Blue Beetle has a lot going for it, but also a lot going against it. It’s technically the “first” movie in the new DCEU, but it’s also technically the last of the old regime. Even though it looks amazing, audiences have to show up, and it’s looking like that’s going to be even harder to do with the limited amount of screens it’s releasing on.
Per box office journalist Luiz Fernando, the new potential franchise starter is opening in less than 4,000 theaters, which is the lowest in the DCEU’s ten-year history.
This doesn’t bode well for the film, which is a bummer because it has all the potential to launch a new superhero franchise, It’s also a bummer because it looks like the DCEU has stopped taking itself so seriously.
Let’s look at why it’s facing such an uphill climb. People come to see Marvel movies because there’s a certain trust they’ve gained with their audience over the years. Movies like Endgame and Black Panther were not only box office hits, they were cultural milestones.
The DCEU has no track record in that department. It always felt like they were playing catch up, and the numbers show that pretty clearly. Every DCEU movie that came out in the last five years has failed to break $400 million, per Forbes.
Think about it this way: Ant-Man & the Wasp: Quantumania, widely considered a flop by Marvel’s standards, pulled in $106 million stateside opening weekend and ended its run at $476 million globally. That number is still above the highest performing DCEU movie of the last five years.
The first Shazam! came out in 2019 and made $53 million its first weekend and $366 total. Birds of Prey in 2020 finished with $205 million. Wonder Woman 1984 and The Suicide Squad made $169.6 million and $168.7 million respectively (although that was in the thick of COVID).
Then we get to Black Adam: $393 million globally (and only $67 million stateside and Canada combined), ouch. Finally the sequel Shazam! Fury of the Gods. That opened to $30 million domestic and a measly $133.8 million worldwide.
Oh, and the fiasco that was The Flash, which was supposed to be the company’s savior. That one made $55 million its first weekend and ended with $268.5 million globally. That’s seven movies all underperforming the lowest performing Marvel movie of the year.
It’s hard to get people excited for a new movie when you’ve released seven mediocre ones in a row. Also, while Gunn said this was the first movie of the new regime, it wasn’t directed by Gunn and if it’s not a hit, I doubt we’ll see Blue Beetle in any future DCEU releases.
It’s just got a lot going against it. People don’t trust the DCEU to have good movies, so they’re not as willing to take a chance on something new. It’s easy to see how it could tank. It doesn’t help that the movie’s currently tracking in at a $30 million weekend, either.
So what are critics saying? Right now it’s sitting at a healthy 76%, which is good but not great. Movie critic Peter Travers for ABC News said:
“The thrills in the first Latino superhero epic are mostly generic but the personal relationships between protagonist Jaime Reyes (a charming Xolo Maridueña) and his irresistibly rowdy and resilient relatives make all the difference. Viva la familia!”
It’s also been called tedious, weak and unremarkable. Admittedly, the stakes are pretty low. The DCEU is reshaping itself and its continued success doesn’t really depend on this movie doing well. What’s at stake is the character himself.
Let’s review. We have a movie coming out on fewer screens than any DC movie before it, coming after a string of seven straight misses, and with a company that’s completely rebooting its universe.
It’s of course possible that Blue Beetle will be a smash, but it’s more likely it will be forgotten. Even with Gunn doubling down and saying that Jaime Reyes will be “an amazing part of the DCU going forward,” it doesn’t seem all that likely.
Of course he’s going to say that. Can you imagine if he said “We’ll never see Jaime Reyes again.” That would tank the film.
Where does that leave us? We’ll have to wait and see how the weekend goes. I’d love to see the movie surprise everyone, but those early numbers don’t usually lie. We’ll keep you posted!