The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is becoming one of THE superhero movies to watch, as Sony clearly has plans to blow the doors of their rebooted franchise wide open into a bigger, better, Avengers-style cinematic universe.
So far we've had the usual confirmation of returning stars (Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone); some expected additions to the franchise (Dane DeHaan as Harry Osborn and Shailene Woodley as Mary Jane); some pretty unexpected casting in the villain department (Jamie Foxx as Electro and Paul Giamatti as The Rhino); now, we can add speculation about Venom - a somewhat expected/unexpected/hoped for character - being added to the mix... sort of.
We've been following Amazing Spider-Man 2 director Marc Webb's on-set teases via Twitter; the first batch of photos teased the movie's traditional filming style and hinted at more Oscorp gene-therapy mayhem to come - but today's Tweet is setting the geek world on fire:
— Marc Webb (@MarcW) February 7, 2013
Crave Online has identified that the birthday shoutout is to Dane DeHaan, who was born on February 6th - but it's the combination of the birthday wish and the particular photo that has caused such geek mania.
In the Ultimate Spider-Man comic book continuity, Peter Parker and his old friend Eddie Brock are looking into Peter's father's research. The pair find a specialized "suit" designed to help cure cancer in a locker (# 14 - see above). This parasitic entity bonds with Peter first, making him a stronger, more invulnerable Spider-Man (able to organically make his own webbing, by the way), before it moves on to its secondary host, Eddie, creating the iconic anti-hero known as Venom. If you've seen Spider-Man 3 or read the classic Marvel 616 universe origin of Venom from the 1980s, you basically know the story.
In the Ultimate Spider-Man animated series, the similarities are a lot closer. The Venom symbiote is a creation of Doctor Octopus (working for Norman Osborn) based on a blood sample left behind by Spider-Man during a battle. That symbiote sought to be reunited with its genetic source (Spider-Man) but when rejected by Peter it found a new source: Harry Osborn.
Harry used the suit to become a new Spider-Man (to impress his father) but eventually the suit twisted him into becoming Venom. Harry-Venom would go on to attack his own father (Norman Osborn), then unite with his father (Venom and Green Goblin) to battle Spider-Man - but eventually Harry was "cured" by serum injected into him by Peter. One can easily see how this cartoon continuity could fit into the Amazing Spider-Man movie universe.
Given that Marc Webb is highlighting this particular image (the #14 locker) with a birthday shoutout attached, the natural assumption is that Dane DeHaan - a rising star who made impressions in films like Chronicle, Lawless and Lincoln last year - has indeed been brought onboard to not only offer fans a different take on Harry Osborn (than what James Franco did with the character in the original trilogy), but also to bolster this pivotal character of Venom - possibly in anticipation of the upcoming Venom movie from Chronicle director Josh Trank.
Besides red herrings like the Oscorp gene experiments or Spidey leaving blood behind after getting shot in the leg by police - the biggest piece of evidence here is the hiring of DeHaan. The kid has proven what a talent he is, and when his name was attached to the Harry Osborn role it was made clear that the filmmakers were going in different direction with the character.
Given his rising stature - not to mention his breakout success playing a disturbed superpowered character in Chronicle - one could understand Sony hedging their bets that DeHaan could carry a Venom movie franchise on his own. A simple supporting role seems somewhat wasteful. In the hands of young thespians like DeHaan and Andrew Garfield, a Spider-Man/Venom battle that's grounded in the Peter/Harry rivalry would be epic to watch, and definitely more impactful than any of the Peter/Harry soap opera drama (or ridiculous action sequencing) we got in Raimi's films.
Green Goblin seems to be the big thing that the Amazing Spider-Man movies are building to, and we're fairly sure that villains like Electro and Rhino (and The Lizard) are just minor stops along that wider path. One would hope that Sony learned from Spider-Man 3 and won't try to cram the entire Venom saga down our throats in a quick and unsatisfying story; seeing Peter suit up in the symbiote to take on a new level of super-powered villains would be cool, while DeHaan's nuanced performance could sew some mighty tantalizing seeds for an Amazing Spider-Man 3 Venom saga - and eventually, that spinoff film.
Would you be down for things to play out like they did in the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoons?
We'll know how it all shakes out when The Amazing Spider-Man 2 hits theaters on May 2, 2014.
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