REVIEW: Blue Beetle (2023)

However bad you think Blue Beetle is, it’s worse. I was surprised; I figured it would be a dull but fairly innocuous superhero movie, forgettable but harmless. It isn’t; it’s one of the most aggressively annoying, poorly written, badly plotted films in recent memory, not so much derivative of other superhero movies as shamelessly cribbing from them to patch together something resembling a story. This is what I imagine a film written by AI would look like (at least in the early stages before we get to the horror sentience stage), a soulless patchwork of what a machine thinks is a human story.

Jaime Reyes (Xolo Maridueña), a recent college graduate who can’t get a job and has to scrape gum off lounge chairs to make ends meet, is finally offered a gig at Kord Enterprises, an evil company that’s evil because it has military contracts (and bombs Latin American countries for unexplained reasons). Instead, he ends up with a robotic-looking scarab that gives him a super suit and turns him into Blue Beetle. But Kord Enterprises’ evil CEO, Victoria Kord (Susan Sarandon), wants the scarab for herself and will kill Jaime and his family to get it.

Does that sound like half a dozen other superhero movies? If it does, it’s because Blue Beetle steals from a whole bunch of them in its half-hearted efforts to have a plot. It isn’t just the vague allusions to Iron Man and Spider-Man seen in the trailers; it takes plot points from Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, and Spider-Man: Homecoming, as well as imagery from Ms. Marvel. It even copies a great line from The Incredible Hulk – although, unlike that movie, Blue Beetle doesn’t earn it with a thematic buildup. Early on, you begin to realize you’ve seen all of this before and done much better, and you wonder how much longer this thing is.

Another thing all of those movies – and many others – do better than Blue Beetle is show the main character become a hero. For example, in Iron Man, Tony Stark sees the suffering still happening in Afghanistan and returns to the war zone he escaped to save a village from terrorists. In Spider-Man, Peter Parker takes his uncle’s philosophy about power and responsibility to heart and begins rescuing ordinary people from crime and danger throughout New York City. Jaime Reyes never has a moment like that; other than himself, the only people he’s interested in helping are his family and the girl he likes. He never uses his new powers to save people trapped in a burning building or stop a mugging or even protect innocent bystanders during his fights with Kord’s henchmen. Blue Beetle never gives you a reason to believe in its hero.

Blue Beetle

Well, it tries to, I guess, but it’s a cynical reason. Blue Beetle leans heavily into identity politics, casting white people as oppressors and colonizers and Hispanics as marginalized and impoverished. Every clash between characters is defined in racial terms, with Jaime’s uncle encouraging him to be a hero for his people, as opposed to white people, who have Superman, Batman, and the Flash. Aside from casting those heroes in a bad light – I don’t recall Superman putting racial quotas on the people he saves – it doesn’t do wonders for Jaime, either, and he never refutes this or declares himself a hero for everyone. (Though even in those parameters, Jaime never tries to help his neighborhood or save Hispanic civilians; it’s all about him.) There’s nothing to be inspired by or believe in with Blue Beetle, just a lot of complaining.

That is conveyed through Jaime’s family, every member of which is a grating, obnoxious Hispanic caricature that can’t stop mugging for the camera. The dialogue is cornier than a Brady Bunch episode, and the actors deliver it with such exaggerated tones and expressions that it’s impossible to believe any of them are real people. Jaime’s sister is rude and crude (because she’s a girl and you don’t expect her to be, so it’s funny; please laugh), his father is soft-spoken and moralistic, his mother is doting, his grandmother is tough, his uncle is a hippie conspiracy theorist, and they’re all wacky. They’re also illegal aliens (because Hollywood seems to think all Hispanic people came here illegally), and they seemingly spend their days whining about imperialism. This is the boundary-breaking “first Latino superhero movie” we’re supposed to cheer for: a lazy collection of stereotypes that mocks Latinos.

Blue Beetle

As for the leads, Xolo Maridueña is adrift playing a passive hero who stumbles from setup to setup without feeling like he grows, changes, or learns anything. I like Maridueña a lot on Cobra Kai, but there he’s got a dynamic character with plenty of others to play off, as opposed to the cavalcade of cringe backing him up in Blue Beetle, and he’s nowhere a near strong enough actor to save the film. Bruna Marquezine is Jenny Kord, Jaime’s love interest and the daughter of Kord Enterprises’ former CEO. She’s probably the best part of the movie, but she’s not great; she just doesn’t devolve into the current stock woman character, and she has fewer embarrassingly bad scenes (although she’s got one or two beauts.)  Susan Sarandon delivers every line like she’s reading a bedtime story to a two-year-old; she never feels all that threatening, and she’s got maybe ten minutes of cumulative screen time in what I assume is an easy paycheck for her. Raoul Max Trujillo is her main henchman, and he’s there to look tough and fight Blue Beetle. And George Lopez is as irritating as you imagined as Jaime’s uncle; no points for guessing if he drives an outlandish truck that plays “La Cucaracha” when he honks the horn. (Hey, there’s another movie this one steals from: Ant-Man.)

The filmmaking is unremarkable, which is fine. There’s nothing special about it, but nothing all that obtrusive either, which is what I expected. There are some weird ADR moments, though, and they’re glaring because nobody reacts to the added dialogue when the characters should. The action scenes aren’t very exciting, partly because watching someone in a bullet-proof costume fight a bunch of guys with guns gets old fast. The fantastical moments don’t have the wonder they need to get anyone invested; we should marvel at the sight of Jaime being shot into space by the Blue Beetle suit, but it’s just another thing that happens. Some of the special effects are good, and some are bad, but nothing wows you. The music is forgettable outside of a few songs that turn up out of nowhere late in the film. Nothing feels like much thought when into it.

Blue Beetle

If Warner Bros. saw fit to release Blue Beetle, I can’t imagine the abomination Batgirl must have been. This is a bad movie, one you regret paying to see after the first five minutes because you can already see what’s in store for you. It’s a blessing in disguise that the DC Universe is being rebooted and this will count for nothing because now there’s really no reason to sit through it.

REVIEW: Blue Beetle (2023)

Plot - 4
Acting - 4
Directing/Editing - 6
Music/Sound - 6
Themes - 3



Blue Beetle is a boring superhero movie with an uninspiring hero, excruciating supporting characters, lightweight villains, corny jokes, flat filmmaking, and a heaping dose of identity politics. It’s not worth a moment of your time.

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