Over the years, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has shifted its focus towards diversity, equality, and inclusion. With characters like Black Panther, Captain Marvel, Shang-Chi, the Eternals, and now Moon Knight, Marvel Studios is embracing people of color, feminism, and even incorporating religions like Judaism to paint a more cosmopolitan picture. He is set to continue Kamala Khan’s journey as a Muslim teenager in Ms. Marvel, reflecting today’s reality and allowing people to see themselves in their favorite superheroes. However, Marvel Studios’ big unity mission could be hampered if Sony missteps with the project. El Muerto film.
Bad Bunny, the stage name of Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio, is set to star in the film based on a wrestler from the Spider-Man universe. Created by Peter David and Roger Cruz, El Muerto first appeared in 2006 Spider-Man Friendly Neighborhood #6 as a luchador whose mystical mask grants him extraordinary strength, stamina, and speed. His real name Juan-Carlos Sanchez, he is part of a long line of Mexican wrestlers endowed with powers by this mask transmitted for generations.
Now, fans are concerned that with El Muerto only making a handful of appearances, this may not be a genuine attempt to bring the character to life. After all, Sony has struggled with character spinoffs such as Black Cat, Silver Sable, and many other Spidey-related properties in the past. In fact, it wasn’t until Marvel Studios partnered with Sony for the new Peter Parker films that characters of color took on more prominence and a cohesive vision was developed. As such, people wondered if Sony would stick to the character’s roots or if the story would be transplanted into an American wrestling setting, which could detract from the Lucha libre essence of El Muerto.
Now Bad Bunny is Puerto Rican, and that country has a strong connection to the art form, not to mention he’s worked with WWE for the past year. Wrestlers such as the Colón family, the Invaders and now WWE’s Damian Priest are also great examples of wrestling pride from there, so even if Bad Bunny plays a Mexican – which he did in Narcos: Mexico and High-speed train – some leeway can be given. However, that would feel like appropriation if the trip wasn’t authentically Mexican. This simply cannot be considered ticking any diversity boxes, as it will be a clear cash grab. More so, it should somehow connect to the larger image, similar to Kraven the hunter, Venom and Morbius, to show that there is a plan for the wrestler. It would prove he’s not just a vehicle for making it look like Sony is capitalizing on a fad with minorities who don’t get much screen time in Hollywood.
A great example of how to do it right is what Disney did with Encanto and coconutappealing to Latinx audiences but also educating the world. El Muerto can follow the same path, detailing Mexican culture and how much wrestling is revered — to the point that it goes beyond spirituality. Even though the character is mostly in New York, there has to be a connection to their roots and how the two worlds intertwine, which goes far beyond a best friend who’s also Mexican or just objects of the homeland of his ancestors in his house. Otherwise, El Muerto will struggle to resonate and feel like a generic American story with a Mexican in the lead rather than a nuanced Mexican story that’s been transplanted and told in America.
Ultimately, the cause for concern is valid because Morbius cut the large bow resulting in its color characters, and the Venom the films have been predominantly white. In this sense, if Sony botches El MuertoEither way, the attachment to Marvel will have people wondering why Kevin Feige and company didn’t step in since the two brands share common DNA. And while the MCU can currently weed out Sony who don’t make great movies in terms of action and storytelling, it’ll be hard to shake off the stench of something that isn’t authentic or respectful of other cultures.
El Muerto is set for a theatrical release on January 12, 2024.
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