Friday, January 20, 2006


As I've noted before, Spiderman is my favorite superhero, by far. I always loved the way this powerful superhero could use the niftiest set of powers ever to defeat the most powerful supervillains, and yet still have a personal life that was always a complete trainwreck. That's the aspect of the Spiderman/Peter Parker character that the two movies made thus far have best captured -- but now, after reading this AICN article, my Spider-sense is tingling.

Why? Because Spiderman 3 will add Gwen Stacy to the mix.

For some reason, Harry Knowles is going ape over the addition of this character:

When Avi Arad called me this morning to discuss the HULK sequel - he let slip that he was intent on calling me today anyway to drop this megabomb of coolnews. He knew that I would friggin love this like no tomorrow! For me, Gwen Stacy is the very embodiment of YOUNG LOVE. She is that teenage girl that dreamt of all those tomorrows that she'd never live. She was the damsel that wasn't saved. Right when Spidey was getting cocky about web-slinging and soul-saving... he lost another. This one, within his own soul. For serious comics fans, the Gwen Stacy story is sacred text. It is, along with the coming of Galactus - the single greatest Superhero arc of the Silver Age. And it was the exact opposite of that story. FF 48, 49 and 50 were about the story cosmic, this was about the story intimate.

Now, I've never been a huge "purist" when it comes to movie versions of books or comics or whatever taking liberties with the original material. I don't think that Peter Jackson committed a big error by omitting the Scouring of the Shire, and I don't get too worked up that Mel Gibson basically told a story only slightly tangentially related to history in Braveheart. But this is really problematic for me.

And it didn't bug me in the first Spiderman movie when Gwen Stacy was not included, and Mary Jane Watson was established right up front as Peter Parker's first love. What did bug me about that film, though, was the filmmakers' efforts to have their cake and eat it too. As I wrote at the time:

I conceded above that films of comic book stories have to make hard decisions about which things from the mythology to include and which ones to leave out. In the comics, while Peter did know Mary Jane for years, his first true love was Gwen Stacy, and it was Gwen whom the Green Goblin dangled off the Brooklyn Bridge. However, in the comic, Spiderman failed to save her. The Goblin drops her from the height, and Spiderman snags her with a web, breaking her fall, but she dies in the effort (if she was alive to begin with). This was Peter Parker's second great life lesson: not just that "With great power comes great responsibility", but that "Sometimes great power just isn't enough". The death of Gwen Stacy was just as important to the Spiderman character as the death of Uncle Ben, and as such to see the events of her death replayed in the film -- but with Mary Jane, this time, and with Spiderman saving the girl -- created in me a sort of "cognitive dissonance" that I just couldn't get around. I can understand why the filmmakers would omit Gwen Stacy from their story of Peter Parker's life, just as I can understand why the filmmakers of Superman would omit Lana Lang, but Gwen Stacy is far more important to Spiderman than Lana Lang is to Superman. I might have been able to accept a Spiderman who was never in love with Gwen Stacy, but in giving me Gwen's death without Gwen and without the death, the film basically kept reminding me of her. For me, it was the Big White Elephant in the room. Under some circumstances, I can be made to ignore it -- but not if you're going to point my chair at the elephant and have the beast nuzzle me with its trunk.

They wanted the dramatic tension of the dilemma Peter Parker faced just before Gwen's death, but without actually killing anyone, which was bad enough. As we now know from watching the movies, Peter Parker is with Mary Jane Watson. So what purpose will Gwen Stacy serve in the new film? We've had two movies of Peter and MJ; how can we possibly buy, in a single film (in which MJ will also appear), Peter's love for Gwen? How can Gwen's death possibly be as dramatically potent as it was in the comics?

Of course, it's possible that Gwen won't die in the movie, which would quite frankly piss me off too -- or maybe the filmmakers plan a role-reversal of sorts, and have Mary Jane die despite Peter Parker's efforts to save her. But I frankly can't imagine how either one of those options would be anything other than a big cheat.

Maybe it can work. Maybe. But I'm not feeling good about it. Some things you can get away with; some things you can't. This will almost certainly have the same feel to me that the X-Factor comic had when it "revealed" that Jean Grey had never died because that hadn't been her that committed suicide on the Moon after all.

Yeah, my Spider sense is tingling, all right.

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