Blue Beetle – A reluctant hero’s journey

In adapting Blue Beetle, screenwriter Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer sought to infuse a classic hero’s origin story in an American film with the genuine Latin culture fans expect, while striving for a visual tone that blends a touch of magical realism with the authentic human emotion.

Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer

“Being a DC Universe writer is something that the 11-year-old me in Queretaro would never have believed.  Where I come from, being a startup filmmaker working in Hollywood, to my family it’s like, ‘No mames güey, you don’t know anybody, anywhere, remotely related to movie making!’” says Dunnet-Alcocer, who wrote and executive produced the feature film Miss Bala, and also wrote and/or directed several short films, including the 2014 award-winning Contrapelo.

“Its tone is… it has to be funny; I’ve never met a Mexican person that wasn’t funny, so there’s no way the movie wouldn’t be funny.  But what kind of funny it is, is wonderful, and I think it’s really inspired by the tone of the early Blue Beetle comics, where you have a hero that’s fallible,” Dunnet-Alcocer

Blue Beetle first appeared in Mystery Men Comics #1 in 1939 as Dan Garrett, an archaeologist who found a magic scarab in an Egyptian ruin.  Blue Beetle later morphed into a new character, brilliant inventor Ted Kord, created by Steve Ditko and first appearing in Captain Atom #83 (1966).  As time passed, Blue Beetle morphed again, this time into our hero Jaime Reyes.  First appearing in Infinite Crisis #3 in 2006 Jaime—created by Keith Giffen, John Rogers and Cully Hamner—is a college graduate with a close-knit Mexican American family living in El Paso, Texas.

The film, directed by Ángel Manuel Soto, stars Xolo Maridueña in the title role as well as his alter ego, Jaime Reyes. Soto directs from a screenplay by Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer (“Miss Bala”), based on characters from DC.  John Rickard and Zev Foreman are producing, with Walter Hamada, Galen Vaisman and Garrett Grant serving as executive producers.

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 armor capable of extraordinary and unpredictable powers, forever changing his destiny as he becomes the Super Hero Blue Beetle.

For the movie—the first-ever live-action film to feature Blue Beetle—the filmmakers took the opportunity to create a new home for Jaime and his family

Palmera City, a bright and bustling urban sprawl with its own unique heartbeat, much like Metropolis and Central City (but with numerous nods to El Paso and a handful of Easter eggs for its fans and residents). 

Notes from director Ángel Manuel Soto

Ángel Manuel Soto

A native of Puerto Rico, Soto discovered soccer and boxing at an early age, which inspired his first film EL PUGIL, an homage to the kids he had grown up with and the power of sports in economically repressed communities. Angel pursued his interest in art, studying architecture and eventually documentary filmmaking and writing. He began his career in entertainment as a TV producer and later focused on art direction at a local advertising agency. He made his feature directorial debut with LA GRANJA (The Farm), which sheds a thought-provoking light on the tough realities facing the people of Puerto Rico. He went on to create several groundbreaking narrative VR pieces such as DINNER PARTY and BASHIR’S DREAM, which have premiered to critical success at festivals.

“Jaime is more than just a relatable character, I think Jaime speaks for a lot of the situations that we face in real life,” says director Ángel Manuel Soto, a director, producer, and screenwriter known for telling bold stories that highlight diverse characters from a variety of backgrounds.

On what Jaime Reyes represents…

Jamie’s a kid that believed in an idea of progress and is playing by the rules and is staying in his lane.  His family came [to Palmera City] before he did and they did all the hard work, and all of it has been headed for him to become this promise of progress and the pursuit of the American dream. 

On the relationship between Jaime and the Scarab…

The relationship between Jaime and the Scarab is interesting because it’s not necessarily his conscience, but he can hear it in his head.  He can have this conversation that, if you were to see him as a third party, it looks like Jaime’s talking to the air…but he’s actually having the conversation with the voice in his head who is the Scarab.  And, at first, the Scarab’s mission is kill, kill, kill, and Jaime’s not that kind of kid.  So when every time that the Scarab wants to do something of this nature, Jaime’s reaction and his good-heartedness step in the way of the Scarab’s mission, and creates this banter between them that sometimes is funny but at the same time is enlightening.  Because, as the story progresses and certain events happen in Jaime’s life, the Scarab also learns from Jaime and the Scarab starts to become more and more compassionate, eventually being a voice of reason to Jaime towards the end, as opposed to the way it started, where Jaime was the voice of reason to the Scarab.

lpida Carrillo, George Lopez, Xolo Maridueña, Belissa Escobedo, and Damian Alcazar in Warner Bros. Pictures’ Blue Beetle Photo: Hopper Stone/SMPSP/™ & © DC Comics

On portraying the Reyes family…

One of those things that’s very special, too, is how to capture the warmth of the family since, in this origin story, the family—contrary to other superhero movies where the hero keeps the secret from everybody around him—the secret really happens in front of the family. 

So, Gareth [Dunnet-Alcocer] always said, ‘Good luck trying to hide a secret from your mom in a Latino household, they always know!’  And we kind of like embraced that, so this made for a very unique journey where the family is part of the adventure, not a group of people or an object of rescue, but on the contrary, an integral part of the construct of this superhero.

And once he follows the rules and comes back, he realizes that a lot of those things are not like they said it would be, that life often brings surprises and to people like him, it’s not as easy as go to college, come back and make a career.

On his hopes for the character’s cinematic debut…

I really hope audiences receive Blue Beetle with an open heart and with the same love and compassion that I came into receiving Blue Beetle myself.”

Notes from Producer John Rickard

John Rickard

John Rickard is a feature film producer and President of Production of The Safran Company, which has a deal at Warner Bros./ New Line Cinema. In 2018, Rickard produced box office hit Rampage. Prior to that, Rickard produced the widely celebrated Horrible Bosses franchise. In 2019, Rickard joined The Safran Company as President of Production and together with Peter Safran, produced Amazon’s romantic comedy I Want You Back. Additional notable credits include the 2010 remake of the horror thriller A Nightmare On Elm Street, Farrelly brothers’ comedy Hall Pass, horror franchise installment Final Destination 5, Bryan Singer-led action adventure Jack The Giant Slayer, romantic comedy How To Be Single, romantic drama Midnight Sun, Ice Cube & Charlie Day comedy Fist Fight, and Fool’s Paradise starring Charlie Day, Kate Beckinsale, Jason Sudeikis, Ken Jeong, Ray Liotta, Adrien Brody, Edie Falco, Common, Jillian Bell and John Malkovich. Currently, Rickard, is in production on Heads Of State

On what Blue Beetle is really about…

“What this story is, for me, and what makes it so unique in the superhero genre, is that it’s a reluctant hero’s journey,” says producer John Rickard. “

Jaime Reyes is an ordinary kid who finds himself in an extraordinary situation, and doesn’t want to be a superhero.  So, he and his entire family, their first instinct is, ‘We’ve got to get this thing out of him, because he now has a target on his back.’  And literally it’s a target on his back within the Scarab.  So, throughout the film he goes on a fun, heartfelt journey of self-discovery, exploration of identity, family bonds and embracing one’s true destiny.  And ultimately what Jaime realizes throughout our story is that his real superpower is his family.  That’s what makes this movie so special.

On the essence of Jaime Reyes…

What’s great about our story and Jaime Reyes is that he’s not like Peter Parker in Spider-Man, he doesn’t just all of a sudden get this power and start swinging from buildings and having fun with it.  He’s trying to get the Scarab out, but the suit itself is booting up and taking him on a ride.  So, this makes him a very reluctant hero throughout the majority of the story, until it becomes clear to him that he has to embrace it instead of pushing it away.

He realizes he has to step into the role of the superhero in order to safeguard his family and community.  This transformation from uncertainty to self-acceptance and responsibility is an inspiring one and will resonate with a lot of people around the world. 

I think we’ve all struggled with similar uncertainties and are constantly trying to figure out who we are.  And that’s what makes Jaime Reyes so relatable and special; he’s a regular kid from a working class family who rises to greatness not because he’s looking for it, but because he selflessly answers the call to protect his community and makes the choice to accept his destiny and become the superhero that Palmer City so desperately needs: Blue Beetle.

On the experience of Blue Beetle

The tone and the fun of our movie is what makes it so special and different from other superhero movies.  And it’s also our unique action.  Can he fly?  Yes.  Is he strong.  For sure.  Are there big action sequences?  Absolutely.  But it’s the special abilities of the suit, which are unlike anything else in the DCU, that make it so ridiculously cool, because it allows Blue Beetle endless superpowers.  He’s literally a 20something who has a suit that can create anything he can imagine.  And so, what does this young kid do with these powers?  He pulls from what he knows: pop culture.  Things he knows in his everyday life. 

Our action sequences in Blue Beetle are definitely inspired by a lot of gamer combos, which makes it feel like a video game come to life.  Those who know will know.  But what truly elevates it is that it has a lot of heart.  At the core, this film is a story about a family that’s just struggling to keep it together.  There are definitely moments that will make you laugh out loud, but then there are also moments that will make you cry.  Here’s what I know for sure—it’s gonna be a good time at the theater, and you’re gonna love these characters, the Reyes family and all their hilariously relatable family dynamics.  And, of course, there’s the loveable Jaime Reyes at the center of of it all, who you’ll be literally on board with for his journey to become the young Super Hero Blue Beetle.

On the importance of Blue Beetle

The fact that I get to be on a DC movie and be a part of bringing this exciting character to life, felt like a dream come true to my 12-year-old self every day I stepped on set.  But I’m very aware of the importance of this film for the Latino community and its future opportunities.  

The success of this film could be something that breaks the glass ceiling for many Latino filmmakers for years to come.  Everyone involved feels the unique weight of this responsibility—the cast, the crew, our writer and director—and we’re determined to tell the most compelling story possible and then put it on the largest stage possible to entertain the world, and ensure we make our mark on film history with Blue Beetle.

Notes from Producer Zev Foreman

Zev Foreman

Zev Foreman serves as eOne/Hasbro’s President of Film Production while overseeing the day-to-day development and production of their global film slate. He shepherded the sale of Janus Metz’s All the Old Knives and Justin Chon’s Blue Bayou to Focus in a worldwide acquisition, in addition to Ted Melfi’s The Starling to Netflix, and Clea DuVall’s Happiest Season to Hulu. His most current projects include Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, Transformers: Rise of the Beasts, and the currently untitled Transformers animated feature, as well as. co-financing Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves and the Transformers animated feature. As an independent producer, Foreman produced the mind-bending historical thriller Antebellum, starring Janelle Monae. With over 15 years of industry experience, on both independent and studio projects, his credits include Killer Joe, Dallas Buyers Club, Good Kill, and Colossal.

On the appeal of Blue Beetle

I’ve been a really big DC comics fan for a long time, and I’d gone through so many characters looking for something that felt fresh and new, something that felt a little different from a lot of the other superhero movies that I’d seen.  And this one just stood out because of Jaime Reyes’s character, stood out because of his family, stood out because of the fun, the humor, you know, from some of the other DC movies in particular.  And I just felt like it was time, it was something that was exciting for the studio and something that was exciting for the superhero genre, and I just wanted to do something that felt a little different.

On the film’s themes…

This movie here is about a lot of things—it’s about a young person trying to figure out who they are and how they fit into the world, you know?  It’s about a family trying to cope with things that every family copes with, and I think people will really connect to that, really understand and see themselves in that family.

On the emotional core of Blue Beetle

When we made Blue Beetle—and I think the secret to all the best movies and especially superhero movies is that there really is this, I call it this soft and fuzzy emotional core that has to deal with humor and heart and emotion and family and relationships and conversation, but it’s wrapped in this glossy, shiny shell of action and spectacle, and I think that’s what this movie is.  At its heart the movie is about people, and I think when you walk away from a movie like that, you’re gonna feel something.  You’re gonna be hopefully blown away by the action, the spectacle, the fights, the crazy gadgets, the crazy locations, but you’re also gonna actually feel for the characters and fall in love with them.

On the theatrical experience of Blue Beetle

A theatrical movie is a movie where you want to stand up and cheer, where you want to laugh with people around you, where you want to ask the question, ‘Why are those people laughing and I’m not?’  I think our movie delivers on all those things in spades.  It’s fun, it’s gonna make you kind of tap your foot, it’s gonna make you jump out of your chair.  It’s gonna make you maybe even shed a tear.  That’s what the enjoyment of all movies should be in the theater, and I think Blue Beetle, as I said, is the perfect movie to experience there.

Xolo Maridueña and Ángel Manuel Soto / Photo: Hopper Stone/SMPSP/™ & © DC Comics

Xolo Maridueña is Jaime Reyes/Blue Beetle

At only 21, Xolo Maridueña already established his place as one to watch within the industry. His work has landed him on Forbes’ 30 under 30 list as well as Variety’s 2021 Young Hollywood Impact List, an annual roundup that highlights young stars who are trailblazers in the industry. He was named “one to watch” by People Magazine, and was also included in People En Español’s “50 Most Beautiful” list for 2021. Maridueña currently stars as Miguel Diaz in Netflix’s smash hit series Cobra Kai, an extension of the classic Karate Kid film franchise, alongside original cast members Ralph Macchio and William Zabka.

On Jaime stepping up to be a hero…

The character of Blue Beetle is the story of someone who has been presented with this opportunity, and maybe, while he’s resistant at first, there are sometimes where you’ve been granted opportunities or you’ve been put into a position that maybe you feel like you weren’t ready for, and how you navigate that, I think, is the story that this will tell.