Blue Beetle is the latest superhero spectacle from DC. Angel Manuel Soto directs Xolo Maridueña as a young Mexican man who returns to his family from college to discover that they are losing their home. After a series of plot machinations, a “scarab,” a piece of alien technology that attaches to his spinal cord and looks like a small blue beetle, gives him superpowers. Susan Sarandon plays the villain of this film who leads an evil corporation that wants to weaponize the scarab.
What works about Blue Beetle are all of the character interactions. Maridueña is a likeable lead as Jamie Reyes, but George Lopez and Belissa Escobedo steal the movie as members of the Reyes family. The close-knit Latin family unit is the primary impression of Blue Beetle, and where Shazam! (2019) and the Fast Saga tried to various degrees of success to create an affable family unit, Blue Beetle succeeds.
There are also important discussions about racism and the place of Latin people in American society. One character remarks that invisibility is their superpower, and another character discusses how crossing the border is one challenge, but the next twenty years is the harder obstacle. That Blue Beetle brings up these important topics makes it all the more disappointing when most of the plot occupies itself with cliches and well-trod story beats. Particularly, most superhero movies are about maintaining the status quo, and while Blue Beetle is uniquely positioned as a superhero who can change the system for the less fortunate, the film’s plot avoids this kind of mission.
Instead, Blue Beetle is Iron Man (2008) and Ant-Man (2015) with a little Latin flair. Every plot point that you’ve seen in every other superhero movie happens, and superhero movie fans can see where it’s going a mile away. The third act showdown repeats the same v. same trope from Iron Man in which the hero must battle a villain with the same powerset, leading to forgettable and cliché action set pieces. When the story fails to surprise on every level, even though the characters are ultimately likable, there’s little new added to the genre.
The best way to think of Blue Beetle is like a coloring book: the lines of this movie are the same as other superhero films, but the colors are a bit different. That is not enough to justify recommending the film.