Film franchise reboots are certainly nothing new, and next summer’s The Amazing Spider-Man is sure to bring with it a certain amount of new flair to a familiar super-hero. More than just showing us a different kid in red and blue tights, this film is also an opportunity for us to see yet another (less well-known) Spidey villain: The Lizard.
Way back in July of this year io9 reported on a surprise viewing of the first Lizard clip, describing the character they saw:
…a giant beast, green with oversized arms, and a proportionally smaller head and enormous yellow eyes. He doesn’t have a crocodile head — more of a cross between a lizard and a human’s, with a flat nose, but a grotesque curled mouth.
This instantly drew criticism, and created the unanimous viewpoint that this sounded much more like a Goomba from the 1993 film Super Mario Bros. Yet another observation was that the design was much more reminiscent of the Batman villain Killer Croc.
As you can see in the image above, The Lizard has always had a more pointed snout, and looked generally more like, well, a lizard. The torn lab coat is also a trademark for the character, as well as purple pants [apparently he and The Hulk buy their clothes at the same place].
Yesterday the website spiderman.ru released concept art of the film’s Lizard, creating an uproar in internet comic circles. This is not at all what fans were expecting (even after the aforementioned description of the clip), and debates were sparked between Lizard apologists and Lizard die-hards.
I began sifting through the comments sections of blogs, as I am wont to do, and found an interesting disputation between two commenters on this article, with one commenter, Kitradu, stressing that actors wearing masks “should be able to act THROUGH their limitations, physical or mental.” He referenced Willem Defoe’s performance as the Green Goblin in the first Spider-Man movie as being captivating in spite of the helmet he wore which fully obscured his face.
His opponent, storymark, began the debate with the comment:
One of the big complaints about the Raimi movies, the first in particular, was that all the masks prevented any emoting. And very few actors would be interested in a role where their actual performance is obscured.
Personally, I think an expressionless face is boring as hell.
As far as evidence goes, I tend to side with Kitradu. He references V from V for Vendetta as well as Darth Vader in the original Star Wars films as characters that held our attention without us ever seeing their faces (save for that one scene in Return of the Jedi). Emotion is more easily portrayed through a humanoid face, but what does the design change mean as far as the abilities of the actor and our viewing abilities as an audience?
To be fair to storymark, The Lizard is a very different character from either of the examples he provided. He’s far more bestial, and, from what I remember, not particularly articulate. The motion capture that Rhys Ifans is doing may not allow him the freedom Hugo Weaving had behind the Guy Fawkes mask. Though, to refute my own point, this is something Andy Serkis had no problem doing in King Kong, or Rise of the Planet of the Apes. To counter that point, both Kong and Caesar have faces more similar to humans than reptiles.
All debate aside, it should be noted, as a potential last point for this post, that the character design for The Lizard is extremely similar to his original design by Steve Ditko. But maybe there’s a reason his look has changed in the comics we read today.