Roberto Orci talks SINISTER SIX, VENOM; How to make a movie about villains appealing, how to balance so many characters

7 min read

Lately it seems like everywhere you look, you’ll find a shared movie universe (hell, I think I found one as a prize in my cereal this morning) and the latest addition to that group will be The Amazing Spider-Man franchise, which will be sporting two new spinoffs focusing on some of Spidey’s biggest enemies. It’s a risky move, and to pull it off Sony has assembled quite the movie brain trust to oversee it all.

Now one member of said brain trust, Roberto Orci (Star Trek franchise, Transformers franchise, Fringe), gives an update on how they’re thinking of tackling this spidery endeavour.


Orci, who penned the upcoming The Amazing Spider-man 2 and will be co-writing The Amazing Spider-Man 3 and the still untitled Venom feature film, spoke to IGN, who were very interested – as am I – about just how they were looking to sell a villain-centric movie to audiences. Do you make them completely evil, or perhaps villains that somehow end up doing a little good?

“That’s the discussion we’re having right now; how exactly do you do that, and how do you do it without betraying the audience and making them all mean? Drew Goddard (Cabin in the Woods, Iron Man 3, Cloverfield) is going to be writing that one, so it’s kind of his problem. [Laughs] I’m kidding. We’re all working on each other’s stuff. So we want to be true to it, but there are some antiheroes in this day and age. There’s been examples of that even on TV — Vic Mackey on The Shield, one of the great antiheroes of all time. There are ways to milk that story. Audiences have seen everything. They’ve seen all the good guys who never do anything wrong. Is there a story in seeing the other side? That’s the challenge, and that’s the fun. I’m not sure how we’re going to do that yet.

With anti-heroes like the aforementioned Vic Mackey, and Walter White of Breaking Bad fame drawing in TV audiences by the millions, this may be the perfect time to sell a villainous movie concept to audiences. But in the case of Venom, which of his hosts would you go for, the more irredeemable Eddie Brock (played by Topher Grace in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3) or do you go with a character like Flash Thompson, the war hero star of the current Venom comic book, who uses Venom’s deadly abilities for far more idealistic goals?

“I think [audiences are] ready to have things shaken up. I think we’ve all seen everything. You’ve seen everything. You can probably predict the ending of most things even better than a general audience, but a general audience is still pretty good at it. They can see it all coming. So we have to shake it up. You can’t just keep telling the same stories every day.”

One aspect of the upcoming The Amazing Spider-Man 2 that has some fans worried is just how full of villains it appears to be, as too many bad guys was one of the biggest problems with Spider-Man 3. But with the shared universe announcement, their presence starts to make a bit more sense, as while Jamie Foxx’s Electro is the main antagonist, all the others are there to build up the landscape of this world. And based on the trailers we’ve seen, Norman Osborne’s Oscorp stands right at the centre of this world.

“Yeah. Oscorp plays an important part in how our villains get created, obviously, in the first one. So because Peter becoming Spider-Man came out of that, rather than saying, “And then this alien came from space,” or whatever, they’re doing human-hybrid, weird stuff at Oscorp. That’s where Gwen Stacy works anyway as well. So the idea of it representing the good and the bad of science, that it can do great things, but it can also mess you up and do weird things and transform people — as all science can be used for good or bad. So it’s nice to have that organizing principal, but it wasn’t like, “We must keep it at Oscorp.” It flowed naturally from the story development.”

“The way we [maintain focus on our characters] is to make sure that their presence is based on a character thing that is necessary for the theme of the movie. You can’t just throw somebody in there to show up and make it harder on Spider-Man. The stories that we have for these guys, they’re tragic villains, you’re going to find out, a little bit. It’s not as simple as “Evil dude shows up.” Jamie Foxx has some very touching scenes. As long as I can describe their stories and character terms, then I feel like it’s okay. If you can’t, then you know you’re having them crash-land out of nowhere, and what’s that about?”


One of the intriguing aspects of this plan is obviously the brain trust, which  – as you may have noticed –  has all the members contributing to each other’s projects. Some may think that this is a ballsy, revolutionary approach, but Orci disagrees.

“No it [isn’t], actually. It feels very familiar, because [writing partner Alex Kurtzman] and I started in television. In television, you get a great team of writers together, a writing staff, and you’re working on five episodes at once. You’re prepping one, you’re shooting one, you’re writing one, you’re posting one, and you’re trying to make sure they’re consistent over 13 or 22 episodes. That’s how we learned how to do things. So it’s funny in the movie business, and you have different things being done by different teams and they’re not all communicating with each other. So when we talked about our interest in all this stuff, we said, “Well, the way would want to do it is kind of go to a TV model,” and then the distinction between the quality of TV and film has gone away. They’re both equally viable, awesome storytelling formats. So the idea of, let’s get a core group of writers and producers and directors — and even though I might not be the one writing Venom, I’ll be in the meetings talking about how to make it interesting. We could be putting in easter eggs and planning ahead in the previous movies, and then that guy over there is going to write that movie, and Ed Solomon’s gonna write another one with us. So having a committee, a board, of people who are creative, who are filmmakers, who just keep it all together, that’s kind of going back to the way we started.”

Before this big announcement, Sony had already slated a fourth Amazing Spider-Man movie as well, despite the fact that it’s been said that these movies are supposed to a trilogy. This led some – including myself – to believe that the placeholder for The Amazing Spider-Man 4, may actually be taken over by the Venom movie. But according to Orci, that’s not the case.

“There were three superheroes I loved when I was a kid: Superman, Wonder Woman and Spider-Man. I think it’s such a popular character, and when I see my friend’s kids, I remember why somehow, it sinks into kid’s brains. So no, I think with Spider-Man 4, the intention is for it to be “Spider-Man.””

You can check out the full interview, in which Orci also describes the ultimate geek fantasy of the Enterprise from Star Trek being a Transformer that actually becomes Voltron.

Last Updated: January 17, 2014

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