The role of women in the comic book movie industry is continually evolving, and that holds true for the Spider-Man franchise. Whereas Gwen Stacy in Spider-Man 3 (then played by Bryce Dallas Howard) was downgraded from Peter Parker’s first love (in the comic books) to a third wheel on the Pete/Mary Jane train, Emma Stone’s version of the character in the current Amazing Spider-Man continuity is a proper foil for the pre-collegiate webslinger.
Gwen’s fate in this year’s Amazing Spider-Man 2 remains up in the air, as both she and director Marc Webb have been careful to dance around questions about whether or not the character’s infamous death from the Spider-Man comics will play out onscreen in the film. Speculation on that subject has been fueled by Gwen’s wardrobe in the sequel, in addition to rumors about why scenes featuring Shailene Woodley (Divergent) as Mary Jane were dropped to the cutting room floor early in post-production.
Moving to a less morbid topic of discussion – in an interview with Total Film, Stone talked about how often Gwen’s time in Amazing Spider-Man 2 involves her being rescued by her onscreen (and offscreen) boyfriend Andrew Garfield’s costumed alter ego. In terms of an exact number of instances, she said:
“Not many. I can think of one important instance. [Gwen saves Peter] more than he saves her. She’s incredibly helpful to Spider-Man… He’s the muscle, she’s the brains.”
In Amazing Spider-Man, Gwen was neither a typical damsel in distress (a la Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane), nor did it feel as though she was written to (over-)compensate for years of wishy-washy representation of ladies in superhero comics – the ‘strong female character’, in other words.
Gwen was academically intelligent, could think on her feet, had a real personality and proved quite willing to lend her boyfriend a helping hand while he worked, but like Peter she was still just a teenager in over her head. That made her all the more of an interesting (and important) addition to the coming of age story at the film’s core, with the dynamic between she and Pete feeling all the more authentic for it.
Of course Gwen will be at a disadvantage in Amazing Spider-Man 2, seeing how she’s apparently one of the rare main characters who doesn’t get superpowers (or special armor to compensate) – making her something of a vulnerability during battle. Stone commented on just that in her Total Film interview:
“I don’t get to do too many crazy stunts. She gets herself in the middle of stuff, that’s for sure! I do get webbed to a car."
The moment Stone references here was shown in the film’s international trailer, and it seems like a winner – a funny moment in the heat of battle (with Gwen inadvertently blurting out Spidey’s true identity) and meaningful character development, in terms of the Peter/Gwen relationship. If Amazing Spider-Man 2 manages to provide enough of that, then maybe the sequel will be able to tell a compelling story – in addition to blowing the doors wide open for even bigger developments in Amazing Spider-Man 3, as well as both Venom and Sinister Six movies.
Screenwriters Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci (Star Trek Into Darkness) and Jeff Pinkner (Fringe) are generally reliable in that department, and it helps that Stone and Garfield have great chemistry onscreen together to help sell the Peter/Gwen connection. If all goes well, Amazing Spider-Man 2 will have a nice mix of superhero fun and poignance; the script pitch apparently made Garfield cry after first hearing it – hopefully, fans will also shed tears once the proceedings draw to a close.
… For the right reasons, that is.
Sandy Schaefer blogs at Screen Rant.