15 June 2024
Blue Beetle will be in UK and Irish cinemas from 18th August 2023

Film Review – Blue Beetle (2023)

Blue Beetle will be in UK and Irish cinemas from 18th August 2023
Another week, another deluge of talk about the overbearingly obvious question: is superhero film fatigue real? After a year of genuine surprises at the box office – good and bad – two of the biggest surprises were the huge failures of DC’s output with both Shazam: Fury of the Gods and The Flash crashing spectacularly and seemingly sealing the fate of the now-defunct DCEU (bar the upcoming Aquaman sequel). To be honest, it had been on the cards for a while, but outside of their own ill-fated universe, across the superhero pond is Marvel, who have also faced a tough couple of years themselves with Secret Invasion, Ant-Man 3, Eternals and She-Hulk, among others, meeting with muted responses from fans. Nia DaCosta, director of the upcoming The Marvels, recently agreed that the fatigue is undeniable. So, then, to the final spectacular superhero extravaganza of the summer in Blue Beetle. Set to follow the downward trend, right?

This time it’s the story of Jaime Reyes (Xolo Maridueña), a recent college graduate who has come back to home in Palmera City to find his family struggling under the weight of economic pressures. His father Alberto (Damián Alcázar) is having health problems and the overbearing imperialism of technology firm Kord Industries, led by Susan Sarandon‘s ruthless leader, is getting stronger and stronger as they secretly search for an alien symbiotic host that could change both their weapons systems and their power across the globe. However, the ancient relic has other ideas, and after it is stolen, chooses Jaime to take on its mythical powers to become the city’s last hope.

So far, on the page at least, it all seems very much “off the conveyor belt” and “of a similar ilk” to almost everything that has gone before but we’d be remiss and downright untruthful if we didn’t shout loudly that Blue Beetle, for all its seen-it-done-it beats and familiarity on almost all levels, is actually rather good. It won’t threaten the top ten, maybe even twenty, of the greatest examples of the genre but for all its flaws, it’s undeniable that, against all the odds, this one reminds us why we love these stories and characters and why, when done right, they can provide a hell of a fun ride.

It doesn’t take long for the old engine to get up and running and take us on the usual sight-seeing trip through Origin Town but what sets Beetle apart from countless others is the endearing, wholesome family dynamic – and, by extension, the ensemble who bring them to life perfectly. Headed by Maridueña’s energetic turn as the reluctant hero Jaime Reyes, complete with Tony Stark’s quick wit and Superman’s verisimilitude, there’s also brilliant support from George Lopez as crazy uncle Rudy, Belissa Escobedo as sarcastic sister Milagro and show-stealing Adriana Barraza, who has a ball as Jamie’s enigmatic Nana. Truly, a brilliant pack.

Angel Manuel Soto, making his second Hollywood film, feels at ease with the bigger, bolder material and his vibrant, energetic direction helps the film transcend above its genre trappings, showcasing a real knack for combining the comic-book nature of it all with the humanity at the centre of it, fuelled by lashings of 80s vides and neon dressings. Helped by Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer’s script brings a sincerity to the film, a warmth and welcoming nature that in some of its darker compatriots decided it wasn’t needed.

But these films, within their context, need as many moments of levity, truth and emotion as they can get it, and, without them, they feel half of what they could be. Blue Beetle, meanwhile, finds the right mix of light and dark, happiness and sadness, action and emotion and while its path is obvious and repetitive, its lightness of foot and human centre make it a huge surprise – and lots of fun.

★★★1/2

2023 | Action, Comic-Book | 12A | Warner Bros Pictures | Dir: Angel Manuel Soto |


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