This article comes from Den of Geek UK.
This article contains spoilers for Spider-Man: Homecoming and Avengers: Infinity War.
He may have only had one solo movie so far, but Tom Holland’s Spider-Man has already fought a lot of people. For his debut appearance in Captain America: Civil War, he battled a fair amount of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, including Chris Evans’ Captain America, Sebastian Stan’s Bucky and Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man. In Spider-Man: Homecoming, he mainly fought Michael Keaton’s Vulture, but also found the time to go toe-to-toe with two versions of the Shocker. And in Avengers: Infinity War earlier this year, he tussled with Josh Brolin’s Thanos and the Black Order.
Between these Marvel Cinematic Universe appearances and the two Spider-Man film franchises that came before, we’ve seen the wall-crawler battle a lot of different villains. So, for next summer’s as-yet-untitled sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming, director Jon Watts will want to find a villain that threatens and challenges Spidey in ways that we haven’t already seen.
Thankfully, it looks like Watts and his cohorts have found a villain that could just be all of that and more: the frontrunner to be the main menace in Homecoming’s sequel, is the classic early Spider-Man villain, Mysterio. Here are some reasons why we think Mysterio could be a fantastic foe for ol’ web-head…
He’s never been done before
One of the most exciting things about Mysterio manifesting in the Spidey film franchise is that we’ve never seen him on the big screen before. Despite being one of Spidey’s oldest adversaries in the comics (he was created by Stan Lee and Steve Dikto back in the ’60s), and having appeared in cartoons and video games, he’s never before appeared in a movie.
This is somewhat surprising when you think about it, due to the fact that Mysterio’s origin story is intrinsically linked to movie magic: in the comics, his civilian identity is Quentin Beck, a special effects technician in the entertainment industry. Beck decides to use his skills with visual effects and showmanship to commit crimes, and when Spidey tries to stop him, Mysterio creates illusions just to terrorize the wall-crawler.
This is a skillset unlike any other that we’ve seen Spidey go up against in a solo movie. His villains usually rely on brute strength, from special powers that were gained from a science experiment gone awry or some snazzy tech fallen into the wrong hands. And although he technically battled Thanos during Infinity War, we never really saw Spidey struggling against the reality-bending abilities of the Infinity Stones. Battling Mysterio will be a whole new ball game for Spidey.
He represents something different from The Vulture
Jaws dropped to floors in cinemas the world over when Peter went to pick up Liz for the Homecoming dance, only for the door to be answered by her father: Adrian Toomes, aka the Vulture, played with skin-crawling sinister-ness by the mighty Michael Keaton. The kitchen and car conversations that followed set the stage marvellously for the third-act showdown between Spidey and Vulture, raising enormous emotional stakes for the film’s final fights.
Homecoming’s sequel really can’t repeat this trick. Having Tom Holland go up against another girl in his class’ dad simply wouldn’t work in the same way, and arguably, introducing another villain who scraps their super suit together from the detritus of superhero battles would be uninspired as well. This is another reason why Mysterio fits the bill perfectly – his origin story, assuming they stick somewhere near the source material, is utterly unique among super villains.
Working in the film and TV industry is something that a lot of young people fantasize about, and it seems like a safe bet that Peter Parker is one of them. After all, this is the kid who made ‘A Film By Peter Parker’ during Civil War, and who constantly references ‘really old’ movies to get out of tight spots. You can imagine that Peter would be initially excited to fight a movie industry baddie, until he sees what Mysterio is capable of doing.
Gyllenhaal does greasy creep better than anyone
If you’re wondering how well Gyllenhaal will fare in the role of an entertainment industry professional who pushes himself into dark places, you might want to check out Nightcrawler. Therein, he played a greasy creep who fought his way to the top using loose morals and a fair bit of blackmail. His performance in the film was slimy and silly at the same time, raising laughs as well as making you uncomfortable.
What if Gyllenhaal’s Quentin Beck had a similar manic energy, with his creepiness causing him to get sacked from his special effects job? A mental break could follow, and it’s easy to imagine Gyllenhaal handling the transition from creepy geek to outright public menace in a real strong way.
Additionally, long-term Spider-Man film fans will know that Gyllenhaal has a connection to this franchise that goes back years: when Tobey Maguire injured his back on the set of Seabiscuit, Gyllenhall was listed as a potential replacement in the Spidey suit for Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2. Maguire recovered in time, though, and a gag about his bad back was written into the film. But now, two reboots later, it would make me happy on a very geeky level to finally see Gyllenhaal in a Spider-Man film. He could bring the creepy factor in a big way, and hopefully he could build a stellar chemistry with Tom Holland.
The action possibilities are endless
With regards to action scenes, the possibilities with Mysterio are basically bottomless. Using his visual trickery, he can summon anything you can think of to taunt and frighten Spider-Man. In the comics, he loves conjuring lifelike projections of giant monsters, famous villains, and anything else that might give Spidey the willies.
Leaning into this side of the character would allow Spider-Man: Homecoming’s sequel to enter new visual territory. The first film in this new Spider-Man solo series had a few strong action set pieces (the Washington Monument sequence was a particular highlight), but Mysterio’s abilities would allow Spidey to shine on a whole new visual plane.
Just as Ant-Man dazzled us with the Quantum Realm and Doctor Strange blew our minds with all of its trippy dimensions, Spider-Man: Homecoming 2 could open up a whole new visual sandbox by allowing Mysterio to wreak havoc in an artificial realm of his own creation. Spidey’s quips wouldn’t do much good in this environment, so he would have to use his smarts to fight his way out.
We’ve seen Spider-Man saving civilians, stopping trains, punching aliens, battling between buildings, climbing up monuments and holding a ferry together with nothing but webbing and enhanced biceps, but we’ve never seen him face anything like Mysterio’s amazing and terrifying illusions.
His illusions can prey on Peter’s guilt and fears
As well as enabling exciting action sequences on an unprecedented level for Tom Holland’s Spidey, Mysterio’s illusions can also be used to throw Peter Parker’s worst fears and biggest regrets right back in his face. There is, after all, plenty of material for Mysterio to draw on if he wishes to emotionally abuse his arachnid-adversary.
The thought of his loved ones (including Marisa Tomei’s Aunt May and all of his chums from school) being endangered and/or killed is exactly the kind of thing that would keep Peter up at night, and Mysterio can create an illusion to show him exactly that. Likewise, if he wants to dredge up the biggest regret from Peter’s past, Mysterio could create a lifelike projection of Uncle Ben, who we’ve yet to see in this universe. Seeing his ‘friendly neighborhood’ destroyed would also mess with Peter’s mind. (Of course, a lot of these ideas hinge on Mysterio working out Spider-Man’s secret identity, which isn’t exactly a sure thing.)
Given the fact that Spider-Man: Homecoming 2 will swing into cinemas just a few months after Avengers 4, it also seems safe to assume that Peter will be carrying some emotional baggage with him from that movie. If one fan theory comes true and Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man ends up sacrificing his life to bring back Spidey and the other dead Avengers, we could be looking at a Peter who carries the weight of his super-mentor’s death upon his shoulders. If Mysterio threw an illusion about Iron Man at a Peter that was mourning Mr. Stark, there probably wouldn’t be a dry eye in the house.
Mysterio has been known to go to some very dark places with his illusions. In the Old Man Logan comics, it was revealed that Mysterio used an illusion to trick Wolverine into killing all the other X-Men: from Wolvie’s point of view, he thought the X-Mansion was being invaded by villains; in reality, he was butchering his best friends. So yeah, Mysterio may seem silly on the surface, but he could push the cinematic Spidey into some really dark places.
The costume will be… a challenge
The only aspect of Mysterio’s inclusion in Spider-Man: Homecoming 2 that doesn’t fill me with enthusiasm is the prospect of his costume – goldfish bowl head and all – being adapted into the cinematic medium. Even in the comics he looks ridiculous, so how will the film’s costume department manage to make him look menacing?
Thankfully, the cinematic rendering of the Vulture’s costume in Homecoming was something really special: it kept elements of the source material (such as the fur collar), but updated everything else to look modern, frightening and just feasible enough to keep us engaged in the story at play. Mysterio, hopefully, will get a similar treatment.
Attempts have been made in other media, over the years, to make Mysterio look a bit less lame. In the Shattered Dimensions videogame, for example, the goldfish bowl was incorporated into a cloak to hide the ridiculous image of a man with a glass sphere for a head. Perhaps a similar look could work for the movie version of Mysterio. Again, something like this could be used to pay homage to the comics without completely copying them.
As long as the costume comes together in a fashion that looks suitably sinister, Mysterio has the potential to be one of the best Spider-Man villains to date. With his hyper-realistic illusions, he could be the perfect tormenter for a Spidey who’s just come through the ringer of back-to-back Avengers movies. And if Jake Gyllenhaal does end up taking the role, you just know he’ll deliver a skin-crawling performance to rival all the Spidey villains who’ve come before.