Blue Beetle Review: Superheroes get their mojo back – but is it too late?

Let’s not dwell on it. Superhero movies have been on a downward trajectory for some time. Recent efforts, like Shazam: Fury Of The Gods and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, have looked tired and ragged round the edges, the fatigue spread to audiences and the result was plain to see at the box office. Take a look at the formulaic poster for DC’s Blue Beetle, and you’d think yet more of the same was on its way. You’re in for a pleasant surprise.

Teenager Jaime Reyes (Cobra Kai’s Xolo Mariduena) returns to Palmera City after graduating from college, but it’s not as he remembers it. At home, his dad’s health is failing and the family are facing eviction while, under the domination of an ambitious multi-national corporation, the city has lost its way. Then an ancient relic called the Scarab falls into his hands and chooses him as its host – whether he likes it or not. Its powers are such that it can cover him with a high-tech suit of armour, turning him into a superhero, but that company desperately needs the Scarab to develop a new law-enforcement robot. So Jaime has to protect it, using any and every means at his disposal.

Poster aside, Blue Beetle stands apart from the latest batch of superhero outings (with the obvious exception of Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse) for a number of reasons. It may not have the most original of plotlines – we all know where it’s going and there are some comfortingly familiar tropes in there – but it has freshness, humour and, most noticeably of all, the sense that everybody involved is enjoying themselves rather than going through the motions. It also brings back something that both DC and Marvel lost along the way. Heart. The film has it in spades and that’s thanks to its concentration on the Reyes family, a glorious ensemble played with gusto, with Adriana Barraza outstanding as a pistol-packing granny and George Lopez going for the big laughs as the eccentric Uncle Rudy.

Just as importantly, the film knows exactly what it is and who it’s aimed at: an action-packed adventure with a colourful, warm Latino flavour made with a younger audience in mind, one that will pick up all the cultural and musical references. It may not move the genre forward in any way, but it reminds us of exactly why we loved superheroes and how their decline has left a black hole in our cinematic diet.

This could have been the film that gave them a new lease of life. But timing, as they say, is all. With DC Studios under new management, the likelihood of a sequel is open to question and coming at the end of what’s been such a dismal run for the genre, Blue Beetle may turn out to be simply a last hurrah.

Blue Beetle releases in cinemas on 18 August.

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