Jamie Skinner reviews Ángel Manuel Soto's Blue Beetle, here's his thoughts: Whilst searching for a job Jaime Reyes (Xolo Maridueña) becomes the host to an alien scarab, providing him with a suit of armour weapons system.

Cert - 12, Run-time - 2 hours 7 minutes, Director - Ángel Manuel Soto

DC’s previous two 2023 releases - Shazam: Fury Of The Gods and The Flash - have both been fine enough films with merits accompanied by a good deal of flaws. Some of these flaws have linked to something of a new cliche within superhero films; the narrative revolving around either a world-ending threat or involving multiple versions of multiple characters popping up here and there across whichever multiverse we’re in now. Blue Beetle takes a step back to look at the convention of a few years ago, looking at a more familiar, although welcome, origin story.

Having returned from college, graduating in pre-law, Jaime Reyes (Xolo Maridueña) is met with multiple crushing revelations about how things have changed for his family. The rent has tripled and they’re at risk of being evicted. So, he take it upon himself to find the best job possible to try and resolve things. However, while on the hunt he comes into possession of an alien scarab which makes him its host. As the suit of armour and weapons system c(voiced by Becky G) connects with him the forces who want it more, led by businesswoman Victoria Kord (Susan Sarandon), will do anything to obtain it.

It’s here that the Reyes family play a key part in the film. They’re present for a number of the key events, including the first proper interaction with the scarab, and in many ways act as the heart of the film. Providing plenty of laughs along the way, particularly George Lopez’s Uncle Rudy with his occasional leaning into conspiracy theories, they’re there to support each other, “we’ve been through worse”, “have we?”

While the action is good, if the thing that makes the film feel a little overlong, it’s the Reyes family which help to truly keep you involved. The heart and humour which comes from them, and indeed plays a part during some of the fight sequences and helps to keep the lengthened third act going, is perhaps the biggest strength of the film. Their bond and connection is on full display from when they first meet Jaime at the airport, and develops with each scene.

It’s the spark in a film of cliches both good and bad. While some bring a sense of likable familiarity to the proceedings, making for a much simpler kind of superhero film, they also hinder things when it comes to the clear direction of the narrative and how certain characters will progress. Yet, thanks to the occasional chuckle and some enjoyable action, especially as Jaime learns to work with the armour, Blue Beetle is an overall effective piece of work which takes a step away from any overly complicated world-ending stakes and focuses on the central character and those around him.

Jamie Skinner, Three stars ****