Wed | Nov 29, 2023

‘Blue Beetle’ new face, same old story

Published:Monday | August 21, 2023 | 12:08 AMDamian Levy/Gleaner Writer

This year alone has seen four superhero movies released, with two more on the way. Now, with a new character to introduce Blue Beetle aims to stand out in a year packed with heroics.

On one hand, the film succeeds with a relatable character whose Mexican-American culture provides meaningful representation of an under-represented group in superhero fiction. On the other hand, the film struggles to hold its own against the moniker of just another superhero movie.

Blue Beetle has a better time with character than it does with plot. Xolo Maridueña plays Jaime Reyes, a recent college graduate with aspirations to lift his immigrant family out of poverty, and save their home and family business from the scourge of gentrification. Its strong standing for a protagonist, and Maridueña gives Jaime the sense of wide-eyed innocence that endears you to him. Much like the ancient alien artefact that clings on to Jaime.

Once Jaime gets bonded to the super scarab, the movie starts to feel like a mash-up of comic book films of the last 15 years. It’s a little bit Iron Man, a little bit Ant Man, a little bit Venom, and a little bit Spider Man. The stakes are just high enough to feel personal to Jaime and his family, but the first time superhero doesn’t exactly have the fate of the world in his hands.

When the film keeps the focus on the family it’s at its strongest. The cast is solid with George Lopez as a clear stand-out, and some genuine emotional beats that the movie more than earns. The fact that these elements break through the noise of a been-there-done-that superhero fare, is a testament to the writing and performances.

Despite being old hat, many of the superhero antics in Blue Beetle are admittedly thrilling. As Jaime rockets into the stratosphere, feelings of vertigo are felt in the audience, and the power fantasy told through the eyes of the child of immigrants does wonders to elevate an old story, through a new perspective. It doesn’t break the mould by any means, but Blue Beetle deserves praise for its strengths, so much so that it gets a pass for its weaknesses.

Rating: Half Price

Damian Levy is a film critic and podcaster for Damian Michael Movies.