Where were the villains in Amazing Spiderman 2? There were a whole range of supposed antagonists running around the screen, monstrous supervillains, common crooks, shady corporate big-wigs, mad scientists, all of them. No really, all of them. This film had more apparent bad-guys than it knew what to do with. Which makes it kind of a mystery why the movie spends so much screen time on its least villainous supposed villains.
Officially Electro is the first “villain” introduced in Spiderman 2. Right from the off, the socially awkward and desperately lonely Max Dillon is pitiable more than alarming. The visual of his introduction as an actual super-villain, an injured and confused black man being surrounded and shot at by the police while he begged for mercy was frankly disturbing, especially in light of the recent news out of Ferguson. While he is visually impressive, and his electrical powers certainly have the capacity to do a lot of damage, its important to note that Electro didn’t do anything aggressive, let alone villainous, until after a police sniper tried to shoot him in the head. Seeing Electro go from that, to being tortured in Ravencroft Asylum, largely in the pursuit of retrieving the rights to the power-plant he designed made viewing him as a legitimate target exceedingly difficult.
Similarly, even though I think we were ultimately supposed to view Harry Osborn as spoilt and demanding when he asked for Spider-man’s blood, but he just seemed like a scared, dying kid, begging for help. The first half of Osborn’s plot, the young billionaire who inherits a corrupt corporation which he has to try to correct, is essentially the same as Tony Stark’s, and its totally unclear how he goes from that, to suddenly murdering Gwen Stacy, apparently for no reason. The entire emotional climax of the movie, Gwen’s death, rests on Harry Osborn’s apparently random behaviour. And his hatred of Spider-man, which is more narratively consistent, seems frankly justified, given that Spider-man more or less just told him to his face that he was planning on leaving him to die.
And on the subject of Spider-man, why is he such a self-righteous asshole. Apparently with great power comes great responsibility for other controlling people’s lives. He spends a majority of the movie refusing a real relationship with Gwen because he promised her father he wouldn’t expose her to the risks associated with Spider-man, but refuses to actually leave her, and follows her around instead. Which isn’t appropriate, and is, in fact, stalking. Peter doesn’t get to determine what level of risk Gwen is comfortable with, Gwen does. If Peter can’t personally cope with having a relationship while being Spider-man, then its his responsibility to break up with her and actually leave her alone. If he does want a relationship, then he has to let Gwen make Gwen’s decisions. And then he does it again to Harry Osborn. Peter’s concern that Harry injecting himself with his blood might be a terrible idea isn’t entirely unjustified but its up to Harry to determine what level of risk he’s comfortable with, not Peter. And Peter won’t even explain his concerns or the risks fully. And the combination makes Harry’s feelings about Spider-man seem pretty justified. Especially since the audience (although not Harry) knows that shortly after rejecting Harry’s request, he discovers that the spider-serum only works for him because it was based on his father’s DNA, and gets access to a lot of his father’s research, making it entirely plausible that even if he doesn’t have a working serum, he could get one, or make one. He’s a genius and so is Gwen, who is applying to study that exact field, for heaven’s sake. But of course, that would involve allowing Gwen to decide whether to be involved and allowing Harry to decide how much risk to take with his own body.
So even though Harry Osborn and Max Dillon represent the supposed primary antagonists, neither of them are particularly villainous. As mentioned, Harry Osborn’s story of a young industrialist discovering that his company is corrupt and must be stopped is already a superhero’s back-story. The story of a brilliant but socially inept science geek who gets super-powers after an accident is actually Spider-man’s story. The primary difference between Max Dillon and Peter Parker (who had his own run-ins with law enforcement in The Amazing Spiderman) seems to be structural racism. Both of these characters, who could conceivably have been given super hero movies of their own, are cast as villains, largely because they have the misfortune to have earned Spider-man’s disapproval. The real serious villains who deliberately do actual bad things, Oscorp’s board of directors and their associated lackeys barely feature, they are discovered by Harry early in the film and are then completely overlooked until they show up right at the end of the film directing the Rhino. Peter Parker never sees them, and they seemingly exist entirely as a sequel hook. Not to mention that Peter, with his persistent stalking of Gwen, and his spider-serum hoarding, is making a pretty good case for antagonist status himself.
So, with that is mind, here is my revised plot for Amazing Spiderman 2. When Harry Osborn discovers that his board is corrupt with the help of the deeply under-rated Felicia, who was in desperate need of more screen time. When they try to frame him for their unethical experiments he rescues Electro, a brilliant engineer who has developed electrical powers after an accident, steals back Dr. Parker’s regenerative spider serum and escapes. Meanwhile Peter Parker has discovered his father’s old research and has discovered why the spider-serum will only work on him. So he returns to Harry Osborn, and apologizes and offers to help him, because that’s what actual heroes do. Then he goes and apologizes to Gwen who agrees to help develop a serum for Harry along with Peter and Max, because that’s what non-jerks do. Then they all have to take on Oscorp while Max learns to control his powers and Harry has to deal with the side effects of his illness and the treatment, while Gwen, Felicia and Aunt May provide technical support and pass the Bechdel test.
I mean, for heaven’s sake, it can’t make any less sense than what we got.