The new, still-untitled Spider-Man movie continues to take shape with the recent news that Welsh actor Rhys Ifans will portray the film's villain. Of course, the big question immediately becomes which villain?
Presuming that director Marc Webb doesn't go back to the well and recycle a villain that has already appeared in the previous three Sam Raimi films, there are any number of potential bad guys remaining -- Electro, Mysterio, The Lizard, Kraven the Hunter, The Vulture, The Chameleon, Morbius, The Scorpion, Carnage, Morlun, The Shocker, The Rhino, The Jackal and so on. However, with Webb expressing his fondness for Brian Michael Bendis' Ultimate Spider-Man series, in addition to the decision to recast the roles of Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy with Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, respectively, it certainly seems like some sort of reboot is being planned.
The casting of Emma Stone, in particular, gives the impression that Webb will be using the Ultimate universe version of Gwen Stacy. Ultimate Gwen is considerably edgier than the traditional Gwen, more rebellious and strong-willed, making her the type of character that Stone has depicted before in films like Superbad, Zombieland and Easy A. Considering that the previous three films established Mary Jane Watson as Peter's primary love interest, though, this leads me to think there has to be a deliberate reason for using Gwen over MJ. So, fellow comics fans, what is Gwen Stacy primarily known for in the Spider-Man books? You guessed it...Dying.
In the pages of Amazing Spider-Man #121, The Green Goblin kidnaps Gwen as herobait to lure Spider-Man into a showdown at the George Washington Bridge. The predictable fight ensues and the Goblin hurls Gwen off the bridge, but Gwen is killed during the fall when Spidey attempts to rescue her by snagging her with a web strand and the whiplash effect snaps her neck. Spider-Man, of course, cries over Gwen's corpse and swears revenge as the Goblin escapes. In the next issue, Spider-Man tracks the Goblin down in a warehouse, beats the crap out of him but ultimately isn't able to kill him. Instead, the Goblin tries to kill Spider-Man by impaling him from behind with the Goblin's glider, but Spidey senses the glider and the Goblin ends up impaling himself and dies (at least for a good while).
But wait...Didn't we already see that impaling scene in the first Spider-Man movie? We did, but Gwen wasn't in the first film, was she? Mary Jane was and she didn't even have the courtesy to die. So if Webb and company are using Gwen and they decide to go the whole Gwen dies/Spidey gets revenge route in the new film, what major Spider-Man villain can they use in the Green Goblin's place? All together now...
Although first appearing years earlier as a billionaire with underworld connections by the name of Roderick Kingsley, The Hobgoblin officially debuted in Amazing Spider-Man #238 and the character's true identity became a major mystery within the Marvel universe for thirteen years. The character is essentially an upgraded Green Goblin, in terms of devices and strength, who learned of one of the Green Goblin's secret lairs and uncovered Norman Osborn's secrets and technology. Since the non-comics reading Spider-Man moviegoer is already familiar with the Green Goblin, introducing the Hobgoblin at this stage would require minimal backstory and still provide a similar enough character to the original Goblin in order to tell a version of "The Death of Gwen Stacy" story from the comics.
Granted, if the new movie is intended to essentially reboot the film series, Ifans could simply be cast as the original Green Goblin, taking over from Willem Dafoe, but even the Batman films had at least nineteen years between Jokers. Dafoe's Green Goblin, Power Rangers villain mask and all, is still too fresh in everyone's minds so while it may be easy to recast the roles of Peter and Gwen, I have to think that the Hobgoblin would be a more sensible choice.