Note: The following is my discussion of a major plot point in the new film The Amazing Spider-Man. This post is only meant to be read by people who have already seen the film. Please do not read this post until you’ve already watched the movie, or this post will ruin the movie for you. You have been warned.
On the Death of Gwen Stacy
I have now seen The Amazing Spider-Man 2 three times. I can’t say I’ve ever seen a movie in theaters three times before, but this one was worth it. Each time I watched it, I noticed something new and really enjoyed experiencing it again. And one thing that really stuck out to me was that no matter how many times I watched Gwen Stacy die, it broke my heart every time. No amount of preparation can soften the blow of watching Spider-Man try and fail to save the woman he loves.
Experiencing this heart-wrenching scene over and over again left me with some tough questions that I really wanted to answer. Why is it so hard for us to watch Gwen Stacy die? How could the filmmakers do this to us? How can we (and our good friend Peter Parker) find some meaning in Gwen’s death, and how will Spider-Man as a character and as a franchise carry on without her? I couldn’t touch on any of these questions in my review of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 because I didn’t want to give anything important away, but now I’m dedicating a post to contemplating these questions for those of who have already seen the movie. Here are my thoughts on the death of Gwen Stacy and what it will mean for the future of Spider-Man.
First of all, why should we care that Gwen dies? It’s not like we’ve been seeing her in Spider-Man movies for years. This is only the second movie in the rebooted franchise, so we haven’t really had a lot of time to even get to know her. This may be a little different for moviegoers who also happen to read the comic books and therefore already have a connection with Gwen, but I think Gwen’s death was a heartbreaking moment even for viewers who (like me) have never picked up a Spider-Man comic before in their lives.
But Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy is an extremely compelling character. She’s smart, she’s funny, she’s ambitious. Everyone instantly fell in love with her in the first movie, and that love only grew throughout the second one. You just can’t help but root for Gwen Stacy. And you can’t help but root for Gwen and Peter as a couple after witnessing their incredible chemistry in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. When all of a sudden and out of nowhere Gwen’s life ends, it’s a huge shock, and it’s a huge loss because we’re losing an incredible character and also a very compelling power couple at the same time.
It’s also incredibly sad to realize that Gwen died at the peak of her life. She was doing well in college, on the verge of moving to London to study at Oxford. She was doing so well. She was on her way to doing great things. And suddenly, all of that was gone.
On top of that, it’s also heartbreaking when one realizes the implications of Gwen’s death for Peter. The combination of the scene where Peter sits crying, holding Gwen’s body, and begging her to wake up and the next scene where Peter sits silently at her grave for months really demonstrates just what a catastrophic loss this is for Peter. As he says in the film, Gwen is his path. She’s been the one guiding him throughout his entire journey as Spider-Man, and now, without her, he’s lost.
So why would they do this? Why sacrifice Gwen Stacy? The writers had already killed of Captain Stacy, a pretty important character, in the last movie. Was it really necessary to kill another fundamental Spider-Man character, especially another Stacy? Was this a cheap ploy to make the movie more interesting, or is there something deeper going on here? I would argue that Gwen’s death was much more than a money-making scheme.
One recurring theme in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is Peter’s promise to Captain Stacy to stay away from Gwen. Peter can’t decide whether he can keep that promise or not, which puts him in a cycle of getting together with Gwen and then breaking up with her. All along, Gwen just wants to be able to make her own choice. She doesn’t want her father or Peter or anyone else telling her what to do. She is a strong, intelligent, independent woman, and she wants to make her own choice. And ultimately, she does. In the final battle between Spider-Man and Electro, Gwen chooses to intervene. She chooses to put her life in danger. She saves the city. And yes, she ultimately loses her life in the process. But the point is that putting her life in danger is a choice that Gwen makes. No one else makes it for her. Gwen wanted to make her own choices, and in the end, she did.
Her death really brought that point home. If she had made the choice and then been unscathed, it wouldn’t have been as powerful. But after knowing that she ultimately sacrifices her life for the greater good, hearing her say, “It’s my choice,” becomes an extremely bold and powerful statement of her independence. And I think that’s the biggest reason why Gwen had to die in the film.
Another reason for Gwen’s death is to put Peter to the test. As I said before, Gwen is Peter’s path. She’s been his guiding light all along. And now she’s gone. Who is Peter without Gwen? Is he still Spider-Man? Is he even still Peter? We get a glimpse of the answer to that question at the end of the movie when Spider-Man comes out of hiding to fight the Rhino, but the questions are still largely left unanswered. Seeing a Gwen-less Spider-Man in the The Amazing Spider-Man 3 will be interesting, and there are a lot of different directions the writers could go with it.
And that leads me to my final question. Where does the series go from here? Well, as anyone who watched the movie will know, Sony is currently building up to its Sinister Six spin-off movie expected to release in 2018. The Green Goblin, the leader of the Sinister Six, is the one responsible for Gwen Stacy’s death, and Peter Parker isn’t going to forget it. I imagine that Sony will do an origin story for the Sinister Six in the spin-off movie and then have Peter come face-to-face with them in The Amazing Spider-Man 4. Peter will go head-to-head with his childhood best friend, and he won’t be holding anything back in his attempt to avenge Gwen’s death. That’s all just my speculation, but regardless, Gwen’s death certainly raises the stakes for the relationship between Spider-Man and the Green Goblin, and that will definitely boil over in future films.
I’m not sure what they’ll do with Spider-Man’s love life now that Gwen’s gone. Mary Jane Watson, Peter Parker’s other love interest, was supposed to appear in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 portrayed by the lovely Shailene Woodley, but those scenes were cut out to focus on the relationship between Peter and Gwen. I doubt Shailene will come back to play the role, but I think we’ll definitely be seeing some version of MJ in The Amazing Spider-Man 3. I hope they won’t take that relationship to a romantic level until the fourth film because I think Peter should spend some time on his own mourning Gwen, but only time will tell where the writers will go with that.
Anyway, that’s my take on Gwen Stacy’s death. I’d love to hear yours! You can hit that Contact link at the top of the page, or you can find me on social media. I’d be happy to hear what you think about the whole thing and get a conversation going. Thank you for reading, and check back this Tuesday for a new blog post!