine to their plight and offers Jaime a job opportunity. This opportunity, long story short, places him in the accidental possession of an alien scarab that latches itself to Jaime, giving him the unique ability to transform into The Blue Beetle (see: Iron Man, but blue and DC).
Naturally, Victoria Kord wants this scarab returned to her so that she can use its abilities to refine her very own super soldier program (for lack of a better, and less copyrighted) term. You know the drill and you, like me, are tired. You’ve seen this before multiple times, sometimes better, other times not, but at this point there are so many options out there if you wish to consume this formula, that Blue Beetle, although peppy and entertaining, is just another one for the pile.
What’s good about it?
- Latino representation in the superhero world.
- George Lopez is really funny in it.
- It’s very colorful and the effects look better than many other movies of its ilk.
- Everyone in the cast is giving a high-effort, fun performance.
- The familial love is felt (even if they are the most easily distracted family who has ever lived — no lie, they will somehow always forget that danger is afoot and will start comically bickering at the drop of a hat).
- They gave away sticks of Vick’s Vaporub at the screening because in one scene an unconscious character is woken up by having a Vaporub stick placed under his nose.
What’s not so good about it?
- I’m tired.
- You’re tired.
- For an origin story, it’s rather rote. We are told the scarab “chose” Jaime to be its host, but we are not told why, nor is it even questioned.
- They also gave away Blue Beetle-branded Reese’s cups at the screening (good), but they’re just regular cups in a fancy wrapper (bad – I want blue cups!)
But hey, I was never bored during the movie, even if it was hard to care beyond surface-level pleasures. And who doesn’t love a few surface-leave pleasures here and there? It’s a shame that the state of superhero cinema has gotten so stale that this, a basic, introductory entry, can feel so fresh simply by being average (or rather, not below average), but here we are. You, me, and Susan Sarandon.
Directed by Angel Manuel Soto
Written by Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer
Starring Xolo Maridueña, Bruna Marquezine, Becky G, George Lopez
Rated PG-13, 127 minutes