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Blue Beetle Has That Sam Raimi Charm, And It's Exactly What The Genre Needs

Remember when superhero movies could just be movies? Before the advent of transmedia storytelling, streaming spin-offs, or cinematic universes? There's a whole generation now that likely doesn't. The "Avengers" generation, who has watched DC try and fail time and again to build a human pyramid of comic book adaptations akin in size and success to Marvel's. The media franchise arms race is far from over, no matter how much criticism it receives. And yet, there is now a hero approaching on the horizon: one who could show us another way.

His name is Jaime Reyes.

The first "Blue Beetle" trailer foretells a fun, whimsical, and altogether isolated superhero adventure — the kind that '90s kids will remember fondly from their youth. There was a time when Sam Raimi's "Spider-Man" trilogy was the pinnacle of comic book adaptations. Tobey Maguire's Peter Parker wasn't endearing because he had the best special effects or a team of celebrity guest stars behind him, but simply because he was relatable. Balancing a love life with vigilante crime-fighting, making rent in a crummy New York apartment, caring for his aging aunt while also grappling with anonymous fame — these are the storylines that made Raimi's films into all-time classics.

The campy, down-to-Earth superhero movie is a dying art form. In fact, it's nearly extinct. But with "Blue Beetle," DC looks poised to bring it back.

The Blue Beetle trailer is silly in all the right ways

"Blue Beetle" won't be released in theaters until August 18, 2023. And yet, we already have a pretty good idea of the tone of the movie based on the trailer. The basic setup is evocative of superhero movies from the early 2000s, with Xolo Maridueña's Jaime Reyes stumbling out of his ordinary life and into that of a superhero by sheer happenstance. A lot of the trailer focuses on his family — all of whom are instantly aware of the Scarab and the powers it imparts — and how their lives are collectively changed by this wild twist of fate.

The overall tone is quite light. Jaime's inability to control the Scarab is played for laughs, even when he's doing dangerous things like accidentally cutting a bus in half. It doesn't take itself too seriously, and more importantly, it doesn't connect in any way to the rest of the DC universe. That may be because it was produced at a time when the DC film slate was in complete disarray, but the effect is still a breath of fresh air.

This is exactly the kind of comic book movie we've been missing: independent, goofy, and heartfelt, without being overly dramatic. Maridueña is a bona fide star in the making, having been the heart and soul of "Cobra Kai" for years. He's the perfect choice for a Maguire-Spidey-esque hero, and he excels in the put-upon protagonist archetype that was once the norm in superhero adaptations.

Blue Beetle can be the sort of superhero movie the MCU doesn't make anymore

After over a decade of dominating at the box office, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has hit a bit of a rough patch. With no new overarching villain for years after the defeat of Thanos, and content spread thinner than ever before thanks to all the streaming series on Disney+, Phase 4 came and went with shockingly little fanfare. There were hits, like "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever," "Loki" Season 1, and "WandaVision," but there were also a lot of stinkers. Overall, the whole phase came out feeling more "meh" than Marvel was probably hoping.

You could blame this phenomenon in part on superhero fatigue, but that's only half of the picture. Any story, superhero or otherwise, can be a success if the writing is good enough. The bigger problem isn't genre fatigue, but cinematic universe fatigue. Disney+ made the franchise too massive for any casual fan to keep up with. And without a Thanos-level threat tying things together, there was no reason to scramble to keep up.

Now is the time for DC to finally strike, and "Blue Beetle" is the perfect opening salvo. From the look of the trailer, it's simple, grounded, family-focused, and silly — the perfect blockbuster to bring the kids to and have a good time. Studios have been so focused on developing franchises these past several years that they've forgotten that a great movie will always stand on its own. And when it comes to goofy action-adventure romps, that might even be preferred.

Could Blue Beetle be the beginning of DC finally doing superhero movies the right way?

DC has been the less successful little brother to the MCU for so long that it's almost sad. The Snyderverse flopped prematurely. Henry Cavill came back as Superman, then left a month later. There are roughly 500 "Batman" universes happening simultaneously, and while James Gunn may finally be getting things on track with the DCU, even that is far from a guarantee.

Put simply, DC needs a win if it aims to stay in the race. "Blue Beetle" could deliver just that — a nostalgic shot in the arm for the whole genre that plays in that beautiful, campy, Sam Raimi "Spider-Man" space. Maridueña practically sweats charisma, and giving him a supporting cast of mostly seasoned Mexican co-stars is a refreshing change from the genre's usual pool of spray-tanned Hollywood A-listers. Plus, the movie gets the benefit of a main character who's largely unknown to anyone who doesn't read the comics. That leaves a lot of room for creativity and experimentation, absent all the pressure and expectations that come with Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Flash.

Maybe we're jumping the gun here. After all, "Blue Beetle" doesn't come out for another few months. And yet, it's hard not to see it as a big step in the right direction for DC — a step back into the superhero movie days of yore, when campy family dynamics and goofy jokes reigned supreme.