With the sequel to this year’s The Amazing Spider-Man set to shoot in the coming year in order to meet its May 2014 release date, casting decisions are soon to follow. In fact, just this week it was announced that actress Shailene Woodley, who was nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance in last year’s The Descendants, has been offered the role of that iconic red head, Mary Jane Watson, in the next film. While it was always assumed Mary Jane, who was played by Kirsten Dunst in the Sam Raimi trilogy, was going to pop up again in this franchise since she’s such an integral part of the Spider-Man mythology, the question remains how the filmmakers will introduce the character and develop her relationship with the other major characters.
In the early comics, Peter Parker’s Aunt May was always trying to hook Peter up with Mary Jane, who lived next door, but Peter always avoided these attempts. Finally, at the end of one issue, Peter meets Mary Jane and is stunned at how gorgeous she is. She then speaks her immortal line, “Face it Tiger…you just hit the jackpot.” Peter begins dating her, which doesn’t please Gwen Stacy, but Peter eventually sees Mary Jane as too self-absorbed and cuts off their relationship, with Mary Jane moving on to Peter’ best friend, Harry Osborn. Peter then begins to date Gwen, who became Peter’s main love interest until her death at the hands of the Green Goblin. After Gwen’s death, Mary Jane, who had remained a close friend of Peter and Gwen, becomes a more mature woman and her and Peter grow closer. Peter and Mary Jane’s relationship eventually blossoms in to romance and later, marriage. Then in 2007, in the “One Day More” arc, in order to save Aunt May’s life, Peter made a deal with the devil, the price being he and Mary Jane’s memories would be wiped so they wouldn’t remember ever being married. So that happened.
With Mary Jane’s introduction, the film may go down the love triangle route, with Mary Jane complicating Peter (Andrew Garfield) and Gwen’s (Emma Stone) relationship. It’d be nice however if the filmmakers didn’t go down this route. Instead of making them romantic rivals, the film could explore the friendship between Gwen and Mary Jane. If a possible romance did start to bloom between Peter and Mary Jane, it’d make Mary Jane and Gwen’s relationship more complex. Their relationship would be as much at stake as Peter and Gwen’s. A friendship with Gwen would also make Gwen’s eventual death painful for Mary Jane as well as for Peter, bringing them closer together.
It’d maybe be best for Mary Jane to have a romance with Harry Osborn, since there are rumors of that role being cast as well. That way, the film could chronicle the contrasting relationships between the two couples. This new trilogy draws inspiration from the Ultimate Spider-Man continuity, in which Mary Jane was introduced before Gwen and Peter revealed his identity to her. Peter revealed his identity to Gwen in The Amazing Spider-Man so Mary Jane will probably be kept in the dark about Spider-Man’s identity, for this movie at least.
While it hasn’t been confirmed, this trilogy will likely play out the death of Gwen Stacy plotline. At the end of The Amazing Spider-Man, Peter implies to Gwen that he won’t keep his promise to her dying father, Captain George Stacy (Denis Leary), to keep her out of his life as Spider-Man. This can be taken as a foreshadowing of Gwen’s death since, in the comics, it was the Green Goblin’sdiscovery of Spider-Man’s true identity that led to her death. If the Green Goblin is introduced in the next film, of which there’s a good chance due to Norman Osborn being mentioned in The Amazing Spider-Man, then Gwen will be in danger if he knows Spider-Man’s identity. At the same time, Electro is rumored to be the villain in the sequel so maybe Gwen’s death will not occur until the third film.
Having Gwen die at the end of the second film would be a heartbreaking way to conclude the second chapter of the trilogy-especially if they end it with the recreation of the scene from the comics where Mary Jane is trying to comfort Peter after her death. Peter tells her to leave since she doesn’t usually care about anyone other than herself. Mary Jane goes to leave but decides to stay. This would segway in to the third film where Peter and Mary Jane’s relationship is still developing, with Peter unsure of his feelings towards Mary Jane, whether or not he wants to pursue a romance with her, while still mourning Gwen. The film, and the trilogy, if it remains a trilogy, could end on a hopeful note as Peter and Mary Jane embark on their romantic relationship, with Gwen still important to Peter but able to let Mary Jane fully in to his heart. If Gwen dies in the third film, it’d have to occur mid way through in order for the rest of the film to reach a more uplifting ending. As tragic as Spider-Man’s world can be, it’s also an optimistic one, where an ordinary man can become a hero and find redemption in helping others.
With Woodley possibly being locked in for the role, it’ll be interesting what dynamic she’ll have with Garfield and Stone, as well as how the character will be interpreted. Woodley still has that girl next door vibe, which may be redundant, considering Stone already fills that role. In contrast to Gwen’s girl next door, Mary Jane should be more of an out-of-this-world presence since she eventually becomes a model. As an actress, Stone already has a strong screen presence, so it’s still a question whether Woodley can rival that. That’s not a knock against Woodley’s acting talents or her looks. She’s beautiful and gave a strong performance in The Descendants-it’s just that Woodley really has to sell us on the idea this will be the woman Peter falls in love with and eventually marries. Hopefully, Woodley and Garfield will make us believe the relationship between Mary Jane and Peter. This will rely heavily on her and Garfield having the kind of chemistry he shares with Stone, which gave the first movie much of its heart and soul.
The best part of The Amazing Spider-Man was the human scale drama and relationships between the characters. Director Marc Webb, who also directed (500) Days of Summer has the sensitive touch to make this emotional material work and one can hope the next film will delve even deeper in to the emotional complexities of Peter Parker’s life and create a relationship between him and Mary Jane that’s as appealing as the one between him and Gwen Stacy.
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