It’s widely reported that Electro will be the villain in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and that Jamie Foxx is in talks to play him. It’s an interesting choice, and not what I expected, as evident by previous pieces on Ultimate Venom and Morbius. The Electro of the comics is a thug with super-powers. This isn’t really a guy who seems like the obvious choice to be an antagonist for a two-hour film, although I did consider the villain as a potential fit for a film with Venom as the main villain.
A few of Electro’s most notable appearances have been stories in which he is one of several villains, such as the Learning Curve arc of Ultimate Spider-Man, the Return of the Sin-Eater, Mark Millar’s run of Marvel Knights Spider-Man, his partnership with the Rose in Tom Defalco and Steve Skroce’s Amazing Spider-Man, an appearance in “The Gauntlet,” and various Sinister Six storylines. He has also been a member of the Frightful Four and the Emissaries of Evil, groups that fought the Fantastic Four and Daredevil respectively. When he’s the only villain in a story, he tends to be dispatched pretty easily, often in the course of an ordinary 22 page story, and sometimes even faster, as was the case with the wedding issue in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21.
If Sony’s looking to hire an actor of Jamie Foxx’s caliber, presumably it’s not as a crime boss’s henchman, or a member of the Sinister Six. Although it’s worth noting that Heath Ledger’s Joker and Mickey Rourke’s Whiplash shared screen-time with other bad guys in The Dark Knight and Iron Man 2. I can understand why Sony and Webb want an actor of a certain stature to play the villain in a sequel. They spent the first film reintroducing Spider-Man, so now they have to establish credible threats against him. There’s something to be said about the appeal of a trailer in which the hero gets his ass kicked by an actor the typical audience member respects. It would not be as impressive with Jason Lee or Terry Crews as it’s going to be with Django.
There are some advantages to making Electro the villain. His abilities are easy to depict on film. He’s a villain who hasn’t appeared in the Raimi trilogy, so this ensures that there will be something new in the sequel. That can be important since the first film retold elements of Spider-Man’s origin, while the third film is expected to feature a new version of Norman Osborn as the antagonist.
The character has also been the heavy in some comics, and his own boss in others. So it gives the producers some flexibility. If it serves the film, he could be a henchman of Norman Osborn’s, the leader of the carjacking group that killed Uncle Ben, or whatever fits the overall arc of the trilogy. He could also just be the first supervillain to use his powers to enrich himself, raising the spectre of what Peter may do with the powers of Spider-Man. In films, supervillains tend to have grander motives like world domination, so the guys who just want to use their powers to rob banks have been under-represented.
In the comics, Electro had some depth in “Light the Night,” a three issue arc by JM Dematteis and Klaus Janson. Although I doubt they’re planning to go in a similar direction in the film. The depiction of Max Dillon as a guy with low self-esteem who wants the respect of the entire city, even if it kills him, isn’t one that’s likely to serve this particular narrative. Presumably, Webb and Foxx will present a more intimidating take on Max Dillon.
This being the internet, there has been some objection to the colorblind casting, although there isn’t anything about Electro’s story that necessitates limiting the pool of potential actors to white guys. When he was introduced in Amazing Spider-Man #9, there were no black characters in the comics. It would be about twenty issues before Lee and Ditko had African-Americans making brief appearances in the Spider-Man comics, as cops, doctors or anonymous pedestrians. And that was considered groundbreaking at the time. Since almost every character in the comics when Electro was introduced was white, I don’t think it’s something that distinguished the villain. And I’m unaware of it being important to any subsequent stories or characterization.
The Amazing Spider-Man ended with a conversation between Curt Connors and a mysterious man in a prison cell, who some assumed to be Electro. That guy, played by Michael Massee, didn’t exactly look or sound like Jamie Foxx. I liked Massee’s cameo enough, that I hope he returns in some form for the sequel, which may require connecting his character to Foxx’s Electro. He could, as some speculated, be the Chameleon, which would give the film another villain, a manipulator with ties to Norman Osborn. Another possibility would be if Max Dillon is one of several Electros, as Osborn has found a way to reliably give superpowers to his shadier associates. That would also provide a narrative that can carry a two-hour film.
Or maybe I was right, and Foxx’s Electro will share screentime with Venom.