Blue Beetle Trailer Teases a New Kind of Origin Story and Lots of DC Easter Eggs
DC unveils the debut trailer for Blue Beetle. Star Xolo Maridueña and director Angel Manuel Soto tell us what we should expect from Jaime Reyes, Victoria Kord, and more.
As we all know, Warner Bros. Pictures is releasing four DC movies this year: Shazam! Fury of the Gods is already out (and, er, very likely done), while The Flash speeds into theaters in June and Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom will arrive in time to celebrate the year-end holidays.
Sitting right in the middle of those three – all of which have varying but more than decent degrees of, shall we say, brand recognition – and perched in an August release slot is Blue Beetle. Certainly a lesser-known name outside of diehard DC readers, Blue Beetle’s history encompasses three separate characters in print, originally (and somewhat incredibly) going back all the way to 1939.
The movie focuses on the most recent Blue Beetle, Jaime Reyes, who made his debut in the pages of DC Comics in 2006 during the Infinite Crisis saga, and got his own book for a while as part of “The New 52.” And while technically not the first superhero movie to star a Latino character in the lead role, Blue Beetle marks a first for a DC film, while Marvel Studios has yet to take that leap.
But what does it look like? Last week, assembled members of the press got a first look at the trailer (which you can now watch below), giving the world its initial glimpse of director Angel Manuel Soto’s film, which stars Xolo Maridueña (Cobra Kai) as Jaime and the Blue Beetle.
In the trailer, Jaime is fresh out of college and dropped off by his family to ostensibly start a new job through a friend named Jenny Kord (Bruna Marquezine) at the high-tech Kord Industries. But instead, Jenny gives Jaime a box and begs him to keep it safe – but no matter what, not to open it.
Of course, once he and the family get home, he does open it – and takes out a glowing blue scarab that seems both mechanical and organic. It activates itself and fastens itself to Jaime, sheathing him in an impossible armored suit of some kind, which gives him abilities like flying, creating different high-powered armaments, and producing energy discharges.
The trailer is very clearly in the origin story mold we’ve seen before, but with a sharp color palette and a distinct flavor and point of view that’s filtered through the Reyes family. There’s even an eyebrow-raising moment at the end when, as Jaime compares the Blue Beetle tech to some of Batman’s gear, his uncle Rudy proclaims, “Batman is a fascist.”
In addition to Maridueña and Marquezine, the largely Mexican or Mexican-American cast includes iconic comedian George Lopez as Rudy and legendary actress Adriana Barraza as Nana, along with Elpidia Carrillo, Damián Alcázar, Bellisa Escobedo, and Harvey Guillén.
“One of the things that we really wanted to do with the cast was to be able to be as authentic as we can,” says director Angel Manuel Soto during a Q&A with him and Maridueña after the trailer is shown on the Warner Bros. studio lot.
“We were able to tap into almost three generations,” Soto continues. “Xolo, who was born here, is Mexican-American, as Belissa is, who plays his sister Milagros. Then you have George Lopez, who’s been here for a minute, and Elpidia as well. Then I really wanted to tap into 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 from the movies that I saw growing up in Mexico, that really inspired me to become a filmmaker…They took the film, and they made it theirs.”
The idea that Jaime’s family knows right from the start that he has been handed his incredible suit and powers – which is different from most superhero movies, in which the main character is usually keeping it a secret from his loved ones – is not just a central tenet of the film but has its roots in Mexican culture and the strength of the family there.
“We see some of these other superheroes who are able to hide from their family the fact that they’re a superhero,” says Xolo Maridueña. “But his family is right there on that first transformation, so to kind of come through this journey together is something that I think, you know, we haven’t seen before in superhero movies and that really is the beating heart of this movie.”
While the term “grounded” gets thrown around a lot when it comes to certain superhero movies, Maridueña adds that having Jaime’s family involved in his plight from the get-go does in fact keep Blue Beetle – even with its alien biotech and bizarre superpowers – rooted in a working-class reality.
“As you’ll see in the movie, you know, it can’t happen without the family,” he explains. “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. I think that’s really been the most exciting part — although it is undeniably, unapologetically Latino… [these are] people who we’ve interacted with in our daily life and the problems that they’re facing are problems that we know.”
One of the more intriguing mysteries of the movie is Jenny’s last name, Kord, which she shares with both the company she works for and the villainous character Victoria Kord, played by Susan Sarandon. Their last name should ring a bell with DC fans: Ted Kord was the second and arguably best-known Blue Beetle, coming after original Beetle Dan Garret and preceding Jaime in the comics.
Jenny and Victoria (both original to the movie) are rumored to be Ted’s daughter and sister, with Ted himself – also according to rumors – already missing when the events of Blue Beetle take place. Typical for superhero movies, Soto is cagey about how much a factor Ted Kord is in this story, but does hint at some of the influences from the pages of DC Comics.
“The New 52 was a big inspiration,” he says. “As far as the suit goes and other aspects of the story. But we took a lot from bits and pieces. There’s a lot of great stuff in all the different runs, and we were like, man, how do you choose one? So I was like, let’s do whatever the fuck we want with it, just have fun and create something awesome and really interesting that takes, like, the greatest hits.”
Although Jaime is originally from El Paso, Texas, Blue Beetle places the story in Palmera City, a new DC locale introduced in the recent Blue Beetle: Graduation Day comic book. It was the expansive idea of a new corner of the DC universe, along with Soto’s concepts for the costume and a number of set pieces in the film, that convinced Warner Bros. to shift Blue Beetle from its initial incarnation as an HBO Max movie to a full-blown theatrical feature, complete with scenes shot in IMAX.
“Once we started working on the script and I started to create concept art, the studio allowed me to run free in my creativity,” says Soto. “I guess what they were able to see was the promise of how we pictured Palmera City, how we really wanted the suit to be, and…the impact that this can have, culturally but also in the superhero genre.” He adds proudly, “The studio felt like it had the potential to be theatrical.”
As for what happens to Jaime Reyes and Blue Beetle after this movie comes out – and whether the character, his family, and his story have a place in the new DC film and TV universe being formulated by James Gunn and Peter Safran – Soto doesn’t mince words.
“If you’ll help us and this movie becomes a massive fucking hit, we’re going to see a lot of those,” says the director. “That’s what needs to happen. If we want to see more variety and really celebrate differences, celebrate cultures celebrate other worlds, the only way is by supporting a movie like this. Being able to see kids watch this movie or watch other movies and see themselves represented and say, ‘Man, I want to tell a story about my community,’ and then become an amazing writer…I want to support that vision. But the only way is showing them that people want to see that.”
Blue Beetle opens in theaters on Aug. 18.