Over the weekend, I went to see the new Spider-Man movie (the second one featuring Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker.)
My daughter, who hadn’t seen the first one, really wanted to see ASM2 because of the rumored X-Men: Days of Future Past tease in the movie’s end credits. (My not-yet-quite-a-teen daughter is a big Jennifer Lawrence fan.)
Keeping my fanboy glee hidden, I agreed.
“If you *really* want to see it, I guess I’ll go see this ‘Spidery Man‘ movie.”
Spoilery thoughts below. Seriously, if you haven’t seen the movie, don’t read my post.
Okay, I’m not going to recap the movie, since you’ve either seen it or you shouldn’t be reading this. I warned you above that I’M GOING TO SPOIL SOMETHING MAJOR.
I liked Amazing Spider-Man 2, a bit more than I did its predecessor a few years ago. Sequels usually aren’t better than the first entries, but I think superhero movies tend to be an exception since the first movie tends to get bogged down in an origin story rehash. (There are exceptions to this exception of course: I wasn’t super-keen on Iron Man 2, and the second Tim Burton Batman movie was awful. Feel free to dispute this.)
I’d avoided reading reviews going in, but one hears things: there’s too many villains, it’s a rehash of the Green Goblin storyline from the Raimi Spider-Man movies, it didn’t have the compelling brooding gravitas of The Dark Knight Returns, or the epic scope of combating international terrorism and the dangers of the security industrial complex in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
Sure. I guess I could argue in the movie’s defense, but that’s not my concern here. I wanted to talk about how the movie broke my daughter.
Ever since I saw that they’d cast Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy, and not as Mary Jane Watson, to be Peter Parker’s love interest, I’d been waiting for this to happen:
It’s not that I *wanted* this to happen, but it just seemed inevitable that the movies would get around to showing the moment in 1973 when comics suddenly grew up. It was a big deal when Gwen Stacy died: it wasn’t just that Spider-Man didn’t save the day, he effectively killed her.
As I said above, I had avoided reviews so I wasn’t sure if this would be the last movie we’d see adorable Gwen Stacy. Movies have to compress storylines, but it’s unclear where things have to fall. I knew that the Green Goblin would be introduced in this movie but that wasn’t the clincher for me. I thought maybe ASM3 might be the one to include the shocking moment.
But as the movie progressed, I knew. Peter seeing Captain Stacy’s ghost and remembering his dying wish to stay away from Gwen, their breakup and then gradual rapprochement… that’s the stuff you do before you drop the pumpkin bomb.
Seeing Gwen in a very familiar outfit, trying to leave New York… I knew.
My wife and daughter did not know. It’s not like I was going to tell them.
My daughter sat on the other side of my wife (which is probably for the best, because she doesn’t like to see me cry in movies) and I’d peek over occasionally to see how she was reacting. The movie had thrills and I could see her being thrilled. This particular incarnation of Spider-Man is very witty and quippy; I noticed the big smile on her face.
Once Gwen started falling in the clock tower, and Spider-Man desperately fired off what he hoped would be a lifeline of webbing, I opted not to look at my daughter. For the rest of the movie.
Afterwards, I asked her if she enjoyed the movie. She gave me a look that implied I was crazy.
“That movie broke me, Dad.”
I understood. Even though I knew what was going to happen, I found it effective and shocking.
My Breakage From Before
The original story came out in 1973, but I didn’t read it then, and growing up I was really more of a DC Comics reader (I have my reasons.)
But back in 1994, I read the Alex Ross/Kurt Busiek graphic novel series Marvels. The story features an Everyman character named Phil Sheldon observing the effect of the Marvel Comics Universe super-humanity on the world, with the final issue having him learn to see the Marvels through the innocent eyes of Gwen Stacy. Sheldon is devastated by Gwen’s death and not to be too dramatic (look, I tear up in movies, okay?), so was I. The story in that issue was very powerful in its ability to transfer Sheldon’s feelings onto me. Feel free to point and laugh, if you must.
Anyway, the movie did not quite have the same effect on me, but it was still a powerful moment.
A few days later, my daughter sent me an email, with this subject: HELP ME SM2 BROKE ME. It had an attachment.
She’d made a short video for me of two clips from the movie: Gwen seeing the huge I LOVE YOU message Peter had webbed up on the Brooklyn Bridge (New Yorkers, if it was the George Washington bridge or some other bridge, I apologize) and then Gwen falling, Spider-Man’s stream of webbing literally reaching out to Gwen, the snap, and his despair that she was dead. The video played a sweet, sad song with the images.
It’s a bit easier being a guy, I guess. When I was her age, if I saw something that made me that sad, I’d just ride my bike and brood. I didn’t have the Internet to express myself creatively.
But, just like Peter needed some time to mourn, before the appearance of the Rhino called him back into action, my daughter just needed a few days of walking around with “RIP Gwen Stacy” written on her hand.
I recently asked her how she was doing.
Me: Hey, I’m sorry that the Spider-Man movie broke you. You doing okay?
Me: Still broke?
Her: Yes. But we’re seeing it again this weekend, okay?
Me: Okay, sure.
Her: This time, I’ll cry.
Me: You can. Is it okay if I cry too?
(But I will.)
Images from Amazing Spider-Man (1 and 2), Amazing Spider-Man (the comic) #122, Marvels #4.
(Emma Stone image/comic panels side-by-side credited to Superherohype.com)
I wish I knew where the cartoon image of Gwen and the webbing came from, my daughter tweeted it to me. (One of the Spider-Man animated series’, I assume.)
© Patrick Sponaugle 2014 Some Rights Reserved