News regarding Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios‘ upcoming “Spider-Man: Homecoming” film has seriously ramped up in the past week. First, Sony unveiled the official title and logo at CinemaCon. Then word came that Academy Award nominee Michael Keaton was in early talks to play the movie’s undisclosed villain. While promoting the upcoming “Captain America: Civil War” — in which Tom Holland’s Spider-Man makes his debut — Robert Downey, Jr. hinted that Tony Stark/Iron Man could play a role in the movie, and Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige previously confirmed plans for other Marvel Cinematic Universe characters to appear in Spidey’s solo adventure. Friday afternoon Tony Revolori and Laura Harrier were added to the film as Peter Parker’s classmates, joining a cast that already includes Tom Holland as Peter Parker, Marisa Tomei as Aunt May and Zendaya in a “key role” as Michelle.
It’s a lot to take in all at once, but each new detail gives a hint as to what to expect from Spidey’s first solo adventure in the MCU. Perhaps the biggest question that remains is the identity of the villain potentially played by Keaton. Sony’s previous Spider-Man franchises have each featured Norman and Harry Osborn, and we’ve previously seen Doc Ock, Venom, Sandman, the Lizard, Rhino and Electro on the big screen. Will the new film return to familiar territory, or further explore one of the richest and most diverse rogues galleries in all of comics?
Keaton has shown immense range, from his early comedic roles to his take on Batman in Tim Burton’s films, to his Academy Award-nominated turn in “Birdman” as an actor who previously played an iconic superhero. It’s not a question of whether he has the chops to pull off one of Spider-Man’s greatest villains, but which one he might have the opportunity to bring to life if he indeed joins the film. We combed through everything we know about “Homecoming” and plenty of back issues to figure out which villain might be headed to the big screen in 2017.
A persistent rumor of late is the inclusion of the Vulture in the film. Adrian Toomes, AKA the Vulture, first appeared in 1963’s “Amazing Spider-Man” #2 and has been one of Spidey;s most enduring foes. Elegant in his simplicity, the Vulture is a bitter inventor who had his personal flight technology stolen from him. Angered by the theft, he dedicated himself to a life of crime. There is a sense of tragedy in the the character whose genius could have been used for good, but marginalization and cruelty left him with no recourse but to punish the world that betrayed them. In “Birdman,” Keaton played an unstable genius who struggled with mental illness, meaning we’ve already seen the depths the actor could potentially take the Marvel villain. While the rumor refuses to die, it’s also been reported that the Vulture would only be a secondary antagonist in the movie, not the main villain, which casts some doubt on whether Keaton would be anything but the primary villain for Spider-Man to face in his new solo outing.
Two versions of the Green Goblin have already appeared in two separate Spider-Man franchises, so smart money might indicate the new movie would head in a very different direction now that Marvel is involved. Still, we have to wonder, how perfect would Keaton be as Norman Osborn? Stepping into the suits of Spider-Man’s greatest foe would allow fans to watch him switch on a dime between ice cold sociopath, like Keaton’s turn in as Carter Hayes in “Pacific Heights,” and his hyper frenetic performance as Beetlejuice. On the big screen Osborn has only faced Spider-Man, but he’s become a far larger and more pernicious threat in Marvel’s comics over the last decade, having taken on the Avengers, Daredevil and just about every other hero in the Marvel Universe. Keaton could not only give Tom Holland’s Spidey a great first challenge, but potentially expand his role into a larger MCU threat as a villainous wildcard for Marvel’s Phase Three — and potentially beyond.
Michael Keaton has played heroes, comedic gangsters, addicts, villains, ghosts, clones, stay-at-homes dads, and even a snowman. Each role has allowed him to fully embody these diverse and complex characters. Even if you haven’t seen his entire body of work, the startling differences between his Bruce Wayne and Batman illustrated how fitting Keaton could be as the Chameleon, Marvel’s master of disguise. The villain who appeared in 1963’s “Amazing Spider-Man” #1 could allow Keaton to play multiple roles in one, switching up his performance and bring a sense of chaotic dynamism to “Spider-Man: Homecoming.” As an actor, Keaton is a true chameleon, but in “Spider-Man,” his range and screen presence could make him perfect for the Chameleon.
Assuming the film shares little in common with its cinematic predecessors, it’s possible it’ll go completely new — and a little bit nuts — with its villain. Bad guys don’t get more distinct or more different than Mysterio, possibly Spider-Man’s most devious foe. When not wearing the distinctive fish bowl on his head, Quentin Beck is a master illusionist who mixes special effects with mind altering substances to create his own reality. It might also add a fun meta layer to the proceedings if Beck, a washed up special effects guru, ends up in a film that’s sure to rely heavily on special effects. With Keaton under Beck’s glass dome helmet, the dream of seeing a virtuoso version of Mysterio on the big screen could be one step closer to reality.
With Tom Holland’s Peter Parker being the youngest take on the character in live-action, it would make sense if the main antagonist was also a teacher. In the comics, Miles Warren was one of Peter’s favorite teachers at Empire State University, but changing that to high school for the sake of the movie is an easy change to make. In secret, Warren was the insane geneticist and cloner the Jackal, one of Spider-Man’s greatest foes in the Bronze Age. In the 1990s Warren was ultimately responsible for the infamous “Clone Saga” storyline, and while no one is clamoring for that to be adapted, Warren’s evil could still be compelling on the big screen. Keaton can play insane with aplomb, but it’s the Jackal’s duality that would make the evil scientist perfect for him. Any portrayal of Warren would have to blend the austere dignity of a brilliant professor with the maniacal insanity of one of Spider-Man’s most brilliant foes. Or, in other words, a complex role right in Keaton’s wheelhouse.
The newest foe on the list, Morlun is a vampire-like ancient being who feeds on heroes with spider powers. As Morlun, Keaton could put his quiet menace back on display and deliver a very different, and very modern Spider-Man villain. Morlun might be the most powerful member of Spider-Man’s rogues gallery and in the mid-2000s, this spider-eating fiend almost devoured Peter Parker. Keaton’s Batman could be seen as vampire-esque with his performance possessing coiled menace even without words. That same presence could be perfect for Morlun, a monstrous foe whose inclusion would make sure “Spider-Man: Homecoming” isn’t confused with any previous takes on the franchise.
Directed by Jon Watts and starring Tom Holland as Spider-Man/Peter Parker, “Spider-Man: Homecoming” is scheduled for release on July 7, 2017.
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