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.
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.
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.