As a life-long, die-hard Spider-Man fan, I should be outraged by one crucial element of Marc Webb’s upcoming The Amazing Spider-Man 2. After all, it’s near heresy to have Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) become the first Green Goblin in this universe, and not Harry’s demented father, Norman Osborn (Chris Cooper). In the comics – well, the original comics – Harry only becomes the Goblin to avenge his father’s death at the supposed hands of Spider-Man. This type of role-reversal is exactly what soured me on Sam Raimi’s "Sandman-killed-Uncle-Ben" trilogy.
But Marc Webb is doing just enough to keep me invested in this new take on the poisoned Osborn family tree. We have been shown enough on screen in both The Amazing Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 to understand that Norman Osborn – the head of OsCorp – is going to be pulling the strings against Spider-Man for years to come. After all, as we have said in the past, you don’t cast an actor of Cooper’s caliber, then bury him in a meaningless role.
Except something happens in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 that tested my belief in the importance of Norman. And I was lucky enough to interview Marc Webb recently, where he candidly spoke about his Spider-Man cinematic universe, and there are things I want to share with you guys as the movie starts rolling out. Things you’ll want to know AFTER you have seen the movie… and one thing to look out for while you are watching the film. Still, for those who haven’t seen The Amazing Spider-Man 2 yet, I’m going to continue the discussion after this fantastic Green Goblin sketch.
Still here? We are about to talk openly about the character of Norman Osborn in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Leave now if you haven’t seen the movie.
Norman Osborn dies on screen. Chris Cooper has a conversation with his son, Harry (Dane DeHaan), and passes on the "Osborn curse" – a disease in the family bloodline that Norman has been trying to cure for decades through his aggressive genetic research at OsCorp. He failed, and right before he died, he passed to Harry a cube – using his fantastically grotesque goblin hands – that has information Norman hopes can lead Harry to a cure. But how can Norman be dead? Doesn’t he have to play a major role in future movies? I asked Marc Webb, and he told me:
"As for his future… I mean, I don’t really want to say anything. He’s dead. He’s dead. He actually died. How about that?"
Fair enough. But for anyone who has endured a Marvel movie since The Avengers, we know that no one dies in a superhero movie. They all come back in the "thrilling" third act reveal! So I tabled the Norman "death" discussion and spoke with Webb about the physical look of Norman in The Amazing Spider-Man 2… particularly those demonic hands. And the director told me that there was real inspiration to the appearance of Norman in this movie, saying:
Part of that came from the comics – the more grotesque parts of that character. The other thing is that I’d imagined [Norman] had been treating himself with all different types of things, none of which worked. He had been using himself as a test case. Part of his skin discolorization was from his disease. But part also came from those cross-species experiments that he had been developing in Curt Connors’ lab."
Speaking of color, there was something I noticed in a very important moment in Norman’s time on screen in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and it’s something you need to look out for when you go see the movie. After Norman dies, Webb includes a scene where techs are breaking down the bed where Chris Cooper was confined. And if you pay attention, you’ll see a green laser scan over Norman’s body. I asked Marc Webb what that laser represents, and he was legitimately shocked that I noticed it.
Wow. I am impressed. That’s good. There is meaning behind the laser, yes. That will have impact …Whether or not it will be in the Sinister Six movie, or the next Spider-Man movie, I don’t know. That’s the question, and I actually don’t know the answer to that myself. But that [laser] does have meaning."
No matter where he is introduced in this re-worked mythology, Norman Osborn HAS to be an important figure in Peter Parker’s life. You can roll out Harry Osborn as an adversary. But the thrust of Marc Webb’s current series has been structured around the corporation of OsCorp as the "Big Bad," and that has to lead to an eventual showdown between Peter and Norman – the man ultimately responsible for all of the pain and suffering in young Peter Parker’s life. When will we see it play out? Only time (and Sony) can tell.