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May 06 2014

Gwen Stacy, Hero

Gwen_Stacy

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.

68 comments

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  1. 1
    PZ Myers

    Now I’m going to lie about for a while with a fluttery tummy. I’d like to feel slightly better before I resume grading, for the sake of the students.

  2. 2
    Jake Harban

    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.

    No, those were the tourists. The New Yorkers just ignored all of the nonsense and grumbled about the D train being late.

  3. 3
    Artor

    Ooh, stirring that pot of nerdrage, are you PZ?

  4. 4
    Raging Bee

    I don’t disagree with your criticism — but I do kind of respect the Spiderman storyline in general because a) it portrays a “superhero” who is more of a real person than an inerrant superbeing; and b) it often shows the “hero” being saved by the collective action of many ordinary people. (Think of the construction-crane operators who conspired to use their cranes to hand an injured Spidey off across town.) I like how the inherently fascist lone-superman myth is at least a little countered by ordinary shmoes doing more than screaming and running away. Perhaps Gwen’s death was added to the story in the same spirit?

  5. 5
    Kelseigh

    Civilians in the Marvel Universe have long been considered the most awful people anywhere. They can happily turn on people who saved them, form angry mobs at a moment’s notice, and generally do little but get in the way of heroes trying to get things done. Cops, it depends on the situation, but the civilians are largely terrible people and you have to wonder why the heroes ever bother saving them at all.

  6. 6
    dhall

    I have to admit, I’ve often wondered exactly what the super villains hope to accomplish in everything from James Bond movies to comic books. They always seem to expend far more resources than they could ever recover from their success. And something about Peter Parker has always bugged me too–thanks for spelling it out. He’s a moocher. At least Clark Kent had a job.

  7. 7
    seleukos

    It’s not just Spiderman. Killing off a female character to further the character development of a male hero is a common trope, especially when it comes to superheroes. Google “women in refrigerators” and you’ll find a site with a list of occurrences, as well as a “Tropes vs. Women” episode about it.

  8. 8
    HumanisticJones

    Don’t forget the wonderful perpetuation of the “stalking is affection” trope. After Gwen catches Peter admitting that he’s been abusing his powers by stalking her around New York, how does she react? Does she shove the creep away and tell him to leave her alone? No, she half protests and then gets the same look she got when playfully talking about his “big brown doe eyes” earlier and nearly kisses him. Granted with that power imbalance where would it honestly leave her? It isn’t like she can call the cops on a superhero.

    And yeah, I’m so done with the trope of women getting shoved in the fridge. Others in the theater were shocked at her death. My wife, our best friend, and I were sitting there moaning to each other about how it was too much to hope that this incarnation of Gwen Stacy could survive a movie with Green Goblin in it because of this trope. It didn’t provide any emotional impact for us, it just had us calling the writers lazy on our way to the car after the movie.

  9. 9
    Kelseigh

    Forgot to add, the description of Aunt May sounds more like the Ultimate Universe version of the character, where she’s younger and more independent than the more classic version. I didn’t read much of that since I wasn’t all that into superheroes at the time, but it did seem like they revamped the character in an interesting way.

  10. 10
    blf

    I’d like to feel slightly better before I resume grading, for the sake of the students.

    Silly Perfressor! A physical demonstration of just how bad, useless, and inferior they are, in addition to the caustic comments and infinitely negative grades on the exam papers, is far more effective.

  11. 11
    tbtabby

    Modern comic writers don’t seem to understand that part of the reason Gwen’s death had so much gravitas was because it was at a time when it was unheard of for recurring comic book characters to die. It just didn’t happen. Same for Supergirl and Barry Allen in Crisis on Infinite Earths. Nowadays, they start dropping like flies whenever the editor decides they need to show that the villain of the latest megacrossover event is fo’ serious, yo, so we expect them to kill someone off. It doesn’t help that they usually go with C-list characters few people are familiar with: not only does that mean we’re not familiar enough with them to have any strong feelings, but it’s obvious they’re using them because they wouldn’t dare kill off one of their major characters, making the attempt to add “weight and emotion” to the story disingenuous.

    Sorry if I went off-topic. I’m just tired of comic writers thinking the quality of a story is measured by its body count.

  12. 12
    acroyear

    “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.”

    And this has been true for decades, at least as far back as DC/Warner’s Superman 2.

  13. 13
    Xaivius (Formerly Robpowell, Acolyte of His Majesty Lord Niel DeGrasse Tyson I)

    blf@10

    “Don’t mind the vomit on the papers, that’s just a sign of my deeply held beliefs that you need to pay more attention during lectures”

  14. 14
    Alverant

    The movie lost me long before then when it became clear that it was just about setting up the next half-dozen Spider-man movies. There’s also a bit of racism to see how an African American supervillain easily falls in line obeying the orders of a rich white guy. OK given Max’s personality that’s not too surprising but he didn’t strike me as a guy who listens to dupstep yet it’s his theme music.

    Gwen’s only purpose in the movie is to die. It’s a plot device that’s supposed to affect Peter in the same way as Uncle Ben. It’s not looking good for Aunt May for the next movie. Oh and having the webbing looking like a hand reaching out for her felt like one of those “attempt to be touching but only invokes the opposite response” things.

    Rhino is just there for the next movie. He was much better in a heavy duty tow truck. Michael Bay called, he wants his Transformer back.

  15. 15
    hexidecima

    Spiderman can be a great story. However, Marvel and the movies have screwed it up constantly. The first Spiderman movie was good, second was okay, third sucked and the reboot has been horrible from day one. The comics have followed the same progression, sometimes good, and then they reboot the comics because the writers aren’t much good and have to just rehash stories from 30 years ago.

    in the Avengers movie, the citizens of NYC were smart enough to run.

  16. 16
    Johnny Vector

    hexidecima:

    in the Avengers movie, the citizens of NYC were smart enough to run.

    Key question to ask yourself when making a movie: WWJD?

  17. 17
    Marcus Ranum

    Then yet another supervillain swoops in, and guess who he kills? Gwen Stacy. I guess he knew who the real threat was.

    She was an Uppity Woman(tm) and therefore must die.

  18. 18
    blf

    It took London being (almost) destroyed twice, in consecutive years, before they finally abandoned the Big Stink at Saturnaliatime.

    Not to mention a steampunkish attack a hundredish years before, again around Saturnalia…

    (Doctor Who for the eternally confused.)

  19. 19
    Marcus Ranum

    The Amazing Spider-Man 3: Lots of Mindless Super-Dudes Flailing Away At Each Other

    Amid explosions! Don’t forget lots of explosions! And maybe a giant shark.

  20. 20
    Kelseigh

    Marcus Ranum@19

    But King Shark is a DC character!

    (secret to his success: he’s a shark!)

  21. 21
    Kelseigh

    tbtabby@10

    Thing is, they will kill off A-list characters like Superman, Batman and Captain America, but you know from the start they won’t stay dead because the publishers don’t have the courage to follow those storylines through. Instead they’re used as cheap headline-grabbers and the increasingly cynical fans know that they’ll be back within the year. DC Comics has become especially risk-averse in that sense. even though they simultaneously make some stupidly risky decisions elsewhere.

  22. 22
    voidhawk

    blf @ 18

    The Doctor Who civilians are probably the most genre savvy in SF. Most DW Londoners probably wouldn’t bat an eye at an Independence Day saucer overhead except to moan that it’s blocking the Bank Holiday sunshine.

  23. 23
    Gregory Greenwood

    Oh, yeah, the authorities. I’d hope the British ones would be more intelligent than their American counterparts.

    You are forgetting that in Hollywood movies there are, in essence, only five types of British character:-

    1) The British villain – because for some reason British people, especially British men with a standard English pronunciation, make good villains. Apparently, spelling words with the extra ‘u’s intact makes you particularly evil. As does calling a ‘hood’ a ‘bonnet’ and a ‘trunk’ a ‘boot’. Or referring to ‘the projects’ as ‘housing estates’. Though in some circumstances it can also somehow make you sexually alluring – see category 4.

    2) The bumbling Brit – this is the type the UK authorities usually fall into. They can either be bumbling but well intentioned, or bumbling and unreasonably hostile toward the hero and/or generally xenophobic, but they are always grossly, even comedically, incomptetent. They are the reason that the UK requires an All American Hero to save it in the first place. Female British love interests, as is always the case with female love interests, form the just ‘reward’ for a day’s hero-ing well done. Except with more ‘u’s.

    3) The British sidekick – much like the bumbling Brit, but with a more personal connection to the protagonist, these types of characters are usually played for comic relief, highlighting the bravery and/or advanced abilities of the protagonist by conspicuously lacking those qualities in themselves for the most part. Such characters often have their own ‘mini hero moment’ when (inspired by the protagonist) they manage to actually do something more or less right, and more or less on purpose. This is sometimes rewarded by the nod of approval(TM) from the protagonist, or some other acknowledgement that the sidekick, for this one shining moment at least, is more than an impediment.

    4) The British love interest – usually (but not always) a woman, this takes advantage of the curious way in which some UK accents are not only seen as suitably villanous in the US, but are also considered ‘sexy’ for some reason. Don’t ask me why.

    5) Finally, there is the stereotypical British lead – one of the more common types of non-American protagonists in Hollywood, this is a character whose notional extreme ‘Britishness’ (as such things are defined by Americans) is the cornerstone of their personality. They often speak in an outmoded fashion by the standards of actual modern day British people, or espouse values that either are no longer common in the UK or were never more than myths, such as the ‘stiff upper lip’ lack of emotion ascribed to Brits mostly by people who know little or nothing about the actual denizens of our little island. Amusingly, these notionally quintessentially British characters are often not played by British actors or written by British writers, and so tend to be agglomerations of popular tropes surrounding Britishness that bear little resemblance to reality.

    Taking these factors into account, any Spiderman movie (or most other Hollywood movies) set in the UK would doubtlessly have an upper crust English villain, grossly incompetent police and other governmental authorities that would make their American counterparts appear to be the ultimate expression of professionalism by comparison, and probably a love interest with a ridiculously exaggerated English accent. The laws of Holywood movie making would demand nothing less.

    Still, it could be worse – the French, Germans and Russians all tend to get squashed into their own, much less ‘flattering’, stereotype pidgeon holes to an even greater degree than we do.

    And, to be fair, I should also admit that we tend to be guilty of similar stereotyping of our own. The loud, crass gun-toting Texan is popular, as is the arrogant American official who acts like the UK really is a literal 51st State and usually dies in some humiliating fashion early on in proceedings, so we aren’t exactly blameless either.

  24. 24
    Gregory Greenwood

    How did part of point 4 migrate to the end of point 2 in my last post, you ask? Because I am British, and thus a villain, that’s why.

    *Imagine sinister – and very British and restrained – laughter*

  25. 25
    cuervocuero

    PParker in the original comix was working class poor science nerd who juggled work to support himself and aunt may and full course load of science bcuz Goals. Storylines hilited money struggles and temptations to get money. In comix, Gwen died bcuz thrown but also way webs caught her caused her neck to snap so Peter carried guilt share.

    Marvel doesn’t have film rights to Spiderman or Xmen right now and would likely gnaw off exec arms to get them back for their own reboot of movieverse versions. They can’t even use the word ‘mutants’ in Avengers 2 bcuz they don’t have the rights.

    The lovely folks doing Spidey reboot 2 apparently ignored the best parts of the Raimie try where peter gives his all to save the train car of regulars and they carefully haul him in and hand him carefully person to person to a safe space on the floor where they realize a Kid did all that for them. Then they’re ready to defend him against the villain despite the threat to their own lives.

    Oh well. Glad the young doodz demographic are the only ones with money seeing action fantasy flicks…../sarcasm

  26. 26
    busterggi

    Jesus H. Christ on a cracker PZ, don’t get me started! I spent around 50 years accepting that the death of Bucky Barnes was the only actual character death in comics (Gwen Stacy has some clones out there) and, aqaaarrrggg, losin …it…

  27. 27
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    Gregory Greenwood#23
    I suspect that [1]-[3] are mostly because the average American ‘knows’ pretty much 2 things about Britain: We kicked British ass in the Revolution and saved British ass in WWII. This despite the latter being very simplified and the former simply wrong. [4] isn’t unique to Brits; foreign accents of almost every variety get pegged as sexy in the States, IME. I’ve gotten some mileage from this, because a lot of Yanks can’t tell my accent from a British one.

  28. 28
    freemage

    The original Death of Gwen Stacy arc in the comics was actually good writing, in part because it genuinely shook the readership. She wasn’t merely there to be a support for the protagonist; she’d had a long and storied history of her own, and bringing that to a sudden and violent end was shocking. The problem is that it worked contextually–because a the time such a thing had never really been done in the major comic labels. Stacy’s death here, sadly, fails to adjust for the modern context; sadly, the comics environment is shackled by its grognards who refuse to let reboots actually alter the baseline story.

  29. 29
    Callinectes

    The most recent Spider-Man comic I read had Aunt May working her arse off at a homeless shelter. Which itself was secretly run by a weirdo supervillain who likes to perform experiments on illegal immigrants and the homeless. She’s also one of the few people I’ve seen stand her ground againsty Wolverine and win.

    @Gregory Greenwood #23 Don’t knock the British villain trope. ‘Tis a grand tradition and a proud part of my heritage. All of my party costumes are villains.

    And to be fair, all of the real British villains are upper class, and also in charge.

  30. 30
    Kagehi

    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.

    No, those were the tourists. The New Yorkers just ignored all of the nonsense and grumbled about the D train being late.

    I remember in one of David Brin’s books that the core of a plan to cause chaos, as a means of unseating a group of aliens who had taken over the planet was *dependent* on the fact that all of the aliens, when confronted with explosions, and other scary stuff, would try to sensibly run away from it, while the humans, and their uplifted primate cousins, would all go looking to see what the heck all the load noises where. lol

    To a certain extent, both you and this movie are right. People will flee in panic, once they figure out what the hell is causing the problem, and realize its something that can directly effect them, so they shouldn’t be there. But.. anyone who has “ever” passed a freeway accident, a burning building, or *anything else* has either seen a mob of people all stopped to look to see what is happening, and/or been tempted to do so themselves. So, yeah, if you give people a barrier, which lends a false sense of, “Oh, the bad stuff is happening on ‘that’ side, not mine.”, you get exactly the sort of thing this Trope implies – a mess of idiots all watching things explode from the side lines.

  31. 31
    nich

    Wait a minute…Gwen Stacy DIES!! Where’s the spoiler alert!? I haven’t been this mad since that time PZ spilled the beans on the ending to The Gospel of Luke! PZ, PZ lama sabachthani?

    #sarcasm

  32. 32
    woozy

    Another thing that about the original Death of Gwen Stacy wasn’t just that she died but that Spider-Man, himself, killed her. She was tossed from a height and Spider-man in his haste shot his webs but didn’t take into account momentum and the jerk[*] killed her. It wasn’t really his fault because the fall would have killed her and he was under pressure and acted instinctively and didn’t have time to think. But it showed that sometimes you can make every effort and still fail.
    ====
    The problem with modern movies and comic books is that they like to go through the motions of the “big emotion” but they don’t actually want to bother with actual looking at what a big emotion actually would mean.

    [*]er, the sudden jolt killed her; not Spider-Man, that jerk, killed her.

  33. 33
    blf

    Wait a minute. Are you saying there’s a movie villain that isn’t British?

    (Thinks about a minute…)

    Well, Ok, there is Bambi. The way she stomped Godzilla was awesome…

  34. 34
    Amphiox

    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.

    One must point out that Gwen Stacy’s death was in fact one of the earliest uses of that trope, and one of the ones that really popularized that trope. So it is a bit like complaining about an adaption of Tolkein overusing the tired fantasy trope of Orcs as bad guys.

    To me it is not so much a egregious repeat of a trope that really should die, as a missed opportunity to make a powerful statement subverting the trope. What better place to subvert an overworked trope than in a remake of one of the original works that introduced and popularized said trope? What if they had let Gwen Stacy LIVE in this movie, surprising an audience that came in expecting her tragic death? Think of what an artistic and thematic impact that could have had if it had been done right.

  35. 35
    Tabby Lavalamp

    I just want to point out that J. Jonah Jameson is not actually wrong about Spider-Man being a menace. He’s a masked vigilante who leaves alleged criminals webbed up outside of police stations with a startling lack of evidence and no way for the alleged criminals to face their accuser in court.

    Superheroes are super scary. A militarized police force with the full (though often constitutionally tenuous) authority of the law is terrifying, so the idea of some schmuck with god-like powers taking the law into his or her own hands? No thank you…

  36. 36
    Amphiox

    Another thing that about the original Death of Gwen Stacy wasn’t just that she died but that Spider-Man, himself, killed her. She was tossed from a height and Spider-man in his haste shot his webs but didn’t take into account momentum and the jerk[*] killed her.

    It was one of the very few times that the laws of momentum were actually accurately portrayed in a scene with a superhero attempting to make a last-minute rescue….

  37. 37
    zenlike

    32 woozy

    Another thing that about the original Death of Gwen Stacy wasn’t just that she died but that Spider-Man, himself, killed her. She was tossed from a height and Spider-man in his haste shot his webs but didn’t take into account momentum and the jerk[*] killed her. It wasn’t really his fault because the fall would have killed her and he was under pressure and acted instinctively and didn’t have time to think. But it showed that sometimes you can make every effort and still fail.

    Which is also what happens in the movie. (It is not 100%clear, because you might argue that her head hit the ground, but there is absolutely no blood or anything, so it seems that indeed it was the ‘jerk’ that did her in.)

  38. 38
    busterggi

    freemage @ 26 “the comics environment is shackled by its grognards who refuse to let reboots actually alter the baseline story.”

    Seriously? You think the comics companies who reboot routinely actually give a shit about the handfull of us old fans out here?

    Continuity was a great new idea in comics in 1964, now the comics universes change every third issue and continuity doesn’t exist.

  39. 39
    Gregory Greenwood

    Dalillama, Schmott Guy @ 27;

    I suspect that [1]-[3] are mostly because the average American ‘knows’ pretty much 2 things about Britain: We kicked British ass in the Revolution and saved British ass in WWII. This despite the latter being very simplified and the former simply wrong.

    Sadly true. All too many people seem to get their understanding of the American War of Independence exclusively from that abominable Mel Gibson move The Patriot, and you still sometimes encounter the type of American who, when asked about the UK involvement in the current spate of US led wars, says something along the lines of ‘well of course – the limeys still owe us for WW2′…

    [4] isn’t unique to Brits; foreign accents of almost every variety get pegged as sexy in the States, IME. I’ve gotten some mileage from this, because a lot of Yanks can’t tell my accent from a British one.

    A fair point. Many Brits seem to have the same mindset about women with French accents.

    ———————————————————————————————————————

    Callinectes @ 29;

    Don’t knock the British villain trope. ‘Tis a grand tradition and a proud part of my heritage. All of my party costumes are villains.

    I am not saying that there aren’t some truly great Bristish villain roles out there. Anthony Hopkins alone has done several, most famously Hannibal Lector (though the not at all British Mads Mikkelsen also does a supremely creepy rendition of that character these days), but I do find it amusing that so many Hollywood villains are British, and all tend to be cut from the same, narrowly stereotypical cloth of the notional essence of Britishness as interpreted by a specific segment of the American public.

    And villainous party costumes can be all kinds of fun, especially when you ham it up for the occasion.

    And to be fair, all of the real British villains are upper class, and also in charge.

    One case of art imitating life we could all do without.

  40. 40
    ibyea

    Why Stacy’s death doesn’t work in the movie: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9sQeqSOxpD8

  41. 41
    David Marjanović

    You are forgetting that in Hollywood movies there are, in essence, only five types of British character:-

    Notably, Deanna Troi isn’t any of these. Consequently, the Londoner who played her tried pretty hard to speak with an American accent.

  42. 42
    David Marjanović

    (Admittedly, Deanna is an extremely American name.)

  43. 43
    Lurkeressa, Always Late to Juicy Threads

    What was the idea behind making Parker of all people, the shy nerd boy, such an awesome and cool unbearable douchebag kid? I began hating everything in this reboot right at that point. Merely seeing him in a clip or a picture makes me want to punch his smug face.

  44. 44
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    busterggi:

    I spent around 50 years accepting that the death of Bucky Barnes was the only actual character death in comics (Gwen Stacy has some clones out there) and, aqaaarrrggg, losin …it…

    I’m ok with Bucky’s “resurrection” bc I think Ed Brubaker had an interesting story to tell with the character.
    Barry Allen’s return, however…ARGH.

  45. 45
    PZ Myers

    British villains? Now it’s an advertising gimmick.

  46. 46
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    acroyear:

    And this has been true for decades, at least as far back as DC/Warner’s Superman 2

    In their defense, Superman was putting on a show for them. The first thing I do upon donning my spandex to engage in battle with 3 villains who can sneeze and move mountains is to wage a pitched battle in the heart of a major city with no regard to the safety of the citizens.

  47. 47
    Alverant

    #40
    I saw the movie on Sunday and was disappointed. That video only made it worse, but I mean that in a good way. It articulated how I felt and deepened my reasons for not liking the film. The last part when we see what else those writers did was golden.

  48. 48
    Hank_Says

    Yup, Peter’s a slacker. But hey, he’s a teenager. I can’t recall doing much more than arse about between leaving school and the age of 19, when I got my first (full time) job. If I had uber-strength and web-thingies I might have been a little more ambitious, although I’m pretty sure that teenage Hank with super powers would’ve ended up an epic shoplifter, not a vigilante, so maybe it’s better that my only mutant abilities are “doing a really good Afrikaner accent” and “always arriving on time”.

  49. 49
    scottruplin

    In recent Spiderman comic it got even worse during the “Sins Past” storyline. In this awful tale it was retconned (“Retroactive continuity” for non comic peeps, in which an old storyline is changed by revealing supposedly new info) that Gwen had, at one point, had sex with The Green Goblin, Norman Osborn. It was portrayed as Gwen having a big crush on powerful Norman. This was all supposedly while she was dating Peter Parker. Gwen ended up having twins with powers, who later tried to kill Peter. The entire story showed nothing really about Gwen’s point of view, feelings, or perspective – it was all designed to shock Peter Parker, and the reader.

  50. 50
    roberta

    While the conversation is on the Brits – if you haven’t seen Sherlock yet you have a treat in store, a modern but true to character version of the famous detective, complete with technology. It has been on Masterpiece Theatre on PBS, but as they only do 3 episodes every 2 years, it is easy to miss. The first 2 seasons are on Netflix and the third and most recent season is on iTunes. Each episode is 90 minutes, so like a movie. The writing is wonderful – mainly by Doctor Who’s Steven Moffat, and the acting is the best, with Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock and Martin Freeman as Dr. Watson.
    Now a couple of the episodes are weaker – usually the middle of each season’s 3 – but then it comes back with a bang. You were talking British villains – you must meet Moriarty and Charles Augustus Magnussen – one crazy insane and the other slimy….. (although the last isn’t English).
    If you read the original Sherlock Holmes books – there are lots of references and ‘in’ jokes.
    It’s the best thing I have seen for ages – try it!

  51. 51
    Anri

    Gregory Greenwood @ 39:

    Anthony Hopkins alone has done several, most famously Hannibal Lector

    It’s (probably not) worth noting, Dr. Lector isn’t British. He’s from somewhere in Eastern Europe. Specifics might be in Hannibal Rising, but I can’t be arsed to read through that again to find out.

  52. 52
    nms

    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.

    Maybe newspaper Spider-Man would be more to your liking, PZ.

  53. 53
    microraptor

    @scottruplin #49

    Sins Past was one of the worst things Marvel has done with the Spider-Man series. The one good thing is that as far as I know, all the writers on any of the Spider-Man titles after it have pretty much tried to pretend it never happened.

  54. 54
    Gregory Greenwood

    Anri @ 51;

    It’s (probably not) worth noting, Dr. Lector isn’t British.

    True, but Anthony Hopkins is a British actor, and his famous turn as Lector is often cited as one of the reasons why British actors – and therefore by the curious logic of Hollywood, fictional British characters – are considered ideal villains.

  55. 55
    latsot

    The British police would just have arrested anyone using their phones to film them.

  56. 56
    David Chapman

    My suggestion for the premise of Amazing Spiderman 3: Due to a baroque and palpably ridiculous excuse — sorry, plot twist — involving halucinogenic drugs, time travel, parallel universes or what you will, it turns out that Gwen was never really killed after all.
    Instead, she turns pro at the defeating villains game, and takes over the Spiderwoman franchise. Peter Parker says “Excellent!” and tries to mate with here, Gwen goes: “Naaah, tell you what, I’m kind of over it,” binds him in a cocoon of web and sucks his vital juices out until there’s nothing left of him but a lifeless husk.
    Or should that be the porn version?
    At any rate I’d pay to watch it! :)

  57. 57
    Rey Fox

    The Amazing Spiderman 3: You’ll Pry These Movie Rights From Our Cold Dead Hands

    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.

    J. Jonah, is that you?

  58. 58
    blgmnts

    @56:

    it turns out that Gwen was never really killed after all

    I suggest the sequel to open with Parker going into his bathroom and discovering Gwen taking a shower, giving him a massive jolt (sorry if this doesn’t work, I know next to nothing about Spiderman).

  59. 59
    Avicenna

    @58 – Gwen Stacy was one of the deaths that defined Spiderman. Ben (his Uncle) died due to crime and his unwillingness to interfere. Gwen died because he forgot normal people don’t have his powers (And for a while he blames himself)

    But yes, she was one of the early examples of “fridging”. Gwen is dead in canon.

    But remember. Marvel Heroes are the heroes you would probably be like if super powers existed and you could run around fighting crime…

    DC Heroes are what you want to be like.

    And there seems to be this trope where you cast “Shia LaBoeuf in Transformers” type characters as heroes. Entitled, Rich, Douchey.

    I never got it. Guys who literally whinge about women having proper lives. I liked the older Spiderman Movies because Spidey was always your dorky boy next door and even though Spider Man 3 killed the franchise (I assume through bad dancing and characterisation of Venom)we started rewriting it with a rather less likeable lead.

  60. 60
    David Marjanović

    What was the idea behind making Parker of all people, the shy nerd boy, such an awesome and cool unbearable douchebag kid?

    The idea was not understanding the idea that Parker, or anyone, was supposed to be a shy nerd. Lack of empathy, simply.

  61. 61
    doubtthat

    @34 Amphiox

    It’s also a decent set-up for some humorous scenes. The audience expects this character to die, opening the chance for all manner of close encounters, both dramatic and comical.

    I always laugh at the idea of “comic canon.” I read Batman comics for a couple of years (while they were in the midst of splitting into 30 different titles–Batman, DC, Shadow of the Bat, Dark Knight, Robin, Catwoman…). Those story lines were basically random–Batman is around in the 1920′s, Dick Grayson is Robin, Tim Drake is Robin, Catwoman is a villainous former prostitute, Catwoman is a hero…etc.

    We’re not talking about something like 300, where an important historical event is manipulated and changed to support a rather transparent and offensive political view. These are goofy comic book characters that can really be used for whatever the particular story teller wants. I sort of enjoy the total lack of canon.

    I’m sure there’s a Batman comic out there musing about the world resulting from Bruce Wayne’s parents never encountering their murderer.

  62. 62
    Rich Woods

    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.

    120mph collision = strawberry jam.

    But then, how many months before the next reboot?

  63. 63
    gillt

    Emma Stone commenting on Andrew Garfield’s knitting [the spidey suit] is a feminine thing.

  64. 64
    scottruplin

    Microraptor@53

    Yes, “Sins Past” has been mostly forgotten, mercifully. But a reference to it did show up about two years ago, as Doc Ock was taking over Peter’s body for the “Superior Spider-Man” storyline. As Peter loses his being and mind he has a brief flashback to pregnant Gwen chatting with the Green Goblin. So this excrescence of a tale is not entirely gone! Argh.

  65. 65
    scottruplin

    @61 Doubtthat

    “These are goofy comic book characters”

    Actually, to many of us who grew up loving these characters and their worlds, they are not “goofy” in the least. Growing up a bullied nerd in the 70s those stories got me through a lot, and there are obviously many who feel the same way.

    Odd that I would have to state that on PZ’s forum, but there you have it. While the character are flexible and lend themselves to all varieties of storytelling it’s often not hard to tell when the writers don’t really grok the core of the character.

  66. 66
    microraptor

    @ scottruplin

    I’ll admit, I decided that I wasn’t going to bother reading Spider-Man after One More Day.

  67. 67
    axilet

    For those who read fanfic and require the soothing balm of an AU to wash away the rage induced by Gwen’s death: http://archiveofourown.org/works/1416808

    In which Gwen is the one bitten (though I guess recent revelations make that impossible, or more impossible than genetically modified spiders already are) and makes an AWESOME Spiderman with Peter as the supportive boyfriend. Also it has Miles Morales in it. THE WAY THE MOVIE SHOULD HAVE HAD MILES MORALES* IN IT. How hard was it to cast the little boy w/ the science project as black and name him Miles?! Would have immediately mitigated much of the outrage from the way Max Dillon was treated.

  68. 68
    doubtthat

    @65 scottruplin

    Odd that I would have to state that on PZ’s forum, but there you have it.

    State what? That you enjoy those comic books? I do, too, but that doesn’t change the fact that we’re not dealing with historical figures or Shakespeare or Jane Austen.

    By the time you hit the 70′s, most DC characters had already undergone some pretty serious changes to make them less goofy. The Batman of the Adam West tv show was not the Batman battling Ra’ al Ghul in the comics, yet the Batman universe is somehow flexible enough to include both versions.

    The “Canon” argument seems to be deployed as an excuse for failing to modernize these characters: Hey, how about we try a non-white Spiderman? Can’t do it, Canon. Hey, how about you stop using Gwen Stacy as a tragedy and allow her to be an interesting character? Can’t do it, Canon. How about we have this super popular, excellent actor play Heimdall, he’s black? Can’t do it, not only is it comic canon, but we’ve got Norse mythology to consider…yet somehow the bizarre and seemingly random changes to Norse mythology that generated the Thor comic in the first place are totally acceptable…

    There are better and worse versions of all of these stories, but the “Canon” seems to be disproportionately used by folks of a certain political persuasion. Hey, remember all the people who were furious that Liam Neeson wasn’t dropped in the Lazarus Pit in Batman Begins? Neither do I. Somehow Canon wasn’t such a big deal.

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