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‘Blue Beetle’ Director Angel Manuel Soto Talks Latino Representation, Inspirations For The Soundtrack, The Strikes & More – Interview

*This interview took place with the director during the SAG-AFTRA strike. Without the hard work of writers and actors, Blue Beetle wouldn’t have become a reality, and everyone working on bringing our favorite stories to life should be properly compensated for their work.

By Dorina Allerano

Initially intended as an exclusive streaming movie for Max, DC’s first live-action Latino superhero Blue Beetle has debuted in theaters. The film also introduces the first official character within James Gunn’s expanding DC Universe. I was fortunate to have an exclusive one-on-one conversation with the film’s director, Angel Manuel Soto, about the intricacies of his creative journey, the film’s stand-out music, and its humanist themes, as it premieres during a summer of strikes for Hollywood and other US workers.

In the film, 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 possessing 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 superhero known as Blue Beetle.

In our exclusive interview with the director of Blue Beetle, Angel Manuel Soto, about the significance of Jaime Reyes within the superhero genre and how this unapologetically Latino film resonates with a universal audience. We also discussed the exceptional soundtrack and score crafted for this grand cinematic production.

Check out the interview with Angel Manuel Soto for Blue Beetle below: 

Compared to most modern superhero movies, Blue Beetle has a remarkable soundtrack and score, full of joyous Hispanic songs from my own upbringing and an excellent ’80s synth-inspired score by Midsommar composer Bobby Krlic. I asked about the creative process behind the music. Soto said, “I think one of the first things that I did was create a playlist of what each of the characters would listen to on their phones. So getting them from all family members, getting a list of things and just putting them on and hearing them and almost realizing like, yeah, as varied as the family is, so is my musical taste.”

As mentioned, Blue Beetle is the first live-action superhero film with a Latino lead, so I asked Soto about his experience at the helm of this cinematic endeavor. Soto responded, “It’s sometimes overwhelming. Of course, at times, very. It is very humbling when you frame it that way because my only hope is to inspire people and to get people excited for the movie, for the character of Blue Beetle, and for the Reyes family, which is like a representation of all our family members in a way.”

(Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)

Soto also said, “We want to do right by them. And we also want to do right by the people that came before us, which we want to honor with this movie as a love letter that it is to family. I think that, ultimately, what I feel is immense gratitude. 100 percent immense gratitude. And as an optimist myself, I hope this just opens doors for other people from disenfranchised communities, from different demographics around the world, to get inspired and empowered to tell their own stories.”

Bittersweetly, the first Latino superhero movie happens to be released amid the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. These aren’t the only strikes unfolding worldwide. Hotel employees, auto workers, delivery drivers, and more have also been forced to unionize and strike for fairer working conditions and pay. He has been promoting this movie without his cast and crew, who helped him create a monumental project that shines a spotlight on Latino culture and the working class. Given the considerable reliance of the United States on the immigrant community, I asked Soto his sentiments.

SAG-AFTRA actors and Writers Guild of America (WGA) writers walk the picket line during their ongoing strike outside Sunset Bronson studios and Netflix offices in Los Angeles, California, U.S., August 11, 2023. (REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni)

Soto said, “I hope that, if anything, this movie can ignite the fire for things to go even louder because it is a film that depicts the working class. It is a hero of the working class. For me, I cannot see myself not supporting the strikes. My dad was a teamster. For me, I understand the power of unions. I respect that a lot. So I am not at all against the protests that are happening; they’re necessary.”

The Puerto Rican director continued, “I can give faith on a personal level because in my country, coming together and protesting actually can cause change. And a lot of the stuff that we are benefiting from now is because of the struggles of people that came before us. So I don’t take it lightly the struggles that are happening now. My support is 100 percent with the writers, with the actors, and everybody that’s trying to fight for a better future.”

Blue Beetle is now playing in theaters.

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