Geek Cinema: “What If?” Amazing Spider-Man 2 (Spoiler Alert)
May 12, 2014 by     2 Comments    Posted In: Columns, Geek Cinema, Reviews

If you haven’t seen The Amazing Spider-Man 2 yet, and somehow still haven’t figured out how that movie ends… this article is not for you. Sorry.

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I recently read an article elsewhere on the interwebs that asked, “Why do comic book movies have to follow their source material so closely?” Initially, I was a bit offended. My brain started Hulking out into fangirl mode. “Because that’s how you end up with crap like X-Men: The Last Stand!” (I’m a Phoenix fan – I took that one a bit personally.)  The article then went on to say that it was a shame to have to kill off great characters in the movies, just because they died in the comics. And it literally made me pause mid-paragraph.

What if we treated the comic book movie-verse like a Marvel “What If?” story? What if Gwen Stacy didn’t have to die?  I’m not proposing anything too radical – Peter Parker’s parents are still out of the picture, Uncle Ben still dies after giving him some version of the “Great Power” speech… Peter Parker is still the same old friendly-neighborhood Spider-Man that we know and love. Why can’t he have a smart and sexy girlfriend who knows his secret, and is ok with it? He’s already haunted by the death of Gwen’s father – Pete’s painfully aware how close to home some of these villains can strike. I’m not even saying that Peter and Gwen necessarily live happily ever after. Maybe she starts focusing on her career and they drift apart. Maybe some red-head wannabe-actress moves in next door and starts causing problems. What if Gwen married one of her scientist buddies, and they were the science “power couple” of that particular universe (since Reed Richards and Sue Storm are still over at Fox)? Pete would inevitably be hurt, but Gwen, Pete and MJunderstanding, and eventually they could have a functioning friendship again… and Pete could finally work up the nerve to ask his neighbor why she always calls him Tiger. There are countless ways to keep Spidey essentially the same character –  I’m just saying that the “SNAP” in the comic book doesn’t have to translate to the “THUD” we heard in the movie.

Obviously, this concept isn’t related to Gwen Stacy exclusively. It’s quite the opposite – there are endless possibilities.  What if Lois Lane “just wasn’t that into” Superman, and didn’t keep him based in Metropolis? They remain friends, she occasionally sends him news leads on bad guys that need to be dealt with, but he gets to help out humanity on more of a global scale. Literally a world full of story-telling possibilities. What if Tony Stark and Bruce Banner really started working together past their post-credits movie scene? All kinds of crazy think tank inventions and technology abound, they start matching wits against the abundance of mad scientists in the Marvel Universe. What if… What if we didn’t try to cram 10 villains into every movie, and just focused on one, or maybe two tops? (Ok, that last one doesn’t fit in with what I’m talking about at all – just had to vent.)

Yes, I know there would be rumblings and riots and much internet bashing from the nerd community.  But we live in a world where comic books contradict themselves on a regular basis.  Joe Quesada can ret-con any crazy development he wants into the official Marvel continuity (*cough* MEPHISTO *cough).  If the characters stay true to their core traits/beliefs/origins, is it truly terrible to change up some of the other details of their lives? Comic books have obtained an Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind -esque amnesia.  The characters memories are erased, stories are rebooted, and yet, Peter Parker is still Spider-Man, and inevitably finds his way to Mary Jane. Bruce Wayne is still Batman, and uses his wealth to fight off the villains that plague Gotham City. Superman still fights for a world that he has adopted as his own. Tony Stark is still Iron Man – and we love him for it.

Mel Lang is the store manager for Prairie Dog Comics in Wichita, KS.  She lives there (in Wichita, not at the comic book store) with her husband, Matt, and their four-legged kid, a black lab named Phog.  In her spare time, she enjoys comic cons and running her store’s fantasy Walking Dead league.  Mel is stoked to be a part of the StashMyComics community – it gives her an excuse to catch up on her reading!

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2 Comments Add Comment

  • Ron Jimenez June 19, 2014 at 2:57 pm

    Totally understand and (mostly) agree with what you’re saying. Just because they did it in the comics doesn’t mean they have to do it in the movies. Though, like you said, if they stray too far from the source and make up their own stuff, willy-nilly, they get crap like “X-Men: The Last Stand”. They had to make “X-Men: Days of Future Past” just to negate the existence of that atrocity. I get changing some things because they may not play as well to your average movie going audience as they do to comics fans. I get that you don’t need every detail and want to streamline the story to make it less convoluted. Some things have really irritated me (the characterizations of Xavier, Mystique, Frost, and MacTaggert in “X-Men: First Class”, nearly everything about “X-Men: The Last Stand” and “Man of Steel”, Dr. Doom, Deadpool), some things have sort of bugged me but I’ve kind of let them slide (Kitty Pryde’s time-travel powers, Xavier being alive, Captain Stacy being a dick, the characterizations of Dr. Octopus, Bucky, and Alexander Pierce, Hulk “always” being angry, no Rick Jones or a human Jarvis), and some things I’ve been on-board with (Spidey’s organic webshooters, Iron Patriot, the fake Mandarin, the race-changing of Kingpin, Perry White, Electro, and the upcoming Human Torch). I think the point is, though, that Gwen’s death, like that of Richard, Mary, and Ben Parker, George Stacy, and, later on, Jean DeWolff and Marlo Jameson, is a big part of what makes Peter Parker Spider-Man. It’s not “The Spectacular Gwen Stacy”, it’s not “Spidey & Gwen’s Tangled Web”, it’s “The Amazing Spider-Man”. Everything that happens should progress his character and, like in the comics, Gwen’s death is a major turning point for Parker. I liked Emma Stone, I like Andrew Garfield, I think they’re spot on and I even disagree with killing her in part 2 rather than waiting for part 3. I mean, we’re apparently getting two more movies, plus a handful of spin-offs anyway, so why rush into things? And there is a TON of stuff about this new franchise that doesn’t follow the source material. Sometimes it approximates it, other times, it throws it out the window entirely. That stuff doesn’t really bother me when they get the characters and the essence of it right. They got Parker right. They got Gwen right. They got her death right. Even for those of us that new it was coming, it was shocking, dirty, ruthless, and, most importantly, poignant. Just like in the comics. It’s where they choose to go from here that really matters. This should advance Parker’s character. The biggest gripe I have with “The Dark Knight Rises” isn’t the ambiguous ending, the silly voices, the not-so-surprising plot twists, the pseudo-boy wonder, or the overblown production. I’m fine with all that. What bugs me is the fact that he quit being Batman after Rachel died. A man so driven by the death of his parents that he started a one-man war on crime gave up his quest instead of re-affirming it because his old friend that isn’t really his girlfriend got blown up. That isn’t Batman. I don’t want that to be Spider-Man, too. Did Gwen have to die? Probably. Maybe. I don’t know. They would have made a lot of non-comics fans happy if they hadn’t killed her. Ironically, I’ve heard several of the graphic novel uninitiated complain that killing Gwen was just trying to rip of “The Dark Knight”. While I thought it necessary, I think they should’ve waited a bit longer. But they were right to do it. Not just because it happened in the books. The clone saga, One More Day, and the Spider-Mobile happened in the books. I don’t need to see them represented at the theater. It had to happen because it’s part of what makes Spider-Man Spider-Man. If you want to watch a parallel universe where Spider-Man dates both MJ and Gwen but ends up with MJ without Gwen dying, be my guest and sit through “Spider-Man 3″ again. You’re not wrong to want Gwen to live. I wanted her to live, too. So did her family. And Miles Warren. And Stan Lee. And Peter Parker. She was his happily ever after. Which, unfortunately, is why she had to die.


    • Mel Lang July 24, 2014 at 2:45 pm

      Thanks for the comment! I especially appreciate that you thought it through, and didn’t just give me the usual “Because comics! Because fanboy!” rage… Cheers!