The 14th and final part of the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) before James Gunn and Peter Safran’s soft reboot as the upcoming DCU, Ángel Manuel Soto’s Blue Beetle ends things on a very, very high note. With a wonderful sense of humour and heart, alongside a star-making turn from Xolo Maridueña in the title role, Blue Beetle is the best thing DC has done in years. Gunn has even confirmed that Maridueña would be returning in the role in future projects, despite this origin film itself being disconnected from Gunn and Safran’s upcoming plans. That alone speaks volumes for the likeability of the film’s lead, but by extension, the film itself.
Narratively, Blue Beetle treads a lot of similar ground for a superhero origin film – but the film’s style, vibrancy and general warmth shines through. While the word itself can be schmaltzy and overly sentimental when applied to a film like this, Blue Beetle is a film about family. There are some genuine moments of poignancy throughout that land because of how authentic and carefully delivered this theme is – it’s not just a cop-out buzzword like in Fast & Furious but, rather, it holds true power and is the glue that sticks the film together. This is aided by the wonderful, likeable cast whose chemistry together feels effortless and ‘real’. George Lopez is particularly good as comic relief Uncle Rudy, who steals every scene he’s in with his funniest performance in years. But the titular star Xolo Maridueña is the highlight, with one of the most charming and endearing ‘person gets super powers and must adjust to their new life and destiny’ performances since the very early days of superhero movies.
While the CGI might not be flawless, the vibrant colour palette of the film and its neon-soaked action oozes cool. A simple goodies-and-baddies story allows plenty of time for awesome fight scenes and a particularly explosive final showdown on our villain’s fortified island, with high stakes coming from our genuine love and concern for our hero and his family. Each action sequence is exciting and expertly put together, while the film’s quieter moments allow the characters – and performances – to breathe and fully develop. Every character feels lived in, as does the setting of Palmera City. The representation of a genuine Mexican family is refreshing, too, and doesn’t even veer close to tokenism.
The soundtrack is all-killer-no-filler, too, with everything from Spanish-language covers of Blame it on the Boogie and Be My Baby to an air-punchingly great use of Mötley Crüe’s Kickstart My Heart. This could be the best superhero soundtrack since Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse, and that’s saying something. But then I’ll go one further. This is the best superhero film since Into the Spiderverse, too. Blue Beetle is heaps of fun, with memorable jokes and genuine heart. I had an absolute ball with it, and am so excited to see the character again in the future. I absolutely loved every minute and would confidently put this at the top of my list of the best superhero movies. There’s something I wasn’t expecting!