With filming underway right now on Sony and Marvel’s third MCU Spider-Man movie, casting news was due to start breaking any time, and today brought a doozy: Alfred Molina, whose Doctor Octopus in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 is widely regarded as the best Spidey villain ever put on film, is returning for the yet-untitled MCU Spider-Man 3.
As Molina’s return comes on the heels of the announcement that Jamie Foxx is returning as Electro from The Amazing Spider-Man 2, there has been a substantial increase in speculation as to what the still-untitled Spider-Man 3 is doing. The answer, it seems, is assembling a multiversal Sinister Six.
Strangely enough, the Queens-based friendly neighborhood Spider-Man has somehow become pop culture’s entry point for the superhero conception of the Many Worlds Theory. In the comics and in the best Spider-Man movie (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse), Peter Parker has become a character who frequently teams up with alternate Earth versions of himself for weird, high sci-fi action.
And yet, somehow, his villains have rarely followed suit. The best rogues gallery in comics typically sticks to their lane, even when they team up as the Sinister Six. Ultimate Green Goblin has formed a gang of Spidey’s top villains from the Ultimate universe, while the 616 has multiple incarnations of the villain team, and each cartoon has its own, and so on.
Sony has long had plans in the works for a Sinister Six movie, with the franchise destroying Amazing Spider-Man 2 serving as little more than an extended commercial for a villain team-up movie that would never come to pass. With Marvel and Sony partnering to create new (and wildly successful) Spider-Man movies, their approach thus far has been to avoid villains who already had turns in live action, whether through Sam Raimi’s trilogy or the maligned Amazing films. It’s an approach that has made household names out of baddies like Vulture and Mysterio, but hasn’t come close to allowing Sony to scratch their Sinister Six movie itch.
Sony’s solution to this looks like plucking villains from each discrete film universe.
Molina returns as Doctor Octopus from the Raimi films. He is so far the only live-action Doctor Octopus, but he’s also widely regarded as one of the greatest comic book movie villains of all time. He is, as of now, the only returning cast member from the Raimi films announced (Toby Maguire has been rumored, and honestly seems likely at this point, but nothing is set in stone). Doc Ock is also probably the only required member of the Sinister Six: he is the founder of the original comics version, and in the main Marvel comics universe, he is nearly its most frequent member through more than a dozen incarnations.
In fact, the only person to appear on more Sinister Sixes than Doc Ock is Electro. Jamie Foxx joins this movie from the Marc Webb films. Foxx’s performance was…much worse…than Molina’s, but he’s a capable actor, so who knows if he’ll do better here. Electro is one of Spidey’s best villains because of how he reflects the hero back on himself: Max Dillon was a regular guy, a lineworker for the power company who got powers from a freak electrical storm, and turned to crime after.
The other most common members of the Sinister Six have also all appeared on film and spread through the various franchises (with one notable exception). Sinister Sixes usually feature Mysterio, Vulture, and Sandman as part of the lineup. Mysterio and Vulture have both been featured villains in the MCU Spidey films (played by Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Keaton, respectively), and Sandman was played by Thomas Hayden Church in Raimi’s third Spidey installment. Were this Spider-Man 3 to really go for it, it could easily bring those three villains back.
The sixth slot in the original lineup was held by Kraven the Hunter (subject of the greatest Spider-Man comic story ever told, “Kraven’s Last Hunt” – go read it). He’s also the only one yet to appear on film, but he does have a spinoff supposedly lined up from Sony, one that may take place in the same universe as Venom and Morbius. However, it seems unlikely that they would introduce a top-tier Spidey villain as part of this ensemble cast (knock on wood, since that’s exactly what they did in The Amazing Spider-Man 2). It’s far more likely that Tom Hardy or Jared Leto would join the team from their movies, just to add some more star power to the show.
Of course, the great unknown is also how the flick that introduced the world to the Spider-Man multiverse, Into the Spider-Verse, would be integrated. In that movie, Wilson Fisk was the inciter, trying to rip down the walls of the multiverse so he could see his wife and kid again. It feels like a leap to think that Liev Schriber would take over the live action performance in this movie of the character he voiced in Spider-Verse, but we’re also talking about a movie that’s uniting Molina and Foxx with the MCU. Who knows?
Spider-Man 3 opens on Nov. 5, 2021.