What's On in conversation with Blue Beetle director, Angel Manuel Soto

What’s On talks to Blue Beetle Director, Angel Manuel Soto about Miles Morales crossovers, kicking off a legacy and great responsibilities…

Blue Beetle, the next super-release from DC Studios, is scheduled to scuttle into KSA box offices on August 24. And despite the fact that its central character is less well-known than some of his spandex-toating, Kryptonite-dodging, DC alumni – this is one of the most important movies the studio has worked on in years. It’s the story of Jaime Reyes (played by Xolo “Cobra Kai” Maridueña), just your average boy-next-door college grad who stumbles on a piece of alien tech and ends up as host marionette to a beetle-themed cyber entity called ‘the Scarab’. When bonded with Jaime it transforms into a super suit (not the sort you get 90 per cent off of, at mall store ‘closing down sales’), a weaponised item of apparel, that immediately renders our protagonist a tool of cosmic potency. And as we all know, with great power comes great expectations. Or something like that.

One of the reasons why Blue Beetle is such a key step on the DC journey, is that James Gunn (Co-CEO of DC Studios) has stated that Jaime Reyes/Blue Beetle is the newly created DCU’s (the reboot for the DCEU) first character. The announcement came straight from Gunn’s chamber on the Inside of You podcast, and although he also clarified that Superman: Legacy will be the first DCU movie, the character’s anointment conveys a huge amount of top-down faith in the cast, crew and vision of the director. What’s On was lucky enough to sit down with the film’s charismatic helmsman, director Angel Manuel Soto to find out what we can expect from this new dawn.

WO: From the trailer it looks like Xolo is the perfect pick for Jaime, was he somebody that you had in mind for the role right from the beginning?

A: Since the moment that I got the opportunity to work on this project, I couldn’t stop thinking about Xolo Maridueña to play the part. I had met him before, and he caused a very positive impression on me. Even before Cobra Kai, when he was a kid. So when I got the project and started skimming the comic books again, and going deeper on it… It was just him, he looks like Jaime, he acts like him, I couldn’t think of anybody else in that role. So I was surprised and delighted to find out that he was also the fancast choice to play Jaime. Me being able to have the same instincts as the fans who love the character so much was very satisfying.

WO: Are there any characters you’d love to get on the big screen for any future Blue Beetle projects?

A: I think one of the great things about Blue Beetle is that the opportunities are endless. I have always wanted him to eventually face The Reach (a hoard of imperialistic aliens intent on conquering the universe). I know, I want him to face the Black Beetle, I also want him to have those encounters he had in the comics with the Green Lantern Corps, the arch enemies of The Reach and the Scarabs. I always liked the idea that the Justice League is involved, because they need him – or they’re after him, only to find out they need him. He’s the key to destroying a big earth threat. Blue Beetle really is a powerful force, with a unique manifestation of weapons. And Jaime himself, being the kid that he is, with such a powerful world destroying weapon, allows him to be face off or bond with all the super characters in the DC Universe. And who knows, I’ve always toyed with the idea of doing a crossover with Miles Morales, that could be cool.

Blue Beetle

WO: What an amazing movie that would be, there’s also a line about Batman in the trailer, that cracked me up…

A: We’ve always had fun with it. Like, what if something happens and somebody finds that this world destroying weapon is in the hands of this kid, who lives in a humble neighbourhood, and everyone wants to get. For example Batman… he wants to get it, to stop it falling into the wrong hands. And Batman finds out what Jaime’s uncle Rudy (George Lopez) said (ICYMI… he called Batman “a fascist”) and they have that moment where they meet. Because Uncle Rudy is a geek, he’s a conspiracy theorist – so he’d love Batman’s tech, and Batman would be like “I thought you said I was a fascist” and I think it would open up some really fun moments.

What’s On: Blue Beetle has been labelled as the first live action superhero movie to feature a Latino in the lead role, did you feel any pressure from the community to represent the culture in an authentic or specific way?

Angel: I didn’t feel pressure, I felt a responsibility. I wanted to make it as authentic as possible and as universal as possible, although I’m not of Mexican descent. Luckily our writer, Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer is, so he made sure all the nuances and idiosyncrasies from his culture were implemented in the script. Latinos are not a monolith, not every Latino is the same – so it’s difficult to make sure it’s something that everyone from the community can gather together and support, and then at the same time, show versions of our culture to others that are not Latino so that they can still feel part of this journey. Like this hero is not just a hero for Latinos, he’s a hero for everyone.

WO: What can you tell us about the motivations of the villain of the piece, Conrad Carapax – The Indestructible Man (played by Raoul Max Trujillo)?

A: When Gareth was working on the script, trying to figure out who Blue Beetle was going to face… we looked at all the different villains, and although Victoria Kord (Susan Sarandon) is the brains behind the operations, the one who is in control of Kord Industries when we begin the film, Carapax is like her muscle. We took the original vision of Conrad Carapax from the comics and incorporated elements of the OMAC Project (another limited comic series). We tried to create this super soldier, indestructible creature that has a lot of backstory and baggage with him. That’s where Raoul came in, and as a Latino, he comes with a lot of history, interventionism – creating a villain that has little bit more depth than we’re used to. There’s a whole legacy behind him, so, we try to tailor this villain to a way where he can face off against Blue Beetle, matching him in terms of power and energy, but also as a balance of plot, backstory and sub text.

Blue Beetle

Images: Provided