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Superheroes movies are frequently accused of having a villain problem when they try to cram too many popular bad guys into a single film. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse basically gave this entire concept the finger by filling it with numerous different baddies. The film handled them all with a very deft hand, but the filmmakers admit there was at least one they were a bit concerned about. Into the Spider-Verse director Peter Ramsey says that there was a concern during production that the film's version of Doctor Octopus might have a problem coming across as a substantial villain. According to Ramsey...
For the longest time one of our concerns about that character was, is she only going to be goofy and quirky, are we ever going to be able to make her a formidable enough presence in the movie to really seem like a bad guy that you were actually going to be concerned about.
When we first meet Olivia Ocatvius in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, quirky is a good word to describe her. She's a pretty stereotypical version of a scientist who works better with math than with people. She spouts a lot of jargon very quickly and when she first sees Spider-Man, she appears to come across more like a star struck fan than a super villain.
Of course, that's all something of an act, as it turns out Olivia Octavius is actually this dimension's version of the well known Spider-Man villain Doctor Octopus. When we discover this, she undergoes something of a personality transformation from science geek to vicious killer.
While several other classic Spider-man villains make appearances throughout Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Olivia Octavius is one of the bigger ones, so making her believable as a formidable opponent for not just one, but several Spider-Men, was important to the film. Peter Ramsey credits voice actress Katherine Hahn in one of the extras attached to the Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Blu-ray, saying she made all fears that the character would not work disappear...
When Katherine Hahn got on the mic man, all that stuff instantly went away.
It's understandable how making the balance work with Olivia Octavius is a potential problem. On the one hand, you want her to look like she's just a normal scientist; it's what makes the reveal that she's actually one of the villains work. At the same time, if you make her look too campy, then the audience won't buy her as a menacing threat later.
As with pretty much every element of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, it works. The film was one of the best of the year because every single element, from character to set design works together flawlessly. The character's quirkiness doesn't go away when Doc Ock comes out, rather, we see that it was just part of a larger personality.
With sequels and spinoffs to Into the Spider-Verse planned, we certainly have to wonder if we'll see Olivia Octavius again. She's certainly a powerful enough villain to anchor a movie rather than simply play henchman to Kingpin.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is available now in Digital HD and on Blu-ray.