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Blue Beetle Review

Heartwarming and exciting but also overstuffed and tripping over its own feet, Blue Beetle is a frequently charming, frequently frustrating attempt to re-write (or at least re-aim) the classic superhero narrative and intermittently succeeding. When it does succeed it flies high, pulling in pieces from successful forebears like Spider-Man and Iron Man and spinning them into something new, just as those antecedents did with the pulp adventures that preceded them.

When it doesn’t, it throws old tropes into sharp relief and unfortunately highlights why the boundaries of the form are what they are. The risk of any experiment is failure and Blue Beetle reaches its best moments when it takes those risks. It hits its lowest when it tries to ameliorate them.

Blue Beetle Review

Both cases center around family, the touchstone for young Jaime Reyes (Xolo Maridueña). The first member of his own family to graduate from college, he returns home to Palmera City intent on continuing his upward trajectory and instead finding his family facing the loss of their business and home while his father recuperates from a recent heart attack.

Giving up his plans for the future to deal with the now, Jaime takes a menial job in the home of Kord family, the arms dealing blue bloods of the city, only to find himself saddled with an alien scarab which family matriarch Victoria (Susan Sarandon) has been desperately attempting to unlock and weaponize.

Blue Beetle Review

Finding himself suddenly bonded with an alien device and capable of seemingly endless feats of destruction, Jaime is desperate to o get rid of the alien device and return to something like a normal life. But when his family is caught in the crossfire between a capitalist tyrant and alien death machines, Jaime must realize his life has a new purpose now…

There is, by necessity, a lot that is familiar in Blue Beetle. From the accidental discovery of power to the competing desires for something more than a normal life and rejection of the strange device when it arrives, Jaime and his alter-ego follow a lot of well covered ground in the superhero genre. There’s no desire to change that and over time it becomes clear what the pitfalls of doing so may be.

Blue Beetle Review

Where it does diverge from dogma is in Jaime himself. One of the other tropes of the genre is the isolation of the hero – it’s not unusual for these heroes to be orphans or widows, something that separates them from the world around them and which they need to overcome and return from, often through the generation of found family.

Jaime doesn’t have to find his, it’s all around him; a warm, multi-generational clan struggling to advance against the tides of gentrification, poverty and xenophobia surrounding them. The addition of superpowers doesn’t change Jaime from being their hope for the future, it focuses it. Rather than having to hide his new reality from his family, enhancing his isolation (and playing into the similar feelings of the forms adolescent audience), Blue Beetle brings them along every step of the way.

It offers up lots of new storytelling options the genre isn’t always able to take advantage of reconfiguring Jaime into a symbol for his community. But there is always risk in something new and not every experiment is successful.

There is definitely a point where the continued return of Jaime’s family members in his adventures reduces stakes and increases camp. The more his family tags along, the less Jaime has to do and the more it becomes a vehicle for bits than an adventure with stakes.

Worse, as if realizing the risks of changing the way a superhero story can be told it leans into those bits as a safety net, losing some of its heart in the process. Across the Spider-Verse showed us how family can be kept front of mind within a superhero story without removing focus from its central character.

Blue Beetle just keeps giving us more George Lopez, even to the point of letting Uncle Rudy explain Jaime’s relationship with his own father rather than letting it play out for us. The idea seems to be that he’s loud and boisterous and will keep audiences focused, but all it really does is show a lack of belief in Jaime’s ability to carry his own story.

Experimenting is always good. Rehashing old story beats and characterizations over and over is safe but ultimately defeating. But experimentation always comes with risk and not everything that came before should be thrown out.

Hopefully with its first teething issues out of the way, future iterations work out a better balance and nail down the unique identity it has tasked for itself. If not, it may just go down as an interesting experiment.


Warner Bros Pictures will release Blue Beetle in theaters on Friday, August 18. The film is rated PG-13 for sequences of action and violence, language, and some suggestive references.

Blue Beetle Review