by Rob DiCristino
“It’s good to be in something from the ground floor,” opines Tony Soprano in the first episode of his eponymous television series. “But lately, I’m getting the feeling that I came in at the end. The best is over.” Tony saw the writing on the wall when it came to organized crime in the new millennium, and had he survived to see the last decade of superhero cinema — or even the rest of that night at the diner — he’d get the same feeling from Blue Beetle, a comic book adventure that feels less less like the start of something new and more like a fraying highlight reel from the Marvel and DC of yesteryear. It’s earnest enough in its best moments — it certainly lacks the ill-advised smugness of Black Adam and the hopeless incoherence of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania — but it’s made the fatal mistake of being born in the wrong era (era). The shared multiverses that once felt so bold and ambitious are now tangled and tiresome; The corporate Hollywood that grew fat on IP is now bumbling and top-heavy. In short, Blue Beetle is suiting up for a game that was lost before the season even began.
Helmed by Ángel Manuel Soto (2020’s Charm City Kings), Blue Beetle skips playfully through the collected archives of superhero tropes: Jaime is a warm-hearted underdog (remember Peter Parker from Spider-Man? It’s like that) who must grow into a hero capable of wielding advanced technology against an agent of the military industrial complex who wants to use it for nefarious means (remember Iron Man and/or Ant-Man? It’s like that). The insectoid suit is equipped with voice-activated A.I. (remember the Iron Spider suit from Infinity War? It’s like that) and can conjure up weapons purely from the wearer’s imagination (remember Green Lantern’s ring? It’s like that). He’s not alone, though: Jaime’s family uses analog weapons from the archives of the original Blue Beetle (remember the Batcave? It’s like that), including a bug-eyed airship (remember Night Owl’s hovercraft from Watchmen? It’s like that) and other exciting laser weapons (remember those hologram shields from Black Panther? It’s like that).
Blue Beetle is in theaters now.