Spoiler Warning: This post contains spoilers for Blue Beetle.
If there’s a universal truth about superhero movies, it’s that they will end with an epic fight scene. The final fight of DC’s latest movie, Blue Beetle—in which an ancient relic of alien biotechnology generates a suit of extraordinary armor and bestows protagonist Jaime Reyes (Xolo Maridueña) with superpowers—finds the titular hero facing off against Lieutenant Carapax (Raoul Max Trujillo), the bionically enhanced right-hand man of villain, Victoria Kord (Susan Sarandon), who owns the tech and weapons giant Kord Industries.
By the time of the standoff, Victoria has captured Jaime, flown him to an island lair called el Morro, and downloaded the code from the Scarab—the piece of alien biotech that becomes the bulletproof Blue Beetle suit—nearly killing him in the process. That code is then transferred into Carapax, the living prototype of Kord Industries’ OMAC, or One Man Army Corps cyborg system.
Carapax scoops up Jaime from inside a tunnel system, flies him through a fortress wall, and battles him, both in the air and on land.
“We didn't want action just to be action for the sake of action,” director Ángel Manuel Soto says of the showdown. “We wanted action to inform character.”
What happens in Blue Beetle’s final fight scene?
Jaime is also a cyborg of sorts: The Blue Beetle Scarab—named Khaji-Da and voiced by singer Becky G—that chooses him as its host tries to sync its artificial intelligence with his mind and body. At first, Jaime resists. He and his family are initially horrified by the Scarab’s Aliens-inspired arrival—and the realization that Khaji-Da will be inside of Jaime until death do they part.
Over time, Khaji-Da and Jaime become symbiotic, literally growing on each other. Khaji-Da learns Jaime’s first language (Spanish) and about the protective love he has for his family. Jaime teaches her about his pacifist beliefs. In the movie’s first fight scene (also Jaime vs. Carapax), Jaime specifically instructs Khaji-Da not to engage the attacker, a command that she blithely ignores, pointing to the arsenal at her disposal. “No! No weapons,” Jaime says. “Let me talk to him.” “Verbal communication is ill-advised in a combat scenario,” Khaji-Da responds. She’s hellbent on “eliminating the threat,” but Jaime insists that he’s not a killer, and she finally acquiesces.
“Now they're teaming up,” Soto says. “Yes, the Scarab still wants to kill, but now they're actually feeling each other a little bit more.”
At the movie’s climax, Jaime is on the brink of death (in a candlelit scene that pays homage to the 1960 Mexican film Macario), and makes the conscious decision to connect with Khaji-Da in order to save his life. His brain waves sync with the Scarab’s frequency, and they become one being.
Shortly thereafter, in the final fight scene, the Blue Beetle prevails, pinning Carapax to the ground, but Jaime is enraged. He thinks Carapax just killed his uncle, and he can’t seem to stop throwing punches, beating Carapax to a pulp. “Jaime, threat disarmed,” Khaji-Da warns. “You’re losing control. OMAC neutralized. Recommend to disengage.” He ignores her, tries to stab Carapax, and Khaji-Da physically stops him, freezing his arm in motion. “We’re not killers, Jaime,” she says. “Let him go.” Eventually, he complies.
“We always saw the yin-yang: Within the darkness of the Scarab, there is an element of humanity, there's a hint of light,” Soto says. “But also inside this light that is Jaime, there's also a hint of darkness. And them together, combined, create a perfect balance.”
How Blue Beetle’s filmmaker put the final battle scene together
Blue Beetle tells that story of character growth and development through its action. During the final fight scene, Jaime relies mostly on hand-to-hand combat, throwing punches and brandishing swords (even though the Blue Beetle suit can create anything he can imagine). In what could be the intro to a Blue Beetle saga, the creative team wanted Jaime to have to earn his origin story. The fighting at close quarters feels like training wheels: It takes Jaime a while to understand how Khaji-Da operates, but once he does, the wheels fall away.
Soto worked closely with stunt coordinator Jon Valera, leaning into the physicality of the fights, rather than using guns or other long-range weapons. “Perpetuating pain, it is a very personal act of violence,” Soto says. “Beating somebody to the pulp requires a specific darkness. It's easy for the villain to go there, but it is jarring to see a wholesome hero tap into that darkness, to the point that you fear that he might cross the line.”
Blue Beetle is, at its center, about a hero who is defined by his wholesome and peaceful nature, buoyed by family. Soto infused the film with the Japanese Tokusatsu style that he grew up watching, which uses practical special effects rather than relying on VFX, to make it feel lived-in, simultaneously realistic and nostalgic.
Read More: An Ode to the Abuelos of Cinema
Much of Blue Beetle's final fight was shot on location at el Castillo San Felipe del Morro, a 16th century citadel in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico that Soto grew up visiting. The first movie Soto saw in theaters was Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, which was famously filmed in the archeological site of Petra, Jordan. How cool would it be, he thought—as a fan, a filmmaker, and a Puerto Rican—to show his community’s historical sites to the world?
“Latin cinema is visceral, Latin cinema can be very bleak,” he says. “Oftentimes when it's a story about Latinos, it has to do with struggle and suffering. And yes, those are true. They should exist. But we can also have fun, too."
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