The Green Goblin’s MCU Debut: Marvel’s Mandate for Willem Dafoe’s Return in Spider-Man: No Way Home

Marvel Studios’ Green Goblin: A Descent into the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Marvel’s One Green Goblin Mandate

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MJ (Zendaya) prepares to freefall with Spider-man in Columbia Pictures’ SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME.

Marvel Studios had a specific objective in mind when it came to the Green Goblin’s MCU debut in Spider-Man: No Way Home. After nearly two decades, Willem Dafoe’s rendition of the legendary Spider-Man nemesis was brought back into the spotlight in No Way Home, all thanks to the Multiversal antics of Tom Holland’s web-slinging third installment. Dafoe’s return to the Marvel universe was a meticulously planned affair, with his character undergoing various iterations before the final version was chosen. These alternate designs included multiple distinct looks, including one in which the character donned pieces of an Iron Man suit.

Marvel Studios’ Vision for Green Goblin’s Revival

Fresh details have emerged from the Spider-Man: No Way Home: Art of the Movie artbook, shedding light on Marvel Studios’ strict requirement for the reappearance of Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin in the upcoming film. According to Marvel Studios Head of Visual Development, Ryan Meinerding, the No Way Home team worked tirelessly at taking the “heightened look [of the character] from the first film” and “making it feel like it existed in the Marvel Cinematic Universe:”

“The Green Goblin is another character that had a very iconic, heightened look from the first film. We were tasked with seeing how much of that we could keep while still making it feel like it existed in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Since a lot of the MCU is about technology, I think Adi Granov was the first one to try to add the hood. Everybody was doing such gorgeous work–Visual Development Concept Illustrator Phil Saunders did some hugely dynamic, amazing images of the Goblin on the glider about to throw pumpkins–and it was all aimed at essentially trying to ground the character a little bit more.”

Concept artist Phil Saunders added that “There were thoughts about [the villain] getting access to a lot of MCU tech” as the team tried to incorporate the original design from the Sam Raimi Spider-Man films:

“There were thoughts about him getting access to a lot of MCU tech and being able to generate a new suit for himself. And there were different ideas of what that could be.”

During the discussion, he revealed that among the various concepts that were brought up, one of them involved the integration of “the purple-and-green colors of the comic book character” into the design. To further delve into this idea, Saunders experimented with including purple elements into the Golbin armor technology, resulting in subtle yet noticeable hints of purple visible through a polyurethane layer underneath the suit.

The Marvel concept artist remembered thinking, “Let’s take the suit from the Raimi-verse and just MCU it up a bit,” resulting in the costume’s final design:

“Let’s take the suit from the Raimi-verse and just MCU it up a bit. In other words, what would that effective design be with the costume molding technology that we have today? A lot of the effort that I put into the suit was in that direction, trying to make something that, at first glance, is clearly recognizable as the Raimi suit, but just has a little bit of an upgrade to today’s standards and expectations for Super Hero costume design and fabrication.”

Was Green Goblin’s MCU Costume a Success?

After the polarizing appearance of Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin in the 2002 film Spider-Man, fans were eager to see how Marvel Studios would reimagine the iconic armor. The result was a contemporary interpretation of the classic comic book character, incorporating the signature green and purple colors. Although the outfit in No Way Home did not fully embrace the comic book aesthetic as some MCU costumes have in the past (such as Jake Gyllenhaal’s Mysterio), it did pay homage to the caped and hooded version of the character that readers have known for many years.

It is likely that Marvel Studios had no intention of taking things further than they did with the character. Creating a fully green-skinned Goblin on the big screen and convincing viewers to accept it is no easy feat (as demonstrated by Dane DeHaan’s depiction of the character in The Amazing Spider-Man 2). This is not to say that a completely disfigured Goblin will never appear in the MCU, but considering that the Marvel Comics villain played by Dafoe only wore the Green Goblin armor, it made more sense to modernize that aspect of the character.

Spider-Man: No Way Home can be purchased both digitally and physically now.

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