Spider-Man Villains: From Green Goblin to Vulture, The Secrets Behind Their Creation

3:19 PM 7/7/2017

by Carolyn Giardina

THR looks at how the VFX teams transformed actors like Willem Dafoe and Michael Keaton into Spidey's foes.

Spider-Man Villains - Photofest - H 2017

Visual effects have played a huge role in the Spider-Man franchise, from helping Spidey swing through the canyons of New York, to creating unforgettable villains. That's included the birth of Green Goblin, Doc Ock, and most recently, Michael Keaton’s Vulture in Spider-Man: Homecoming. While multiple VFX houses worked on Homecoming, Sony Pictures Imageworks has been the lead VFX house on each film in live action franchise. 

Here's a look at the creation of the villains.

  • Green Goblin

    The Green Goblin, played by Willem Dafoe, required a fully CG double for the action scenes. Recalled animation supervisor Spencer Cook in a 2012 interview with The Hollywood Reporter: "There had been digital doubles before Spider-Man, but it was still a horrendously difficult thing to do. From an animation standpoint, we wanted the motion to be dynamic and tempered with realism."

  • Doc Ock

    In Spider-Man 2, which won an Oscar for visual effects, the villain is Doc Ock played by Alfred Molina. His multiple CG arms  had to appear to be controlled by Doc Ock but still have their own autonomy. The fact that Doc Ock didn't wear a mask made creating his digital double all the more difficult for the Imageworks team.

  • Sandman

    The "Birth of Sandman" sequence showed anguish etched into a face made from hundreds of millions of particles. To do that, the effects animation team developed a particle system and integrated the motion of the sand into the performance.

  • Venom

    Imageworks artists approached Venom (played by Topher Grace) as a savage predator whose behavior mirrored stalking animals like the cheetah. The team also worked to portray the inky black goo that brings Venom to life as a character all its own, as if it were alive and thinking.

  • Lizard

    The Amazing Spider-Man filmmakers enlisted Rhys Ifans to play The Lizard. "We wrote a lot of custom software to make sure beneath his loose reptilian skin, there is powerful muscle. When he moves, you feel the dynamics," said Imageworks' senior VFX supervisor Jerome Chen -- who was VFX supervisor on the film -- in a 2012 interview with THR"We translated the expressions on Rhys' face onto The Lizard so you can connect with the character."

  • Electro

    Chen returned as VFX supervisor in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, during which he had to transform Jamie Foxx into Electro. “We wanted it to start from Jaime. If we stick to reality as much as we can, we get a more convincing performance," Chen said in a 2014 interview with THR. The process began by photographing Foxx in makeup, created by KNB EFX. Then in the computer, “we created probably 20 different layers of lightning and utility passes to help the compositor create the sense of energy inside his skin. We were inspired by lightning going off on a storm front. We wanted the feeling that there’s a storm inside his flesh."

  • Vulture

    Michael Keaton joined the franchise as Adrian Toomes/Vulture, who had to fly around in an armored suit with a wing span up to 32 feet. For the CG version, the VFX team had some subtle requirements, such as giving the suit the feeling of weight from the armor, but still giving the character proper movement.