A full month from now, Madame Web will be making its way into theaters. Like Venom and Morbius before it, the film is Sony’s bid at making a universe of interconnected Spider-Man movies that don’t feature the hero in question. And in another universe, we’d have one of those movies playing out in theaters this weekend.
In mid-2022, Sony curiously announced it was working on a movie for El Muerto that was set to release on January 12, 2024. If you haven’t heard of him, don’t worry, he’s only really shown up in two issues, both of which were back in 2006 . Created by Peter David and Roger Cruz during the former’s Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man run, the mantle belongs to two men: Juan-Carlos Sánchez and his father, Marcus Estrada de la García. Marcus trained Juan-Carlos to become the next El Muerto, wrestlers who wore mystical masks that give them superhuman strength and durability. During the final part of the test, the two are attacked by another supernatural wrestler named El Dorado, who kills Marcus. Juan-Carlos spent the following ten years training to avenge his father and sought out Spider-Man so to beat the hero in a wrestling match and unmask him; the two later teamed up against El Dorado and sent him fleeing.
El Muerto hasn’t been seen since, but Sony’s would-be movie for him had an ace up its sleeve in Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio, aka Bad Bunny. The Puerto Rican rapper has been a professional wrestler since 2021, and he was already starting to branch out into acting with Netflix’s Narcos: Mexico and the then-upcoming action flick Bullet Train. But Sony didn’t have anything on hand for the film beyond Ocasio’s inclusion, not even so much as a title card or director attached. And over a full year after the announcement, the studio pulled the film from its release schedule entirely, and it’s unclear asto what capacity El Muerto currently exists.
It’s a weird series of events, but not entirely abnormal for Sony. Back in 2014, the studio announced it was working on a Silver Sable/Black Cat movie dubbed Silver & Black that had The Old Guard’s Gina Prince-Blythewood on hand to direct. That project was then seemingly scrapped to focus on just Sable, and now it’s just apparently full-on dead, ditto an Aunt May movie mentioned in the infamous Sony email hack. Sony’s plans for its terribly-named universe of Spider-Man-adjacent media is all over the place, and even with a Venom trilogy set to close this year and two different Spider-Man characters getting their own TV shows, it remains unclear which of these will actually, truly happen.
Where would we be if the El Muerto had come out as intended? It’s hard to say; wrestling is very popular, and Bad Bunny is a pretty good artist, but the character’s concept feels like a hard sell. Big-budget wrestling movies don’t really get made these days, and wrestlers like Dwayne Johnson, John Cena, and Florence Pugh have taken more organic swings into the superhero space. More importantly, Sony’s seemingly content with its superhero films feeling like they’re from two decades ago and just doing whatever the hell they want. But Morbius was a clear indicator that style of filmmaking can only go so far, so maybe it’s for the best that Sony either benched El Muerto until it’s sure the film’s ready to step into the ring or told it to hit the showers.
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