Blue Beetle Proves We Need More Standalone Superhero Movies

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Blue Beetle Proves We Need More Standalone Superhero Movies

The following contains spoilers for Blue Beetle, now playing in theaters.

So far, 2023 has been quite a year for movies, particularly superhero films. Marvel and DC continue to pump out project after project as they fight to maintain audiences’ interest at the box office. But out of all the hits and misses throughout the year, DC’s Blue Beetle sets itself apart in a big way.

Unlike every other superhero movie released in 2023, Blue Beetle is not a sequel, nor is it dealing with multiverse-ending stakes. It is an origin story that largely stands on its own, not requiring viewers to watch other films or TV shows in the series to fully understand it. As a result, Blue Beetle manages to feel like a breath of fresh air in a saturated market, proving that superhero movies could benefit from getting back to basics.

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Blue Beetle Has Everything a Good Superhero Origin Story Should Have

Blue Beetle is undoubtedly a solid superhero origin movie, and it all starts with a great protagonist. Jaime Reyes is the perfect underdog, an Everyman who just wants to help his family and community but doesn’t always know how to go about it or have the power to do so. He’s also fresh out of college and has to deal with his student loan debt on top of his family’s current struggles, something many viewers can surely relate to. Xolo Maridueña also imbues Jaime with a natural charm that makes him likable and easy to root for, whether he’s saving his family or just trying to figure out if his crush likes him back.

Like every superhero, Jaime must face off with a pair of tricky villains, Susan Sarandon’s Victoria Kord and Raoul Max Trujillo’s Ignacio Carapax. Although Victoria may seem evil just for the sake of it, Blue Beetle does hint at how she became this way, allowing her jealousy of her brother to grow into a toxic desire to prove herself. In contrast, Carapax is much more sympathetic once his full backstory — and his lack of agency in it — comes to light. This also gives Jaime another crucial hero moment when he chooses to spare Carapax instead of killing him.

Aside from heroes and villains, Blue Beetle tells its story with just the right balance of comedy, drama and action. In particular, the Reyes family brings a lot of levity to the movie, but they’re also the heart of the story because taking care of them is Jaime’s main motivation. And while Jaime skips the typical training montage, there are still plenty of stunning fight scenes set to some iconic tracks. All of these well-executed elements come together to make Blue Beetle the thrilling origin story that it is without having to worry about how it connects to the larger universe.

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Jaime Reyes and His Family Bring Something New – And Old – To the Table

Jaime Reyes and his family in Blue Beetle (2023)

A hero wanting to protect their family might be a staple of the superhero genre, but Blue Beetle puts a unique spin on this idea. As a Latino character, family is especially important to Jaime, and his family has a crucial role in the story. Whereas other superheroes usually hide their identities from their loved ones to keep them safe, the Reyeses are present when Jaime gets his powers, leaving them with no secrets. More importantly, their support becomes Jaime’s greatest strength.

When Jaime is captured by Victoria, his recently deceased father, Alberto, helps Jaime embrace the Scarab so he can escape and become the hero he was meant to be. On top of that, the whole Reyes clan and Jenny band together to go save Jaime, something they wouldn’t be able to do if they didn’t know about his bond with the Scarab. In this way, Jaime’s family plays an active role in his journey and gives the story grounded, human stakes that anyone can relate to. While movies about heroes saving the multiverse can be great, Blue Beetle is mainly about Jaime saving his family and them saving him back, giving it a more personal touch.

RELATED: Blue Beetle Rated Above Most DCEU Films by Critics

Blue Beetle Is a True Standalone Movie

Poster for Blue Beetle (2023)

Blue Beetle might be the first hero in James Gunn’s new DC Universe, but Jaime’s story very much stands on its own. Unlike most superhero films nowadays, general audiences truly don’t need to know anything about Jaime Reyes or Blue Beetle‘s place in the DCU to understand and enjoy the movie. Even if the characters make brief references to other DC heroes, they’re not integral to the story being told or to the audience’s enjoyment. Furthermore, Blue Beetle isn’t shouldering the burden of setting up an entire shared universe, allowing it to just focus on its characters and telling a good story.

As revolutionary as the Marvel Cinematic Universe was when it started, the shared universe has become a tired trend for both storytellers and moviegoers. Audiences have grown weary of having to watch so much content just to understand what’s going on in a given movie, and in their attempts to raise the stakes and top their previous ventures, filmmakers have gotten away from some of the things that make superhero stories so great. By going back to basics, keeping the stakes personal and focusing more on the individual story than how it connects to the bigger picture, Blue Beetle makes the superhero origin story feel fresh again.

If superhero movies want to reclaim their former glory, they should follow Blue Beetle‘s example by getting back to what made superheroes appealing in the first place while bringing something new to the genre. Blue Beetle doesn’t reinvent the wheel; much of the time, it still follows the usual superhero origin formula. Nevertheless, it makes a few crucial changes that allow it to stand out, and the formulaic parts are still well-executed. While shared universes made superhero origin stories feel like a thing of the past, Blue Beetle manages to make them feel new again.

For a satisfying standalone superhero story, see Blue Beetle in theaters now.

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