In a time where Spider-Man is at his most saturated with multiple versions taking up the mantle all at once, it’s a genuine treat to look back on past iterations and examine them through a new lens. With ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ and especially ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’, grief seems to be a central theme in Spidey’s story, no matter which version. That being said, despite this concept being touched upon in every single movie, even in the new PS4/5 storyline, there’s a version of Spider-Man that deals with grief and responsibility in a way no other Spidey story has. Marc Webb’s ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ duology can easily be viewed as a tragedy. A tragedy about time, grief, love, hope and responsibility and at the very core, a Peter Parker who is arguably defined by the amount of grief and death he has endured. Despite the line “With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility” not being explicitly said in these movies, Webb takes that concept and manages to give us what I think is the best representation of it.
One of ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’s most defining themes is that of running against time. Catching up with time and trying to be on top of things is incredibly relatable and all the more necessary as we meet Peter leaning headfirst into adulthood. Your late teens are a time of confusion and uncertainty and who more can that apply to other than Peter Parker? The amalgamation of sub-plots in this movie create the ultimate storm of chaos for Parker. It’s his constant struggle to please everyone around him and to feel fulfilled that make this Peter Parker so insanely relatable. Peter Parker’s tragedy refers to how his double-life affects the ones around him and how it affects him in return. The detachment from Aunt May, the highs and lows with Gwen, his devotion as a friend to Harry, all of these things are deeply affected because he is Spider-Man and he doesn’t know which mask to put on when he’s around them. He is constantly second-guessing himself and because he has such massive responsibilities, it has all that much more of an impact on those around him. All Peter wants is to live a life with Gwen and yet these movies make that decision feel selfish rather than selfless because of Captain Stacy’s dying wish. It is Peter’s responsibility to protect Gwen, to not let Spider-Man’s life become part of hers. However, it is Gwen’s choice to stay, be with Peter Parker and help Spider-Man. She gets in the middle of his double life and it ends up costing her life which Peter inevitably feels guilty about.
Romance has never been such a crucial element in a Spider-Man’s story until now. Peter and Gwen’s relationship is the heart and soul of this duology. It’s the one source of purity and innocence in this dark world that Webb has weaved. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone are electric together, they portray that innocence and awkwardness so well, you immediately latch onto them and get invested in their future, their chemistry is palpable. Garfield specifically portrays Peter in a much more vulnerable and emotional way than any other actor has. He wears his heart on his sleeve, his kindness and genuine selflessness is contrasted with his inability to function as a single person. It’s the most human Peter Parker has ever been. In the midst of all this chaos or as we call them “sub-plots”, Gwen is the one constant in his life. Every moment of Peter’s life has led to him choosing Gwen as his path. It is at this intensely romantic and heartwarming moment that Gwen’s fate is sealed. He doesn’t think as Spider-Man, he thinks as Peter Parker, he follows his heart and in the end, it costs him. The one time he decides to think about himself, he pays for it immediately. As he gently holds Gwen’s dead body in his arms, he cries out ‘Please!’ repeatedly, almost as if he was screaming out ‘I only ever asked for this one constant in my life, please don’t take it away from me.’ It’s the result of the choice he made, the choice to continue loving Gwen Stacy. It is the moment that defines Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man because through these two films, it’s been set up as his worst possible fear and it actually gets realized and it leaves this Peter in a dark and rough path from which he never truly recovers.
Seeing Andrew Garfield get so much love not only as an actor but more importantly as Spider-Man genuinely brings a tear to my eye. He deserves every ounce of love coming his way, he is the very reason I even became a Spider-Man fan. As a kid with intense arachnophobia, I wasn’t necessarily the biggest fan of the web-crawler but it was actually ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ that made me the fan I am now. He is my Spider-Man and I will forever be grateful to have grown up with his version. He makes you care about every character he plays and with Peter, it’s something truly special. This movie’s continuous insistence to get us to care about these conjoining storylines is made much easier to ingest because of Garfield’s performance. Peter’s relationships with Harry, his parents, Aunt May and Gwen, it was very easy to get invested because Andrew Garfield sells it. It matters to me because it matters to him. Garfield and Sally Field’s dynamic in these two movies is criminally overlooked. The ‘You’re My Boy’ scene is easily one of the best scenes between Peter and May in any cinematic version. My favourite scene, however, has to be near the end where they connect through grief. It’s such a beautiful moment not only because they can bond on a deep, new level but also because it’s pretty clear that she knows he is Spider-Man but she doesn’t want to push him, she wants him to heal. Unfortunately, as it’s revealed in ‘No Way Home’ he never really does heal. He puts on the mask again and becomes Spider-Man to cope with that grief.
Ultimately, Marc Webb has taken Peter Parker and placed him in a tragedy setting. He realizes the daunting task that is being Spider-Man, the one time he glorifies it is in the excellent opening scene which features the best web-slinging cinema has ever seen. Throughout the movie, however, being Spider-Man is something Peter wants to do less of, he wants to be Peter Parker, he wants to be with Gwen Stacy and get a career going but he can’t. He is constantly trying to grasp time and he never once manages to do it, not even to save Gwen. When viewed as a duology, ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ movies can be effectively viewed as a tragic and dark portrayal of the ‘With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility’ line. When viewed as a second chapter, the movie expands on what the first movie built-in tremendous ways. The suit is dare I say, amazing. The score by Hans Zimmer and The Magnificent Six matches the epic scope and visually, it’s stunning. The romance is epic and tragic, the stakes are higher and the villains are all the more menacing even if they’re underwritten. While this movie has its flaws, a lot of people seem to forget just how much it gets right. Marc Webb understands Peter Parker on a deep level and it’s because he understands the nature of that character that he can test the limits of the stories he can tell, this time, he chose a tragedy.
‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’ is available to stream and purchase everywhere.