The Next Spider-Man Villain Needs to Be The Punisher
Over the last twelve years of Spider-Man movies one thing has become inescapable; Spidey just doesn't have the rogue's gallery necessary to really hold up in film any more. Personally, I suggest that we look to a hero for Peter Parker to face in his next outing, and that hero is The Punisher.
Let's consider the Big Bads at our disposal. The Green Goblin has appeared as a major antagonist in some form in three of the Sony films so far, with hints that Harry Osborne will once again return as the Goblin in Amazing Spider-Man 3. Of course, the Goblin is best-known for bringing about the death of Gwen Stacy, but aside from that he's not a really great villain because he never really remains a consistent person or threat. Norman Osborne out of costume is twice the bad guy he ever was in one, and both films series pretty much focused on killing Norman off to focus on Harry.
Then there's Doc Ock, of course, and the odds of him appearing in AM3 are nearly certain. Otto Octavius remains a fantastic opponent, and for my money Spider-Man 2 is as near-perfect a superhero movie as you could possibly make. That said, we're looking at Ock as just part of an army of bad guys, not the urbane and brilliant leading man that Alfred Molina brought to the screen.
That's the real problem... the Spider-Man films have gotten by with their antagonist mostly due to brilliant casting. Sandman is an utterly ridiculous and pointless character in all respects, but Thomas Hardy can act his way out of a steel safe and made Flint Marko into a tragic figure we could identify with. Topher Grace gave us a pretty good take on Eddie Brock, and he can be forgiven for the somewhat tacked-on nature of the Venom transformation since that was what it was. Likewise, Jamie Foxx makes a good Electro, though I dare you to find someone who can give you a really in-depth character study of Electro for any actor to live up to in the first place.
What's left is a lot of flashy ideas with no real depth to explore. Rhino? Vulture? Scorpion? Even Kraven the Hunter are all really just a generic cycle of animal themed bad guys for Parker to punch. I'd love to see Mysterio, but only to give him a set up to appear in an adaptation of Kevin Smith's Daredevil arc, Guardian Devil later on. That one's on me, Hollywood. A nice, simple, beat-em-up scene used to create the perfect Daredevil movie. You're welcome.
Instead, let's look at The Punisher, whose last film is currently the third-worst grossing Marvel adaptation after Elektra and Howard the Duck.
This story continues on the next page.
Frank Castle actually made his debut in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man. In issue #129 he begins hunting Spider-Man as part of his war on crime because he believes that the wallcrawler murdered Norman Osborne. The violent vigilante without any qualms about murdering the villains he fights becomes a sensation in a city plagued by a glut of costumed criminals. Eventually Spidey and the Punisher set aside their differences and learn to work together and blah blah blah.
Think about what The Punisher represents as opposed to what Spider-Man represents and you see why he is the perfect foil. Peter Parker became Spider-Man because he failed to stop a crime when he could have and it resulted in the death of someone he loved. I'm not going to say the line, but you know the line. Beneath his mantra is a second, unspoken rule that life matters. Why else would his primary weapon be a non-lethal restraining substance?
Frank Castle became The Punisher because his loved ones were killed and there was nothing he could do about it. There is no scenario where if he had acted differently they would be alive, and the system responded to that by allowing the killers to go free. The only way to achieve justice was through death, through final, irrevocable punishment. For him, death matters, both the death that causes the pain of the innocent and the death of the perpetrators that brings the catharsis of justice (Or vengeance, if you prefer).
By all accounts, the next Spider-Man film will see Spidey taking on at least the Sinister Six, and possibly more. That's what happens as superhero movie franchises progress; they start going with quantity over quality. I suggest using that trope to the film's advantage to introduce The Punisher.
Back before he got famous doing Preacher Garth Ennis wrote a great Punisher one-shot called Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe. In it, Frank Castle's family was not killed by mobsters, but in a giant superhero battles between the X-men, Avengers, and a group of aliens. With none of the "heroes" to be held accountable for the innocent lives lost in their battles, The Punisher makes it his mission to destroy every costumed villain and hero in the world.
Let's take Ennis' idea and apply it to the mindless destruction that is sure to ensue in 2016 or 2018. There's no way to give so many villains enough depth to care about them as characters, so why not make them the destructive force that compels one man to wage a bloody, violent war in complete opposition to the heroic Spider-Man? That would be something to see. Peter Parker torn between stopping the superpowered menaces who have neglected the responsibility of their power, but also driven to protect them against the lethal force of Frank Castle.
After all, most of these costumed criminals are just idiots that found themselves in bizarre industrial accidents or mildly genius inventors that used their ideas to commit petty crimes. Their villainy is often paltry when compared to the "justice" of The Punisher.
Look, I enjoyed the mass battle scene from The Avengers as much as the next geek, but it's been done now. No, a Spider-Man wouldn't be any fun without great fight scenes, and I look forward to plenty of them. Let's remember, though who Spider-Man's real nemesis is, though. It's a man with a gun willing to end a life. That's who he is, so let's given him a man with a gun who is perfectly in the right, and yet must be stopped at all costs. Give him The Punisher.
Get the Theater and Arts Newsletter
Exclusive discounts and announcements to Houston theater shows and art events