Going into Blue Beetle I didn’t expect much of anything truth be told, it looked like standard fair superhero origin run-of-the-mill material, but I was beyond pleasantly surprised at the heart, the creativity, the intelligence, and the beauty of the movie.
This is one of the best comic book movies of 2023, if not the best, as franchise Sony Pictures’ Spider-Verse films are grander and are probably building to something big with the hotly anticipated Beyond the Spider-Verse, but as a movie, this far exceeds both Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 as well as DC’s own lackluster offerings this year.
With the trailers, especially with a particular moment highlighted in the second trailer, I got the impression that this was going to be what the original Shazam film was, just an ok origin about a kid with a family, but if anything, this puts that movie to shame. It really highlights how Jaime is tied into his family and his heritage and he wants nothing but to help them, how their love guides and empowers him, whereas, in Shazam, it felt almost like an afterthought to add more development to the relationship between Billy and Freddy.
Similarly, this movie does a really clever thing where they tie who Jaime is as a person into him taking on the scarab, there isn’t some magical personality shift like in the aforementioned Shazam or say the confidence that Peter Parker gets when he puts on a mask, no he’s just a lost kid that doesn’t know his place in the world, and as the story grows, so too does Jaime himself as he becomes deeply bonded to the scarab, or as he comes to know it, Khaji-Da.
Truthfully, this feels like a better-done hybrid of the Tom Hardy-led Venom films and the Sandberg-directed Shazam! movies, and for what it’s worth it works, you feel this connection between a curious machine and a kid, there’s no insane cynicism, there’s not an overabundance of schmaltz, it’s just a real story about a second-generation American and his family going up against a billionaire industrialist gentrifying their neighborhood.
For comic fans, there are a lot of references that they’ll appreciate such as the names of various enemies, costume cameos for Ted Kord and Dan Garrett’s Blue Beetle costumes, Carapax having a 1:1 costume to his classic appearance, and so on. I’d really like to bring attention to how they used the Bug, the Blue Beetle’s flying insect-like ship in a really creative sequence set to Motley Crue’s Kickstart My Heart, there are actually a lot of ways they use music in the action in an enjoyable way.
I didn’t even notice it at first because I was so invested, but there’s this techno feel to the original score that really adds a fun flavor that you don’t see often enough. For a PG-13, this takes a lot of risks, there isn’t some magical be-all-end-all “everybody is alrighty oh” button, no, there are actual stakes in this, serious injuries, death, a legitimate sacrifice that not enough all-ages movies do anymore.
There’s one particular moment where they treat it as the complete tragedy that it is and you just feel every ounce of pain and rage that the Reyes family do, and the movie goes almost silent for about a minute with all you can hear being crying.
Then later on in the movie, you see Jaime himself process this in a really powerful almost abstract moment where he speaks to the deceased in a sort of limbo realm between life and death and then does a recreation of the Creation of Adam in a much more poignant and character significant way than it was done earlier this year in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.
It says a lot that I left this movie upset at the prospect of a reboot. I love these characters, all of them get moments to shine and even small arcs that show them off as beautiful caring people that put the needs of each other before themselves, and I’d hate to see all of that tossed.
I don’t know exactly what the new James Gunn DCU is, and at this point, I won’t pretend to, whether this is the first movie, the first character, or both, or neither, regardless, this is a hero and a world surrounding him who needs to return as soon as possible. Blue Beetle is a 9/10, go support this amazing movie, it’s worth the watch and rewatch.
4.5 out of 5 stars.
Blue Beetle is now playing in theatres worldwide.