Blue Beetle Review: DC's Latest Origin Movie Lacks Originality And Maturity

An unremarkable disappointment from DC Studios.

Xolo Maridueña as Blue Beetle in Blue Beetle
(Image: © Warner Bros.)

Angel Manuel Soto’s Blue Beetle is a movie in need of either time travel or access to an alternate dimension – and I don’t mean as plot elements. If the new DC Studios release had access to time travel, it could change its release date to pre-2008, rendering its big screen origin story as fresh and new. If the feature had access to some kind of multiverse portal, it could find a universe where comic book blockbusters are seen as exclusively for children and don’t expect investment from more mature audiences. In those contexts, the film could work quite well… but those aren’t the contexts in which it is being released. Instead, it’s a title that will only serve to further discussions about “superhero fatigue” in modern pop culture, and while very young kids may get a kick out of it, teens and adults will be rolling their eyes.

Blue Beetle

Xolo Mariduena as Blue Beetle

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Release Date: August 18, 2023
Directed By:
Angel Manuel Soto
Written By: Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer
Xolo Maridueña, Bruna Marquezine, Belissa Escobedo, Damián Alcázar, Raoul Max Trujillo, Susan Sarandon, Adriana Barraza, and George Lopez
PG-13 for sequences of action and violence, language, and some suggestive references
127 minutes

There’s a cute ensemble of actors at work in Blue Beetle, with Xolo Maridueña making a wonderful impression as a talented up-and-coming star, but there is far too much about it that is overly familiar at this stage of the movie’s genre. Most of the major beats feel like they are cribbed directly from other successful blockbusters released in the last 15 years, and adding insult to injury is its sense of humor, which is on the level of a second grader’s and will likely turn off DC Comics fans over the age of 15.

In the film, Maridueña stars as Jaime Reyes, a recent college graduate who moves back home to live with his family after school. And though he is full of ambition and hope, he is rocked when he learns from his sister Milagro (Belissa Escobedo) that his parents (Damián Alcázar and Elpidia Carrillo) are on the verge of losing their house. Needing money to support his loved ones, he gets a job at a local hotel, and he ends up having some good fortune when he has an encounter with Jenny Kord (Bruna Marquezine), the daughter of inventor/businessman Ted Kord. She invites him to contact her about a job at her father’s company, Kord Industries, and Jamie is excited about putting his university degree to work.

What Jamie doesn’t know is that Jenny has been locked in a battle with her aunt Victoria Kord (Susan Sarandon), the co-founder of Kord Industries who has recently been investing the company’s resources in the developments of advanced military technology called OMAC, which stands for “One Man Army Corps.” Victoria’s plan is to harvest the energy for the OMACs from an alien device called The Scarab, which she discovers after years of searching, but Jenny subverts the operation by stealing the Scarab and giving it to Jaime… without telling him what it is.

Because he is kept in the dark, our protagonist ends up being extra shocked when the device first awakens, then attacks him, and then embeds itself in his body. When it does, it covers him in a powerful, extraterrestrial armor that can produce any tool he needs in an instant. Jaime is excited to have his new abilities, but the secret technology also puts a target on his back, as Victoria is willing to go to any length to get the Scarab back and further the OMAC program.

There isn't much at all in Blue Beetle that you haven't seen in other superhero origin movies.

For as long as people have been raising alarms about the potential of “superhero fatigue” in Hollywood, my go-to defense has always been about the broadness of the genre: because there is so little that specifically defines what a superhero movie is beyond featuring a protagonist with extraordinary abilities, the material should never get old because there is an infinite number of approaches that can be taken. So long as filmmakers are taking creative angles to stories and trying something we’ve never seen before, there shouldn’t be any shortage of successful endeavors.

The principal issue with Blue Beetle is that it far too often feels like it is just riffing on big screen ideas we’ve already seen. It has a strong cultural identity, being the first blockbuster in the genre to feature a Latino hero and a mostly Latino principal cast, but that doesn’t end up driving the story in any meaningful ways (there is some discussion of neighborhood destruction and gentrification, but its ultimately just background). Instead, plot developments just feel cribbed from hits of the last few years – from a transformation scene reminiscent of Venom, to a “learning to fly” sequence that plays out almost identical to Iron Man’s, to a villain plot that is practically identical to Ant-Man’s.

Even when it’s not reminding you of specific other blockbusters, it’s still wholly dependent on exhausted arcs and tropes. Pop culture doesn’t really need yet another movie with a pushed-around henchman who finally stands up for himself or plots about super soldiers, and yet that’s the kind of material Blue Beetle has to offer.

With its grade school sense of humor, Blue Beetle will appeal much more to young audiences than adult genre fans.

The film will basically play best for audiences who have never seen a superhero origin movie before – and that especially goes for young children, as Blue Beetle feels like it is made particularly for them and not for members of the Millennial crowd like myself. Beyond it not having anything for adults to really chew on, it has some surprisingly immature sensibilities.

Those who are seeking a serious superhero experience that is an extension of Man of Steel or The Batman should be warned: this is a film where a flying ship deploying a gas weapon plays an extended fart sound and uses “granny with a machine gun” as a big punchline. They are dumb PG bits awkwardly fit into a PG-13 blockbuster.

Originally developed as a streaming movie, Blue Beetle inspired hopes for special quality when the pivot was made to put the film on the path to theaters, but it doesn’t live up to those expectations. It has nice themes about family, a strong leading man debut for Xolo Maridueña, and some fun action beats that flex the abilities of the character’s suit, but all of that is so buried by the familiar that it’s rendered unmemorable. Sadly, you’re not going to be missing much by waiting to catch this one when its streaming.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

NJ native who calls LA home and lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran who is endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.