It was a very bad year for DC Studios. Shazam 2 and The Flash were bad movies that both flopped. And now we have Blue Beetle, a movie that has the look and feel of a major Arrowverse crossover event on the CW. I’m sorry to say that DC’s situation hasn’t improved at all with this movie.
Blue Beetle follows recent college graduate Jimmy Reyes (Xolo Mariduena) as he tries to help his family keep their home. Instead, she runs into Victoria Kurd (Susan Sarandon), an evil billionaire who runs a tech company called Kurd Industries, and gets her and her sister fired from cleaning jobs. But then Jamie tangles with Victoria’s niece, Jenny (Brona Marcin), who doesn’t like Aunt Vicky turning the company into a gun manufacturer. And after a series of accidents and mishaps, Jamie encounters an ancient alien device that climbs his butt and transforms him into a superhero. And Victoria is going to send some armored super soldiers to get that Scarab back.
The blue cockroach has three really big problems. First: It was originally going to be released directly to HBO Max, and the final product shows that. It looks cheap and bland, the cinematography uses only the most standard TV angles and framing, and the action sequences never seem overdone. Rather than the prequel season of a DC hero on the big screen, Blue Beetle has a spin-off of a TV show like The CW’s Arrow or The Flash.
Second Big Problem: Blue Beetle follows the formula of an almost comedic superhero movie to a T, and it’s boring at this point. Thanks to our real-world circumstances of having spent the last 15 years watching cartoons with this tone, none of the humor has any real impact. There are some good jokes, but the relentless interjection of comedy into very heavy situations is as tiresome as it has been in the MCU for years.
This problem disproportionately affects the characters who should be the low-class protagonists of his film: Jimmy’s family (his sister, mother and father, eccentric uncle and grandmother). Although none of them have superpowers, these people have the Shazam family’s level of involvement in the story. But they serve as comic relief at the same time, and since there are five of them, it’s rare that the jokes stop altogether. It probably would have played better if I hadn’t spent the last 15 years watching dozens of superhero movies with this tone.
That said, George Lopez as the eccentric inventor uncle whose skills and knowledge rival that of a giant corporation like Cord Industries – he’s the best and funnest part of every scene he’s in. With the wrong actor, a quirky role like this could be very annoying — but Lopez holds it together so well that she can switch between serious and silly without being awkward.
And the third big thing: the alien scarab that gives Jamie Rhys the powers of the Blue Beetle is supposed to be an intelligent character named Kehji Da, and he plays the same AI role as Tony Stark’s Iron Man suit. The Spider-Man costume he made for Peter Parker. But he never manages the character even that much. He never shows that he has a will of his own—he’s just Siri: not a real person. Despite this, the characters talk about him and to him as if he were one.
If you haven’t seen the movie yet, the last complaint might sound like small potatoes. But it symbolizes the strange void at the center of the blue beetle. The film’s opening scene sees Victoria on some sort of archaeological dig where Cord personnel are trying to open a building-sized orb that holds the Scarab, which is from outer space.
But later in the film, we learn that the Scarab was previously in the possession of Jenny’s father, Ted – an earlier iteration of the Blue Beetle both in this film’s universe and in DC Comics. Ted is long gone and no one knows where he is. But the film has no interest in any kind of bigger picture—although it feels like content that was cut, not content that never existed—and we don’t know anything about what happened to Ted or why the Scarab could happen. . In a great orb, and therefore at the heart of this story, we have a great mystery that no one will ever attempt to solve. I guess they leave all the details for the next hypothetical movie
If there is a follow-up, I hope it gets the treatment the big screen’s first Latino superhero deserves.