Ricky Church ranks the Spider-Man movie villains…
Since 2001, we have been given five Spider-Man films, with the sixth – Spider-Man: Homecoming – opening in cinemas this week. Through these movies we’ve been introduced to many villains from Spider-Man’s rogues gallery, some of whom are very well known, and some not quite as famous as the others.
As we prepare for the release of Spider-Man: Homecoming, I take a look back on the past villains in Spidey’s films and present my ranking of them based on their character development, depiction and the actor’s portrayal. So, which one is the best Spider-Man villain to appear on film?
Honourable Mention: J. Jonah Jameson
While not a villain by any means, J. Jonah Jameson is a clear antagonist to everyone’s friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man. Jameson purely doesn’t like Spidey and does whatever he can to cast distrust among his supporters and humiliate Spider-Man. Sam Raimi’s first film implies he does this because he doesn’t see the need for Spidey to wear a mask or act as reckless as he does, but gives him the bad press mainly to sell papers. Add to that J.K. Simmons pitch perfect portrayal and you have one of the best castings in any comic book movie and even though he doesn’t physically appear in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, he arguably has the best line of that whole film.
9. Rhino (The Amazing Spider-Man 2)
I’ll be honest, Rhino came very close to not making it in the bottom spot and that’s because I nearly forgot Rhino was even in Amazing Spider-Man 2. He may open and close the film, but he’s so forgettable and downright laughable that I almost wish he wasn’t in the movie at all.
Marc Webb’s film even discards the traditional origin for Rhino, opting instead to place him in a robotic suit that belongs more in Transformers or Pacific Rim than it does in Amazing Spider-Man 2. Adding salt to the wound is the fact that there’s not even a real fight between Spider-Man and Rhino as the film literally ends on the moment many of the trailers ended on: Spider-Man swinging a manhole cover into Rhino’s face, cutting to black the moment before impact. It’s such a shame considering they cast Paul Giamatti in the role and not only wasted him, but forced him to do a cheesy Russian accent with a slapstick personality.
9. Venom (Spider-Man 3)
It is probably needless to say Venom is a fan-favourite character among Spider-Man fans, especially since Sony is moving forward with his own solo film starring Tom Hardy that will be separate from the MCU. Venom’s first appearance on screen though was such a lost and downright bad opportunity in Spider-Man 3.
Rather than using the film to build up to him in a meaningful way, Eddie Brock instead becomes Venom in the final 15 – 20 minutes of the film, while his total time in the film is about 15 minutes to begin with. While a couple of the hallmarks of Brock’s transition into Venom are intact – his anger and jealousy at Peter Parker and losing his job – the film doesn’t sell his transformation nearly well enough. Brock’s source of anger towards Peter is due to two things: Peter getting Brock fired and, more importantly, Peter going on one date with Brock’s ex-girlfriend Gwen Stacy. Apparently this was enough to make him pray to God to actually kill Peter Parker.
It doesn’t help that Topher Grace doesn’t give a very strong performance as either Brock or Venom, but then again he’s not in the film as Brock enough to make us sympathize with him. There’s also the fact that director Sam Raimi stated Venom was one of his least favourite characters and the only reason he was even included in the bloated film was because executive producer Avi Arad forced Raimi to use Venom. Raimi’s dislike or lack of understanding for Venom certainly shows.
7. Green Goblin (The Amazing Spider-Man 2)
Arguably Spider-Man’s arch nemesis, the Green Goblin is a villain that has been hard for the films to steer clear from. He had a couple iterations in Raimi’s trilogy and was utilized yet again in Webb’s Amazing Spider-Man 2, albeit much differently. Instead of Norman Osborn, his son Harry, played by Valerian’s Dane DeHaan, became Green Goblin in a combination of the traditional Spider-Man and the alternate Ultimate Spider-Man comics.
In the film, Harry used to be an old childhood friend of Peter Parker’s since their fathers worked together. Harry, however, had inherited a rare and fatal disease from his dying father that gave them a bit of a goblin-like appearance as they got older. He searched for a cure, first believing Spider-Man’s blood could help him but took a crude version of it that distorted his appearance. Angry with Peter for refusing to help him, he fought Spider-Man and ended up killing Gwen Stacy.
The problem with this was that, much like Venom in Spider-Man 3, his progression into Green Goblin was rushed. While his fight to survive was understandable, many of his choices prior to becoming Goblin were not. The film seemed more focused on getting to the famous moment in the comics of Gwen’s death than truly fleshing out Harry’s arc. DeHaan gave a decent enough performance, but not enough to save the role or film.
6. New Goblin (Spider-Man 3)
So many of the Spider-Man films have had just one movie arcs for the villains where they fight Spidey and usually die in the end. Sam Raimi’s trilogy is a bit different as it built up Harry Osborn’s turn to become the next Green Goblin, or New Goblin, across all three films. It wasn’t until Spider-Man 3 where James Franco’s Harry finally fought his former friend in his attempt to avenge his father.
It’s a shame, though, because while Franco does benefit from having the emotional weight of two films behind him and his fight against Peter is earned, the film does him a disservice. Right after their first fight, Harry suffers from amnesia, making him conveniently forget the events of the trilogy before his amnesia is suddenly, and once again conveniently, cured halfway through the film. They never truly have a one on one fight with the emotion pouring from them both.
The film fails Harry and Franco even more with his redemption. Rather than choosing on his own to aid Peter, Harry is instead told a story from his butler (who played a minor role at best in the trilogy) about how Norman truly died to spur him into action. Harry’s redemption and sacrifice in the comics was one that was very emotional, but Spider-Man 3 unfortunately missed the mark. As I said, Franco at least has the history of the films behind him and his character, but its not enough to make us buy into Harry as New Goblin.
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