Interview – ‘Blue Beetle’ director Angel Manuel Soto talks creating a brand new city in the DCU

From Warner Bros. Pictures comes the feature film Blue Beetle, marking the DC Super Hero’s first time on the big screen. The film, directed by Angel Manuel Soto, stars Xolo Maridueña in the title role as well as his alter ego, Jaime Reyes.

Recent college grad Jaime Reyes returns 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 super hero Blue Beetle.

Leading up to the release of Blue Beetle in Australian cinemas, I had the chance to chat with the films director, Angel Manuel Soto (Charm City Kings) about bringing a completely new city in the DCU to life, and the importance of family as a superpower.

Angel Manual Soto: I love your shirt, man!

Nick: Hey, thanks, man! I appreciate that. It’s a pleasure to meet you and I appreciate you taking the time to talk with me today.

Angel Manuel Soto: Of course, I’m happy to be here.

Nick: I’m going to crack straight into the questions and I really want to talk with you about the idea of Palmera City, of which I was intrigued to discover was a city created for the film itself. I’m interested to find out what some of those key elements that you wanted to add to Palmera City in order for it to become a character itself in the film?

Angel Manuel Soto: That is a great question! For me, the city, the environment, the surroundings are integral parts of the stories I like to tell. They dictate a lot of the conflicts that we face. And Palmera City, when I came on to the project, was something they we’re already working on. They wanted to give Jamie Reyes, Blue Beetle, a stature within the DC universe, because the top heroes have their own cities! When I heard it, I was like that’s awesome!

There’s just an idea of a highway going out there, to this place. We wanted to do a city that felt like a place where all Latino cultures can co-exist. We took a lot of stuff from El Paso architectures, and the nature of El Paso, and applied it to this city. We also took the metropolitan aspects of Miami and made it into our downtown.

But then we went to Puerto Rico and also incorporated the Barrios so that we could create the Edge Keys, and create a city that is liveable, but also experiences the mixed salad of Latinos from all parts of the world. And more so, like it happens in these communities, they also feel the same impacts of threats that metropolitan cities and urban areas are experiencing now, like with gentrification.

Nick: Talking about bringing the city and culture to life, I felt like a lot of that came through the family aspect of the film. I loved how you basically portrayed that family itself is a superpower for Blue Beetle. When was it in the process that you realised how much you wanted to emphasise the idea of family being that one thing Jamie needs to fully become Blue Beetle?

Angel Manuel Soto: Yeah, you know, we’ve seen so many superheroes, and amazing stories being told, where our hero has a very lonely journey. He has to protect his family from this secret because of the danger it implicates them in.

In our families, it’s really hard to keep them out of our lives, so good luck keeping a secret from them, man! [laughs] And leaning into that, we were like, let’s just make them part of the process. Like, the transformation [into Blue Beetle] happens right in front of them! They bully him, even though he has these powers, they still give him shit! At the end of the day, it was about how we can use our experiences with our families, as imperfect as they are.

We wouldn’t be where we are or who we are if it wasn’t for them and their sacrifices. They are heroes in their own way. So, we wanted to give them heroic arcs, and give them a piece of the pillars that are going to be making the hero Blue Beetle ends up becoming.

Nick: Angel, I really appreciate your time again! Congratulations on the film and I’ll talk to you again soon!

Angel Manuel Soto: Thank you so much!

Thank you to Angel Manuel Soto for his time, and to Warner Bros. for organising our chat! Blue Beetle is in Australian cinemas September 14.

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Nick L'Barrow
Nick L'Barrow
Nick is a Brisbane-based film/TV reviewer. He gained his following starting with his 60 second video reviews of all the latest releases on Instagram (@nicksflicksfix), before launching a monthly podcast with Peter Gray called Monthly Movie Marathon. Nick contributes to Novastream with interviews and reviews for the latest blockbusters.

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