When it comes to Tom Holland’s current run of Spider-Man movies made in partnership between Sony and Marvel Studios, the webslinger has faced down classic villains we haven’t yet seen on screen before. The Sam Raimi trilogy offered fans outstanding interpretations of Doctor Octopus (Alfred Molina) and The Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe), so the Marc Webb movies leaned into The Lizard (Rhys Ifans) and Electro (Jamie Foxx)… with a dash of Goblin sprinkled in to The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
A new rumor, started by action superstar John Cena, swirls around the possible casting of the Bumblebee and The Suicide Squad co-star as Sandman in the third MCU Spidey movie, which is set to begin filming before the end of this year (allegedly). With no real explanation whatsoever, Cena shared an image of Sandman duking it out with Spider-Man on his Instagram account. This got the hype machine rolling, with one artist even submitting his interpretation of the celebrated wrestler as Flint Marko, a criminal whose body consists of sand particles.
Casting John Cena as Sandman is a terrific idea. But using Sandman as a villain in the third MCU Spider-Man movie is a terrible idea that makes no sense, in the grand scheme.
Let’s start with something we just pointed out at the top of this article. Up until this point, the movies that Marvel Studios and Sony are making with Tom Holland in the MCU have not recycled villains we have seen on screen before. Spidey’s main MCU antagonists have been The Vulture (Michael Keaton) and Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) – classic comic adversaries who hadn’t yet gotten their shot at the big screen.
Sandman has appeared as a significant villain in the Spider-Man movies, specifically in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3. There, he was played by Thomas Hayden Church, and he had a backstory that connected pretty closely to the comics. A criminal, Marko was robbing places to pay for a cure for his sick daughter. He acquired his powers by stumbling into an experimental particle accelerator. Remember this surprisingly beautiful scene?
Does this prevent the Spider-Man franchise from EVER using a villain who already has shown up on screen? Nope. In fact, we were lucky enough to speak with Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige at the Spider-Man: Far From Home junket, and when we asked about the possibilities of seeing villains like Doctor Octopus and the Osborns in the MCU, he said:
Let’s step back, then, and analyze the situation. Is it possible that the screenwriters on the as-yet-untitled third MCU Spider-Man movie came up with an idea involving Sandman, and decided that they needed the character in order to make the movie work? Sure, it’s possible. We have no clue what direction the franchise wants to go in, having revealed Peter Parker’s secret identity in the closing moments of Spider-Man: Far From Home. And it’s possible that Sandman has become a part of the studio’s grand plan.
To me, though, it’s highly unlikely – and one might say impossible – because they basically USED a version of Sandman in the opening scene of Spider-Man: Far From Home.
Yes, the main villain of Spider-Man: Far From Home was the master illusionist, Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal). But the character used his special-effects wizardry to create Elementals, or knockoff versions of Spider-Man villains who likely wouldn’t ever carry their own film. In Austria, Peter faced down an amplified version of Molten Man. In Venice, the city’s canals formed a modern Hydro-Man. And the movie opened in Mexico, with the MCU’s take on Sandman.
Why do it again, in the very next movie? Especially when there’s a far better option for a classic Spider-Man villain we haven’t yet seen on screen in Kraven the Hunter. As per the comics, Kraven is a big-game hunter who comes to New York City to try and capture Spider-Man, believing him to be the most elusive prey on the planet. Using Kraven even fits into the narrative of Spider-Man getting his identity revealed at the end of Far From Home. J. Jonah Jameson (JK Simmons again, yay!) could hire Kraven to track the menace known as Spider-Man. Jameson could also pay for the creation of The Scorpion (Michael Mando), another vintage villain who has yet to get his big-screen due.
Now, Sony has said they want to develop their own Kraven movie on the Sony side of the SpiderVerse. So many he gets introduced in the MCU, and shifts over. Like how we saw Michael Keaton’s Adrian Toomes in the final shot of the Morbius trailer. That was unexpected.
Either way, I don’t think it makes any sense to use Sandman as a villain in the third MCU Spider-Man movie, even though John Cena kicked the Internet into high gear with his innocent Instagram post. If the Tom Holland movies planned to recycle any villain from the earlier films, Doc Ock and the Green Goblin feel like natural choices, as they truly are Spidey’s top foes, and deserve to get proper treatment in the MCU.
What about you guys? Not that we’re jumping at casting based on a social media post. But do you think that Sandman is a good choice? Or was the creature that we got at the very start of Far From Home the closest we’ll get (and should get) to seeing Flint Marko in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Be sure to vote in our poll below.
As for Spider-Man’s return to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we know that Tom Holland, Zendaya and director Jon Watts are returning (as well as the franchise’s supporting cast, we assume). The movie has been bumped back to December 2021 – as all productions continue to shift back – and could get bumped again if Black Widow ends up missing its November slot. Stay tuned.
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Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. Sean created ReelBlend, which he proudly cohosts with Jake Hamilton and Kevin McCarthy. And he's the author of RELEASE THE SNYDER CUT, the Spider-Man history book WITH GREAT POWER, and an upcoming book about Bruce Willis.