A consistent criticism of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is that its features, however solid otherwise, have often lacked for strong and/or memorable villains. With many Marvel heroes often serving as their own worst enemies, Marvel stories have largely focused on personal growth rather than external conflict with assorted supervillains. And while standouts like The Red Skull and Loki have certainly made their mark (along with fan-favorite turns by David Tennant's Killgrave and Vincent D'Onofrio's Kingpin in the Marvel Netflix series) the situation has not been helped by many of Marvel Comics' most reliable villain stables belonging to the X-Men, Fantastic Four and Spider-Man properties -- all properties whose film rights were (until recently) held by other studios.
But as of Captain America: Civil War, Marvel has access to Spider-Man. And when the young hero heads into his solo adventures, his still-secret debut enemy could be played by a big star with serious superhero pedigree.
Variety reports that Michael Keaton is being sought to take on an unspecified villain role in Spider-Man: Homecoming, the first featured big-screen adventure for the new Marvel Cinematic Universe version of the wall-crawling hero played by Tom Holland. Variety describes negotiations with Keaton as being "early talks" and thus far neither Marvel or Sony (which will release the film in partnership with Marvel/Disney under a shared custody agreement) have any comment on the story.
If cast, Keaton would bring both historic and ironic history to the role, having been long associated with the superhero genre for his two turns as Batman in Tim Burton's films, which are often credited with launching the modern comic-book movie boom. Additionally, Keaton was recently honored with an Academy Award nomination for Birdman, a dark comedy about a washed-up celebrity best known for a series of superhero movies attempting to change his image with a self-serious Broadway vanity project. The film, which picked up Oscars for Best Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, and Cinematography, was widely viewed both as self-satire on Keaton's part and a criticism of Hollywood's current fondness for superheroes.
Few plot details have been revealed about Spider-Man: Homecoming, other than that it will take place after the events of Civil War with a teenage Peter Parker already established as Spider-Man and attempting to balance his life as a high school student with his secret identity as a costumed superhero. Some rumors have suggested the film could feature more than one villain, and classic Spidey foe The Vulture has been mentioned as a possible figure in the plot. If these rumors are true, casting Keaton for that role would provide multiple levels of irony given his recent performance for playing a character associated with a winged comic book character. Keaton has also been a popular "fan-casting" pick for Daily Bugle publisher J. Jonah Jameson, a key role that has yet to be cast.
Should he sign on, Keaton will join fellow Hollywood veteran Marisa Tomei as Aunt May in the highly anticipated feature, which is being directed by Jon Watts from a screenplay by John Francis Daley & Jonathan M. Goldstein. While casting announcements and story details have been slow to emerge, Marvel boss Kevin Feige recently reaffirmed intentions for established Marvel Cinematic Universe characters to appear in the new Spider-Man series and vice-versa -- though specifics have yet to be determined.
Captain America: Civil War will release on May 6, 2016, followed by Doctor Strange– November 4, 2016; Guardians of the Galaxy 2 – May 5, 2017; Spider-Man: Homecoming – July 7, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017; Black Panther – February 16, 2018; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 – May 4, 2018; Ant-Man and the Wasp – July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel – March 8, 2019; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 – May 3, 2019; Inhumans – July 12, 2019; and as-yet untitled Marvel movies on May 1, July 10 and November 6, 2020.