When Spider-Man debuted in Amazing Fantasy #15 back in 1962, he was an absolute hit. Readers simply couldn’t get enough of the character; and so a legend was born. With such a popular character, it wasn’t terribly surprising when the first Spider-Man movie was announced. Generally speaking, it was only a matter of time until someone took the web-slinger to the big screen, and with director Sam Raimi at the helm, audiences were excited to see the results. Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 are generally considered fantastic superhero movies, but Spider-Man 3 killed any chances for a fourth installment.
When Sony announced a new Spider-Man series, this time under the tenure of director Marc Webb, fans were decidedly less enthusiastic. Overall, many viewers considered The Amazing Spider-Man series fairly lackluster, which is whey when Marvel was given the reins for Spider-Man: Homecoming, fans couldn’t have been happier. Homecoming proved a resounding success and put Spider-Man in everyone’s good graces again. Regardless, no matter the Spider-Man movie, they all have one thing in common: villains. In some cases, we got amazing representations of classic Spidey baddies, while other times…not so much. Today at CBR we’re looking at eight villains the movies got wrong and seven they got right!
15. WRONG: VENOM
More than anything, including the incredibly ridiculous dance sequence, Spider-Man 3 is known for screwing up the portrayal of Spider-Man’s deadliest foe, Venom. Ever since his first appearance in The Amazing Spider-Man #300, Venom cemented himself not only one of Spider-Man’s most dangerous adversaries, but as one of the coolest and most highly regarded villains in comic books.
Before Venom came along, there hadn’t quite been characters like him. Venom’s general uniqueness, both in appearance and personality, set the stage for the character’s success over a number of years. The cinematic version of Venom failed fans on multiple levels. The casting choice left a lot to be desired, as Topher Grace looked nothing like Eddie Brock from the comics, and the characterization of Venom was pretty awful. Rather than sinister and intimidating, he came across as whiny, jealous, and small.
14. RIGHT: THE GREEN GOBLIN
While he might not be Spider-Man’s strongest foe, Norman Osborn, the first Green Goblin, is undoubtedly Spidey’s greatest adversary, especially after doing the unthinkable and killing Spider-Man’s first love, Gwen Stacy. After coming into possession of his Green Goblin powers, Norman adopted another personality and became a psychopathic schizophrenic. Norman would make it his life’s mission to bring ruin to Spider-Man’s life, and Spider-Man does an amazing representation of the villain, his powers, and his madness.
Although audiences weren’t lucky enough to see the goofy cloth Goblin costume, or the villain flying on a broomstick, like in his early days, actor William Defoe captured the man’s broken psyche wonderfully, descending further into madness with each passing day. While Gwen Stacy isn’t in the movie, Raimi’s script masterfully created a similar scenario for Spider-Man, this time the Goblin offering the ultimatum between saving Mary Jane or a tram full of innocents.
13. WRONG: ELECTRO
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 suffered from the problem that Spider-Man 3 experienced: too many bad guys. In theory, it’s great to see everyone’s favorite web-slinging wonder take on multiple opponents, after all, that’s the appeal of the Sinister Six (a group we never got to see). Yet all you really need for a movie is one good villain. Electro was not such a baddie. Completely unlike anything seen in the comics, and not in a positive way, this version of Max Dillon was a sheepish inventor, who was already borderline psychotic before he gets electrical powers.
Once he acquired powers, his entire motivation was just weird. Electro chose to attack Spider-Man because of what essentially amounts to a misunderstanding and hurt feelings. Despite Jamie Foxx is a fantastic actor, but he inexplicably made the cinematic Electro even weirder, what with his clinically introverted Max Dillon, followed by his homicidal Electro.
12. RIGHT: DOCTOR OCTOPUS
Generally considered one of the best cinematic depictions of a comic book villain, Doctor Otto Octavius, or Doctor Octopus, completely stole the show in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2. Everything about the way Raimi and actor Alfred Molina depicted the six-armed supervillain was spot on. Keeping his origin as close as possible to the source material, Doctor Octopus ended up not only being an insane psychopath, but a tragic character as well.
Otto starts off as a good man who’s well respected by Peter Parker, becoming a mentor of sorts. The tragedy strikes after he has four mechanical arms bond to him and they start talking to him. It’s a harrowing look at science gone awry and eerily mirrors to Peter a dark version of what could have happened to him, had things turned out slightly differently.
11. WRONG: JAMES FRANCO’S GREEN GOBLIN
Peter Parker’s best friend, Harry Osborn, the son of the villainous Norman Osborn, always maintained a strained relationship with his family, Peter included. After Norman died fighting Spider-Man, Harry would blame Spider-Man. It was true in both the comics and in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man movies. Eventually, Harry would even don the mantle of the Green Goblin and give Spider-Man unending grief.
While Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 did a fantastic job at demonstrating Harry’s character arc, Spider-Man 3 did away with all of it and turned him into an insane supervillain who loses his memory, gains it back, goes crazy again, and then becomes good, all within the same movie. It’s completely nutty and unnecessary to put one character through all that. Even his costume is just shameful, as it looks nothing like any Green Goblin outfit. Practically speaking, James Franco’s Green Goblin only hindered Spider-Man 3.
10. RIGHT: THE BURGLAR
Without question, the defining moment in Peter Parker’s life wasn’t when he was bitten by a radioactive spider, but when his Uncle Ben was shot and killed. Acquiring his abilities only acted as a segue for Peter to learn about a little something called responsibility. Initially, Peter doesn’t don the Spider-Man outfit to fight crime, but to selfishly make money. In Spider-Man, as he’s entering the wrestling ring, even though he’s calling himself Spider-Man, he hasn’t’ yet earned the name.
After the show, a burglar runs by him. Spiteful, Peter lets him go. That same criminal ends up killing his uncle and only then does Peter realize that with great power there must also come great responsibility. It doesn’t even matter who the burglar is, as he can be anyone, but the film’s depiction of him was great and really hammered in Spider-Man’s shame at failing to stop the criminal when he had the chance.
9. WRONG: SHOCKER
The Shocker might not be Spider-Man’s greatest enemy, but he’s certainly proven himself a worthy adversary time and again. With electro-shock gauntlets, capable of increasing his strength manifold and discharging vibration waves that can grind most objects to dust, Shocker wasn’t to be taken lightly. However, while his technology might be impressive, Herman Schultz has become something of a joke character.
The real problem with the Shocker’s portrayal in Spider-Man: Homecoming, is not just his outfit, as it would have been nice to see him in a full-body suit made of horrible fabric, but the multiple Shockers. There are two Shockers in the film, each sporting a different personality than the other. The mantle of the Shocker, or any character, is not casually passed on to another, as is done in Homecoming. He also only had one gauntlet, instead of two, which was a curious decision to go with.
8. RIGHT: THE LIZARD
The villains in The Amazing Spider-Man series are an odd bunch, with many of them only hollowed out shells of their comic book counterparts. In the first Amazing Spider-Man, the villain is the Lizard. Despite the awful CGI involved in designing the nose-less reptilian villain, the movie was actually pretty accurate in everything else about the character.
Dr. Curt Connors, both in the films and the comics, is a tragic figure through and through. Even before he becomes the Lizard, life hasn’t been especially kind to him, what with his losing an arm. Once he becomes the Lizard, his master plans are very much akin to something his comic book relative would, and likely has, devised. Wanting to turn mankind into reptiles, it’s a goofy premise, but one straight out of early Spider-Man stories.
7. WRONG: THE RHINO
Aleksei Sytsevich, the Rhino, is one of Spider-Man’s longest-running foes. After going through a crazy procedure, Aleksei found himself bonded to a rhino suit. Due to the experiment and the suit itself, he acquired amazing strength and started going by the name the Rhino. However, after a couple years of getting beaten by Spider-Man, Aleksei wanted to remove the outfit, but could not. His inability to do so, plus the love he shared for his wife, became two defining points to the Rhino.
The Rhino in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, despite having actor Paul Giamatti playing the part, was a poor facsimile of his comic book iteration. While Giamatti might be a terrific actor, having him run around as a bank robber spouting incomprehensible Russian/English gibberish didn’t do him, or the audience, any favors. Even his Rhino suit was a disappointment, as it’s just a metal rhino-looking robot he pilots.
6. RIGHT: J. JONAH JAMESON
One of the biggest thorns in Spider-Man’s side throughout his superhero career hasn’t been Venom, Doctor Octopus, or even the likes of Kraven the Hunter, but rather the publisher of the Daily Bugle, J. Jonah Jameson. While not a villain in the conventional sense, the funniest character of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy probably wasn’t the wall-crawler, but the Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Bugle. Consistently written and used only sparingly to maximum effect, while Jameson isn’t necessarily evil, he does make it his sole purpose to turn the entire city of New York against Spider-Man.
J.K. Simmons played the part wonderfully. Jameson is known for his brash personality and his devil-may-care attitude, caring little for what his employees think of him or his vendetta against Spider-Man. Simmons nailed the performance, a performance that’s cherished to this day.
5. WRONG: DANE DEHAAN’S GREEN GOBLIN
While James Franco’s Harry Osborn in the first two Spider-Man movies was consistent in characterization, actor Dane DeHaan’s version of Peter Parker’s best friend came across as an odd little fella. With a bizarre hairstyle (which actually worked to his character’s favor), Harry’s entire character arc is rather bizarre and off-kilter.
Upon realizing he’s dying, this Harry Osborn tries asking Spider-Man for his blood to use as a cure. Spider-Man, knowing no good comes from messing with radioactive blood, regretfully refuses. Harry decides to kill him. Recruiting the equally nonsensical and goofy-looking Electro, Harry also injects himself with the Green Goblin serum and ends up killing Gwen Stacy. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is just a mess, and the inclusion of Norman Osborn’s crazed son, didn’t help matters any.
4. RIGHT: SANDMAN
Flint Marko, the Sandman, has a rather insane origin story; it’d have to be in order to create a villain made of sand. In spite of this, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3, while it took a number of wrong turns, made the bold choice to make Sandman and his origin look like he jumped out of the printed page. From falling into a an experiment and coming out a grotesque sand monster, to his motivation stemming from trying to get money for his ailing daughter, the Sandman might have been one of the highlights of Spider-Man 3.
While in his early stories Sandman was not a sentimental figure, he’s become more and more of a heart-rending character over the years. Even his power set was represented accurately and used to its fullest effect, something not all on-screen movie villains can attest to.
3. WRONG: BLACK CAT
A missed opportunity in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, among other things, was the failure in using Felicia Hardy, and her alias the Black Cat, in any meaningful way. An incredibly important character in the Spider-Man mythos, Black Cat, despite her criminal proclivities, proved a loyal ally for the web-slinger; at least for a time. Rather than giving Felicia a thoughtful and perhaps Catwoman-like presence, which would have made the movie more amusing, she was reduced to the role of Harry Osborn’s secretary.
Before the movie was even released, comic book fans speculated Felicia might suit up as Black Cat and serve as an interesting foil to Spider-Man. After Marc Webb’s series was ultimately canned, we never got the chance to see what it would have been like to watch Spider-Man interact with the femme fatale.
2. RIGHT: FLASH THOMPSON
Villains don’t need to be genuinely evil or sport super powers in order to be nasty and ill regarded. The bane of Peter Parker’s entire school tenure wasn’t the rigors of puberty, but the unrelenting bullying nature of none other than Flash Thompson. The movies never make it clear about why the high school jock has decided to make it his mission in life to bring misery to poor little Peter. Still, Flash hates the dweeb and will find any opportunity to try and take him down a peg or two.
In The Amazing Spider-Man, Flash Thompson didn’t have much of a role and in Spider-Man: Homecoming he’s an odd amalgamation of a jock and a nerd, but in Spider-Man, Raimi captured Thompson’s essence. Rude, aggressive, and downright unlikeable, it’s extremely satisfying when Peter decks him after receiving his spider powers.
1. WRONG: THE VULTURE
There’s a lot to be said for Michael Keaton’s depiction of the Vulture in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Giving a tremendous performance, Keaton was arguably the best part of the movie, sending chills down audience’s spines with his cold, calculating, and threatening demeanor. A formidable adversary for Spider-Man, nearly defeating the wall-crawler, it’s easy to see why audiences loved Michael Keaton as Adrian Toomes, aka the Vulture.
Despite the wonderful acting job, the Vulture in Homecoming is nothing at all like his comic book version. Adrian Toomes, first and foremost, is a bald, old man. It might seem like a minor detail, but his age informs his narrative greatly, as Toomes is constantly struggling with the idea that his body is giving out; Spider-Man doesn’t want to hit him too hard for fear of seriously injuring him. Additionally, Vulture isn’t particularly a family man, satisfied with being on his own.
Do you agree or disagree with these picks? Let us know in the comments!
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