It has been tough to be a DC movie fan lately. Since James Gunn took over the running of its cinematic output, the whole company and universe have been in transition, caught between running down the remaining slate from the bombastic Zack Snyder-led regime and building up to Gunn’s reign.
Blue Beetle is the second of the final three films in the now defunct DC Expanded Universe (DCEU), along with The Flash earlier this year, and the upcoming Aquaman: The Lost Kingdom. It’s also the most likely of the three to survive the DCEU cull, if you ask me.
In it, Xolo Mariduena plays Jaime (pronounced ‘hai-me’) Reyes, the first member of the Reyes family to graduate from college. After doing so and returning to his home in Palmera City, he finds out that his family is in financial trouble and he is forced to find a job in order to help them out.
However, his life takes a drastic turn after a chance encounter with Jenny Kord (Bruna Marquezine), niece of Victoria Kord (Susan Sarandon), the CEO of weapons-making mega-corporation Kord Industries. Through Jenny, Jaime comes to possess the Scarab, an ancient alien biotechnological relic that chooses him as its host, forming a symbiotic connection with Jaime which grants him a powerful exoskeleton armor, essentially giving him superpowers.
The only problem is, Jaime doesn’t have the slightest clue how to be a superhero, and when Victoria and her half-cyborg lackey Carapax (Raoul Max Trujillo) come looking for the Scarab, he has to learn fast in order to protect his family.
While it’s been reported that Gunn didn’t have a lot of input on this film (it was originally meant to go direct to streaming), Blue Beetle feels like something the Guardians Of The Galaxy director might have come up with in the past. Which is a good thing.
Sure, it seems a little silly to have a movie about a hero named “Blue Beetle” (as if “Batman” or “Ant-Man” are any better), but it’s the irreverent and almost flippant nature of the character and the movie as a whole that gives it its charm.
The movie has been praised by critics as being one of the best on-screen representations of a Latin American family’s culture, but while Malaysians might not be able to appreciate it in that context, the focus on the Reyes family rather than just Jaime alone does give Blue Beetle a more grounded and down to earth feel, despite the fact that the Scarab is a weapon from outer space.
The whole thing is held together nicely by a warm and enthusiastic performance by Mariduena, whose Jaime is reminiscent of Tom Holland’s teenage Peter Parker in Spider-Man: Homecoming, before the Avengers made him grow up too soon. Susan Sarandon also seems to be having fun hamming it up as the big villain of the piece.
The tone and pace of the movie is also fun and breezy and doesn’t take itself too seriously. The stakes are also much smaller than the world-destroying ones in the likes of Justice League and The Flash.
This is a nice change of pace, especially for a superhero that is not exactly a household name, but has enough of a legacy to draw in DC fans as well.
If you’re a DC Comics fan, you would recognise the name “Kord” – it is actually the name of the original Blue Beetle, Ted Kord, whose legacy plays a big part in this movie. You see, Jaime’s version of the Beetle was created in 2006, which is relatively new compared to the two other characters who previously held that title – Dan Garret (created in 1939!) and the aforementioned Ted Kord (who debut in 1966).
Tying Ted’s legacy with that of Jaime is actually a nice touch that I hope will continue on into the “new” Gunn-led DC Universe (which will actually include a TV series starring Booster Gold, who is in turn the best friend of Ted Kord).
Rather than thinking of Blue Beetle as a remnant of the old DC cinematic universe, the opposite is more true – its fun, breezy tone and smaller, standalone stakes actually make it the perfect springboard for the new DC universe.
Sure, there’s another Aquaman movie still to come, but if this is the sort of movie that DC can turn out under Gunn, I’m all for it.
More fun than you can shake a bug at