Will ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’ Collapse Under the Weight of Too Many Villains?

Films that feature a number of villains sometimes underperform due to the juggling act of establishing each as a credible threat. Will the new "Spider-Man" film have this problem, or will it manage to avoid overcrowding?

Mar 29, 2014 at 7:20AM

In the comics, Spider-Man has a lot of villains to fight. Fortunately for the wall-crawler, the comic medium provides him with plenty of time to take on all of these threats. Even when fighting multiple bad guys at once, he can spread the battle out over several issues if need be to give each enemy the attention he or she deserves. Unfortunately, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 from Sony's (NYSE:SNE) Columbia Pictures doesn't have this luxury.

Set for release on May 2, the film contains several villains and hints of more bad guys on the way. In addition to the highly publicized Electro, the film also features a reimagined Green Goblin (the first villain that Spider-Man faced in Sam Rami's original "Spider-Man" trilogy) and a version of classic comic villain Rhino. Other cameo rumors have also been circulating, based at least in part on a supplementary "Daily Bugle" marketing campaign and glimpses in the trailers of gear used by other villains.

Even if only the three known villains appear, fans still worry that the film will be too weighed down by its antagonists and will come crashing down as a result.

A day in the life of Spider-Man
Director Marc Webb recently addressed the criticisms about too many villains head on. When asked at South by Southwest whether he thought the film would fall into the same trap that hurt Raimi's Spider-Man 3, Webb responded that he and the writers were "very careful to make sure the stories intertwine." Instead of the entire film building up to a showdown with all of the villains, Webb referred to the inclusion of multiple antagonists as creating "obstacles that are difficult to overcome."

Depending on how the film plays out, this approach could be similar to techniques that have been used in the comics. Webb claims that Paul Giamatti's Rhino is only in the film for four minutes, which may result in the character being similar to his appearances in "Ultimate Spider-Man"; in those comics, the Rhino was typically encountered while Spider-Man was on his way to somewhere else, resulting in a small battle that otherwise wasn't part of the larger story arc.

Will multiple villains make it too jumbled?
The big problem with having overlapping arcs and side-villains is that there's only so much time available to represent Spider-Man's adventures onscreen. Assuming that the "Rhino" appearance is one big action sequence, the four minutes that Spidey is fighting the Rhino robot is still four minutes that he won't be courting Gwen Stacy, delving into the secrets of Oscorp, or trying to avoid becoming a barbecued bug at Electro's hands.

Webb has already had to make some cuts from the movie to focus on the film's main stories. The biggest of these was cutting out all of Shailene Woodley's scenes as Mary Jane Watson. While some fans were glad to see her gone as they felt she didn't fit the part, the removal of such an important character in the Spider-Man mythos likely wasn't an easy cut to make. It's likely that more cuts were made to streamline the film, and Webb's confidence in the end result may be a result of this.

Could it flop?
Despite Webb's assurances, directors aren't exactly known for being critical of their major films prior to release. Even though Webb says not to worry, fans who go see the film might not be quite so forgiving. What happens if The Amazing Spider-Man 2 really does have too much crammed into it like some fans fear?

If the film follows the performance of Spider-Man 3, surprisingly little. Even with complaints that it suffered from trying to include too much, the film earned $336.5 million at the domestic box office and $890.8 million worldwide. Despite its reputation, it received mixed-to-positive reviews (earning a 63% "fresh" rating at RottenTomatoes.com) and holds a lifetime average audience rating of 3.3 out of 5 on the site. While its scores aren't wonderful, they're still significantly higher than you would expect for a movie often cited as the "bad" film of the original trilogy.

Another spider-hit
Of course, part of the Spider-Man 3 box office could have been a carry-over from the positive reaction fans had to Spider-Man 2. With a 94% critic average at RottenTomatoes and 81% of the audience liking the film, the first "Spider-Man" sequel bought a lot of good will for the franchise. Spider-Man 3 brought in over $100 million more at the global box office than Spider-Man 2 did, though its domestic gross was nearly $40 million lower; while the backlash against its villains may have hindered its performance, it wasn't enough to make the film flop.

The same thing will likely happen with The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Though fan reactions to The Amazing Spider-Man were mixed, the film still earned $262 million in the domestic box office and $752.2 million worldwide. With a score of 73% at RottenTomatoes and 77% of the audience liking it (it actually has a higher average audience score than Spider-Man 2, 3.9/5 compared to SM2's 3.5/5), the film definitely has its fans. Add in heavy promotion from Sony and it's likely that the film will pull worldwide totals at least as high as the original and quite possibly north of $800 million.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is the only major action release opening in early May, so it will enjoy a window with relatively little competition until Godzilla is released on May 16. Reviews and fan reactions may help to bolster its box office numbers if it winds up being better than expected, so the film could wind up pulling $900 million or more. Even if reviews are lackluster, the reaction to Spider-Man 3 didn't drag the film down financially so there's little reason to expect ASM2 to suffer too much. Despite some fans hoping that the film bombs so that Sony will let the film rights go back to Marvel Studios, that's not likely to happen anytime soon.

Boost your 2014 returns with The Motley Fool's top stock
There’s a huge difference between a good stock and a stock that can make you rich. The Motley Fool's chief investment officer has selected his No. 1 stock for 2014, and it’s one of those stocks that could make you rich. You can find out which stock it is in the special free report "The Motley Fool's Top Stock for 2014." Just click here to access the report and find out the name of this under-the-radar company.

John Casteele has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

4 in 5 Americans Are Ignoring Buffett's Warning

Don't be one of them.

Jun 12, 2015 at 5:01PM

Admitting fear is difficult.

So you can imagine how shocked I was to find out Warren Buffett recently told a select number of investors about the cutting-edge technology that's keeping him awake at night.

This past May, The Motley Fool sent 8 of its best stock analysts to Omaha, Nebraska to attend the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting. CEO Warren Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger fielded questions for nearly 6 hours.
The catch was: Attendees weren't allowed to record any of it. No audio. No video. 

Our team of analysts wrote down every single word Buffett and Munger uttered. Over 16,000 words. But only two words stood out to me as I read the detailed transcript of the event: "Real threat."

That's how Buffett responded when asked about this emerging market that is already expected to be worth more than $2 trillion in the U.S. alone. Google has already put some of its best engineers behind the technology powering this trend. 

The amazing thing is, while Buffett may be nervous, the rest of us can invest in this new industry BEFORE the old money realizes what hit them.

KPMG advises we're "on the cusp of revolutionary change" coming much "sooner than you think."

Even one legendary MIT professor had to recant his position that the technology was "beyond the capability of computer science." (He recently confessed to The Wall Street Journal that he's now a believer and amazed "how quickly this technology caught on.")

Yet according to one J.D. Power and Associates survey, only 1 in 5 Americans are even interested in this technology, much less ready to invest in it. Needless to say, you haven't missed your window of opportunity. 

Think about how many amazing technologies you've watched soar to new heights while you kick yourself thinking, "I knew about that technology before everyone was talking about it, but I just sat on my hands." 

Don't let that happen again. This time, it should be your family telling you, "I can't believe you knew about and invested in that technology so early on."

That's why I hope you take just a few minutes to access the exclusive research our team of analysts has put together on this industry and the one stock positioned to capitalize on this major shift.

Click here to learn about this incredible technology before Buffett stops being scared and starts buying!

David Hanson owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and American Express. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, Google, and Coca-Cola.We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

©1995-2014 The Motley Fool. All rights reserved. | Privacy/Legal Information