Amid the ongoing Hollywood strikes, Warner Bros. and DC Studios launched “Blue Beetle” on Tuesday night in Los Angeles with a star-free “fan screening” in lieu of a splashy blue-carpet premiere.
Despite the fact that the film’s actors — including Xolo Maridueña, Bruna Marquezine, George Lopez and Oscar winners Adriana Barraza and Susan Sarandon — could not attend due to the SAG-AFTRA strike, there was still plenty of fanfare outside the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.
Director Ángel Manuel Soto rolled solo on the carpet (as he’s done for a significant chunk of the movie’s promotional tour, due to both the WGA and SAG-AFTRA being on strike) and he was riding high off the early buzz for the DC movie. Soto delivered a speech before the special L.A. screening, in which he acknowledged the “Blue Beetle” cast for being on the picket lines.
“They cannot be here today. But you know what? They’re fighting the good fight,” Soto said. “It’s very important that we understand that they are heroes right now. They’re sacrificing this big opportunity to see themselves.”
“Blue Beetle” introduces Jaime Reyes, a recent graduate of Gotham Law who gains superpowers when an alien scarab latches onto him. Soto, best known for helming 2020’s “Charm City Kings,” directs from a screenplay by Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer — it’s a historic endeavor for DC Studios, as Jaime is the first Latino superhero to lead a stand-alone film for the comic book banner.
The movie, which also stars Raoul Max Trujillo, Elpidia Carrillo, Damián Alcázar and Belissa Escobedo, hits theaters on Friday.
“We put our heart and soul into [‘Blue Beetle’] because we want you guys to feel welcome to our stories,” Soto added. “Don’t fear Spanish, don’t fear Mexican heritage, don’t fear Latino heritage. We want you guys to join the party with us.”
While reviews from critics have yet to be released, early audiences heaped praise on the film’s action sequences, as well as the story’s heart and specific touchstones to Latino culture.
“‘Blue Beetle’ is fantastic fun,” tweeted Variety senior awards editor Clayton Davis. “Funny, surprisingly heartfelt with a star making turn by Xolo Maridueña. The kid has IT. Director Angel Manuel Soto makes Latinos’ supposed ‘invisibility’ into a full-on superpower. Truly inspiring. I also want the Abuela origin story now!”
Originally slated to debut on streaming alongside the now-shelved “Batigrl,” Warner Bros. elected to shift “Blue Beetle” to a theatrical release in 2022, prior to James Gunn and Peter Safran becoming co-CEOs of DC Studios.
The film represents the penultimate release of the previous DC Studios regime, with the upcoming “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” representing the final installment before the comic book universe’s continuity reboots with Gunn’s “Superman: Legacy” in 2025.
“Blue Beetle” is also one of the first major tentpole releases with its promotional plans heavily impacted by the dual strike, as talent for Warner Bros.’ “Barbie,” Universal’s “Oppenheimer” and Paramount’s “Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One” were able to complete most of or all of their planned global press tours before actors joined writers on the picket lines on July 14. (Disney’s “The Haunted Mansion” was also significantly impacted, with the studio hosting the first red carpet premiere post-strike at Disneyland on July 15. Director Justin Simien attended the event.)
With actors and writers as non-factors in movie promotional plans, 27 Latino organizations united and signed an open letter calling on the community to “amplify the work that countless Latino artists have worked so hard to create” and support films like “Blue Beetle” at the box office.
“Stories are more than entertainment,” the letter — signed by Latino Hollywood orgs such as the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI), LA Collab, Latino Film Institute, National Association of Latino Independent Producers (NALIP) and the National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) — says. “They are a powerful tool for social change that fuels our collective movement to build a more equitable, just world for those who have been historically underrepresented and marginalized.”
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