As a franchise, the DCU had been struggling for quite some time before Warner Bros. decided to make a radical shift, introducing Peter Safran and James Gunn as the new co-heads of DC Studios. This prompted some pretty controversial changes to the franchise, including the recasting of Superman and the decision to essentially reboot the entire universe. One film to survive the changes, though, was Blue Beetle.

Blue Beetle stars Xolo Maridueña as Jaime Reyes, a young Mexican-American who inadvertently bonds with a symbiotic alien scarab that gives him superpowers. Unfortunately, this puts Reyes up against Kord Industries’ powerful CEO Victoria (Susan Sarandon), who seeks to harness the power of the scarab for financial gain. With the support of his family and Victoria’s well-intentioned niece, Jenny (Bruna Marquezine), Reyes must work to unlock his powers and fight back against the corporate villain.

In other words, it’s a pretty standard superhero story. The downtrodden and idealistic young hero, the evil villain who serves as the epitome of corporate greed, the high stakes, and the emotional beats – all are ripped directly from the superhero movie playbook. For all its cliché, though, Blue Beetle manages to be something far beyond the sum of its parts.

How Blue Beetle Rediscovers The Joy Of Superhero Movies

Xolo Maridueña as Jaime Reyes in Blue Beetle (2023)

Above all else, Blue Beetle is fun. It’s touching and emotional at times, but it’s also consistently light-hearted and inoffensively funny. It revels in bringing its hero to life, placing the unsuspecting character at the heart of a relatively simple (and therefore, comforting) good-versus-evil story. It plays it safe and occasionally overindulges in cliché, but it works – and in doing so, it quietly regains the genre’s past glory.

It’s fair to say that Blue Beetle may not be a cinematic masterpiece, but it’s under no illusions about what it is. It’s a comic book movie: it faithfully adapts its eponymous hero, taps into societal issues facing the average person, and establishes a relatively uncomplicated world in which it can unfold. What’s more, it doesn’t lean too hard on its shared universe, which is key given the upcoming James Gunn Superman movie will reboot it all anyway. In this, it accesses the same easy-viewing status as early Marvel movies, avoiding the often bloated nature of Easter egg-driven storytelling.

Blue Beetle taps into Jaime’s cultural identity, but it also makes use of a unique neon-soaked aesthetic that gives the film an atmosphere all its own. It builds its own story about likable characters gaining the means to fight back against their oppressors, and though it occasionally hits on juvenile or overly predictable notes, it’s simply a fun and fresh-feeling superhero flick. If this is what the DCU has in store moving forward, the franchise may well finally live up to its potential.

Rating: 70%

Summary: Blue Beetle is a classic superhero blockbuster. Solid visual effects, uncomplicated narrative themes, and plenty of laughs nestled among its action. It’s hardly groundbreaking, but playing it safe makes it a marked improvement over previous DCU movies.

Highlight: Xolo Maridueña’s ability to balance comedy, pathos, and action is commendable, and the tease of a potential sequel also serves to highlight just how much we’d like to see him return.