Bryan Cranston’s Strategy

Bryan Cranston's diverse roles.

Yesterday, I came across a profile of Bryan Cranston in The New Yorker. And I thought this part was pretty cool, detailing the strategy he used to get the most out of seemingly thankless roles.

As he was often the last person cast on a show or film, his strategy was to play the opposite of what the ensemble already had. Drama is conflict, after all. When he auditioned for the father on “Malcolm in the Middle,” the Fox sitcom about a crew of unruly brothers, he knew that the boys’ mother was bombastic, fearless, and insightful, so he played the father as gentle, timid, and obtuse. “It was a genius way to make an underwritten part work,” Linwood Boomer, the show’s creator, says. “By the third episode, we realized we had to do a lot more writing for the guy.”

Now that he’s better known, he has a new formula for picking roles.

In his trailer, Cranston told me that when he trumpeted a few recent offers to his wife the skeptical tilt of her head made him realize that he’d been indiscriminate. He wanted to carve out time to pursue a deal he’d made with Sony Television to produce his own shows, and also wanted to pick roles that forced him to stretch. “You never want to repeat yourself,” he told me. “Otherwise, it’s just”—he named a well-known actor—“doing his thing.” He leaped to his feet, raised an imaginary pistol, and shouted, “Get down! Bam, bam, bam, bam, bam!,” followed by “Because right now you’re safest with me!” and “He’s my son!” He shrugged. “You can write the dialogue before you see the film.”

So he’d constructed a grid in blue ballpoint: the Cranston Project Assessment Scale. On the left were rankings from Very Good to Poor, and across the top, in decreasing order of importance, were Story, Script, Role, Director, and Cast. A very good story was worth ten points, a very good cast only two. Story and script count the most, he said, because “an actor can only raise the level of bad writing by a grade. C writing, and I don’t care if you’re Meryl Streep—you can only raise it to a B.” After factoring in bonus points (high salary = +1; significant time away from family = –3), he’d pass on a project that scored less than 16 points, consider one from 16 to 20, accept one from 21 to 25, and accept with alacrity one from 26 to 32. “ ‘Argo’ was a twenty-eight,” he explained, showing his addition. “Ben was a three as a director—he was ‘good’—and now he’s a four, ‘Argo’ says. ‘Godzilla’ was a twenty, on the high end of ‘consider.’ I was dubious, but when I read the script I was surprised—you care about these people, and you’ve got Godzilla.”

The article was written just before the final episodes of Breaking Bad were aired, so it does contain some spoilers.

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When the Same People Keep Winning Emmys

Anna Gunn, Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston Breaking Bad Emmy Awards

The Emmys are notorious for rewarding the same people over and over again. Yesterday might have been the most egregious example. Seven of the eight actors to win for their performances in dramas and comedies had won the same Emmys before for the same exact role. The one exception was Alison Janney, who had won four times for The West Wing, and had been awarded a week earlier for her guest appearance in Masters of Work. In the movie/ mini-series category, the two winning actresses had Academy Awards and the two winning actors were movie stars.

There are several reasons for the same people to keep getting the same award. It’s possible that they just deserve it. If merit is rewarded, the actors who win are more likely to win again. The most interesting character on television in a previous year may very well be the most interesting character on television the next year. Someone talented enough to become a major movie star will probably give a better than average performance in a mini-series.

Sometimes it’s clearly not merit. In the 55th Emmys, Alison Janney won a fourth Emmy for The West Wing‘s fifth season, that year between Aaron Sorkin’s departure, also known as the season that sucked. A common argument is that Emmy voters just feel comfortable rewarding people who have already won.

Julia Louis Dreyfus at the Emmys

My solution is to retire a performance from consideration after someone wins an Emmy for it.

Kevin Drum agrees with me, posting on twitter…

Seriously, Emmys need a rule that you can only win once for a role, and that’s it. JLD not even all that funny, let alone 3-Emmy funny.

Ace of Spades has a cynical theory for why this is unlikely to change: It’s in the best interests of working actors to keep voting for the same people.

If you assume that everyone in the industry is a jealous, bitter egomaniac, Is it in your own best egotistical interest to give the award to Ty Burrell every single year or to spread the awards around?

I say it’s in your own best interest to just pile so many awards onto Ty Burrell that he can’t even walk. Because, if you’re a bitter, jealous egomaniac, it’s better that all the awards to go one guy, because, 1, he can’t possibly enjoy them much after the second, so you’re really not helping him much at this point, and, more importantly, 2, it keeps awards from going to other people.

If Ty Burrell has all the awards, this can’t hurt you as a competitive matter too much, assuming you’re not competing with Ty Burrell for a part.

But the more you spread them around, the higher the odds that you’ll be giving an Emmy to someone you are in direct competition with at some point, and thus will cede the winner an advantage over you.

It does make sense in an evil kinda way. Casting directors are not changing their rolodexes because of any of these wins.

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Possible Villains For The Amazing Spider-Man 3

Andrew Garfield's Spider-Man

I made the argument before that Spider-Man movies seem to work best with one main antagonist. The focus on Peter Parker’s private life just means that there’s less room to introduce more than one villain, which may partly explain why Spider-Man 3 and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 were so chaotic.

I’d have liked to see Sony drop their plans for the Sinister Six and Venom spinoffs, and to focus on one main villain for the next one. Instead Sony’s decided to announce a Sinister Six film for Summer 2016, and wait until Summer 2018 to do the next Amazing Spider-Man sequel. I’m hoping that without the need to set up characters for a spinoff, the next film could have a more streamlined narrative with just one bad guy.

One problem is that not all Spider-Man villains can support a two hour film. But I think the following are possibilities.

Mysterio: The master of an illusion is an A-list Spider-Man villain with an excellent visually interesting power-set. He also hasn’t appeared in any of the Raimi films, so it would be something moviegoers haven’t seen before. A stuntman turned bad is also an appropriate movie villain, and his motives have been varied enough to allow him to fit whatever narrative works best for Peter Parker. Does Marc Webb need a crime boss for a story? Mysterio has done that. Would an A-plot about a villain pretending to be a hero work better? That was Mysterio’s first appearance.

The Hobgoblin: He’s an A-lister who hasn’t appeared in the films before. A newcomer using the Osborn technology for his own purposes allows Webb and company to build on plot threads introduced in earlier films without making things difficult for filmgoers who didn’t see Amazing Spider-Man 2. A new Goblin could also force Peter Parker to deal with the aftermath of Gwen’s death, and tie into his new relationships. However, audiences might have goblin fatigue after previous appearances by other goblins in the Raimi trilogy, Amazing Spider-Man 2 and the Sinister Six film.

Gear for the Vulture and Doctor Octopus from Amazing Spider-Man 2

Doctor Octopus: The tentacles were teased as the end of ASM 2, there’ll be a fourteen year gap between Spider-Man 2 and Amazing Spider-Man 3, and Sony can have a take on Doc Ock different from what Alfred Molina did. He was considered the best villain in the Raimi trilogy, so bringing him back could result in good publicity for the Webb sequels. Toby Jones or Patton Oswalt could do the role justice, depicting a quirky, brilliant middle-aged outsider who suddenly gains obscene power.

The Vulture: In the comics, the Vulture was an elderly inventor who turned to crime after he was ripped off by his business partner, using a suit that gave him the powers of flight and super-strength. He may be tough to cast. A younger actor doesn’t really seem appropriate, and Webb would have to take care in the action sequences to make sure that it doesn’t look like Spider-Man is just beating up an old man for two hours. However, the Vulture is about something, and can suit a movie that’s about generational conflicts, and credit where credit’s due. A Bryan Cranston or Samuel L Jackson could convince viewers that he’s the unappreciated loser in the first act, and capable of beating up Spidey in the second.

One last villain who can work in Amazing Spider-Man 3 has been associated with some of the worst Spider-Man comics ever made. He’s been in some good comics, but he does not rate as one of my favorite rogues. However, he’s a good fit for Peter Parker’s journey, considering the events of the last few movies.

The Jackal: He was the Big Bad of Gerry Conway’s Amazing Spider-Man run, a mad scientist revealed to be Peter Parker’s science professor, driven insane by the death of Gwen Stacy, his favorite student. The obsession could open up some serious emotional wounds for Peter, especially since there isn’t really anyone in the supporting cast who would really miss the recently deceased love of his life. A Colin Firth could play the role easily, a science dork in love with Emma Stone who turns to extreme measures after her loss. They’ve worked together before.

Emma Stone and Colin Firth in Magic In the Moonlight

The Jackal could have a role similar to Norman Osborn in the first Raimi Spider-Man, someone similar to Peter but with a twisted sensibility, teaching him what it means to use power responsibly. For a long time, the Jackal of the comics was associated exclusively with the clone saga, an overly convoluted mess with duplicates of Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy. But that changed with Spider Island, an acclaimed eight-part arc in which he gave hundreds of people in New York the powers of Spider-Man, a plot point that could easily be borrowed by the films.

It’s always possible to have a composite villain, the way Raimi’s Mary Jane was essentially a mix of several of Peter Parker’s love interests in the comics. They might have a Doctor Octopus who shares the Jackal’s obsession with Gwen Stacy, or a Mysterio with the motivations of the Vulture.

While having one main villain would be a positive step in terms of the discipline it would introduce to a creative process that’s been rather muddled, the more important thing is to make those decisions based on Peter Parker’s story. In the weaker Spider-Man films, the tail is wagging the dog, as the story of one of the best protagonists in fiction is secondary to getting the villains that will sell the most toys, or launch potential spinoffs. Results have been better when the antagonist matches Peter Parker’s story.

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An Odd Midterms Scenario

MAD-Magazine-Voting-Helpful-Hints

There are a lot of unknowns with the midterm elections, most of which will be resolved shortly after everyone votes on November 5. We don’t currently know if Democrats can keep up their Get Out the Vote efforts without Obama on the ballot, the extent to which red state voters will turn out against incumbent Democratic Senators, or what decisions the fabled undecided voters will make. But we’ll have a much better idea immediately after the election.

However, there’s one important thing we might not know for some time. It’s entirely possible in a few months that we’ll know the results of the November 5 elections, but not which party has control of the Senate. This has nothing to do with potential legal battles when the results in a particular state are very close. A fun detail about the 2014 Senate elections is that there are competitive races in two states, Georgia and Louisiana, that offer General Election runoffs if no candidate gets fifty percent of the vote in November.

Louisiana may be the most likely state to have a runoff since they don’t have a standard primary. The November 5 election is a jungle primary. If no one candidate gets fifty percent, there will be a race between the top two in December. Currently multiple members of the GOP are running. The most prominent Republican is Congressman Bill Cassidy. State Representative Paul Hollis–the only other officeholder in the race–dropped out, although Air Force Colonel Rob Maness is still in the race with the backing of Sarah Palin, the Senate Conservatives Fund and the Tea Party express. Cassidy’s chances of winning an outright majority in the first go-around are pretty low, so a runoff is simply more likely than not.

Michelle Nunn and David Perdue close election in Georgia

Georgia has decided on its nominees for the major parties, but it has still has a runoff system where third party candidates can play a role. The polls are relatively close, with two first-time candidates who might have serious gaffes making it even tougher to predict. Republican businessman David Perdue is likely the favorite, but he might end up saying something stupid on October 10 that turns a ten point lead into a statistical tie. There is precedent for the libertarian to get enough votes to keep Perdue or Nunn from getting an outright majority in November. In the Virginia gubernatorial election, Terry McAulliffe got 47.5% to Ken Cuccinelli’s 45.2%, which would send a race in Georgia to a runoff. In 2008, Chambliss got 49.8% in the General, to Democrat Jim Martin’s 46.8%, which also necessitated a runoff.

In order to get a majority, Republicans need to pick up a total of six Senate seats. If Georgia goes to a runoff, they’d have to make up for that and flip a total of seven seats in order to be guaranteed control of the Senate. Right now the party is overwhelmingly favored in open elections in West Virginia and South Dakota, as well as against an appointed Senator with a plagiarism scandal in Montana. The party is competitive against incumbents in North Carolina, Colorado, Alaska and Arkansas, as well as in open elections in Iowa and Michigan.

If Republicans gain five or six Senate seats, but Georgia and Louisiana go to runoff, this would mean that control of the Senate comes down to two elections in December. Which would lead to an insane amount of campaigning.

Runoffs tend to be low turnout affairs, so Republicans would be favored. I doubt that they would relax, or that the media would keep things in perspective. For one thing, there would still be the possibility of Democratic victories. And it would give an excuse for several weeks of more horse race coverage.

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On Robin Williams

RIP Robin Williams

Aladdin is the first movie I saw in theaters, and Robin Williams has been a constant presence for me on TV and movie screens since then. As a result, the news of his death was rather surprising, especially since it included the phrase “apparent suicide.”

There seems to be a stronger response to Williams’s death than that of the typical celebrity, even the typical Oscar-winner. I think there are three reasons for this.

Someone said that Robin Williams was the first movie star they were aware of, and that’s easy to understand. In the early to mid 90s, he was in a lot of stuff that got the attention of kids (Hook, Aladdin, Mrs Doubtfire, Jumanji.) I might have been aware of who he was before I became familiar with movie stars who specialized in films I didn’t get to see until I was older, and that didn’t get advertised on Sonic the Hedgehog.

He was a prolific and talented man, so there will also tend to be something he did that most pop culture consumers really liked. He would rank pretty highly as a comedian, and he was great as a comic actor. If that was the entirety of his career, he’d simply be known as a legitimate contender for “funniest man alive.” Youtube clips from his comedy specials and appearances on Late Night Shows will live forever.

World-s-Greatest-Dad-robin-williams-11602754-852-480

But he also had a separate entirely respectable career as a dramatic actor. In that category, he seemed to be roughly on the level of the likes of Jon Voight and William Hurt. All three had three Academy Award nominations plus one win, with recent (and not always successful) stints on television. Williams had some interesting recent projects under his belt (World’s Greatest Dad was daring) and was in the type of prestige pictures like The Butler you’d expect to see an actor of his caliber. And he was in the types of films you’d find a name actor like him slumming. As a movie star, he was probably bigger than Michael Douglas, John Malkovich or Jeremy Irons. Except for Williams, this was essentially a sideline to comedy.

The outsized impact on my generation and on comedians combined with the range meant that a lot of people were impacted by the news, and that it would be a bigger deal for some. It’s the perfect storm for think pieces and online memorials.

Finally, there is also simply the way he died. He’s probably the most famous suicide since Marilyn Monroe. Fortunately, he’ll be remembered for more than just that.

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What Amazing Spider-Man 2 Skipped

Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone on location for  "The Amazing Spiderman 2"

Spoiler Warning: This post is going to deal mainly with the ending of The Amazing Spider-Man 2. So proceed at your own risk.

In the comics, Gwen Stacy is famous for being the first love of Peter Parker’s life, and for getting killed by one of his enemies. “The Night Gwen Stacy Died” happens to be my favorite Spider-Man story, and it’s widely considered the end of the Silver Age of comics. The story is literally the end of an era for a major genre. It’s that significant.

So when Gwen Stacy was announced as a supporting character in The Amazing Spider-Man, there was a lot of speculation about whether Sony would repeat that arc with Marc Webb’s reboot. And if so, when?

Well, it happened in the last fifteen minutes of The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Gwen had helped Spider-Man defeat Electro. The Harry Osborn Green Goblin had been knocked unconscious, but not before he sent Gwen falling. Spider-Man tries to catch her with his webbing, but it snags her an instant after she hit the ground.

The death itself is pretty well done. It’s an amazingly tense sequence. The audience I saw the film with gave a collective gasp when she hit the pavement. On the Empire podcast Spoiler special for the film, Webb talked about the metaphoric significance of the scene  happening in a clocktower with Spider-Man trying to stop time. He said that this was the sequence the entire film was built around.

The last ten minutes of the film show Gwen’s funeral, and Peter mourning her over the course of the next few months, as the public wonders where Spider-Man went off to. An imprisoned Harry Osborn gets ready to use his father’s resources to create the Sinister Six. The film ends with Spider-Man back in action, ready to fight the Rhino.

They might even have a better handle on the long-term aftermath of Gwen’s death than the comics. If that story of the kid who liked Spider-Man had been in Amazing Spider-Man #123, it could very easily appear on best of lists. However they also skipped over the events of possibly the best issue of the Spider-Man comics, the entire second half of “The Night Gwen Stacy Died.” In Amazing Spider-Man #122, Gwen Stacy is dead and Peter Parker is grappling with that, looking to make sure that Norman Osborn is going to join her. I don’t know if any superhero has ever been this pissed off.

Peter Parker is pissed.

I understand that there are some structural reasons to leave out the immediate aftermath, along with a Spider-Man ready to bring the wrath of God to his enemies.

Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy was essentially advertised as the co-lead of the film. So it makes sense to keep her around in the film as long as possible. Fifteen minutes of an angry Peter Parker hunting down Osborn in the aftermath of her death means that she’s not gong to be available for a good chunk of the film. Especially if they want to keep the epilogue.

A difference between the comics and the film is that the movie Gwen knew that Peter Parker was Spider-Man. So she had to choose to put herself in danger. So she helped Spider-Man defeat Electro, one of the major villains of the film, and helped save two packed airplanes worth of people. So it also makes sense to keep Electro’s defeat as close to the end of the film as possible. Especially since it would be followed by a fight with the Harry Osborn Green Goblin, a five month interlude and a fight against the Rhino.

Amazing Spider-Man 122 - 07

The other difference is Gwen’s killer. In the comics, it was Norman Osborn. This meant that a grief-stricken Peter Parker had to balance his anger at Norman, his grief at losing Gwen and his friendship with Harry Osborn. When Harry Osborn is the one responsible, Peter’s feelings are a bit less complicated.

In Amazing Spider-Man #122, Peter spent some time searching for Norman Osborn. It is a bit different to have a superhero hunting down a middle-aged businessman, than it is to have the lead searching for a teenager. A teen also doesn’t have as many obvious places to go.

Sony also decided that Harry has to be kept around to lead the Sinister Six in The Amazing Spider-Man 3. This means he can’t die in the confrontation with Spider-Man, the way Norman did at the end of Amazing Spider-Man #122. He can’t be too sympathetic, although it’ll be tough for someone to gain the audience’s understanding after killing Emma Stone. If Peter Parker spends a few minutes beating the holy hell out of him, it makes him less effective as a villain in the next outing. And it could also make the next film more dramatic if the inevitable encounter between Spider-Man and Harry marks their first encounter after the death.

One problem Sony’s going to have going forward with The Amazing Spider-Man 3 is the lack of people who knew Gwen, and would care that she died. I understand why they cut out Shailene Woodley’s Mary Jane, but at least she would have worked in that role.

The final page of Amazing Spider-Man #122

There is a snag with seeding Peter’s relationship with Mary Jane in the same film in which Gwen Stacy died. The original comic readers had a month between Gwen’s shocking death, and that famous moment between Peter and MJ. Later readers aren’t as surprised by the big twist, and are able to determine the pace at which they experience the text. For the most part, filmgoers don’t have that advantage. So it might be problematic to have a tender moment between two characters who most viewers know will be romantically involved in the future twenty minutes after the most magnetic character was killed off.

In the comics, Spider-Man was blamed for Gwen’s death, which made for memorable encounters against the police and with the staff of the Daily Bugle. That wouldn’t have worked out as well for the later scenes where the public wants Spider-Man to show up and save the day, so it had to be cut. Even if the public is surprisingly accepting of Spider-Man’s role in the death of a respected police captain’s daughter.

In the new films, Peter’s supporting cast was essentially limited to Gwen and Aunt May. In the comics, he also had Mary Jane, Harry and the staff of the Daily Bugle. So there were also more people for a pissed off Spider-Man to interact with. That made for powerful moments.

Amazing Spider-Man 122 - 10

If I was building the entire movie around the Death of Gwen Stacy, I would try to figure out ways to make more room for this part of that story. There were probably too many villains in the film, although that’s an inevitable result if this film is used to introduce half of the Sinister Six, and Sony doesn’t believe in giving Marc Webb 3-4 years to come up with the best possible sequels. These are luxuries afforded Sam Mendes with the James Bond films, Christopher Nolan with the Batman movies and even JJ Abrams with Star Trek. When Webb has to worry about all these other considerations for his third movie, somethin has to give, and it’s just not going to be as good as it could be.

There is still one significant cut that could have been made. The subplot with the parents probably took up too much time, with the opening plane crash, and the whole scene with the abandoned subway station, especially since it had so little impact on the rest of the film. It’s arguably necessary at some point in the trilogy to resolve the questions about why the Parkers died, and to demonstrate how Richard Parker’s discoveries won’t be able to help Harry. But it seems that most of these twenty minutes, all of which take away from Peter and Gwen’s story, and don’t involve Spider-Man beating up any supervillains, could have been saved for the next film. Aunt May’s disclosure that Peter’s parents were considered traitors is more intriguing if the film doesn’t start with the heroic way in which they died. It could work as something for the audience to mull over as they wait for the next one.

Now you would have more time to show Peter and Gwen hanging out with people who would care that she died, and an angry Spider-Man lashing out against the world before he realizes that he still has great power and great responsibility.

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Multiple Villains and Spider-Man Movies

Poster with the bad guys in Amazing Spider-Man 2

There used to be the argument that the best superhero films (excluding team series like X-Men) were those with one villain. Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, Iron Man, and Spider-Man 2 were pretty good. Spider-Man 3, Daredevil, the Burton produced Batman sequels, Superman 4 and others, not so much.

I didn’t quite buy that line of reasoning. The Nolan batfilms were excellent, and packed with 2-4 villains, depending on whether you count the likes of Carmine Falcone and Mr Zsasz. The second Captain America film continued the Marvel Cinematic Universe tradition of sequels with multiple antagonists, as Cap had to fight the head of Hydra, the Winter Soldier, Batroc, Crossbones and Arnim Zola.

That said, after seeing The Amazing Spider-Man 2, I’m wondering if the one villain rule, while not essential for other superheroes, should apply to the wallcrawler’s films. This bodes poorly for the sequels, given the focus on the Sinister Six. I liked the movie, but that was due to how well Andrew Garfield inhabited Spider-Man, and his chemistry with Emma Stone, rather than anything to do with the villains.

The film was just too busy. Storylines include the death of Norman Osborn, the origin of Electro, a dying Harry Osborn trying dangerous experiments, a power struggle at Oscorp, Peter trying to keep away from Gwen Stacy because it was her father’s dying wish, the first time Spider-Man beats Electro, shady experiments performed on Electro, a rematch between Spider-Man and Electro, a fight between Spider-Man and the unnamed Harry Goblin, Peter learning his parent’s secrets, the aftermath of the bad thing that Harry did and the origin of the Rhino.

906429 - The Amazing Spider-Man 2

There are exceptions, but the most acclaimed Spider-Man comics tend to have one antagonist. The Master Planner saga had Doctor Octopus. The Night Gwen Stacy Died had the Norman Osborn Green Goblin. Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut did have a small role for Black Tom, but it was mostly Spider-Man VS the Juggernaut. At the same time, the most acclaimed Batman stories tend to have multiple bad guys. Dark Knight Returns had Two-Face, the Joker and the leader of the mutants. The Long Halloween had Scarecrow, the Joker, the Mad Hatter, Poison Ivy, Two Face and others.

Something that makes the Spider-Man comics and films different than other series is the focus on Peter Parker’s private life. That leaves less time for building up the bad guys. Amazing Spider-Man 2 was a two hour plus film in which we didn’t get much of a sense of many elements of Peter’s private life. What was he up to after graduating high school? What’s it like at the Bugle? Does he hang out with anyone else? The most egregious omission may be the way J Jonah Jameson, the best character in the Raimi trilogy, is kept as an off-screen presence.

It also doesn’t help that Jamie Foxx’s Electro is easily the least interesting villain from any of the Spider-Man movies. The power set makes for interesting spectacles, and I like how Peter and Gwen had to come up with strategies against him. But he was pathetic in a way that didn’t really fit the tone of the movie, and that made his transformation into a major player less believable.

Structurally, I could understand why they went with several bad guys. After setting up the mystery of the Osborns in the first film, Webb and company had to follow through on that. Harry fits well into the subplot about Peter’s parents, without repeating Norman Osborn’s story from the first Spider-Man. However, it would be problematic to make Harry Osborn a solo villain less than a decade after he shared the screen with Venom and Sandman in Spider-Man 3. He gains superpowers later in the arc, so the film still needs someone for Spider-Man to fight before that happens. Of course, there are similar problems with Electro, as the film introduces Max Dillon before he gets his powers. That necessitates new action sequences even earlier in the film.

Andrew Garfield;Paul Giamatti

I’m not sure what Sony could have done to make things better. They ended up making an okay superhero film (although reviews are brutal) but considering the source material, it could have been so much better. One option would have been to split the events into two films. So Amazing Spider-Man 2 could have Electro as the bad guy, while the next one could have Harry Osborn. An advantage is that Harry’s transition from Peter’s friend to his archenemy could be more convincing. One problem with that is that if Marc Webb spent an entire movie setting up Harry Osborn as the main villain in a sequel, it would essentially require repeating the major beats from his story in Spider-Man 2.

There are other villains who might have been better fits for this particular Osborn narrative. In the comics, the Vulture was an elderly scientist who sought revenge against the employers who cheated him. So he could match a story in which someone attempts to usurp control of Oscorp after Norman Osborn’s death. The supervillain origin could build on things that have already been established in the film,  so the story wouldn’t require anyone gaining superpowers in a mishap involving electric eels. A guy who has been at Oscorp for decades might also have connections to Peter’s parents, allowing the main villain of the film to be tied to a major subplot.

I can understand why they opted to go for Electro. He made for interesting set-pieces, and he made sense with Gwen Stacy’s story. For the film’s ending, Webb needed Gwen to decide to risk her life to save others, and that works better when the bad guy is a maniac trying to shut down the power grid, rather than an elderly man with wings.

In interviews, writer Jeff Pinkler described the film as a story about growing up. The Vulture would have been more appropriate for that story than Electro, whose motives don’t fit Peter Parker’s story. My impression from the interviews with the cast and crew is that they gave a lot of thought to what Electro represents, since it doesn’t fit what the rest of the film is about. Walter Chaw of Film Freak Central praised the allusions to Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, and thought that the character allowed the film to address topics of racial and class politics. This all makes for a very busy film, something that can be alleviated if there are less villains.

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