We’re taking a break from Underrated this week because sometimes a thought comes to you that you can’t quite shake, and this is one of them. Was Topher Grace as shitty as a shitty thing? Has Michael Keaton stolen his way to the top spot? Join me as I take a completely unobjective look back at the last twenty odd years of Spider-Man movies and proceed to rank the villains in a completely serious and professional manner.
Yeah, I’m being a wee bit sarcastic. This entire list is based on my opinion and nothing more.
Anyway. These villains have all appeared in one of the live action movies from Spider-Man right up until Spider-Man Homecoming, and this post will contain spoilers for all of these movies to some degree (though I’ll try to limit the Homecoming specific ones). I’ve deliberately avoided villains that appear as cameo appearances (such as Rhino is ASM2 because they’re not exactly fleshed out enough to be more than scenery).
In reverse order:
Nine: Topher Grace as Venom (Spider-Man 3)
Did you really expect anybody else to hover around here? I mean… I’m already willing to say that Tom Hardy is a better Venom than Topher Grace – and they haven’t started filming that movie yet. If you’ve seen the movie, you know exactly what I mean. If you haven’t, save yourself the trouble. Grace was horribly miscast, and has taken some serious flack for his role in what is widely considered the weakest movie in the franchise.
Eight: James Franco as New Goblin (Spider-Man 3)
What was the point? Honestly? What was the bloody point. If even you want to see a film waste the potential of an actor who could have carried the movie as the main villain, then this is it. Harry Osborne’s arc seems to have a rushed conclusion as he the butler confesses the truth after years of watching Harry tear himself apart… the potential for a great showdown was wasted in the same movie that turned Venom into a joke. The New Goblin could have been a fantastic foil to Spider-Man, as evidenced by the rooftop fight, and their verbal sparring throughout… but alas it was not to be.
Seven: Dane Dehaan as Green Goblin (Amazing Spider-Man 2)
It’s not that Dane Dehaan was a bad actor, but his Green Goblin paled in comparison to Willem Dafoe’s, and every bugger who saw the movie was painfully aware of that. The threat level seemed forced, and the character was much more sinister as Harry Osborne just before he cracked into the Goblin than at any point after the transformation – which is why he edged Franco here.
Six: Jamie Foxx as Electro (Amazing Spider-Man 2)
Another character where the actor wasn’t bad, indeed Foxx’s performance was really interesting, and by having the character’s insecurities play off against Spider-Man’s confidence allowed the hero/villain relationship to take a direction that we hadn’t seen in a Spider-Man movie before. Personally, I wasn’t fond of the look of the character, but I enjoyed Foxx’s performance.
Five: Thomas Haden Church as Sandman (Spider-Man 3)
Perhaps the one redeeming villainous performance in this movie came at the gritty hands of Flint Marko, played by Thoma Haden Church. Sandman became an oddly sympathetic character doing the wrong things for the right reasons who ended up a victim of the plot more than the performance; it was a decent, almost Batman 66 style performance in a movie that was trying to be too edgy. The two just didn’t quite go together.
Four: Rhys Ifans as The Lizard (Amazing Spider-Man) Alright so the computer generated face wasn’t exactly as comic accurate as a lot of us would hope, and the sense of menace wasn’t exactly there, but Ifans’ Lizard isn’t bad… but it’s not great either.
Three: Willem Dafoe as Green Goblin (Spider-Man) And here’s where the jump from the fourth spot to the third spot seems to be an image and a text break, but in reality it’s a lot larger. Willem Dafoe embodied everything you could ever want in a comic book movie villain, from his elastic facial expressions to the genuinely psychopathic gleam in his eyes. Whether he was Norman Osborne or the Green Goblin, Dafoe exuded a sense of menace that left viewers at the time feeling a genuine sense of unease. Shame about the costume, though.
Two: Michael Keaton as the Vulture (Spider-Man: Homecoming)
If you haven’t seen this movie, then this won’t spoil anything. Keaton does the unthinable and makes the Vulture feel like a genuine, credible threat; he’s sinister when he needs to be, charming when he needs to be and has a screen dominating presence that will have you wanting so much more from Keaton and his Vulture. After only seeing this movie once, I was stunned that I was watching a performance as rich as I was, and I think there’s a genuine possibility that in a couple of years the Vulture will have stolen the top spot – as it is, he’s easily one of the best comic book movie villains, but he just wasn’t quite as good as….
One: Alfred Molina as Doctor Octopus (Spider-Man 2)
For my money, this is not only the definitive portrayal of Doc Ock, but also one of the best antagonists in any superhero movie. Molina was able to make you care about Octavious, by giving a phenomenal performance as a sympathetic accidental villain that has yet to be equaled in any Spider-Man movie since.
Bonus: Sam Raimi as The Director (Spider-Man 3)
The only explanation I can think of for the massive drop off in quality from Spider-Man 2 to Spider-Man 3 is that Sam Raimi had cast himself in an absurdly meta role where, at the behest of his evil employers, The Studio (also under the control of the symbiote, possibly?) he created the antithesis of his Spider-Man 2 masterpiece: a movie of such horrifically bad scenes that weren’t bad enough for the movie to become a cult classic Bad Movie, and instead they took a middling movie that had some bright spots down into the nether regions of the franchise. This was a well-played joke, right? Right…?
Underrated will return next week!