‘Blue Beetle:’ A family-filled adventure that reignites the DCU

5 mins read

Warner Bros and DC Studios have secured and finally acquired the critical summer sleeper they longed all year for. “Blue Beetle” is a visually grand achievement, all brought forth by Director Ángel Manuel Soto, who proudly celebrates the Latino community while creating a memorable experience for everyone centered around the importance of family, exemplifying how our choices shape our character.

Soto and his team sometimes kept the experience simple in a few spots. Their real sets help mold and replicate the fervent creative nature of comic books that have always been revered and used as a source of inspiration, especially for the ever-expanding splash of cape-related films that continue to be made and released. Practical effects, which include the costume, along with on-set shooting in various locations such as Puerto Rico, El Paso, Texas, and the state of Georgia, helped establish a realistic world which grounded the film.

All choices were vital in making Palmera City, a new location created solely for the film, as a new sandbox for the audience. It also leaves space for our heroes to grow and thrive. It’s remarkable to witness the community be filled with extras and to be shown the authenticity of the Latino community on full display. Similar in tone and emotion of how the Ms. Marvel Disney series pulled the viewer in without compromising.

Xolo Maridueña as Blue Beetle in “Blue Beetle.” Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Discovery

“Blue Beetle” does stand apart from prior Marvel and DC films, which at times do feel a bit materialized and empty. There were no noticeable flaws of decaying visuals and over-drafted budgets, which often shred the fantasy and joyful charisma of what makes the comics endearing. Instead there was the genius of film cinematographer Pawel Pogorzelski, who has created a vibrant living comic book that is alive and thriving with color. Pogorzelski illustrates the wants and needs of our characters and while conveying the family appeal of seeing the world from two perspectives—the value of love, a central theme that is evident throughout the film. 

One element of praise was how the chemistry between Soto and Xolo Maridueña as director and actor was on full notice, which at times helped the film achieve new heights. Especially since one could tell that the blockbuster was built upon the fabled thought of what makes Jaime Reyes function. 

Marideuña, who is the perfect living embodiment of Jaime, nails every mannerism, has great energy, and feels plucked from prior DC materials such as the animated series “Young Justice” and previous comics. The practical suit allows the audience to attach and resonate with the character of Jaime, which Maridueuña plays off of. Some of my favorite portions of the film were when Jaime was trying out his powers or the various fight scenes, including a patented hallway scene, which all possesses tight choreography and solid visuals. 

It was surreal to notice all that Jaime was equipped with in his arsenal, such as his sonic cannons, swords, and shield. As a source of reference, all elements that were pulled from “Injustice 2,” along with some combos and finishers, are similar to how Doctor Fate In “Black Adam” (2022) functioned, with many pointing to the screen with chants of excitement. I thought how the costume designer and production crew had Jaime lift his chin instead of having a weird mouth bubble when he was in the costume was genius.

Xolo Maridueña as Blue Beetle in “Blue Beetle.” Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Discovery

Another genuine scene-stealer was Bruna Marquezine, who played Jenny Kord, who I hope to see more of because she has more to her arc than her performance was leading on. I just thought her chemistry with Maridueuña was a main takeaway, and it helped the film function even when the story felt generic or repetitive. Still, even though her character shined, I just wish she had more to accomplish. The post-credits did set up a possible development for the legacy of the Kord name, which excited many comic book fans at my showing. 

I will admit that every member of the Reyes family was integral not only to the narrative but also to the development of Jaime as he evolves into the hero he’s meant to be. At first I was turned off by how the family felt quite over stereotyped, but as the film progresses and the overarching themes presented. Each family member took on their personality and shined in many spots acting as a reflection, breaking the fourth wall, and showing the beauty of the Latino community, not the faux impression they are usually labeled with. 

Each Reyes member was great and I loved seeing familiar moments that I would often find at my titi’s house, who is Puerto Rican, or at my girlfriend’s, who is Cuban, and having an ofrenda in their respective homes, just like in the film. If honest, the simple moments where the screenplay transitions the dialogue into Spanish are some of the best. The moments where subtitles are sometimes present, and at other moments they aren’t, never feels forced or awkward. Instead, it flows organically, and it works. 

Victoria Kord (Susan Sarandon), for the most part, was relatively positioned to help push the story. Still, she expressed that classic 90’s villain trope by pushing Jaime to grow and face his challenges while accepting his morals and leading to points that helped the film breathe when it came off a tad flat, not given enough time to be fleshed out or shown how her cruel intentions were created. Whereas I felt the push and pull of Carapax and how his life as a child soldier drafted into the ranks of the military, being used as a pawn.  

The message is a simple rehash of the classic spidey trope that revolves around understanding that “with great power comes great responsibility.” It’s more of a question and thought of “why this character is loved’’ that encapsulates the screenplay scripted with the creative entanglement of utilizing other past cape flicks, such as the heart and body of Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” trilogy. 

The scarab would run across Jaime’s back, and when it started to manifest the costume for the first time, there was black ooze dripping from his mouth and face. The camera would zoom in, almost constricting the viewer. It was a perfect way for Soto to show that when Jaime becomes this character, it starts as a painful transition. Still, slowly the host will join in symbiosis—a fascinating concept in nature and one that other comics and this film do raise at moments. Also, speaking of the Raimi nods, Soto included a final third-act battle that was paced out well and shed a portion of the mask, to let Maridueña take center stage and let the audience in while emphasizing the character as the film comes full circle.

Xolo Maridueña as Blue Beetle in “Blue Beetle.” Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Discovery

In addition to the creative freedom from Soto, one could recognize the campy realism that Gunn is known for while working under the Marvel Studios license, most of what allowed his “Guardians” trilogy to stand apart and find success in the balance of stakes, emotion, and humanity. Gunn borrowed what worked to create a pathway ushering in this new DCU. 

A noticeable takeaway is that “Blue Beetle” does come off feeling self-contained, which was a vital breath of fresh air for why the film finds not only its identity but its footing that was necessary to break from the mold. 

The score from composer Bobby Krilic was a perfect blend of sci-fi 80s properties and works such as “Tron” and “Stranger Things.” The soundtrack felt like a perfect combination of gaming hits with techno synthetics. It worked every time it took command of the screen and environment.

“Blue Beetle” is a prime example of why director-driven films must take center stage to flourish in a bloated landscape of comic book-related media. Ángel Manuel Soto shined through his dream—utilizing a smaller budget to make a film that comes off like a mix of the heart and glory of Raimi and the sci-fi intrigue of “Tron,” reinforced by the foundation of a star-defining performance from Xolo Maridueña.

Four out of five stars.

Brendan Rooney

Brendan Rooney has always been full of creativity and enthusiasm toward the world of widespread media. He is also a passionate comic book fan along with a die-hard sports pedigree. Brendan has written various articles covering all topics and dreams of forging a long-lasting legacy by bringing respect to the Rooney name as either a teacher, journalist, or whatever else the future holds. His work has been featured on Google, Quoted by Marvel Games, Reshared by Movie Trades, Broken exclusives, Spoke and presented at syndicated academic conferences as well.

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