Spider-Man’s cinematic future is currently in limbo. Will he stay in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or will Tom Holland swing away into a new Sony Spider-verse all his own? Whatever happens, Spidey will remain on the silver screen for the foreseeable future. And although there were five Spider-Man films before Holland started wearing the red and blue tights, some of the villains in those films are in need of a modern makeover.
We think Alfred Molina’s portrayal of Doctor Octopus in Spider-Man 2 was perfect. It’s best to leave him alone for the time being. Why compete with perfection? And then there’s Spider-Man 3’s Venom, who thanks to his own movie franchise is no doubt off the table now. But the following five villains definitely could use a little cinematic redemption.
The Green Goblin has long been Spider-Man’s most notorious adversary. Debuting in Amazing Spider-Man #14, he was first portrayed as a cackling yet deadly criminal trickster. Driven insane by the Goblin formula that gave him powers, he was a formidable physical match for Spidey. But when we discover the Green Goblin is millionaire Norman Osborn—father to Peter’s best friend Harry—things got personal.
Once the Goblin learned Spider-Man’s true identity, he went after his loved ones. Most famously, he killed Peter’s girlfriend Gwen Stacy in Amazing Spider-Man #122. And since then, he’s spent decades manipulating Spider-Man. Although thought to be dead for decades, in the early ’90s, he re-emerged and was revealed as the mastermind behind many woes in Peter’s life, such as the infamous Clone Saga.
Given his status in the comics, it’s no surprise Sam Raimi wanted to use him in the very first Spider-Man film back in 2002. But although Willem Dafoe made for a great Norman Osborn, his Goblin felt like a Power Ranger character in both his look and his performance. When we’ve seen Ledger and Nicholson’s versions of the Joker on screen, there’s no excuse for what we ended up getting with the Green Goblin. He’s Spidey’s biggest bad guy and deserves a worthy cinematic interpretation.
Another classic Spidey foe from the earliest days of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko was Sandman. First appearing in Amazing Spider-Man #4, Flint Marko was a low-rent criminal from Queens who became something more when he survived a nuclear accident and became a creature of living sand. Embarking on a criminal career, he engaged with Spidey dozens of times over the years. But what makes Marko interesting is that he has a conscience… and has sometimes given up on his life of crime for a try at being a hero. He was even an Avenger for awhile, having joined the team in 1991’s Avengers #329.
Sandman famously appeared in live-action in Spider-Man 3, played by Thomas Haden Church. Despite the third Raimi Spider-Man‘s reputation of being an inferior movie with way too many villains, Sandman actually shines in this film. In fact, his origin is one of Raimi’s best sequences in the entire trilogy. The only real reason I think he needs a do-over is simply that the character deserves a movie to himself, and not have to share it with two other bad guys who take up way too much screen time.
Green Goblin II
Harry Osborn is not only Spider-Man’s best friend, but also his deadly enemy: the Green Goblin. Or should I say, the second Green Goblin. In the comics, Harry decides he must avenge the death of his father Norman (aka Gobby #1), for which he blames Spider-Man. In Amazing Spider-Man #136 he begins taking the Goblin formula and assumes the mantle of the Green Goblin. Losing his mind and becoming a criminal just like dear old dad, he becomes a long standing enemy of Spider-Man’s. Over the years in many comics, he struggles with the legacy of his father, and retaining his own sanity.
Poor Green Goblin II has already had not one, but two attempts at big screen stardom. While James Franco played Harry perfectly in the first two Raimi Spider-Man movies, his turn as the second Green Goblin felt forced and not very compelling when it came time to board the Goblin Glider in the third installment. Dane DeHaan played a version of the Goblin in Amazing Spider-Man 2, but everything about this version felt off the mark. Although there shouldn’t be a rush to make Harry Osborn the second Goblin in another movie adaptation anytime soon, eventually he will need another go round.
Like most of the best Spidey rogues, the Lizard was introduced early on in the comics by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. Half man/half reptile, he gave Spidey a run for his money in—where else—Florida. You know, because alligators. First appearing in Amazing Spider-Man #5, Dr. Curt Conners was a brilliant scientist who had lost an arm during his time in the military. Obsessed with growing a new arm, he created a formula based on reptilian DNA. The serum worked, and he grew a new arm… but also turned into a violent were-lizard. Although not really a bad guy in the strictest sense and more of a victim himself, he’s nevertheless traded blows with Spidey for decades.
Curt Conners appeared in his human form in Spider-Man 2 and Spider-Man 3. Played by the great character actor Dylan Baker, this version of Dr. Conners was one of Peter Parker’s teachers. And he seemed to care a great deal about his promising student. Unfortunately, we never got to see Baker transform into the Lizard, as Raimi’s story ended with the third film. Actor Rhys Ifans played him in Amazing Spider-Man, and while his performance wasn’t bad, it wasn’t entirely memorable either. It didn’t help that the design for the character in the movie didn’t really evoke the version from the comics, leaving everyone disappointed. Hopefully, with the Lizard, the third time will be the charm.
He’s one of the classic Spidey rogues with the absolute goofiest of costumes, but Electro is still one of the originals—and therefore, considered one of the greats. Max Dillon has a typical ’60s origin story: Lightning struck him while working on a telephone line, which gave him electrical powers. Dillon was done taking society’s guff and started a criminal career fighting not only Spider-Man but Daredevil. Not a particularly deep or smart villain, he nevertheless became an iconic Marvel baddie.
Electro made it into cineplexes worldwide when he was the main villain in Amazing Spider-Man 2. In the film, Electro—played by Jamie Foxx—was given a new backstory as a bumbling scientist who idolizes Spidey. But when he gets into accident that gives him electrical powers, he turns on his idol for reasons the movie struggles to make clear. Foxx’s very goofy portrayal in the movie felt like a throwback to the ’90s Batman films, and helped kill that iteration of the Spider-Man franchise. But I do have to say, at the very least, his movie costume looked very cool. However, eventually, Max Dillon needs another chance to be recharged.
Featured Image: Sony Pictures