Spoilers! I give away the whole plot of Amazing Spider-Man 2, so if you care about that crap, stay away!
I didn’t finish my grading yet, but I’m close…and I wasn’t feeling well, so I decided to take a break and go see this movie. Afterwards, I succumbed to a long ugly bout of projectile vomiting, which I don’t think was a statement on Spider-Man, but most likely just whatever bug I’m suffering from right now. Probably.
Anyway, what I learned from the movie is that Peter Parker is a slacker. He lives off his aunt, he spends a lot of time lying about in his very messy bedroom, and he is prone to periods of frustration and anger. He makes a little money on the side taking pictures of Spider-man, which, as it turns out, is a remarkably easy, lazy way to get by, since he’s got an inside angle. Yeah, he also puts on a costume and swings around New York, cracking wise.
His Aunt May, though, is amazing. In the comic books, she’s a cadaverously frail old lady; here she’s played by Sally Field as an ambitious member of the working poor. She’s got two jobs to make ends meet. She’s enrolled in a nursing training program — at her advanced age? You go, girl — which she can’t tell Peter about, for some reason. Because it’s not about him? Because he’d have a snit and tell her to quit dreaming, she’s got his laundry to do?
The real standout, though, is Gwen Stacy, his girlfriend. She’s working at Oscorp, a real job, up on the 64th floor of their skyscraper. It’s not clear what exactly she’s doing, but something about the New York power supply. She’s got big dreams, though — she’s a finalist for a graduate position in molecular medicine at Oxford University. Whoa. She actually gets it, after an interview that her slacker boyfriend, Peter Parker, makes her late for, and at which he makes an absurd scene in the lobby. He’s holding you back, Gwen. Ditch that loser.
Then there’s a bunch of ridiculous fighting with way too many supervillains. One of them keeps shorting out Spider-man’s web shooter with lightning bolts. Who figures out how to prevent it (in an admittedly bad bit of comic book science)? Gwen Stacy.
The villain shuts down the whole city’s power grid, putting people in danger, blinding a pair of passenger jets and sending them on collision course towards each other. Who bravely throws herself into the thick of danger despite her complete absence of superpowers, and who knows exactly how to restart the city’s power, saves everyone, and overloads the villain so that he explodes? Gwen Stacy.
Then yet another supervillain swoops in, and guess who he kills? Gwen Stacy. I guess he knew who the real threat was.
But that’s where the movie lost me. The tragic death of Gwen Stacy is canon in the Spider-man universe, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s the most overworked trope in comics. Got a superhero franchise that you want to inject a little tragedy into? Kill his girlfriend. Then focus for a while on his devastated reaction.
That’s the really awful thing about this plot twist: the death of a major character is milked entirely for what it does to the hero. Oh, look how Gwen Stacy’s death tears up and torments poor Peter! See, he mopes for weeks afterwards, not performing his essential Spider-man duties, which is terrible for New York…but no one seems to miss Gwen Stacy. A promising scientific career cut off at the root, a brilliant young woman gone, and it makes no difference, especially since after a few weeks of crying in his bedroom, Spidey just leaps back into wisecracking action. After all, he’s got a sequel to do.
Here’s a sequel idea for you. Gwen Stacy survives. Spider-man, instead, dives off a skyscraper, as he’s wont to do, and then misgauges the proper height for his web by a few feet, and instead of swinging majestically just over traffic, he swings directly into an oncoming cement truck with all the velocity gained from a 70 story fall. Gwen weeps a few dignified, sorrowful tears, and then flies off to her academic appointment at Oxford. The next episode in the franchise is called The Amazing Gwen Stacy, Molecular Biologist, and is all about how she makes fascinating discoveries in medicine while also fighting off bad guys by informing the British authorities about pending supervillain invasions, and giving them sensible science-based advice on how to thwart them.
Oh, yeah, the authorities. I’d hope the British ones would be more intelligent than their American counterparts. In New York, apparently the purpose of the police is to a) provide a line of cars the baddies can shoot up and blow up, and b) set up barricades to cordon off arenas in the city for the two super-dudes to battle in, while hordes of gawking New Yorkers rush to the scene of the devastation to watch the explosions and flying projectiles. The citizens of New York must be idiots, because they flock to scenes of destruction so they can stand around and cheer their favorite costumed menace. At least Godzilla gets it right: when monsters stomp around your city, normal people are panic-stricken and flee.
Not New Yorkers. The final battle in this movie has the Rhino, a baddie in a gigantic armored powered suit, simply standing in a street, yelling, with police with barricades in a ring around him. Why is he there? I don’t know. What is he hoping to accomplish? No idea. Why are people milling about, watching the equivalent of a giant tank blowing up police cars? I guess New Yorkers just have a cavalier attitude about standing around while volleys of large caliber gunfire are being sprayed in their general direction. But I’m afraid that’s the sequel we’re actually going to get: The Amazing Spider-Man 3: Lots of Mindless Super-Dudes Flailing Away At Each Other.