They say music can move you back in time, take you to different places. And one of the most famous salsa songs of all time will resonate emotionally with viewers as they watch one of DC’s fastest superheroes travel back in time to save his mom.
The son's quest is the premise of the much-anticipated movie “The Flash,” which opens nationwide Friday.
Barry Allen, played by Ezra Miller, will use his superhuman speed to change the past. But in doing so, he will also alter the universe that he lives in, as well as the other parallel universe that he visits.
Most notably, in the movie, the superheroes will be different —Michael Keaton’s Batman, last seen in the 1992 Tim Burton "Batman Returns" film, will replace Ben Affleck. “The Flash” will also introduce a new superhero — Colombian American Sasha Calle, known for her role in "The Young and the Restless," who plays Supergirl.
On the day that Barry Allen’s mother, played by Spanish actress Maribel Verdú, gets fatally stabbed, viewers will see her singing the chorus of the 1979 hit salsa single “Pedro Navaja.”
The original song was written and performed by the legendary Panamanian salsero and actor Rubén Blades in collaboration with Puerto Rican salsa pioneer Willie Colón.
And while “Pedro Navaja” tells the story of a knife-wielding criminal's fate, Verdú foreshadows her own death by singing the song's well-known chorus, “La vida te da sorpresas, Sorpresas te da la vida” (“Life gives you surprises, Surprises life gives you”), as she dances with her young son in the kitchen.
For Verdú, this popular song acts like a connecting thread that weaves diverse people together. In this sense, the movie becomes a window or a mirror that can show alternate stories of mainstream American heroes.
“Cinema is about inventing other worlds,” Verdú told NBC News in a video interview. “So Andy [the director] says, well, this woman is blonde with blue eyes in the comics, and she’s from Iowa. But now, I want her to have your eyes and your gaze. And when you see Barry and me, we truly look like mother and son.”
Fans will recognize Verdú from other movies, including Alfonso Cuarón’s “Y tú mamá también” and Guillermo del Toro’s “Pan’s Labyrinth.”
The Spanish actress says that at the core of “The Flash” is a mother-son story with Latino roots, but the film also contains many other stories that can inspire different viewers to step into the shoes of a superhero.
“I think it’s a movie that everyone can connect with because I think it’s several movies in one,” Verdú said. “I believe that each viewer will be given what they want and what they need.”
Using the multiverse to create heroes for everyone
Director Andy Muschietti, who is known for the 2017 film “It” and the 2019 sequel “It Chapter Two,” said that there is a “huge DC fandom” in his native Argentina and other Latin American countries. Seeing Latino talent both in front and behind the camera is connecting the story of “The Flash” with those Latin American fans on a personal level.
“For some people, it’s significant that we produced and directed this movie,” he told NBC News in a video interview, referring to both himself as director and his sister Barbara Muschietti as producer.
Muschietti points out that casting Calle as Supergirl and Verdú as Flash's mother creates a warm emotional thread that connects with Latinos.
But more than adapting a mainstream story for just one group or culture, “The Flash” can also use the multiverse — which is a hypothetical set of universes — to tell a variety of future and past stories from different backgrounds.
“We explored the multiverse because we think there are so many more ideas to be told honoring the characters from the past and the characters from the future,” Barbara Muschietti said in a video interview.
She hopes that in the next chapter, all of them will “get their chance to play.”
An Israeli actress inspires a Colombian Supergirl
Sasha Calle is the daughter of a single mom from Medellín, Colombia. She said she grew up speaking both Spanish and English at home, and watched superhero films with her brother.
But she didn’t get the urge to put on superhero tights and a cape until she saw Israeli actress Gal Gadot play Wonder Woman on the big screen in 2017.
"I knew then and there that I wanted to do exactly what she was doing. And now, I’m friends with her. Now, I get to speak with her,” Calle told NBC News in a phone interview. “I thank her, you know? I’m a big fan of her too. I constantly tell her thank you for being that representation for me, cause I saw you and I knew that I could do it too.”
While Calle can fly high above others as the Girl of Steel on the big screen, she keeps her feet grounded in real life.
“That hope that Supergirl carries on her chest, and very close to her heart, I carry as well. I would say to look at me and see that if I was able, everyone is able as well,” she said. “Everyone is Supergirl in their own way.”