The MCU is determined to make the lamest Spidey villains totally rad.
Comic books are silly stuff. A teenager is bitten by a radioactive spider, and after a brief stint of selfish pursuit, the kid vows vengeance against the underworld that stole his uncle’s life. He dons a blue and red leotard, swings between the skyscrapers of New York City, and captures the criminals too bizarre for the police to even understand let alone arrest.
The Spider-Man rogue’s gallery is weirder than most. Hollywood has struggled awkwardly to adapt oddities like Sandman, The Lizard, Electro, and the Rhino. Trying to contemporize concepts born from the quickie brainstorms of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko in the early 1960s is a thankless task.
That being said, when Peter Parker returned to the Marvel Cinematic Universe for Spider-Man: Homecoming, Kevin Feige, and Jon Watts revealed a serious threat from the dopiest of Spidey foes. Michael Keaton’s The Vulture ranks as one of the finest MCU villains.
Now, it appears that the MCU miracle machine is attempting to follow up their nefarious success with an even sillier bad guy. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Jake Gyllenhaal is in talks to pester Peter Parker as the fishbowl helmeted baddie, Mysterio. Wow. To make that creepoid work is a definite challenge.
Quentin Beck first appeared in “The Amazing Spider-Man” #13 in 1963. He is a disgruntled special effects technician and stunt person who turned to a life of crime after failing in Hollywood. He uses his wizardry of movie magic to perpetuate petty theft and bank robberies. Oh, and he does all this while wearing a checkered skintight body stocking, a purple cape, and an enormous opaque goldfish bowl covering his noggin. Marvel doesn’t make them much goofier than Mysterio.
There have been several attempts in the comic books to raise his street cred. In the Ultimate Universe (an alternate dimension in which Marvel attempted to modernize their classic comics for an ultra-hip aughts crowd), Beck uses a robotic avatar of himself to gain power over the Kingpin. Having already failed numerous instances in his timeline to make a name for himself, Beck figured he’d have better luck in a younger universe. Wrong.
Perhaps the most dramatically successful take on the character occurred while filmmaker Kevin Smith was given free rein over the Daredevil comics. In the hands of the Mallrats director, an ailing Beck decided that since he was unable to defeat Spider-Man, he would focus his diabolical skills against the devil of Hell’s Kitchen. Once again, Mysterio comes up short. Smith concludes Beck’s story in the most pathetic way possible. Mysterio forever doomed to a life of “No Respect.”
I am very curious to see what version of Jake Gyllenhaal we’ll see in the Spider-Man sequel. Are we going to get the terrifying intensity of Nightcrawler or Southpaw? Is the MCU looking to toughen up ol’ fishbowl a la The Vulture? Or are we going to get the icky Gyllenhaal from Okja? We’ll see Mysterio as a creepy, uncomfortable menace in need of psychological help rather than the usual jail cell.
Gyllenhaal almost made it under Spider-Man’s mask back in 2004. When Tobey Maguire injured his back on Seabiscuit, director Sam Raimi briefly toyed with the idea of Gyllenhaal going up against Doctor Octopus. Thankfully that never happened. Whatever version of the actor we get, there is no doubt that he’ll remake Mysterio into a memorable nemesis. The real question is will we get that fishbowl or not? Dammit, we better.