I was not expecting Blue Beetle to be as good as it was. DC is in a period of turmoil, change, upheaval, and between two worlds. They have the remnants of the old regime and a new regime coming in with James Gunn and Peter Safran. Somehow, where other movies like Black Adam and The Flash failed to capture the attention of audiences with over-bloated plots, budgets, and overexposed CG elements, Blue Beetle feels like the opposite of films like that. Even Marvel has an issue with this these days. They’ve gotten too big for their own good and have ended up tripping over themselves with multiversal stories.

A couple of things separate the good superhero/comic book films from the great ones. The biggest question is asking, “can I take all the comic book licensed stuff away from this movie, and will it still work?” In the case of other recent DC and superhero movies, you cannot. With Blue Beetle, it does a good job of giving us a hero to root for, familial elements that feel natural, and an immensely likable cast that any connection to the overall DC Universe doesn’t matter. If this movie didn’t have Gotham on shirts, a line about Batman being a fascist, or if you just changed some of the Ted Kord stuff to generic superhero jargon, it would still work.

At a certain point watching this movie, I forgot it was part of some expanded DC universe. I was just invested in the plot and the characters and laughing along the way. In a sea of dark, dreary, fake-looking superhero movies, Blue Beetle just runs wild with joyous, heartfelt action.

DC’s Version Of Spider-Man

Blue Beetle features some excellent performances. Chief among them is Xolo Mariduena as Jaime Reyes/Blue Beetle. He is just so damn relatable and human. He feels the most like a human being out of all the characters DC has put out lately. He’s just a college student coming back to his family after graduating. We’ve all been through what Jaime has. That’s what makes the character so relatable for any person out there. We all have family. We all have been in situations and been lost, trying to find our way in life. The rest of the Reyes family shines through as well, with George Lopez adding some absolutely gut-busting lines throughout the film.

His sister, Milagro Reyes (played by Belissa Escobedo), also adds plenty of humor throughout. Damian Alcazar‘s emotionally resonant performance as Alberto Reyes capped off the family. He brings out the best in Jaime and is a huge part of the film and his character development. Everyone who’s had a dad is going to feel for him.

Susan Sarandon turns in an excellently evil performance as Victoria Kord. She doesn’t do ANY heavy lifting in the film, but that’s because she doesn’t need to. The film gives her more than just the normal villain motivation as well. She’s been through a lot in her life with the Kord family to get her to the point she’s at in the film. Sarandon looks and acts like she’s relishing being evil in this film.

Raoul Trujillo plays Carapax, the muscle for Victoria in the film. It’s a bit of a shame because for most of the film, he’s kind of just mindless muscle. Even his voice gets garbled and sounds like Megatron when he’s in the suit of armor in the film. Through all of that, he’s an imposing force that really gives Blue Beetle a beating.

No Budget, No Problem

Blue Beetle cost around $120 million. That’s less than half of some other blockbuster films that have been released this year, and it looks and feels better than most of them. Some of the action scenes in the film feel like they’re taken straight out of a video game. The motion and action are fluid, and the weapons that Blue Beetle thinks up and uses in the film are inventive as hell. The scene from the trailer with the big mega-buster sword is just as awesome, if not more awesome, in the actual film.

If I can think of anything that really stuck out about Blue Beetle, the soundtrack features plenty of Spanish-language songs, but in a big moment where they have some rocking tunes playing, they go with “Kickstart My Heart” by Motley Crue. Couldn’t they have gotten a Spanish-speaking rock band to play there? Plus, it wouldn’t have been the most overused needle-drop song in movie history. I love Motley Crue, but let’s give that track a rest.

It doesn’t fall for the normal superhero origin story trappings, either. It feels like director Angel Manuel Soto and writer Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer knew what does and doesn’t work with origin films and ran with it here. Jaime Reyes is every bit of a relatable protagonist, making the audience feel for his every move. When he’s full of rage and about to smash someone, we get it. When he’s just figuring out how this alien suit of beetle armor works, we get it.

I was soundly proven wrong by Blue Beetle. I thought this would be just some lazy, nothing superhero movie coming out at the tail end of a DC regime. It’s not that. Blue Beetle is among the best movies that DC has made. Gritty realism and brooding heroes go out the window for Latino culture, levity, and one of the most relatable protagonists that’s been in a DC movie.

Blue Beetle is a triumph.

Check it out in theaters on August 18th, 2023.

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