[WARNING: The following post contains MAJOR SPOILERS for The Amazing Spider-Man 2.]
Everyone's favorite wall-crawler is set for his stateside return in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 - with only two days before release. The blockbuster sequel has already racked-up solid international box office sales, guaranteeing that Sony's plans for The Amazing Spider-Man 3, along with Venom and Sinister Six spin-offs, remain a top priority at the studio.
Still, in spite of (arguably) the best Spider-Man action ever depicted on the big screen, many viewers have come out of the superhero sequel feeling as though director Marc Webb produced a film that sacrifices cohesive continuation of Peter Parker's journey in web-slinging to make room for invasive shared universe set-up (e.g. Iron Man 2). The criticism shouldn't come as a complete surprise - since fans have long been concerned that three villains and "his greatest battle begins" marketing meant The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was going to be an overstuffed mess.
Yet, even when The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is guilty of underserving certain characters in order to introduce a wide roster of key comic book players, Webb deserves credit for removing one piece of the planned story that would have, without a doubt, been more of a distraction than a worthwhile inclusion (this time). When it was first announced that the director had cut Shailene Woodley's scenes (as future love interest Mary Jane Watson), some assumed that Webb had caved to the shouts of angry fan boys who felt the actress wasn't a fit (read: wasn't "hot" enough) to play M.J.
[NOTE: This is your last chance to avoid MAJOR SPOILERS for The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Turn away if you do not want to be spoiled.]
At the time, attempting to walk a fine line between spoiling the tragic events of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and addressing the choice to cut Mary Jane (as well as whether or not Woodley would reprise the role in The Amazing Spider-Man 3), Webb merely said that the scenes distracted from the growing relationship between Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) and Peter. Months later, we know that the director commits to Gwen's untimely comic book fate - making it even more apparent that injecting M.J. would have distracted from the shock and pain of Gwen's death.
Now that the film is in theaters, Webb spoke with Movies.com and opened-up about his choice to cut M.J. - as well as where the scenes fit into the original Amazing Spider-Man 2 narrative:
"There was one little scene at the beginning where she is next door and it took place right around the montage where he comes back and there was another little moment between Gwen and MJ. But it just tipped over. The relationship between them [Peter and Gwen] is so sacred and so powerful, that it just didn't feel right. And it sucks because Shailene is such a f**king great actress and so cool and magical but it was just about having this obligation to this romance that I thought was sacred. It was just one of those things."
Assuming the M.J. scenes are not included on The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Blu-ray/DVD release, viewers may never get to see Woodley's "magical" portrayal of M.J. as Webb indicates the recent success of Divergent may prevent the actress from reprising the role in future Spider-Man series installments:
"Divergent is a massive hit and I think it's going to be tricky for schedules."
Skeptical fans will claim that Webb is trying to cover up a botched casting job, but with a heavy focus on Peter and Gwen in the sequel as well as the subsequent fallout, the director's explanation makes a lot of sense. For all of its Sinister Six setup, the battle between Peter's personal wants and responsibilities is the most cohesive and impactful narrative thread in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 - thanks to Stone's empowered depiction of Gwen throughout both installments. Even with a small cameo, the inclusion of M.J. might have softened the blow of losing Gwen (for both Peter and the audience).
Nevertheless, Webb is committed to using the character in future Amazing Spider-Man chapters and, given that M.J. was nearly in Part 2, it's hard to imagine the filmmaker won't introduce her in Part 3 - especially after the months Peter spends mourning Gwen in the current movie:
"Oh absolutely. The question, of course, is can Peter ever love again? And that will be something that we have to address."
Webb is also expected to expand the role of Felicia Hardy (Felicity Jones), aka antiheroine Black Cat, a character that has enjoyed a flirtatious relationship with the both Parker and his web-slinging alter-ego in the comics. Sam Raimi was expected to introduce Hardy (and Vulture) in the cancelled Spider-Man 4, so it will be interesting to see where she fits into this new shared universe storyline.
Will she be a love interest or just a potential Sinister Six member? Webb isn't willing to comment (yet):
"In the comic books, yes. Who knows what's going to happen with that in the future. But there are a few possibilities we're exploring but in terms of theme, that's certainly an interesting thing to play with."
After losing Gwen, it's unlikely the filmmakers will spend a lot of time investing in a Felicia Hardy/Peter Parker relationship - especially since Sony is eager to get Mary Jane into the picture. Still, a Spider-Rebound with Black Cat could be a fun prelude to Peter starting a legitimate relationship with M.J.
Regardless of whether or not you believe Webb's explanation for cutting Mary Jane from The Amazing Spider-Man 2, most fans will agree that the sequel is better off without the character. Gwen and M.J. are important players in Peter's attempt to balance a personal life with Spider-Man duties and, as a result, they are both deserving of patient closure and introduction, respectively.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 opens in U.S. theaters on May 2nd, 2014, followed by The Amazing Spider-Man 3 on June 10th, 2016. Venom and Sinister Six do not currently have official release dates but are expected before The Amazing Spider-Man 4 arrives on May 4th, 2018.
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