In Blue Beetle, a young college grad assimilates with an ancient alien scarab and becomes a superhero, gaining abilities that make him one of the most powerful people on the planet. However, there’s so much more to this high-flying film than just action and adventure. Blue Beetle is through and through a story about destiny, responsibility and self-worth. Most of all, it’s a story about family and legacy in ways that have never been so wholeheartedly presented in a DC film before.

What makes Blue Beetle truly special is the way these relatable themes ground its hero, giving his comic book world a felt reality which serves as a terrific introduction to an often-underseen corner of the DC Universe. Let’s dive in further and talk about a few of the things that really stand out.

The Terrific Characters

Our hero is Jaime Reyes, a 22-year-old college graduate who returns to his home of Palmera City with the hopes of gaining a high-paying job to bring his family out of debt and poverty. Enthusiastically played by Xolo Maridueña, Jaime is instilled with a down-to-earth sense of responsibility and loyalty towards his family. He laments the troubles they’ve gone through while he was away at school and blames himself for not having any way to help them.

It's a thoroughly accurate interpretation of the character from the comics, who sees his absence away from his family as a chance to make the world better, starting with them. As Jaime, Maridueña brings energy, determination and charm to a role that in lesser hands might’ve fallen into realms of self-pitying. Earnest but not humorless, with an easy smile and youthful energy that builds in confidence with every scene, Jaime grows increasingly out of his shell until the final battle, where his conviction in saving the day leads to some incredible action sequences that earn our emotional investment. While it may sound like a simple task for a superhero film to take on, you truly root for Blue Beetle throughout this film.

Of course, right next to Maridueña is an eclectic cast of actors young and old who make up the lively Reyes family. Mother Rocio, father Alberto, Uncle Rudy, little sister Milagro and the family’s beloved Nana are played by Elpidia Carrillo, Damián Alcázar, George Lopez, Belissa Escobedo and Adriana Barraza respectively. Like in the comic book, they make up Jaime’s supporting cast who all react differently to their son’s exposure to an alien life form.

What really makes the Reyes family stand out, however, is how big a role they play in Jaime’s journey once he becomes Blue Beetle. They too go through moments of terror, excitement, grief and determination. It’s an unexpected quality of the film that makes it stand out more than any other superhero movie in recent memory. With Alberto’s kindness and patience, Rocio’s resoluteness, Rudy’s inventiveness, Milagro’s wit and repartee with her brother and Nana’s leadership (and other more surprising skills), the film nearly becomes an ensemble where the main hero isn’t the only one on display.

To say any more would risk spoilers, but make no mistake, Jaime and his family are by far the highlight of the movie!

Themes of Legacy

A cornerstone of the DC Universe remains the legacy of heroes that many franchises have developed over the company’s existence. Blue Beetle is an often overlooked, but no less true example of that tradition. As in the comics, Jaime Reyes is the third person to carry the Blue Beetle mantle. As the movie plays out, we learn a little about the Blue Beetle’s history, through Jaime’s Uncle Rudy and the prior Beetle’s daughter, Jenny Kord. Before long, a vaster, more expansive world opens before Jaime, giving him a lot more to live up to than simply being his family’s first college graduate.

Not only is this a terrific bit of fanservice for longtime fans of the comics, but it serves to develop the world of DC in ways that are not complex, but more involved than the simple discovery of superpowers.

The theme of legacy also applies to characters beyond Jaime. An early scene between father and son has Jaime ask his dad about one’s purpose in life, and Alberto responds that he doesn’t know what his is yet. Victoria Kord, the zealous head of Kord Industries who has taken over her brother Ted Kord’s company to become a weapons financier, sees her place as securing the legacy started by their father.

And then there’s Uncle Rudy. His lifetime of government paranoia and technological tinkering has distanced him from the more normal members of his family, and at the middle-aged stage of his life, he ponders what might be meant for him as well.

Greatness, value and fears of failure are strewn throughout the movie, echoed by the various characters and tying them together in ways that complete the movie’s theme without having any of them fully cognizant of it.

The Action

Of course, Blue Beetle isn’t all just staring at the stars and thinking about the future. This is a comic book film after all! When it comes to Blue Beetle’s action sequences, nothing is left on the table. The character has an instant array of technological and alien armaments at his disposal—if he can think it, the scarab can create it.

Thankfully, the film doesn’t hold back, allowing Jaime to discover new aspects of his powerset with each high-powered action scene. Battles with OMAC soldiers and the villain Carapax show off Blue Beetle’s energy cannons, swords, wings, pulse shield and much more. By the third act, the movie truly cuts loose with a high-octane fight scene down a red-lit hallway that sees its characters pull out all the stops in explosive action that is both creative and impactful. The hits are hard, the damage is severe and the reaction from my theater was glorious, having not seen this type of fighting in a DC film for some time.

Final Thoughts

Blue Beetle is a wonderfully satisfying movie that seeks not to rewrite the superhero genre, but to reaffirm it. With relatable, likable characters, reverence to the source material and powerful themes that strengthen the storytelling, this is a surprisingly complete superhero film that you’re not going to want to miss—whether you’re a longtime Blue Beetle fan or new to his world. After building a small, passionate fanbase since his debut in 2006, Blue Beetle gives its young hero the chance he needs to stand alongside DC’s best-known characters, and to become an essential, vibrant part of their upcoming cinematic universe.

Blue Beetle, directed by Angel Manuel Soto and starring Xolo Maridueña as Jaime Reyes, lands in theaters this Friday, August 18th. Visit our official Blue Beetle hub for more news, features and videos about our newest big-screen hero and share your thoughts on the film right now in the DC Community!

Donovan Morgan Grant writes about comics, graphic novels and superhero history for Follow him on Twitter at @donoDMG1.

NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this feature are solely those of Donovan Morgan Grant and do not necessarily reflect those of DC Entertainment or Warner Bros., nor should they be read as confirmation or denial of future DC plans.