The newest film based on a DC property doesn’t do enough to differentiate itself from other comic book origin stories.
PLOT: College graduate Jaime Reyes is chosen by an ancient biotech Scarab to be its symbiotic host granting Reyes a suit of armor with extraordinary power known as the Blue Beetle.
REVIEW: The DC Extended Universe has seen its share of ups and downs. Well, mostly downs. Launched on June 14, 2013 with Zack Snyder’s take on the Man of Steel, Warner Bros and DC seemed to be always chasing the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe without ever really reaching those same highs. To put that into perspective: their last six theatrically released films pulled in a cumulative domestic total of $520.7 million, roughly $56 million less than Avengers: Endgame made in just nine days. The brand has basically become a parody unto itself, with Warner Bros even allowing their recent smash hit Barbie to slide in a joke about The Snyder Cut.
The problem with the DC slate of films is that it is still massively confusing. According to new head honchos James Gunn and Peter Safran, Blue Beetle represents the first official character in their new DCU line of films, which is apparently separate from the DCEU line of films that just saw The Flash massively underperform. Yet, in December they will release the DCEU film Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom. So they are doing a soft launch of the new DC slate while also closing out the previous slate before doing a full on reboot with the July 11, 2025 release of the James Gunn directed Superman: Legacy. As Austin Powers might say “Oh no, I’ve gone cross eyed!”
So, forgetting all of that confusion, the real question is: is Blue Beetle any good?
Sadly, the answer to that question is no. Blue Beetle continues the downward spiral of most live action comic book movies that have graced our screens over the past few years. That isn’t to say that the movie is necessarily bad, it’s just that it is absolutely nothing new. Every single thing in this movie has been done before, and better. Had this been the first super hero movie we had ever seen, it would have been a serviceable intro to a character not many are familiar with. The thing is, we are in the year 2023 and after 32 Marvel Cinematic Universe movies and 12 DC Extended Universe films, we have seen nearly every possible scenario for how some random person gets super powers. So any new movie that dares to take on an origin story needs to find a fresh way of telling that story. Think about the way Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse introduced us to Miles Morales in a new and interesting way or the way Todd Phillips and Joaquin Phoenix crafted an entirely original take of one of the greatest screen villains of all time in Joker.
I wish I had a check list while watching this movie for scenes that have been done in other comic book films. Billionaire bad guy that the public seems to love? Check. Hero clumsily flying around city for the first time with new super powered suit? Check. Cyborg Henchman? Check. Humor that misses the mark and feels forced? Check. The crazy character who says outlandish things yet somehow is a computer genius? Check! As well as a few other checks that I won’t give away here as to not spoil anything.
The problem with a film like this is that Warner Bros is asking audiences to spend their hard earned money on stories that they have already paid to see. We paid to see a man get spider capabilities after being bitten. We paid to see a billionaire make an iron suit with infinite capabilities. We paid to see a man capable of turning himself into the size of an ant. We paid to see a boy receive ancient mystical powers by saying the word Shazam! So why should we pay to see basically those same stories only this time in a Beetle suit?!
It isn’t all bad though. In an age where every movie feels like it is part of something larger, Blue Beetle gave me that feeling I had before the idea of interconnected universes came about. The feeling that this was a stand alone film. Sure there was a quick reference to Superman and The Flash, but when the film was over, I felt like I had watched a complete movie. Even the mid credits tease only set up further Blue Beetle adventures and not some other franchise or TV series that I’m going to have to keep up with.
Blue Beetle was originally going to be a direct to streaming movie until David Zaslav came in and championed a theatrical release. I am all for that switch because even though the story felt familiar, it is a movie that is benefitted from that big screen experience. Super hero movies are meant to feel grand, and Blue Beetle is no exception.
I know James Gunn has said that Blue Beetle is the first character in the new DC Universe, but I think it may be better to allow this character to operate on his own. Allow Blue Beetle to exist in some sort of purgatory between the old DC Extended Universe and the new DC Universe. Now that you have the origin story out of the way, there are a million new and fresh places to take this character. Of course, the same could have been said about Shazam! and we all saw how that sequel turned out.