With the news that Paul Giamatti is in talks to play the Rhino in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, we’re getting more information about the shape of the film. The addition of another villain makes sense with the narrative they’re going for with Electro. A story about Spider-Man’s friendship with Max Dillon means that one of the antagonists won’t get his abilities until later in the film, so Spidey’s going to need someone to fight until that happens. Both Electro and Rhino can fit into the overall arc of the Webb/ Garfield film series. The Rhino could be someone transformed by Osborn Industries, while Max Dillon can be a bottom-level guy at the company, who helps Spider-Man investigate wrongdoings there, and develops super-powers in a subsequent accident.
There’s the argument that multiple villains were the problem with Spider-Man 3, although I don’t think it was that simple. Each of Nolan’s Batman films had quite a few bad guys, and these may just be the three best solo superhero films ever made. Superman 2 was also pretty good with Lex Luthor and the three Kryptonians. The comic book versions of Electro and Rhino also aren’t the types of villains who can carry a film by themselves, so this avoids that problem.
However, at the moment, the things that I’ve read about the story for The Amazing Spider-Man 2 don’t add up to anything particularly promising.
I’d expect the following (perhaps not quite in this order)…
- Gwen Stacy is in London.
- Spider-Man investigates Oscorp.
- Spider-Man fights the Rhino.
- Spider-Man befriends Max Dillon.
- Peter Parker meets Harry Osborn and Mary Jane.
- Max Dillon gets super-powers.
- Max Dillon becomes a villain.
- Gwen Stacy returns.
- The Rhino is defeated.
- Electro is defeated.
- Osborn remains shady.
- To be continued in The Amazing Spider-Man 3…
The problem so far is that it seem that the good stuff is saved for the conclusion of the trilogy, when Spider-Man fights Norman Osborn, learns the mystery of what happened to his parents, and probably loses Gwen Stacy. So the first sequel seems to be the equivalent of a filler arc in a comic book series.
The best superhero sequels have intimidating villains. Superman 2 featured Zod, the scary guy from the first scenes of Superman, who wasn’t saved for the finale of the trilogy. The Dark Knight had the Joker and Two-Face, arguably the two best Batman villains. Iron Man 2, which I think is slightly underrated, had Justin Hammer and Mickey Rourke’s Whiplash/ Crimson Dynamo. Spider-Man 2 was the middle chapter of a larger storyline with Harry Osborn’s vengeance quest, but Doctor Octopus also held his own. That doesn’t seem to be the case with the Rhino or Electro. X-Men 2 had a menace that forced the heroes to team up with their greatest enemy, even as it paved the way for a final battle with Magneto, and the appearance of Dark Phoenix, in the third film.
I’m also concerned about the casting. Paul Giamatti’s a good actor, and clearly interested in playing the Rhino. If someone of his caliber has for years expressed an interest in playing a B-level character, the studio should listen. However, what defines the Rhino is that he’s dumb and imposing. Giamatti has been intimidating in a few previous performances, but it’s as the brain, rather than the muscle.
It’s possible that my concerns are unwarranted, and that this film will kick ass. Since Giamatti mentioned a desire to play the Rhino a few years ago, he has likely given a lot of thought to his performance. The Spider-Man in the film is a bit less experienced, so there’s potential in pitting a new superhero against two villains. For Webb and company, there is also an advantage to working on a film that’s the middle of a trilogy. They don’t have to worry about the set-up, or tying up all the loose ends. To compare it to James Bond movies, this would be From Russia to Love, my favorite of the Connery pictures. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 could be all the fun of the other films in the series, with much less responsibility.