The Master of illusion! The Menacing Mysterio! Ol’ Fishbowl! Over the years, Spider-Man villain Mysterio has gone by many names and identities – but could he now have turned hero?
That’s the question seemingly posed by new Spidey film Far From Home, which has unveiled a new version of the bubble-headed wackjob (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) who appears to be an out-and-out good-un.
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But is this all a clever trick from a new Mysterio? Has director Jon Watts gone in a new direction for a reason we can’t yet foresee? And what makes Gyllenhaal’s version of Mysterio so different anyway?
Until the film’s release we’ll have to look into our own metaphorical crystal ball…helmet…and make an educated guess – though the character’s comic-book history could give us a few clues.
Mysterio in the Spider-Man comics
Mysterio, aka Quentin Beck, first appears in the Amazing Spider-Man 13 in June 1964, where he appeared to effortlessly defeat Spider-Man with an array of incredible powers, including a blinding mist and the ability to block Spidey’s webbing with a gesture.
A movie stuntman by trade who decided his job in special effects was a dead-end and was unable to make it as an actor, Beck had instead realised that his knowledge of costumes, physical enhancements and illusions could make him an effective criminal.
And so it seemed at first – but when Spider-Man realised how to negate Beck’s abilities (which were all mostly smoke and mirrors) Mysterio swore vengeance, and continued to plague the web-swinger over the coming years.
In one memorable battle he tried to convince Spider-Man that he’d shrunk him to six inches tall using the power of post-hypnotic suggestion, and in another he disguised himself as a world-renowned psychiatrist to use hypnosis and technology to try and drive Peter Parker mad. He also regularly teamed up with other villains including Doctor Octopus and the Vulture for groups like the Sinister Six, but no matter what he did he was always beaten and arrested.
Later, a terminally ill Mysterio tried and failed to send Daredevil mad, and ended up killing himself in despair when the plot failed. A couple of wannabe successors – Daniel Berkhart and Francis Klum – popped up at various points before, in true comic-book fashion, Quentin Beck returned from the dead in mysterious circumstances.
Over the years Beck’s techniques have developed, adding hallucinogenic drugs, 3D holographic illusions and other weaponry to his arsenal alongside his own stuntman training, spring-loaded boots and “mist-cloak,” all used to try and disorientate and confuse his foes.
All of which is to say, even as supervillains go he’s pretty tricksy and untrustworthy. Which is why we’re far from convinced about what we’re seeing of him in Far From Home…
Mysterio in Spider-Man: Far From Home
While Quentin Beck was never quite as hunky under the helmet as Jake Gyllenhaal, generally speaking the version of Mysterio we see in the Far From Home trailer is pretty close to how he looks in the comics, right down to that iconic fishbowl head.
The character though, couldn’t be more different. Claiming to hail from another universe, Mysterio first appears in the trailer showing off impressive super-powers (including flight and what looks like magic-based energy projection) as he bravely fights off a monster made of water.
In other clips Beck is shown working with SHIELD boss Nicky Fury (Samuel L Jackson), mentoring Peter with advice about superheroism and generally being a stand-up, A-OK guy.
“Mysterio is a hero in our world,” director Jon Watts told Nerdist, while Tom Holland added: “Mysterio is always sort of sticking up for me and patting me on the back and telling me I did a good job.”
Are we buying this for even an instant? Well, no. If you wanted another mentor for Spider-Man, why use one of his most famous villains? If you’re looking for a trustworthy, stand-up sort of hero, why put him in the skin of a character whose ONE THING is being incredibly deceitful and manipulative?
For our money, just like in his original comic-book appearance Mysterio will turn out to be a fraud, a man not ACTUALLY from another dimension (that could open up a can of worms) but who is using his special effects background to set up big, showy fights he can win.
In other words, he’d be like Syndrome from the Incredibles, trying to LOOK like a hero without actually being one – and given the original Mysterio’s tendency to create robot duplicates, we wouldn’t even be surprised if it’s not the real Nick Fury he’s working with (which would also nod to a fun trope in the comics where Nick Fury would often turn out to be an advanced Life Model Decoy, or LMD, while the real super-spy was off on a secret mission).
And Far From Home’s executive producer Eric Carroll may have nodded to this plot twist, already preparing fans for the big Mysterio reveal.
“We wanted to find our in, and similar with what we did with Mordo in Doctor Strange, we wanted to give them time to have a relationship, so that when we get to do something different with Mysterio, it really feels like a betrayal,” Caroll said.
Mordo, in case you’ve forgotten, was a fellow sorcerer and ally of Strange played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, who turns to a darker side of magic in one of Doctor Strange’s post-credits scenes. So is Mysterio another nice-guy-gone-bad?
Is this the worst twist in movie history?
If Far From Home’s big “pull-the-rug” moment (as hinted by Tom Holland in an interview, at least one big twist is coming), is that a famous villain, who’s always been a villain, turns out to be the villain, we can’t help but feel slightly underwhelmed.
Which is why we’re hoping that there’s slightly more to Mysterio strangeness than meets the (weird, shoulder-width) eye. Maybe, as Carroll hints, Mysterio will only turn to evil based on some event in the film. Maybe he’s not the “real” Mysterio, who will be revealed later in the film, with the version we’ve seen instead some sort of well-meaning robotic Gyllen-doll. Or maybe the great twist is that Mysterio IS just nice now, and we all need to learn to be more trusting.
Whatever the truth, it’s a pretty tangled web we’re keen to push through. Roll on July!
Spider-Man: Far From Home is released in cinemas on the 2nd July