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“Please don’t tell me we’re in for another Spider-Man 3.”
I read your mind. That’s the thought that popped into most of your heads when you read how Marc Webb might want Paul Giamatti to play The Rhino in his planned sequel to The Amazing Spider-Man. Please don’t tell me that we’re lining up for an overstuffed, undercooked Spider-Man movie with too many villains and too little attention paid to vital characters in Peter Parker’s universe.
Let’s take a quick head count. Webb’s movie already snared Jamie Foxx to play Electro, whom most of us believed would be Spidey’s chief nemesis. Supporting roles have been carved out for Dane Dehaan (Harry Osborn) and Shailene Woodley (Mary Jane Watson). The THR story about Giamatti also mentioned a possible role for Like Crazy beauty Felicity Jones. And we haven’t even mentioned Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Martin Sheen or Sally Field … all holdovers from Webb’s original movie.
Instead of falling on the Spider-Man 3 sword and fearing the worst, though, I’ve allowed the news to settle, contemplated a few crucial puzzle pieces, read a lot of analysis and reached a different conclusion. Marc Webb isn’t making Spider-Man 3 … he’s reaching for the stars and casting his version of The Avengers.
It goes without saying that Joss Whedon’s behemoth of a blockbuster forever altered the way studios view superhero properties. To quote Heath Ledger’s Joker in another genre game-changer, “I know the truth: there's no going back. You've changed things ... forever.” No longer should comic-book characters be limited to one movie and possibly a sequel. To survive and thrive, studios need to expand their universe and create worlds where heroes and villains can come and go, interact and interchange. Webb seems to be casting for the long term. He appears to be stock-piling his Spider-Man universe.
One reason I’m really starting to believe in this long-range line of universe-building for the suddenly revitalized Spider-Man universe is because one name I thought crucial to the casting of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has not been announced … and I’m starting to think he won’t be added at all just yet. That would be Norman Osborn, the ailing head of Oscorp who needed Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) to complete his research into cross-species genetics – which will be very important later – in order to survive an unspecified illness.
With Stone playing Peter Parker’s tragic love interest Gwen Stacy in Webb’s original, many (myself included) assumed we’d get The Green Goblin in the second Spider-Man, leading to Gwen’s death … possibly at the end of the second film. Can you think of a more dour, down-beat, Empire Strikes Back-mirroring ending than Peter having to cope with the death of his true love in ASM2? Woodley’s casting as Mary Jane seemed to cement the idea that the franchise was going in that direction.
Only, it’s hard to do the Green Goblin story if you haven’t cast Norman Osborn.
Instead, Webb is bringing in Electro. And the Rhino. And possibly Black Cat (if that’s who Jones ends up playing - though others have suggested she could end up playing Betty Brant). Plus, Ifans survived Webb’s final cut of The Amazing Spider-Man, meaning that the Lizard is still a possible villain for a future movie.
You know, in case Webb wants to eventually bring The Sinister Six to the big screen.
This is the kind of big-box, long-range thinking studios need to be doing with their franchise properties. No longer can (or should) a studio like Marvel or Sony be wondering how to best squeeze a trilogy out of a particular storyline. Screw that. Think bigger. The Avengers proved that you can, if you take the time to lay the foundation, cast properly, and spread your storyline out. I think that’s what Webb is doing with this immediate sequel. I think he’s being given the chance to plan for a few additional chapters. He’s bringing in actors who can play important characters for multiple films, much like Samuel L. Jackson in the Nick Fury role or even someone as prominent as Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark. Lock the people up. Spread out how you use them over time.
I think this theory explains why Irrfan Khan’s character, shady biomedical engineer Rajit Ratha, also survived Webb’s final cut of Spider-Man. He’s a necessary component of the still-developing story, which will rely heavily on Richard Parker’s research into cross-species genetics. Parker’s formula already helped create the Lizard. It gave Peter his powers, and likely will be used to turn Osborn into the Goblin. Those who played the Amazing Spider-Man video game tie-in know that it exploded the cross-species storyline to send Spidey into Manhattan to combat creature created in Oscorp laboratories using Connors’ formulas.
One of those creatures? The Rhino.
So yes, while Khan appeared to die in deleted scenes from Webb’s first Spider-Man (as shown above), I now believe that the director -- and the studio, on a larger scale -- realized that they needed this character to continue the narrative arc of the effect cross-species genetics will have on characters – mainly villains – in Spidey’s new universe. Eliminating Khan at this point of the story would be counterproductive … kind of like wasting time analyzing scenes that were edited out of a movie instead of judging the finished film that the filmmaker wanted to screen in theaters. But I digress.
We haven’t even seen a frame of footage for The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (the movie doesn’t start filming until Feb. 12 in New York City, according to On Location Vacations), and yet, we already have a plethora of juicy subplots this nascent franchise needs to sink its teeth into. The mysterious disappearance of Richard and Mary Parker needs to be explored. Norman Osborn’s illness needs to be explained. (Dehaan is playing Harry Osborn, but will we actually see his deranged dad in this sequel? I honestly have no idea.) Where did Ratha go after the bridge attack in the first movie? And will his actions lead to the creation of the Rhino, Electro and countless other villains that were teased in the Oscorp “Tree of Life” hologram? Is Gwen going to die? Will we ever see The Sinister Six on screen?
These aren’t questions that you cram into the last two chapters of a trilogy. They are defining moments that you spread over multiple Spider-Man movies that are part of a growing tapestry of rewarding films. The latest flurry of casting rumors suggests that Sony, Webb and Team Spidey are thinking big, and thinking outside of the usual boxes. And if I’m right, that kind of news can really make a fan’s spider sense tingle.