We first got word of the upcoming Blue Beetle movie in 2021, but since then, we’ve not heard much. We were shown a piece of concept art at DC FanDome and got our first one-sheet last year. Beyond that, there’s been little official word as we’ve crept closer and closer to the movie’s August release date.
That changed in a big way today with the release of the movie’s first trailer, which introduces us to Xolo Maridueña’s Jaime Reyes…and his colorful Latino family.
“One of the things that we really wanted to do with the cast was to be able to be as authentic as we can,” shares Blue Beetle director Angel Manuel Soto. “We wanted to tap into three generations. We wanted to see the first immigrant family, their sons and then the sons that are born here. So, being able to tap into the three generations authentically.”
Soto elaborates further, “Xolo was born here, and he's Mexican-American as is Belissa (Escobedo). She plays Milagro, the sister. And then you have characters like George Lopez, who's been here for a minute and he's like a national treasure. And Elpidia (Carrillo) as well, who plays the mom. George plays the uncle.
“And then I really wanted to tap into what I consider some of the best actors from Mexico, which are Adriana Barraza and Damián Alcázar. I really wanted to bring all the people I really respect, from the movies from Mexico that I saw growing up and that really inspired me to become a filmmaker. Of course you have Harvey Guillén as well, who is of Mexican descent, and you have Raoul Max Trujillo who is native Mexican too. So being able to keep it as authentic as possible, something that feels like, ‘Yeah, that's like my uncle. I can totally relate to those.’”
While Jaime may be at the center of Blue Beetle, his family plays a key role in the film, making it practically essential that the movie’s first trailer would shine the spotlight on them. As its star makes clear, Jaime’s Blue Beetle only works with the support of his family.
“That really is the beating heart of this movie,” says Maridueña. “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 to. I think that that's really been the most exciting part. Although it is undeniably or unapologetically Latino, everyone will understand Milagro (Reyes, Jaime’s sister). Everyone understands Jaime because they're people who we've interacted with in our daily life, and the problems that they're facing are problems that we know. And maybe, yeah, there'll be room for the second or third movie to do the crazy alien stuff, but the stuff that you see in this movie is all very tangible and it feels rooted in today's world. And then it's 110%, right? Because it's the world that we know, plus a little bit extra.”
Superhero movies and TV have certainly become more diverse over the past two decades, but Blue Beetle promises to take Latino representation to new levels, featuring a Latino writer and director and a primarily Latino cast. (Susan Sarandon, who plays villain Victoria Kord, is a notable exception.) For Soto, it’s about portraying his culture authentically, but also helping to illustrate the similarities between all of us, regardless of heritage.
“My culture is not a buzzword,” he explains “We exist and we coexist. And for me, being able to integrate those things that make us special—it's a flavor. It's like laughter. People laugh differently, yet it’s still laughter. We grieve differently, we cry, we deal with loss differently, but it's still loss. It's always nice to see something that we are used to seeing with other superheroes that we love and we cherish. But what if we see it my way—our way—and invite the audience also to not feel repelled by it? Come to the party!”
There have been several Blue Beetles since the character was first introduced in 1939. (That’s right, he’s as old as Batman.) Jaime Reyes, the current Beetle, may not have been introduced until 2006, but he’s proven pretty popular since then, starring in a variety of comics and appearing in shows like Smallville and Young Justice. Soto’s movie isn’t based on any particular storyline, but it’s strongly inspired by Jaime’s comic book adventures—all of them.
“The New 52 was a big inspiration, as far as the suit goes and other aspects of the story,” he shares. “But we took a lot from bits and pieces. There’s a lot of great stuff in all the different runs. We were like, ‘Man, how do you choose one? Do we have to choose one? No. Let's do whatever the hell we want with it and just have fun and create something awesome. Create something really interesting that takes the greatest hits, even from the Injustice 2 game.’ We really deep dive on it.”
Illustrating how the production has also served as inspiration to the comics, Soto points out that one of the film’s settings was introduced in Blue Beetle: Graduation Day, the hero’s current miniseries by Josh Trujillo and Adrian Gutierrez.
“Graduation Day actually took a lot from what we did in the movie,” Soto says. “We introduced Palmera City as (our way of) trying to put Jaime in a city. Superman has Metropolis, we have Central City for the Flash, Gotham… Why doesn't Blue Beetle have his own city? And that doesn't mean that El Paso is not dope. El Paso is awesome and El Paso is very much present in the life of the family. But in service of positioning Blue Beetle as a potential leader in the DCU, Palmera City came to life.”
As for Blue Beetle himself—or the young actor playing him—what mattered most was creating a character and film that feels authentic while also differentiating itself from the many other superhero movies that have made their way to the screen. The key to it all? Once again, it’s leaning into Jaime’s family.
“Although we are telling this larger-than-life story, it felt really easy, especially with the help of the family, to get those moments right,” shares Maridueña. “Our rehearsal days weren't getting the lines—they were talking as a family. Once that part locked into place, the rest of the dominoes fell perfectly. I think it really is due to wanting the foundation of this movie to be really pure and wanting the hearts and souls of these characters to be three-dimensional. Once that was in place, everything else kind of melted away.
“At the same time, we wanted to do something that feels different. That was one of the most magical parts as well. I think it's not about competition to us. We just want to enter this space and have it feel new, and I think we completed that. I think we did it.”
Blue Beetle, directed by Angel Manuel Soto and starring Xolo Maridueña, lands in theaters August 18, 2023. Let us know your thoughts on the trailer over in the DC Community!
Blue Beetle: Graduation Day by Josh Trujillo, Adrian Gutierrez and Wil Quintana is now available in print and on DC UNIVERSE INFINITE for Ultra subscribers.
Tim Beedle covers movies, TV and comics for DC.com, writes our monthly Superman column, "Super Here For...", and is a regular contributor to the Couch Club, our recurring television column. Follow him on Twitter at @Tim_Beedle.