It’s Time for the World to Meet ‘Blue Beetle’

It’s been 15 years since Iron Man revolutionized the way comic book movies have been seen in Hollywood. Since then, we’ve seen the popular genre expand in ways that really foster representation and the idea of stories being told from all points of view, from Black Panther to Shang-Chi and of course Wonder Woman. And yet, there still hasn’t been a single big-budget superhero film told from the eyes and perspective of a Latino protagonist. Until now. Get ready to meet Blue Beetle.

For many who follow comics, Jaime Reyes has been a fan favorite for many years, since his introduction in Infinite Crisis #3 in 2006. Inheriting the mantle of the Blue Beetle from his predecessors Dan Garrett and Ted Kord, Jaime was a teenager who discovered an alien scarab created by an extraterrestrial race called The Reach, which fused with his spine, and bonded with him. The scarab gave him an incredibly tough armor, and the power to reconfigure itself to create an arsenal of various weapons, from energy cannons and giant blades, to wings. It also gives Jaime the ability to see extra-dimensional objects.

Well now the Jaime’s story is coming to the big screen, in this August’s Blue Beetle, courtesy of director Angel Manuel Soto, and star Xolo Maridueña (Cobra Kai). The DC-superhero film was at first intended to debut as an HBO Max original film, before WB recognized the potential theatrical power of the film, and decided to release it theatrically. And today, WB and DC gave us our first full look at the film via the new trailer:

And in celebration of the official debut of the film’s trailer, we were lucky enough to be invited to a special panel with Soto and Maridueña where they spoke to moderator Tiffany Smith about the upcoming project and what it means to have made the first Latino-led and directed big-budget superhero movie ever. Check out what the duo had to say about the upcoming project below:

Smith: How does it feel for you guys get to see the trailer with an audience. How does that feel?

Maridueña: Oh yeah, I have the jitters. I mean every time I see the trailer I get so excited but be able to finally show it to all of you… it looks sick! I look at the screen and like, that’s me what the heck?

Soto: It doesn’t get old. But I thought it was gonna get old. Damn… Seeing it with you guys here. It just felt different. Like, it felt like the first time I saw it.

Smith: Well, and the crazy thing I think every time anybody makes a film, it feels like you create a family on set. So getting to see everybody up there. Can you talk to us a little bit Angel, about the amazing cast and what makes this cast so special on screen and off?

Soto: So the things that we really wanted to do with the cast was to be able to be as authentic as we were. To tap into the almostm like the three generations right? Like, where to see the first immigrant family when they bring their sons, and then the sons that are born here. So being able to tap into the three generations authentically. You know, Xolo, who was born here and is Mexican American. As Belissa is… she plays Milagros, the sister. Then you have characters like George Lopez, right? Who’s been here for a minute, like a national treasure as well… George plays, the uncle. And then I really wanted to tap into like, what I consider the best actors from Mexico City, which is Adriana Barraza and Damián Alcázar. So I really wanted to bring all the people I really respect you know, from the movies that I saw growing up in Mexico. Mexico really inspired me to become a filmmaker. And of course, you know, I you have Harvey Guillén who is also of Mexican descent and you have Raoul Trujillo, who is native Mexican too. So being able to keep it as authentic as possible… and seeing them bring everything to the film and they made it theirs and took their fun very seriously. I think that’s one of the things that I really love. Coming together and with Xolo, And it’s just like that, for me as a director, that’s probably the most satisfying thing is being able to get an authentic chemistry from the collective that feels like something I grew up with.

Smith: One of my favorite things about this character is that he’s very new to superheroes. He doesn’t know anything about it. So if you can talk a little bit about what was it like for you, new to being a superhero? Getting to know the character in the story?

Maridueña: Yeah, absolutely. And to Angel’s point about the family, something that we were just discussing that’s kind of funny is, you know, you see some of these other superheroes who are able to hide from their family, the fact that they’re a superhero. I mean, as you guys just saw in the trailer, his family is right there on that first transformation. So to, you know, kind of come through this journey together, is something that I think we haven’t seen before in superhero movies. And that really is the beating heart of this movie. Although, you know, was my first time being a superhero and kind of coming into a character like this. As you’ll see in the movie, you know, it can’t happen without the family. And that’s a theme that I think, whether or not you’re Latino, it transcends ethnicity, it transcends color of skin because that’s something that we can all relate from. And I think that that’s really been the most exciting part is that although it is undeniably, unapologetically Latino, everyone will understand Milagro. Everyone understands Jaime, because there are people who we’ve interacted with in our daily life and and, and the problems that they’re facing are problems that we know… And maybe yeah, there’ll be room for the second or third one to do the crazy alien stuff, but the stuff that you see in this movie is is it’s all very tangible, and it feels rooted in in today’s world. And then it’s 110%, right? Because it’s the world that we know plus a little bit extra magic. Also to bring Palmera City to the screen is fantastic in its own regard, because… the vision was to have Beetle be on the same level as someone like Superman or a Batman who have Gotham or Metropolis, or cities that that you know, are the beating hearts of of the themes of the comics. And to create a world for Jaime… where he feels he fits and was really such a humbling and honoring experience as well.

Smith: And I have to say I you guys all know this, but I grew up reading comic books and it was kind of the first time where I could see myself in something and then you kind of go from there where it’s you see yourself as a character but then it really comes down to the stories being great and finding that way that they connect to everybody. So Angel what would you say for this one because I think you kind of jumped into it a little bit, but what would you say? Why is Blue Beetle a movie for everybody?

Soto: Well, because I am like everybody. Xolo is like everybody, you know? I’m as special as all of you. I’m no less than anybody. My culture is not a buzzword. No, we exist and we coexist. And, for me, being able to integrate those things that make us special [adds] flavor. Like laughter. People laugh differently, yet it’s still laughter, right? We grieve differently. We cry, we deal with loss differently. [But it’s still] loss right? So it’s always nice to see something that we’re, kind of like, used to seeing a little bit with other superheroes that we love and we cherish. But we see it my way. You know, our way. And invite the audience also to not feel repelled by it. [Invite them] to the party, you know? Latino is not a genre. Yeah, we’re not a genre. So it is a superhero movie that happens to have Latinos at the forefront. That’s it.

Smith: And obviously we all got to see some epic stuff on the screen there but you chose to do this one on IMAX expanded aspect ratio when you’re filming it. Why? What led to that decision and then why do you think that people should really see it in IMAX?

Soto: IMAX is the shit. Like, I mean, it’s just it’s a immersive aspect of it, right? Like I try to be as immersive as I can with the projects that I do. And the scope of IMAX allows you to be swaddled to the frame. And it almost feels like this with my relationship with cinema. It’s very spiritual that way. So it almost feels like you can have a physical connection to it. And, you know, the same way that we try our best to bring the audience in and come into this dance right with the story and with the characters. IMAX just makes it… like if you’re dancing with your partner, and you could be in a ballroom with people, but we’re dancing with your partner and it feels like you’re dancing with just them or you’re alone in the room with it. That’s what IMAX feels like to me.

Smith: And plus that it’s like you just get to see all the Blue Beetle awesomeness even bigger.

Soto: Yeah, the suit! Mayes C. Rubeo did an amazing job with that suit. And being able to just capture what Maya just did, and the enhancements with the VFX in a way that is integrated and see it… And also, I’m from Puerto Rico, as I guess, I’m pretty obvious about it. But being able to see something that feels like home in IMAX, not in news. There’s always news or postcards, right? We’re more than that. Right? And I said Puerto Rico, but I’m part of a bigger community as well. And being able to see our community as well represented not just as cliches, but as being heroes for once? What better way than to see it on the biggest screen possible?

At this point, Smith opened up the floor to questions from our fellow reporters in the press. Here were a few of the terrific Q&A moments from that session:

POC Culture: We’re so excited about the authenticity that you’re talking about. And a lot of us talk about something called “rep sweats,” which is like the sweats and anxiety sometimes that come with having to represent the community. Both the excitement and anxiety. So how did you both approach that responsibility that you have for more than just a superhero movie? It’s, you know, communities excited about it. How did you push that?

Soto: I don’t take it lightly. Because we’re not a monolith. We’re never gonna be able to know everything. Luckily for me, the way I see it, the job was already done because it’s a Mexican family. Right? So it is a Mexican family. It’s not a melting pot. But that doesn’t mean that there are no connective tissues between all of us, with a collective memory and our blood history. But at the same time, it’s not that different from the rest of the world. So a lot of this stuff can be taken and can be shared and can be a communal experience, even if you’re not from the Latino community. That being said, I feel like me and the writer, Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer, who’s Mexican… Cannot get more authentic than that. The cast is Mexican, too. Can’t get more authentic than that. But as far as all this stuff, of course, we want to do more. Some people might see themselves, but overall I think, more than anything this is just the first of many… Maybe Blue Beetle is just the first of many other communities also being able to tell the stories in a way that they feel authentic in telling them. The voices that should tell their stories as well, with the respect and the honor, that those communities deserve. So my goal is that everybody makes a f**king movie. Why not? Right? Like not just me. Everybody wants to make it and tell your own stories, and hopefully this opens the door to tell stories from Nicaragua, Venezuela, from Argentina; from places that we don’t know about coming reach us, make us better humans. understand each other better, and just have other conversations to have… It just like, it starts a conversation that allows us to be part of a global community embrace each other’s differences in a way that’s exciting. And I think ultimately, that’s what I’m all about. And that’s what I hope happens.

Black Girl Nerds: Xolo, are you ready? You’re so young and I love that you have a little bit of experience but this is such a commitment. And not just of your time but physically and mentally. What do you do to prepare for what’s coming?

Maridueña: A lot of it honestly is just spending time with my family. Like I’ve been blessed that my friends and family are the friends and family that I’ve had most of my life and, I feel fairly well adjusted. I understand the social part of it. And the effect that being part of a world like DC has on an individual. But at the end of the day, there’s nothing that brings me more joy than getting to sit and watch a movie with my family. And also once understood, you know, to be quite frank, there was a lot of nerves that went in before the project. I’ve never been number one on the call sheet before, never done a movie before. But once I had a really great conversation with someone and they said like, “the movie isn’t about you. It’s not about making Xolo the biggest thing. It’s not you know, it’s not about what are people going to think of Xolo as an actor… it’s about opening the door. And it’s about showing, you know, a group of people that you deserve to have your story being told too. And you are just as important as stories that we’ve been seeing for years. And once that clicked in my head, once I realized that it’s not about me and who cares what people think of Xolo, it’s about getting the door open. Not only for Blue Beetle, but for all of the other superheroes that deserve to have their stories told too; that is the key for me. And all of the nervousness, all of the social media stuff, and what people think and what people like, all of that whisks away once you realize it’s not about any of that…And that was the biggest beacon for me guiding me through the process.

As the panel ended, Soto was asked about what the feasibility was of Latino superheroes appearing in the DC Universe. And he had this to say:

Soto: We want to see more variety and celebrate culture, celebrate other worlds because it’s fun… Supporting a movie like this… This is not about me. This is not about Xolo. I don’t care about me. What I care about is open doors. And in a world where people really crave taking people down… supporting each other is the only way we can tell different stories. Not all of them are going to be perfect, but they’re going to exist. And being able to see other kids watch this movie or watch other movies and see themselves represented and say like, :I want to tell a story about my community.” And then that kid becomes an amazing writer? Then we’re gonna see all those characters that you want to see because I want to see them too. I want to support that vision. The only way is showing them that we want to see that.

And that is precisely why it’s the perfect time for the world to meet Blue Beetle!

Blue Beetle opens only in theaters, August 18!

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