Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
Theatrical Release Date: August 18, 2023
Digital Release Date: September 26, 2023
Physical Media Release Date: 4K UHD, Blu-ray, DVD – October 31, 2023
Description: From Warner Bros. Pictures comes the feature film Blue Beetle, marking the DC Super Hero’s first time on the big screen. The film, directed by Angel Manuel Soto, stars Xolo Maridueña in the title role as well as his alter ego, Jaime Reyes.
Recent college grad Jaime Reyes returns home full of aspirations for his future, only to find that home is not quite as he left it. As he searches to find his purpose in the world, fate intervenes when Jaime unexpectedly finds himself in possession of an ancient relic of alien biotechnology: the Scarab. When the Scarab suddenly chooses Jaime to be its symbiotic host, he is bestowed with an incredible suit of armor capable of extraordinary and unpredictable powers, forever changing his destiny as he becomes the Super Hero Blue Beetle.
Starring alongside Maridueña are Adriana Barraza, Damían Alcázar, Elpidia Carrillo, Bruna Marquezine, Raoul Max Trujillo, with Oscar winner Susan Sarandon, and George Lopez. The film also stars Belissa Escobedo and Harvey Guillén. Soto directs from a screenplay by Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer, based on characters from DC.
A Warner Bros. Pictures Presentation, a Safran Company Production, Blue Beetle soars into theaters only internationally beginning August 2023 and in North America August 18, 2023. It will be distributed worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures.
By James Harvey
A huge surprise that’s plenty packed with heart and action, Blue Beetle stands as one of Warner Bros. Discovery and DC Comics’ best big-screen efforts in recent years. Despite sticking a little too closely to the standard superhero origin formula, the movie nevertheless leaves its mark thanks to genuine heart and humor, fun set pieces and an unabashed embrace of family and Latino culture. An ultimately endearing spin on the standard superhero origin story, Blue Beetle is a heartfelt and impressive addition to DC Comics’ cinematic escapades.
Blue Beetle follows college grad Jaime Reyes as he returns home ready to tackle his future, only to find things are changing at the Reyes household. When Jaime unexpectedly finds himself in possession of an ancient relic of alien biotechnology, called the Scarab, which chooses him to be its symbiotic host, he is bestowed with an incredible suit of armor capable of extraordinary and unpredictable powers. Now, the Reyes family find their lives forever changed as Jaime starts his journey as the heroic Blue Beetle!
Despite not exactly breaking the mold, Blue Beetle‘s celebration of family and culture is so refreshing that it’s hard to discount it as “just another superhero origin movie.” The film’s crucial family dynamic and heavy Latino influence is not only overwhelmingly endearing, but it’s also central to the Blue Beetle‘s plot and drives a lot of the film’s story and creative choices in ways that add some stimulating flair to the expected tropes. Blue Beetle does hit a lot of the expected points in a movie like this, thanks to a fairly paint-by-numbers plot, but it still manages to leave a notable impression thanks to the filmmakers’ efforts.
To quickly note, recent executive and creative changes to DC Comics’ cinematic universe plans won’t be taken into account here. What matters is the movie itself and nothing else, especially not any external forces outside of its control.
Originally meant for release on the Max streaming service before nabbing a theatrical slot, Blue Beetle may lack the big names and budgets of Warner Bros. Discovery’s other recent live-action DC Comics efforts, but none of that really factors in or matters here. Even with Blue Beetle‘s occasionally limiting scope and budget, the creators still manage to carve out something memorable. While it covers a lot of familiar ground – and somewhat mashes together Spider-Man and Iron Man – writer Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer and director Ángel Manuel Soto keep things lively and entertaining.
Much like when Peter Parker gains the proportional strength of a spider, Jaime Reyes has a steep learning curve ahead of him after the scarab-shaped piece of alien tech fuses with his spine (in a very cool David Croneneburg-esque sequence). Xolo Maridueña is effortlessly likable and charming as Jaime here, both in and out of costume, which helps immensely in getting through those usual ‘training to be a superhero’ scenes. Another massive boost is that Jaime’s adorable family is with him every step of the way as he learns the ins and outs of his new abilities.
Jaime’s family not only grounds his story but also adds a key sense of representation and gleeful authenticity to Blue Beetle. An eclectic bunch, joining Jaime on his super-journey is his hard-working father Alberto (Damían Alcázar) and mother Rocío (Elpidia Carrillo), 17-year-old smart-mouth sister Milagro (Belissa Escobado), scene-stealing conspiracy nut Uncle Rudy (George Lopez), and Alberto and Rudy’s mother Nana (Adriana Barraza), whose revolutionary past comes in handy (and produces some big laughs) when the forces of evil come calling. On top of being fun characters, every family member rings genuine.
Dunnet-Alcocer and Soto’s clear affection for the Reyes family also gives Blue Beetle the palpable stakes it needs to help stick out amongst the plentiful amount of other superhero content available. Watching a heavily armed police force storm the Reyes home evokes real-life instances of immigrant persecution, ratcheting up the tension considerably. While the whole world is still in potential peril and all that, it’s the entire Reyes family and their fearlessness in standing up against their pursuers that will have viewers cheering. More of the Reyes family, please!
The decision to keep the family front and center, whereas most superhero movies tend to swerve the other way, ends up being the movie’s greatest strength time and time again. And while it’s great that the central family dynamic is prioritized here, some other aspects of the film are unfortunately a little underserved, including the romance between Jaime and Jenny Kord (Bruna Marquezine) and the film’s big bads. Susan Surandon (yes, that Susan Surandon) clearly has a ball playing the villainous (and pretty racist) Victoria Kord, but she’s not given enough time to really dive into her character and wants above the basics.
Kord is joined by her right-hand armored man Carapax (Raoul Max Trujillo), an unfortunate, tortured product of the controversial real-life School of the Americas, and put-upon scientist Dr. Sanchez (Harvey Guillén). Despite their characters’ limited development, both Trujillo and Guillén put in solid work and get to respectively shine in a couple big scenes.
Soto’s skillful directing keeps the movie fairly balanced, script blips aside. Pacing is brisk and energetic, but never so that it becomes an issue, with character-driven scenes thankfully allowed to breathe and linger a shade. These crucial scenes not only build-up Blue Beetle‘s heart, but also provide some of the movie’s most poignant moments with the Reyes family (be prepared to tear up, too). Soto juggles all the action beats, character work, and comedic bits without barely missing a step.
An unexpected surprise of the film’s mostly straight-forward approach to Blue Beetle’s origin story is that it’s not bogged down by anything superfluous. There’s no callbacks to other movies, no set-ups for other characters and franchises, none of that. Blue Beetle‘s priorities are Jaime and the Reyes family, along with the history of the Blue Beetle and the Scarab, and not much else. It’s welcome and even feels a little retro (like, pre-MCU) given the current bloated state of most current big-screen superhero offerings.
It’s a simple story and, despite its predictability, the fact that it is just a simple and straightforward story is one of the best things about it. Blue Beetle is self-contained, and is kind of tucked away in its own little corner (at least for the time being), and that’s honestly for the best. After so many elaborate superhero films with increasingly complicated continuity, and the subsequent problems that come with, it’s nice to just get back to basics here.
Also giving Blue Beetle a boost is the lively cinematography of Pawel Pogorzelski and the awesome synth-inspired score by Bobby Krlic. The film’s special effects work is also pretty good for the most part, though they’re far from perfect. There’s a few instances where they can be distractingly rickety, but given the recent special effects work in other superhero projects, Blue Beetle looks really no better or worse than most.
However, the actual Blue Beetle suit looks legitimately incredible from head to toe, and sticks exceptionally close to the four-color source material but with some tweaks here and there. It’s detailed and slick, never once looking bulky, awkward, or too busy. It’s a fantastic suit with a sleek design that, across the board, is one of the best live-action interpretations of a comic book super-suit to date. Plus, as with the source material, Jaime is joined by the suit’s built-in artificial intelligence Khaji Da (voiced by Becky G), who provides guidance (and some nice banter) as our young hero and his family learn the ins and outs of his burgeoning superhero status.
At the end of the day, Blue Beetle should play well with younger viewers and comic fans, though casual audiences may question the need to see it. It doesn’t revamp the superhero concept or anything, admittedly, but it does remind us why these movies can be so effective. Jaime Reyes is a great protagonist, one who cares about his family and loved ones, and wants to do right by them. And he even has a few family members who, through their own past experiences, would rightfully be considered heroes in their own right even without the shiny suits and flashy fights.
Honestly, if you find yourself getting tired of stories that stretch across way too many movies and big multiversal stakes that are more flash than substance, Blue Beetle just might be what you’re looking for. It’s not a bad thing to go back to the basics every once and awhile, and this movie proves that in spades.
Blue Beetle may tell a familiar story, but its distinct slant breathes new life into these old story beats. It’s genuinely entertaining, with a healthy mix of comedy, solid action beats, and legitimate heartfelt performances, all fueled by the film creators’ unabashed and loving approach to these characters. Blue Beetle doesn’t reinvent the wheel or anything, but the Reyes family are so charming and the movie itself so joyfully delightful that it ends up being a blast nevertheless. Highly Recommended!
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