DC’s ‘Blue Beetle’ deserved to perform better at the box office

There isn’t always justice to be found at the box office. Sometimes a mediocre film will rake in the cash (I’m sure we could all name a franchise film or two that fits this description), or conversely, an enjoyable film will fail to gain traction. 

DC’s Blue Beetle took in about $25 million domestically its opening weekend, and it’s a shame that number isn’t higher. The underwhelming box office is not a reflection of the film’s quality. It’s a very fun movie that, while a bit paint-by-the-numbers, avoids some of the pitfalls other recent superhero films have fallen prey to. 

Blue Beetle is, unfortunately, a victim of a variety of factors. It follows the box office juggernaut Barbenheimer, which is still flexing its muscles. It debuted in late summer, when many families are focused on school starting back up again. It’s possible audiences are waiting for streaming, as they have for a number of other films post-COVID. And finally, it’s just a really weird and tumultuous time in DC’s cinematic universe. I think it’s going to be hard to motivate audiences to see any DC films before James Gunn’s Superman reboot, which is drawing all the speculation, hype, and attention right now. 

Yet box office woes aside, Blue Beetle is worth seeing at the theater, and I hope that it does receive a bump from the mostly positive word of mouth I’ve been hearing. 

Here’s what I liked most about the film:

  • I thought Jaime Reyes (Xolo Maridueña) was a likable, compelling protagonist who was easy to empathize with. He’s in that unique space occupied by recent college graduates, where you’re not a teenager anymore but don’t quite feel like you’ve arrived as an adult. Even though I hadn’t heard of Blue Beetle as a character before this movie, I thought the suit looked cool and the CGI effects were solid (especially compared to some of the very dodgy CGI sequences we’ve seen in superhero movies this year).
  • I also loved, loved, loved this film’s focus on Jaime’s close-knit family. His parents, sister, Nana, and Uncle Rudy are more than just side characters; they are an important part of Jaime’s character journey and provide a loving support system. Nana and Uncle Rudy (played by Adriana Barraza and George Lopez, respectively) are hilarious, but they aren’t just here to add comedy to the film. They also have heartfelt moments. 
  • I won’t get into any spoilers, but one of the things that impressed me about this movie was its portrayal of loss and grief. Many times in these fast-paced superhero action films, you don’t have a lot of time to slow down and examine how a significant loss impacts a character. This film does a better job handling this than a number of other similar films I’ve seen. 
  • I hadn’t heard of Palmera City before this film, and I like how it contrasts with other famous DC Comics cities like Gotham or Metropolis. 

However, despite how much I enjoyed this (I’m definitely planning to watch it again), there were a few drawbacks: 

  • Jaime and his family were very compelling characters to me, and they elevate the film above its otherwise “standard superhero origin story” status. The plot itself doesn’t deviate too far from the standard script, and it would have been nice to see a little more creativity. 
  • The villain, Victoria Kord, is not very compelling and joins a long line of so-so superhero villains. Which is a shame because normally Susan Sarandon is great, and there are some intriguing but unexplored elements in this character’s backstory. I wish the film had dug deeper into this character. 

As much as I liked these characters and want to see them again, I’m afraid that with all the changes going on with Warner Bros./DC, the story of Blue Beetle will get lost in the past. I really, really hope that James Gunn finds a way to use Jaime Reyes (and his family!) in future storytelling. 

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