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Chillicothe News - Chillicothe, MO
  • How ‘Spider-Man 2’ goes wrong with Gwen Stacy (SPOILERS!)

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  • Warning: Do not read unless you’ve seen “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.”
    I saw “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” with my 12-year-old and a bunch of other families this weekend, and the reaction of one of the other fathers seemed to capture the consensus of this particular group of viewers:
    “Good movie -- but [SPOILER ALERT!] I don’t know why they had to kill that girl!” (He didn’t actually say “SPOILER ALERT,” but it was implied.)
    Of course, those of us who grew up reading “The Amazing Spider-Man” in the 1970s know exactly why Gwen Stacy died -- because that was her fate in the comic books (issue 121, natch, true believers), so it Must Be So. It even happens almost just like in the comics, at the end of a too-little-too-late strand of webbing that doesn’t quite do the trick.
    It was the right decision for the comics, since frankly they’d run out of Gwen-in-peril plotlines at that point and something had to give. But I’d argue it was the completely wrong move for the movies, and here’s why:
    1) If I’m recalling my comic books correctly, Gwen just wasn’t that interesting. I remember she was blonde, and got herself into trouble a lot, and didn’t have much of a personality outside her matching miniskirts and go-go boots.
    Meanwhile, the comics had already introduced Mary Jane Watson, the Veronica to Gwen’s Betty, who was basically a better character from day one. (She had red hair! She called Peter “Tiger” for no apparent reason! She had a cool two-initial nickname! Etc.) And MJ was there to comfort Peter after Gwen shuffled off this mortal coil, which made the whole thing easier to take.
    In the movies, though, Emma Stone imbues Gwen with such a winking, spunky real-life personality that her death becomes a full-fledged tragedy -- both for Peter and for the franchise, which now has to slog on without her. And without MJ to pick up the pieces, the movie -- which, frankly, up until that point had been fairly ridiculous -- turns mind-bogglingly depressing. I don’t think you want people leaving a Spider-Man movie feeling like curling up in a dark room and sniffling to themselves, but that’s basically what we’ve got with “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.”
    2) When the Green Goblin killed Gwen Stacy in the comics, it was the culmination of years spent as Spider-Man’s arch enemy, which lent it some gravitas (to the extent that a comic book plotline could have gravitas, or any other Latin word).
    In the movie, Harry Osborn had been the Green Goblin for all of 10 minutes before scooping Gwen up, making it feel a lot more like a plot contrivance than a well-earned denouement. If they wanted to do a Green Goblin movie, they should have left Electro out of it and built up a real dynamic there -- but that would have required also leaving out Jamie Foxx’s glowing blue face, so no go.
    Page 2 of 2 - Granted, the sequence was gripping (maybe because I could guess what was coming). But I think the Tobey Maguire “Spider-Man” (2002) got it right by finding a way to rescue Mary Jane from basically the same scenario -- Spider-Man may have had some dark days in his many decades in the comics, but compressed into a few movies we want to see Spider-Man soar, not sink. “Spider-Man” did, and “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” doesn’t.
    That said, Spidey-philes know that another comic plotline involves a Gwen Stacy clone (issue 144, please try to keep up), or two or three. If it means keeping Emma around, that one gets my vote for No. 3.
    Peter Chianca writes about movies and a lot more for Pete’s Pop Culture, Parenting & Pets Blog at northofboston.wickedlocal.com/section/blogs.

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