“Blue Beetle”, a superhero movie with a heart

Lovable characters and heartfelt sincerity elevate this movie above a standard superhero romp.


The Blue Beetle is one of DC’s longest-standing characters, first appearing nearly a century ago in 1939. Despite that, he is far from a household name in the way that Batman or Superman are. In fact, comic readers may be even more familiar with the character Nite Owl, which legendary author Alan Moore created to parody Blue Beetle in his seminal work, Watchmen. Despite that, modern superhero cinema has not shied away from giving less famous characters the limelight in movies. And now it’s Blue Beetle’s turn with this movie directed by Ángel Manuel Soto, marking his first appearance on the big screen.

So what is Blue Beetle about? Jaime Reyes, played by Xolo Maridueña, is a college graduate from a poor Mexican family, who, while attempting to secure a job is dragged into a situation way out of his depth. He inadvertently bonds with an alien artefact known as the Scarab, which grants him frighteningly powerful technological superpowers. He and his family then become the targets of a manhunt by the powerful Kord Industries led by villainess Victoria Kord (played by Susan Sarandon), who seeks to gain control of the Scarab to mass-produce weapons.

If you have watched your fair share of superhero movies before (and let’s face it, you probably have if you’re reading this), you know what to expect. A young man reluctantly bestowed with powers he never asked for, in order to protect his loved ones (including a plucky new love interest), has to go up against an evil corporation and a villain that is his dark mirror image. This movie does not stray too far from the templates set by its predecessors.

However, where Blue Beetle excels is in its heart. Jaime’s family forms the core of this movie, each family member having a distinct personality and each expressing their love for Jaime in different but equally sincere ways. The mutual teasing, heartfelt encouragements and raucous celebrations they have feels very authentic and their bonds form the emotional heart of the story, motivating Jaime to step up and become a hero. As the aforementioned love interest, Jenny Kord (Bruna Marquezine) says, they have a house filled with love. This aspect of the movie is what will keep you invested throughout. By comparison, the romance subplot is serviceable, but not quite on the same level.

While the cinematography is also not particularly outstanding, unlike fellow DC movie The Batman to give an example, Blue Beetle nevertheless leans into a sort of retro, Saturday morning look for the movie with bright blues, purples, and golds, befitting the fun tone of the movie. The hero, villain, and secret underground hideout are all lit up with eye-catching neon lights.

Of course, you cannot have a superhero movie without action scenes. Blue Beetle employs a mix of acrobatic martial arts and energy blasts to overcome his foes, fighting his way through hordes of faceless goons in style. The frenetic, high-speed flight scenes where Jaime struggles to control The Scarab as it sends him hurtling across the city and into orbit are entertaining. Whatever weapon that Jaime can imagine, The Scarab can manifest, leading to some rather inventive and cool fights.

While Victoria Kord serves as the mastermind antagonist, Carapax, played by Raoul Max Trujillo, serves as the physical threat to Jaime. In yet another point of adherence to the superhero formula, Carapax is a dark reflection of Jaime, and fights in a red, heavily armoured battlesuit. We’ve seen this trope countless times, in Iron Man, Doctor Strange, and Ant-Man. For most of the movie, it seemed like Carapax would be a one-note villain like so many others that have come before him. Thankfully, in his last scenes, his backstory is explored in a short but succinct sequence, giving much-needed depth and pathos to his character.

Though the overall tone is kept light and fun throughout most of the movie, there are emotionally intense moments, especially when nearing the climax. These moments stand out due to the contrast in tone with the rest of the movie and hit even harder due to all the groundwork done in building up the bonds between the characters. It is thanks to the sincerity and heart behind Blue Beetle that makes it worth the watch.

Catch Blue Beetle in a cinema near you starting from August 17.

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