How Many Villains Is Too Many?
So Paul Giamatti is playing The Rhino in Amazing Spider-Man 2. That’s fine by me, as they’re probably going to have him play the ultimate version of the character. I don’t care that Rhino is in it. I care about the amount of villains that are going to be in the movie. At this count, we’ve now got 2 villains in the upcoming Marc Webb helmed sequel, and going by the rule of past Spider-Man films, we’re dangerously close to Spidey 3 territory. Now I don’t want to dredge up bad thoughts of sequels past, but we all remember where we were when we saw that movie, and the fallout that occurred after it. But it leads me to wonder: why has the addition of villains become the norm for superhero films?
Going as far back as Superman 2, it seems like nearly every superhero franchise sees their dastardly leads grow exponentionally with each film. Let’s take a look at the original series of Batman films. Starting with 89’s Keaton original, we had The Joker. The follow-up, Batman Returns, featured Catwoman and the Penguin, and the third film had The Riddler and Two-Face (three if you count director Joel Schumacher). This all lead up to the granddaddy of all terrible superhero films: Batman & Robin, a film that was already overstuffed without having 3 villains: Poison Ivy, Mr. Freeze, and Bane (four villains if you, again, count Schumacher). Like Spider-Man 3, we all know how the finished product ended up, and we can point to a multitude of reasons why the film ended up being the steaming pile that it was.
Adding villains to the stack of your sequel is a recipe for disaster. The more characters you add to your plate, the more you have to set up. In a 2 hour or so movie, that makes it even harder to set up your villain, have them meet your hero, and then set up the conflict. With more than one villain, your storytelling just gets compacted upon itself. Some directors were able to accomplish the more than one villain movie than others. Take Christopher Nolan, for example. Yes, it can be argued that Two-Face was under-used in The Dark Knight, but that film never had him and the Joker meet up and decide to work together to kill Batman.
Yes, more villains equals more action figures and t-shirts for studios to sell, but it really bothers me that more and more super herofilms keep adding villains to their films. I think we can all agree that we’d like for studios and directors to focus on the story first, but I we can also agree that that’s not the studios first priority. They want to maximize their profits as quickly as they can, and that means throwing as many characters into a movie as possible.
Now obviously it’s too soon to start waving the “it’s gonna suck” flag at Amazing Spider-Man 2, but as a fan of the reboot (and one of the only ones apparently), I’m really protective of every piece of news I hear about the new film. While the first movie had it’s fair share of problems, I truly believe that Andrew Garfield’s next go in the costume could be, well, amazing, provided that Sony doesn’t eff it up. And give their track record, when I start to hear about more villains and characters being added to the mix, I tend to get leery. I was burned once already with Spider-Man 3. I hope Sony remembers that and has learned from their past mistakes.