An origin story 5 years in the making, Puerto Rican filmmaker Ángel Manuel Soto is finally seeing his vision of the Mexican-American superhero Blue Beetle brought to life in DC Studios’ Blue Beetle.
Starring Xolo Maridueña in the lead role, the film tells of recent college graduate Jaime Reyes and his return home full of aspirations for his future, only to find that home is not quite as he left it. As he searches to find his purpose in the world, fate intervenes when Jaime unexpectedly finds himself in possession of an ancient relic of alien biotechnology: the Scarab. When the Scarab suddenly chooses Jaime to be its symbiotic host, he is bestowed with an incredible suit of armour capable of extraordinary and unpredictable powers, forever changing his destiny as he becomes the superhero BLUE BEETLE.
Ahead of the film’s release in Australia, Peter Gray spoke with Soto about the pride in representing Latino culture on screen, infusing the film with a strong female energy, and celebrating the nostalgic feeling of the movies he grew up with.
Congratulations on the film. I had the pleasure of speaking to Sasha Calle when The Flash came out, and she was saying how important it was for her to have that Latino representation (through her character). I imagine it was the same for you with this film and realising just how organic you could make these characters.
100%. Latinos is not a genre, you know? It’s just who we are. We cannot hide it. I cannot hide it in the way I do things. I’m Puerto Rican, I’m inherently Latino. That’s what is going to come out. And it’s very nice just to see a different flavour of superhero. And much like (Sasha) Calle, who I adore, our cast are all Latino, with the exception of Susan (Sarandon), (and) they felt the same way. They feel so excited to be able to see themselves in these characters. They’re not trying to be somebody else. And they also see themselves as heroes in a movie, because everybody in the family has a heroic moment.
Absolutely. As great as it is to see Jaime as Blue Beetle, the women in this family…like Nana brandishing a gun?!?! It was amazing. Did you have that from the get-go? You knew you needed these women to be just as much as a badass as Blue Beetle?
100%. Even in my family, if I wanted to do something my dad would say, “Ask your mom.” Our parents are like that. So we really wanted to give the women in our lives the celebration and the power they deserve. It’s because of them we have life. We are the people we are now. And thanks to them, I don’t think I’d be here today. And neither would Jaime. So it was very important for us to give each and every one of them a heroic moment that builds Jaime into the hero he becomes.
And the film itself…as a kid of the 80’s, it just has that feel to it. There’s this energy and charisma that I responded to immediately. We love seeing films that aren’t taking themselves seriously, but then this is also has quite a serious narrative underneath. It’s awesome to see these stories being told, and I hope everyone comes out for this one because (Blue Beetle) is just fun. And that’s what we want, right?
Oh man, I appreciate that. We really wanted to do that. There’s that nostalgia factor from the movies that we grew up watching. They have a message, they have a serious thing, but there’s a fun element to it. We really wanted to lean into that fun (but) also not lose perspective of the visceral reality of these relationships, and these things can happen in the real world. Rounding it that way just allowed us to give homage to all those movies that we grew up with. The score, the aesthetics, the lights, and the overall energy is something that I was like, “Okay, I want to do something for my younger self. I want one of those stories that my nieces can watch and understand why (their) uncle is the way he is.”
Blue Beetle is screening in Australian theatres from September 14th, 2023.