This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, Blue Beetle being covered here wouldn’t exist.
Blue Beetle starts, not with the heroes — but with the villains. It ends with a post-credits scene featuring El Chapulín Colorado, one of the most Latine references in the history of superhero movies. In between, Jaime Reyes is a kid with a dream and a big, loving family who turns into a superhero.
It is, in many ways, the quintessential hero journey, and fans of the genre will certainly enjoy the energy Xolo Maridueña brings to a role that, at time, is reminiscent of the first time we saw Tom Holland as Spiderman. But though Blue Beetle as a superhero is something that can be enjoyed by everyone in equal measure, Blue Beetle the movie is something that will especially connect with Latine audiences.
George Lopez’s Uncle Rudy puts the feeling into words at one point in the movie, telling Jaime (not Jamie, but the joke works so well because it is a common mistake) that it is time we had our superhero. He doesn’t need to explain who the proverbial “we” is. Audiences get it. Latine audiences especially do.
And it is, indeed, time.
But Jaime Reyes is more than just the first Latine superhero headlining a movie — though the movie is, in many ways, a love letter to a community. Instead, Jaime is just a fun kid who loves his family and who just happens to be chosen by an alien scarab that grants him a whole host of cool powers — and oh yeah, one of the nicest superhero costumes we’ve had the pleasure of seeing.
If his family — abuelita included, ends up as Jaime’s sidekicks, well, that’s just the latine way. For better or for worse, whether you want them to or not. And the journey of Blue Beetle, one that at times ends up being way more emotional than it has any right to be considering the movie spends a great deal of time dealing with the borderline absurd, is mostly about how good that is.
Of course, in that regard, Blue Beetle isn’t telling a new story. Love is strength is basically the cornerstone of superhero movies — whether that love be romantic or familial. It’s just that, for someone who grew up in a family who looks a lot like Jaime’s, there’s a great deal of power in seeing that be not just normalized, but celebrated.
If Blue Beetle falters in some way, it’s when it tries to stick too close to the “typical superhero” origin story blueprint. For a while there, it was refreshing to see Jaime as part of a tight-knit family and have his motivation not be tragedy. But tragedy always comes for superheroes, because they need something to rise above, or because even a movie that does as much to differentiate itself from other superhero movies as Blue Beetle still feels like it has to hit on some of the same beats.
But in general, the movie succeeds as a stand-alone superhero movie, an intro to a character (and a world) we hope to revisit and even something more — something the movie probably had no intention of doing back when it was being filmed. In most ways that matter Blue Beetle is the start of something new for DC. And if the movie is the blueprint for what the comic giant can do and be going forward, then the future is certainly in good hands — or antennae.
Blue Beetle is in theaters now.