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:SONY) 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.
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.