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Willem Dafoe's Green Goblin: 6 Things To Remember About The Spider-Man Villain Before No Way Home

Green Goblin in Spider-Man: No Way Home
(Image credit: Sony Pictures)

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has seen Tom Holland’s Peter Parker take on some truly awesome Spider-Man villains, but not the web-slinger’s arch enemy, Green Goblin. The most likely reason for his absence from the franchise, as even Holland himself once said, is that the character is a challenge to adapt for live-action, especially given that Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin has been so hard to top in further installments.

Well, it seems that Marvel Studios’ philosophy is, “If you can’t beat ‘em, bring ‘em back.” Along with a few other familiar baddies, the Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy’s own iteration of the Marvel villain will appear in Spider-Man: No Way Home with Academy Award nominee Willem Dafoe reprising the role, as well. Before we witness this triumphant return in one of the most highly anticipated upcoming Marvel movies of 2021, I believe a quick recap is in order.

Willem Dafoe as Norman Osborn in Spider-Man

(Image credit: Marvel)

Norman Osborn Helped Develop The Goblin Formula 

Green Goblin is really the alter ego of Norman Osborn - the founder of Oscorp Technology, which was developing a super soldier serum when we first met the character in Spider-Man in 2002. However, after Dr. Mendel Stromm (Ron Perkins) claimed that the formula was unstable, U.S. General Slocum (Stanley Anderson) threatened to stop the project’s military funding.

Osborn decided to test the performance-enhancing drug on himself, which worked as hoped, but with one particularly concerning side effect: insanity. The industrialist exhibited nearly animalistic behavior before fatally attacking his friend and colleague, Dr. Stromm. However, the next morning, he could not remember anything that he did the night before because, technically, it was not actually “him.”

Willem Dafoe in Spider-Man

(Image credit: Marvel)

Green Goblin Is Norman Osborn’s Split Personality 

Green Goblin’s supervillain origin story is not the kind in which a person consciously creates a new persona when turning to a life of crime. The character is a separate entity of its own that manifested within Norman Osborn, perpetuated by his own vengeful tendencies and a little help from Oscorp’s formula, which turned out to be just as unstable as Stromm warned.

The split personality would initially take complete control over Osborn, unbeknownst to him - such as during a violent attack on Oscorp’s rival company, Quest Aerospace, that worked greatly in Osborn’s favor before eventually causing him to lose his job. By then, Green Goblin fully revealed itself to Osborn, having full-on conversations with his host to manipulate him into a becoming a powerful criminal to rival Spider-Man. It is a duality quite similar to DC Comics villain Harvey “Two-Face” Dent, unlike how the live-action Batman movies have portrayed him thus far.

Tobey Maguire and Willem Dafoe in Spider-Man

(Image credit: Marvel)

Green Goblin Terrorizes New York With Stolen, Advanced Weaponry 

The night that Green Goblin first emerged and possessed Norman Osborn, it also took possession of a variety of inventions Oscorp was developing in tandem with the super soldier serum, including a jet-propelled glider as his main mode of transportation. His signature weapon was a small, but powerful, spherical explosive which would also serve as the first hint of his return in the Spider-Man: No Way Home trailer. The supervillain’s costume was a green, armored exoskeleton (with which he also controlled the glider), and a homemade mask completes his eponymous look.

In the Spider-Man comics, pioneered by late comic book legends Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, the Green Goblin would keep his equipment in a “bag of tricks.” Of course, in the Spider-Man movie, much of his arsenal is either compartmentalized by or built into his glider or his suit, such as knockout gas that emitted from his wrists. Also, Goblin’s “pumpkin bombs” were shaped like real jack-o-lanterns instead of the smoother, more grounded design chosen for the movie.

Willem Dafoe as Green Goblin in Spider-Man

(Image credit: Marvel)

Green Goblin Also Exhibits Some Superhuman Abilities 

Norman Osborn was living proof that Oscorp’s performance enhancing formula was defective, due to the destructive behavioral side effects. However, he also exhibited exactly the kind of results that the company was hoping for.

As Green Goblin, Osborn was strong enough to punch through brick without injuring his hand or tear right through Spider-Man’s webbing, which is essentially as strong as metal. He also displayed a nearly impossible range of agility and durability.

James Franco and Willem Dafoe in Spider-Man

(Image credit: Marvel)

Norman Osborn Is Harry Osborn’s Father 

For all of the strengths that the serum blessed Norman Osborn with, it could not help cure him of one of his greatest weaknesses: being a shitty father. He did not have the best relationship with his son, Harry Osborn (James Franco), who would constantly seek his approval, only to get the cold shoulder from him. For instance, instead of giving Harry a warm congratulations at his high school commencement, he says it is “not the first [he has] been proven wrong” about something.

Norman only worsens this strain by being a more honorable father figure to Harry’s best friend, Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire), whom he does not realize is actually his arch enemy. Harry’s longing to not be a disappointment in his father’s eyes eventually forces him to become a supervillain himself, known as the New Goblin, in 2007’s Spider-Man 3, in which he promises to exact revenge on Spidey, whom he believes killed Norman.

Willem Dafoe in Spider-Man

(Image credit: Marvel)

Trying To Kill Spider-Man, Green Goblin Accidentally Killed Himself 

What Harry does not know is that Norman Osborn’s death is nobody’s fault but his own...or, perhaps, Green Goblin’s fault, really. During their final confrontation and after their true identities have been revealed to each other, Osborn attempts to stealthily use his glider to kill Peter, who anticipates it with his Spider-Sense. In a flip, Spider-Man successfully dodges the attack and allows the glider to fatally impale Goblin to a brick wall.

Knowing Norman Osborn’s fate in the Sam Raimi universe, it appears that the Green Goblin is being pulled into the continuity of the new Marvel movies from a point in his own timeline occurring prior to his death. However, Jamie Foxx’s Electro and Alfred Molina’s Doctor Octopus barely look the same as they did in their respective Spider-Man movies, meaning that we could be seeing iterations of these villains that originate from slightly different realities in the Marvel Multiverse

I trust that everything will make more sense when Spider-Man: No Way Home hits theaters on Friday, December 17, 2021.

Jason Wiese

Jason has been writing since he was able to pick up a washable marker, with which he wrote his debut illustrated children's story, later transitioning to a short-lived comic book series and (very) amateur filmmaking before finally settling on pursuing a career in writing about movies in lieu of making them. Look for his name in just about any article related to Batman.