There seems to be a hard and fast rule that the number of major villains in a Marvel superhero film is inversely proportional to its quality. Think it through: Spider-Man 3 was the only one of Sam Raimi‘s original trilogy to feature more than one serious antagonist and is widely regarded as the worst; X-Men: Wolverine had William Stryker and Sabertooth, both rehashed from previous films; while Iron Man 2 used and abused Mickey Rourke and Sam Rockwell in equal measure. X-Men: The Last Stand, Daredevil – none of these films are considered class comic book adaptations, most don’t hold up particularly well compared to the rest of their franchises.
That’s not to say that these films are irredeemably bad, or even that the number of villains is in any way responsible for the comparative crappiness, though casting Topher Grace as Venom and rewriting the death of Uncle Ben for the sake of bolstering the Sandman’s back story were arguably not the best moves for making a worthy sequel to Alfred Molina‘s appearance in Spider-Man 2. There are, of course, exceptions to the rule: The Dark Knight pulled off two antagonists – greater and lesser- and, indeed, found a way to integrate both perfectly into the plot: The Dark Knight needs both The Joker and Two Face to tell the story of Batman’s fall from the public eye. In Spider-Man 3, however, the villains never properly integrate: they have their own entirely separate arcs, their own agendas, which places the whole film at cross purposes. If you’re going to introduce Eddie Brock, Peter Parker’s dark reflection, for Christ’s sake do something with him.
As such, you’d be well within your rights to be concerned about Marc Webb‘s upcoming The Amazing Spider-Man 2, which based on current reports, contains two antagonists – Jamie Foxx‘s Electro and Paul Giamatti‘s Rhino – with Dale DeHaan confirmed as Peter’s best friend, Harry Osborn (AKA the second generation Green Goblin, previously portrayed by James Franco) with Chris Cooper just announced to be playing his father and the original GG, Norman Osborn (brought to life by Willem Dafoe in Spider-Man.) While it seems unlikely that the Osbornes will be appearing in villainous form – the film seems packed enough as it is – the presence of both Electro and Rhino suggests that something of a juggling act will be taking place, especially given that the official synopsis promises that “Peter uncovers new clues about his past”. As such, it seems that Gwen Stacey should be safe, at least for the time being…
And those are just the characters that have been confirmed. Rumors are still circulating that Felicity Jones might be taking on the role of Felicia Hardy/Black Cat, sometime foe and sometime friend to Spidey. Colm Feore’s role is also still unknown, and while it seems unlikely for him to be playing yet another villain, it’s not entirely out of the question either.
Electro and Rhino, both of whose powers are fairly self explanatory, appear in a later incarnation of the Sinister Six, a team comprised of some of the deadliest figures from Spidey’s Rogues Gallery (which has included Doc Ock, Chameleon, Hobgoblin, Mysterio, The Lizard, Venom, and Vulture – this last being a possible for Colm Feore). According to canon, Rhino AKA Aleksei Sytsevich was a Russian gangster whose skin was bonded to near-impenetrable armor, while Maxwell Dillon/Electro was an electrical engineer transformed into a human conduit by a freak accident. Neither one of them is exactly a criminal mastermind – Aleksei typically went in for smash-and-grab jobs and Maxwell would knock over banks. It’s possible that their origins will overlap in some way: both of them could potentially be linked to Oscorp, which has something of a history with human experimentation. If so, it’s also possible that we may see the full Sinister Six in the third film, created and lead by Osborn.
Though The Amazing Spider-Man wasn’t exactly bereft of lazy storytelling – a whole SWAT team transformed into lizard-men did nothing for the plot except provide action figures – it’s hard to believe the team at Marvel hasn’t thought this through. In any case, with actors the caliber of Foxx and Giamatti on-board, it’s difficult not to feel hopeful. With the Gwen Stacey/Mary-Jane love triangle due to make its first appearance in the series (in the form of Emma Stone and newcomer Shailene Woodley), not to mention the continuing blow-back from the death of Gwen’s father, Captain Stacey, and, of course, of Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen will presumably be appearing in flashback), there’s sure to be a rich and varied emotional landscape. Cooper, meanwhile, seems like excellent casting for Norman Osborne: his seedy charm has been a memorable component of many films and he has experience in playing the less-than-empathetic parent in Best Picture American Beauty.
Spider-Man 3 may yet prove to be an anomaly. Maybe we can finally start putting that godawful emo haircut behind us…