Where the DC comic book films will go after “The Flash” is anyone’s guess BLUE BEETLE dont answer. Instead, it may say more about the status quo of superhero cinema than it would like. And that despite the fact that overall it is actually rock solid.
Original title: Blue Beetle (MEX/USA 2023)
That’s what it’s about
When recent college graduate Jaime Reyes (Xolo Maridueña) returns home, he actually has big plans for the future. But his parents Alberto (Damián Alcázar) and Rocio (Elpidia Carrillo), his sister Milagro (Belissa Escobedo) and his uncle Rudy (George Lopez) bring him back down to earth. Due to rent arrears, the family is in danger of losing their house, which is why Jaime and Milagro decide together to work for the tough CEO Victoria Kord (Susan Sarandon). By chance, the two of them meet Jenny (Bruna Marquezine), who also belongs to the company, and who unknowingly entrusts Jaime with a task that plunges him headlong into an adventure. He is supposed to watch out for the so-called scarab. An ancient relic based on alien biotechnology. Unfortunately, the mysterious beetle chooses him as a symbiotic host and inevitably turns him into a superhero Blue Beetle.
As early as 2015, legendary director Stephen Spielberg expressed skepticism about the triumph of contemporary superhero films in an interview. To put it into perspective: At that time, Marvel was just on the threshold of the third phase Infinity Saga, while DC hadn’t even released Batman v Superman yet. So far, Spielberg’s prediction that superhero cinema will take the same path as Western films has not come true. Many others had subsequently predicted this to him. But the Infinity Saga was completed with great success worldwide. DC also still has some big box office hits to this day. And not to forget: the visions. As long as there is still enough space in a genre for visions (which, admittedly, are always part of the superstructure of a… big picture have to subordinate), one can hardly speak of dying. Of course you can take issue with the directorial experiments of “Eternals” or “The Flash”. That’s exactly what makes it controversial – and therefore not irrelevant. In addition, the two comic film frontrunners Marvel and DC always pursued different approaches in terms of tonality and aesthetics. This also helps the superhero film to have sufficiently different aspects so that it doesn’t completely disappear into the sameness. But perhaps with “Blue Beetle” the phase of quiet withering away that Stephen Spielberg once spoke of has now begun. Because even if the DC Universe deals with the Origin Story one of its second-tier superheroes taps into another specific audience target group, it is no longer possible to tell whether “Blue Beetle” is a Marvel, a DC or another studio film. And therefore none of the visions mentioned at the beginning.
The heart of “Blue Beetle”: the loving family structure of the Mexican Reyes family.
In the run-up to the publication, those responsible focused primarily on the fact that the eponymous Blue Beetle will be about the first Latin American superhero to have his own film. We remember: Such pilot projects for specific demographic groups have worked pretty well at the box office so far: “Wonder Woman” was at the time the first big-budget film with a female heroine at the center that could be assigned to a current comic franchise. “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” brought Asian culture into the MCU and, last but not least, “Black Panther” is still one of the most successful superhero films of all time due to its importance for the African-American community. “Blue Beetle” also has such a standing and can hardly be marketed in any other way. The problem: DC placed the film at a bad time. The DCEU is officially history. The new James Gunn era is not scheduled to begin until July 2025 with “Superman: Legacy”. And “Blue Beetle”? It hangs somewhere in between. Just like “Aquaman 2”, which is due to be released this year and for which the same signs currently apply. Because both characters are said to be important for the future of the DC films, they are closer to the completed DCEU than to the next “Superman” film – and Aquaman would then even be part of both DC universes. But who reads about a film studio’s release strategy before deciding to buy a cinema ticket?
“The DCEU is officially history. The new James Gunn era is not scheduled to begin until July 2025 with ‘Superman: Legacy’. And ‘Blue Beetle’? It hangs somewhere in between.”
All of these observations and questions could hardly summarize the film itself better. They do suggest to some extent that the placement of a single project within a universe comprising several films is not unimportant for its relevance. In short: Because “Blue Beetle” has to function on its own for the time being, narrative weaknesses are even more difficult to conceal. The excuse that is still available in the event of failure – that the main character is still important to the bigger picture later – is valid as things stand, but is hardly tangible due to the long time gap. Furthermore, no one could be blamed for looking for a connection to “The Flash” and Co. in “Blue Beetle”. Just because the yes, it was just the DCEU. And then he’s disappointed when he doesn’t find her. Out of his job, Puerto Rican director Angel Manuel Soto (“La Granja”) An approach was chosen that makes “Blue Beetle” a solid superhero blockbuster, whose Ssolid must be understood in the most neutral sense possible. His film is the result of what happens when you choose the lowest common denominator as a basis for the sake of simplicity. Action, adventure, humor, emotionality – “Blue Beetle” delivers all of it in just the right amount of time so that something of everything sticks during the two hours of the film; a routine like clockwork.
A trip into the stratosphere shows what power the “Blue Beetle” superhero suit has.
Above all, the proximity to people who are already known (and sometimes even already several times filmed) superhero origin stories catch the eye here. “Blue Beetle” – of course also due to its original – combines many elements that have demonstrably worked in it – but were already there. We know high-tech as the basis for superpowers from “Iron Man”. A naive teenager who suddenly finds himself faced with great responsibility as a superhero the Unique Selling Point of a Spider-Man. That family members also reluctantly come into the Superhero stuff being drawn into the main character is very reminiscent of Shazam. And a megalomaniacal, technology-obsessed corporation as a villain motif is probably the oldest hat in this list. Even individual action set pieces and motifs are given a new infusion in “Blue Beetle”. All of it works in its own way. But it’s not surprising. If anything, “Blue Beetle” brings a breath of fresh air through the palpable passion for the family constellation. At the center of the plot are Jaime Reyes (Xolo Maridueña), chosen by the scarab, his parents Alberto (Damián Alcázar) and Rocio (Elpidia Carrillo), sister Milagro (Belissa Escobedo) and his uncle Rudy (George Lopez). Each and every one of them is completely absorbed in his/her role. At the forefront: main actor Xolo Maridueña (“Cobra Kai”). The energy and genuine solidarity within the Reyes has much of the passionate family structure of the Disney musical “Encanto”; again a familiar motif, but this time at least outside the genre.
Whenever the Reyes are allowed to perform together, “Blue Beetle” is at its strongest. For a long time, screenwriter Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer seems to be (“Miss Bala”) aware of that too. He spends a lot of time in the family home, where tactics against the rogue Kord corporation are forged together. The one from Bruna Marquezine (“America”), a series star in her home country of Brazil, Jenny herself emphasizes how much she admires the Reyes’ family solidarity. And in the end everyone gets to fight together against evil. But it is precisely at this point that the generics in “Blue Beetle” make their way again. For Susan, Sarandon follows the standard motivation for her actions (“With the best of intentions”) as the villain Victoria Kord and the Reyes family in a suitably standardized finale. In the end, whoever has the stronger weapons, the faster reflexes and the better team behind them wins. It’s nice that for once in “Blue Beetle” the world isn’t about to end. A USP currently shows none of this. As a result of the loving family drawing, only the handling of the death of a character is heartwarming, which is acknowledged for an appropriate length of time and emotionally.
“In the end, once again the only winner is whoever has the stronger weapons, the faster stimuli and the better team behind them. It’s nice that for once in ‘Blue Beetle’ the world isn’t about to end. Meanwhile, none of it has a USP.”
While the DCEU films have become more and more artificial in recent years and gradually more opulent, especially in the final battles, “Blue Beetle” surprisingly holds back. The combination of real sets, haptically generated action and computer-created effects is reminiscent of the earlier, even smaller Marvel films in its restraint. Regardless of whether this is due to the fact that the film was only half as expensive as “The Flash” with a budget of 120 million US dollars, “Blue Beetle” visually makes a down-to-earth, well-rounded impression. Those responsible consistently hold back with audiovisual restrictions. Only Jayme’s brief excursion into the stratosphere stands out. Meet “Blue Beetle”. none Having to endure CGI overkill feels downright relaxing. But it’s also a reason why you ultimately can’t classify the film anymore. By breaking away from the DC bombast of the last few years, the comic company has finally given up one of its most important identifying features. “Blue Beetle” is more than ever just plain any superhero movie.
The thunderstorm of effects typical of DC is pleasantly small in “Blue Beetle”.
Conclusion: “Blue Beetle” is visionless routine. Everything works. Somehow. None of it stays in your head. That doesn’t even have a big impact on the entertainment value, because some of the well-known set pieces stick over the course of the two hours. But even if the emotional family heart of the film works well, even the effects are successful, in the end nothing can hide the fact that it is no longer even possible to distinguish whether you are following a Marvel film, a DC production or something completely different.
“Blue Beetle” can be seen in USA cinemas from August 17, 2023.