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The Media Man Reviews: Blue Beetle


Title card for the review

We're now approaching the end of the DCEU. We only have two movies left before the DCEU we know now is officially over and the new DCEU with James Gunn in charge begins. And yet this movie is said to pretty much be the start of the new DCEU? Honestly, why are Warner Bros. only making things more confusing at this point?


Anyhow, for today's blog post, I am reviewing the latest instalment and the penultimate chapter in the DCEU, Blue Beetle. After that, we only have Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom left and we're officially done. For this movie, Blue Beetle is based on the comic book character of the same name whom many may recognize for appearing in some animated shows like Young Justice and Batman: The Brave and the Bold or some of the DC Animated Movies like Justice League Vs. Teen Titans and Teen Titans: The Judas Contract or even being a playable character in games like LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham, LEGO DC Supervillains and Injustice 2. Blue Beetle has been in the DC Universe for decades at this point with many different characters taking up the mantle from the original Ted Kord to the modern Jaime Reyes. While not as mainstream as other DC Heroes, Blue Beetle has quite a fanbase and the Jaime Reyes Blue Beetle especially is among the most popular modern DC heroes of the current era.


So it shouldn't be surprising that this version of the character got his own movie. As a fan of Blue Beetle myself, I knew I had to see this and see what a Blue Beetle movie would be like. And lord knows DC needs all the support they can get right now what with Shazam 2: Fury of the Gods and The Flash being dismal failures!


So is the Blue Beetle movie as impressive as the scarab on Jaime's back that grants him his amazing powers? Or should we get the scarab to just destroy the movie so we may never see it again? Let's find out for we're diving into DC's Blue Beetle...


Section 1: The Story


The story of Blue Beetle sees our young hero Jaime Reyes who is seeking a job to support his struggling family. But his life changes forever when he meets Jenny Kord, the daughter of billionaire Ted Kord, and she gives him a powerful scarab that grants him amazing powers and makes him a lethal weapon that he has to learn to control, or else his family's lives could be in jeopardy. It's not helping matters when Jenny's evil aunt Victoria Kord is also after the scarab...


I'm going to make an important disclaimer here and say that my exposure to Blue Beetle comes from his appearances in Young Justice, Injustice 2, The LEGO Games and some of the DC Animated Movies. I have NOT read a single Blue Beetle comic so my knowledge on the character and his supporting cast is very surface level. This review is from the perspective of a casual Blue Beetle fan so forgive me if I get any details wrong on the character, his mythos or his supporting cast.


OK, so how is the story for this movie? Sadly, not very interesting. The movie plays it incredibly safe and gives us the most generic, paint-by-numbers and predictable superhero movie imaginable. I'd say it's formulaic to a fault because the movie just ends up not being that engaging due to how super-predictable it is. I even called it that Jaime's father was going to die the moment they mentioned he'd had a heart attack in the past and big shocker, he DOES die and it's exactly the way I expected it to happen. Come on guys, you could've at least subverted expectations by making his death happen a different way! But yeah, the moment Jaime gets the scarab and it attaches itself to his back, the movie plays out exactly as you think it will. Our hero gains a new power? Check. He has to learn to control that power? Check. He's pursued by the villains who want the source of his power? Check? He gets captured and the villains gain his source of power? Check. Someone close to him dies as a motivator to beat the villain? Check! We finish off with a big climactic fight scene with the hero and the villain? CHECK. MATE! It's cliched as hell and sadly makes for a dull viewing experience. I expected a movie about Blue Beetle to be exciting and interesting but no, they went in the most formulaic route possible and it only further shows why the superhero movie genre needs to be retired because we've pretty much exhausted all that can be done with it at this point. If superhero movies are gonna keep being this copy-paste and predictable, why even watch them anymore?


But yeah, the story isn't very interesting due to how paint-by-numbers it is. But is it at least told well? I'd say...sometimes it is, I guess? But other times it isn't. The film stays true to the source material thanks to its themes of family and togetherness that makes the Jaime Reyes Blue Beetle so beloved amongst the fandom. The film shows very well that this is a family in where they're in dire straits and life may not be kind to them, but they're still family and they couldn't be closer and as Jaime discovers, his family is what gives him strength. Obvious moral, I know, but it's always a good moral to include for these types of movies. I know in these trying times, uplifting morals feel more important to us now than they ever did before so I'm always happy to see them here.


But while it does the family aspect well, it doesn't do the superhero aspect as well. It feels rushed a bit in its pacing for the climax feels a little long and we don't even really get any scenes of Jaime learning to bond with the scarab or trying to control its power. They just sort of happen during the action scenes as if the movie's trying to squeeze everything in at the start. More scenes devoted to that would've made the development between Jaime and Kaji-Da more believable in my opinion but I guess it might've made the movie feel a little long if they did that. Still, a training montage would've been nice to help with this plot point.


And they ESPECIALLY could've made the climax feel more believable instead of going the way they did. I mean the movie seriously expects me to believe that Jaime's family can just operate super-advanced technology like the Beetle bot and use highly advanced weaponry the way they do without any prior training beforehand? Granted Nana is somewhat hinted to have had a history with fighting and using weapons in the past but the rest of the family don't get that so them being able to do all this crap just doesn't ring true to me and comes off as just silly. And I don't mean superhero movie kind of silly, I mean bad writing kind of silly. I ask Blue Beetle fans, is Jaime's family actually as capable as this or is this the movie taking creative liberties with the source material? I really have no idea if this is true to the comics or not. If it is then they should've given us a training montage or something so them being able to kick ass like that feels more believable.


So to help with the pacing, they really should've dropped some of the comedic scenes we got because they didn't do any favours. The comedy is easily the movie's weakest aspect for me. I did chuckle a few times and you get the odd funny line here and there but there are a lot of jokes that just aren't funny and feel more annoying than anything. Uncle Rudy especially got pretty grating with his constant conspiracy theory nonsense that was never funny and I wish they dropped the act with him because it just didn't work for me.


But as a superhero movie, of course we expect a lot of action in it and this movie delivers on that aspect. If you want to see Blue Beetle being awesome, you get Blue Beetle being awesome and most of the enjoyment I got from the movie was seeing him in action and using his creative powers to fight off enemies. The action is pretty much what we come to expect from these kinds of films but they still make them fun to watch here at least and they can deliver some enjoyment when the comedy doesn't.


Blue Beetle had the potential to be a really creative and fun superhero movie but with how paint-by-numbers this story was, it failed at being creative and thanks to the bad pacing, bad comedy and some standard fight scenes, it was fun at times but not as fun as it could've been. I really expected more from a property like this...


Section 2: The Characters


For fans like me, we're in this movie to see Blue Beetle in action and also see his supporting cast join him on the way. So how did they do for their big screen debut? Eh...it's a hit-and-miss thing with them honestly.


We have our titular hero himself, Jaime Reyes/Blue Beetle (played by Xolo Maridueña). Jaime is presented as a loving family man who just wants to support his family and his heart goes out to them, which drives his desire to find a job so he can support them in what are very trying times. He's done justice here for he's as likeable and sympathetic as the character is often portrayed as in superhero media and I was always rooting for him to succeed in the end. While the bond with him and Kaji-Da (the scarab's name) was really rushed and should've been done better, I did enjoy the interactions between them. They were some of the funniest moments for me. Some viewers might see Jaime as a generic protagonist but as someone who likes this version of Blue Beetle, I'm satisfied with how they portrayed him here.


We have our secondary protagonist, Jenny Kord (played by Bruna Marquezine). She's the daughter of Ted Kord, the first Blue Beetle, and the niece of Victoria Kord. She hates what's becoming of her father's company and is willing to do what it takes to stop her aunt from sullying her father's legacy even further. She's not all that interesting to me and her role goes exactly as you expect it to go, especially when she and Jaime inevitably become a couple in the end.


And of course, it wouldn't be a Jaime Reyes story without his family. We have his sister Milagro Reyes (played by Belissa Escobedo), his mother Rocio Reyes (played by Elpida Carrillo), his father Alberto Reyes (played by Damián Alcázar), Nana (played by Adriana Barraza) and Rudy Reyes (played by George Lopez). The family do their parts well as supporting characters in Jaime's story and do play well to the movie's heart but sadly they too aren't very interesting characters and in Milagro and Rudy's cases, are pretty annoying with how they supply some of the worst comedy in the movie. I dunno what they're like in the comics but I sure hope they're better than they are in the movie.


And then we have our villains of the movie, Victoria Kord (played by Susan Sarandon) and Ignacio Carapex (played by Raoul Trujillo). Victoria is a snooze-fest of a villain and absolutely in the wrong kind of movie because a superhero as fantastical as Blue Beetle shouldn't be going up against evil businessmen. She should be a villain in an Iron Man movie, not this one! Carapex on the other hand is more interesting as this broken man who is troubled by his past and owes his life to Victoria but we don't really get his backstory until right at the end of the movie just before he dies so it feels too late to try making him sympathetic and we should've gotten this backstory much sooner.


What feels like wasted potential for me is how we have these guys as the villains when instead, it should've been the Reach and Black Beetle. They're the kinds of villains we expected to see Jaime Reyes fighting against and yet instead we have a boring evil businesswoman and a guy who is called OMAC yet he doesn't look or act like OMAC. The presence of OMAC also baffles me because OMAC is NOT a Blue Beetle villain, it's a Justice League villain! Batman created Brother Eye and the OMAC drones as contingencies against out-of-control superheroes and Brother Eye would turn the OMAC drones against the Justice League and force Batman to face the consequences of his own paranoia. Why is OMAC here in a Blue Beetle movie instead of a Justice League movie? Now some might say it's a reference to Jaime Reyes's debut comic in where OMAC was in it, but OMAC wasn't strictly his villain there and again, OMAC isn't a Blue Beetle centric villain, it's a Justice League villain so it shouldn't be in this movie.


The characters aren't the best ever with only Jaime really being worth your time but I wouldn't say they're the worst characters ever. They could've been better in my eyes and if they used the right kind of villain instead of what we got, it would've made for a better viewing experience...


Section 3: The Cinematography


It's a modern superhero movie. Of course it's going to have good cinematography. Honestly, talking about the visuals for these superhero movies is about as entertaining as talking about the visuals for a Pixar movie at this point. I just get bored talking about them because there's only so many times I can say "the visuals are great" without sounding repetitive.


As is, I'll try my best here when discussing the cinematography for this movie. First of all, it's very nicely shot and directed throughout with a lot of cool angels and clear shots of everything we're seeing and the locations they use here are well used for the movie whether it's the rundown, poor looking village that the Reyes family live in or the ultra modern looking city that looms in the background. It's a great visual metaphor for how we in two different worlds, the world of the rich and the world of the poor respectively, in this movie. Palmera City is a fictional location for this movie but they do make it look pretty impressive with the city they filmed it in to bring the place to life. Kord Tower especially looked pretty cool and like it really does exist in this city. Also seeing Ted Kord's superhero lair was a neat looking set-piece with its mostly blue lighting and hi-tech looking equipment everywhere. It definitely looks like the kind of place a wealthy superhero could've made and it was an awesome looking set to see our characters walk around in.


As for the visual effects, the movie has a lot of practical and CGI effects in the movie but the director places a greater emphasis on practical effects for this movie, especially with how Blue Beetle is depicted here. I am in awe on how beautifully they brought Blue Beetle to life in this movie with the costume looking like it leapt straight out of the comics. It's a perfect representation of the suit and it's an actual costume no less with very little CGI used to bring it to life. The black and blue of Blue Beetle's costume is a great colour combination and it looks amazing onscreen with the use of practical and CGI effects making it hard to tell if there's even any CGI used on it at all. Even when he starts forming his weapons and battling OMAC, they look pretty convincing! They also did a great job on the prosthetics when it came to showing Jaime with the scarab attached to his back. It genuinely looks painful and while they don't go too far with making it look gruesome, they do make it look uncomfortable to look at, which is what you'd expect if something like this existed in real life. Speaking of uncomfortable, Blue Beetle's transformation scene was brilliantly acted and executed too with the whole process looking BRUTALLY agonizing and like the worst torture Jaime's been put through his whole life. This is an alien death weapon forging an exoskeleton around an innocent human so no wonder it looks as grisly as it does!


OMAC himself is also pretty awesome looking with this huge, bulky, sci-fi robot appearance to him and his black and red colour scheme contrasts beautifully with Blue Beetle so the two stand out from each other and never blur together during the fights. Though I have to say I could never buy this design as OMAC because it sure as hell doesn't look anything like the OMAC drones from the comics. I get why they didn't colour it blue as it would've just caused him and Blue Beetle to blend in together but they still could've made it look like OMAC if that's what it was meant to be. Still, the design looks cool and the powered up version in the climax especially looked pretty awesome in action.


What's not so awesome is how we see Ted Kord's old mansion and for some reason, we have CGI flamingos strutting around the place. Really obvious BAD looking CGI flamingos. I'm in awe of this. How do you manage to make the Blue Beetle and OMAC costumes look as convincing as they did here but fail at making the flamingos look good? Even Ted Kord's Blue Beetle ship looked more convincing, and that thing's a sci-fi flying craft! XD But that's the only bad effect I can spot here. Everything else looks great to me.


Speaking of great, the action scenes are, as expected, the visual highlights for this movie. With the kind of powers Blue Beetle has, you'd expect the cinematography to get creative with them and they do just that here. We see Blue Beetle forge weapons and flying apparatuses and use them in a variety of ways like shields to block attacks, giant swords, non-lethal guns and even a giant staple gun which is something straight out of his appearances in Young Justice and (presumably) the comics too! I loved watching Blue Beetle in action and how they depicted the scarab's powers, they didn't disappoint at all. The best moments for me were when Jaime flies up into space, both his battles with OMAC and the Reyes family ambushing Victoria's guards. Those were cool action sequences with some slick choreography and action and the great directing makes for clear and easy-to-follow battles where there's no shaky camera obscuring everything and nothing looks too blurred even when everyone's in motion.


If anyone did the best job on this movie, it was easily the director. Ángel Manuel Soto was more than fit for the task here and he really knocked it out of the park with the great looking visuals, awesome FX work and lovely looking scenery. I wonder if he's directed anything else worth a watch because it'd be cool to see what else he can do with his directing talents...


Conclusion


Blue Beetle is the most OK movie I've seen all year. And that's massively disappointing because a Blue Beetle movie had so much potential to be great, yet OK was all we got. The story is OK, the characters are OK, the acting is OK and the cinematography is OK. It says a lot when I somehow enjoyed the Miraculous Ladybug movie more than this one, and I don't even like Miraculous Ladybug anymore! I'd only recommend watching this if you're a massive fan of Blue Beetle and absolutely love the character and his series. Otherwise I wouldn't even bother because you're not missing anything with this movie. And honestly, I think I might quit with these superhero movies because after the big superhero trend of the last decade, I'm genuinely starting to get bored of them now. They all just feel like the same movie at this point and I doubt the DCEU reboot will make them any more interesting. It might be best we give this trend a break and let superhero movies just retire for the time being and then maybe in a few years or another decade or so, let them come back now we've had a rest from them.


And that's all I have for this movie. I hope you enjoyed the review and feel free to comment your thoughts down below. Do you like Blue Beetle? Is this movie not for you? I'd love to hear about it. Join me again on Friday where I have ten more facts about Disney to share with you all as we near the end of our countdown to its 100th anniversary. See you then guys!

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Honestly, I actually enjoyed Blue Beetle and found it to be one of the best superhero films from this decade so far as well as finding the supporting cast, especially Jaime's uncle Rudy as one of the strongest points of the film. That being said, while you do make valid points of the current state of superhero/comic book films, I do think it's time for a renaissance of practical effects for them than mainly CGI as I'm not happy with studio execs forcing the VFX crew members to rush into finishing work on DC and Marvel films in order to meet the release dates.

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Can't say anything that you haven't told. It could have been better. Enjoyable but average.

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Guest
Aug 23, 2023

you did well with the review, I might only like Jaime if I watch the movie, as he’s a good character and I want more from him, but even then, this could be my last superhero movie because like you I’m kinda tired

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