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May 6, 2014

The Amazingly Whipped Spider-Man 2

Okay, so we’re not going to talk about how Peter Parker experimented with electricity to the sounds of Steve Aoki’s “Pursuit of Happiness,” which was already the main song in a two-year-old movie about a teenager’s house party. We’re not going to talk about how Gwen Stacy audibly and immaturely fought with her boyfriend while wearing a porn-ish miniskirt to her fucking Oxford fucking Scholars interview. We’re not going to talk about how a high school valedictorian didn’t even consider going to college in the first place, but got this scholarship to one of the most impressive universities in the world so yeah sure seems fun. We’re not going to talk about how Peter Parker’s life is spiraling downward and while he’s desperately trying to piece it all together there’s some indie-folk-happy “Hi! Welcome to American Eagle!” banjo song playing in the background. We’re not going to talk about the overabundance of bangs due to the movie’s apparently low wig budget. We’re not even going to talk about when Harry yelled, “YOU’RE A FRAUD, SPIDERMAN” *flips table* even though that was my favorite moment so if you want to talk about it I’m here.

But no. You can't watch a movie without suspending some disbelief, so we’re not going to talk about any of that. Well, at least for now.

Out of respect for the new franchise, I really, really did not want to compare this movie with the past Spider-Man trilogy. But when I was wracking my head trying to think of why this movie made me groan and squirm as much as it did, I realized it was actually not because of the lack of James Franco, but because this movie undermined a fundamental premise that makes Spider-Man the hero that he is—a premise that the original trilogy, and every other successful superhero story, hit right on the head. This movie failed by taking away Peter’s fierce individuality. It did so by putting him in a relationship that de-characterized him.

 The love of the original trilogy, Mary Jane “MJ” Watson is exactly who Peter needed. MJ complemented Peter. Gwen Stacy, however, highlighted his flaws. MJ wasn’t that intelligent, but she warmed him up. She humanized Peter by balancing his calculating intellect with her cool, devil-may-care, sex kitten attitude. At first, Peter was a science nerd who kept to his books and experiments. But then, he stood up for himself and became a superhero all on his own. By firmly believing in his own capabilities, then he got the popular girl to fall for him. Gwen Stacy wouldn’t let Peter stand up for himself. She was always trying to make it a pissing contest over who has more balls or who paid better attention in 8th grade science class—making him seem flaky, unreliable, and straight-up dull in comparison. With an overpowering girlfriend, Peter has no zeal, no purpose. I know I’ll get flack for saying this, but it needs to be said—an independent feminist completely undermines the central premise of a superhero movie.

If it hasn’t been cleared up already, let it be known that I love superhero movies. They live in a special place in my heart right next-door to Chinese food and Disney. Am I an action buff? Special effects enthusiast? Absolutely not. On the contrary, my love for superheroes is for something much deeper—it’s for their empowering, individualistic, Oprah-level inspirational message. Don’t let the popular kids get to you—believe in yourself, and your day will come.

Captain America was a puny geek who roided up and became a symbol of optimism for a rising nation. Batman was an orphan geek who trained to overcome his phobia of bats and became a symbol of morality for a crumbling city. Spider-Man was a misfit geek who got a serendipitous bug bite and became a symbol of bravery in the face of adversity, who then got a girlfriend who he quite literally couldn’t survive without? Peter Parker became a hero by using his brains and guts to stand up for himself. However, Gwen Stacy is seemingly braver and smarter than Peter—without shining in those categories, what else can a misfit geek bring to the table?

Don’t paint me as a crotchety old grandma reminiscing on the good ol’ days of film—there were some aspects of the film that I truly dug. Jamie Foxx’s Electro was so real and so magnificent. Mama Gump, I mean Sally Field, made me feel real emotions—like my own parents abandoned me, in a totally good way. And casting Dane DeHaan as Harry Osborn was insanely smart as he could seriously pass for the son of Willem Dafoe, the actor who played Harry Osborn’s dad in the original Spider-Man series. It’s uncanny, seriously—Google “Dane DeHaan”, then Google “young Willem Dafoe” in another tab. Identical.

But no matter what, you simply can’t have an amazing Spider-Man movie without an amazing Spider-Man. And to be able to showcase everything he’s amazing at, the man needs to be single. If he gets to discharge his web into a damsel every now and then—awesome. But when you let a girlfriend take away what made you super in the first place, what else do you have to show for yourself?