[Warning: This post contains some spoilers about ‘Amazing Spider-Man 2.’]
One of the more provocative choices Marc Webb made in directing “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” was first shooting, then leaving out, scenes of Shailene Woodley as future Peter Parker love interest Mary Jane Watson.
Parker in the comic of course moves on romantically after the death of Gwen Stacy to Mary Jane, and the two begin their complicated romance of the sort also explored in Sam Raimi’s three Spidey movies.
With Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy meeting her tragic end in a clock tower fight scene with Green Goblin in Sony Pictures’ “Amazing Spider-Man 2,” the film would have been ripe for a handoff, or at least a hint of what’s to come.
And indeed, the script called for MJ to make an appearance. In fact, so much so that Woodley, cast as the iconic love interest, turned up on the New York set and shot a number of scenes before filmmakers decided to take a different turn. (Woodley is considered likely to take up the role in “The Amazing Spider-Man 3,” but nothing formal has been announced on that film.)
Webb said leaving Woodley out of his new “Spider-Man” was one of the toughest choices he had to make in the editing room. “Shailene is a brilliant actress, and she did a great couple days of work,” he told The Times. “But it was very difficult to introduce someone as a competing love interest when so much is on the table with Peter and Gwen.”
He said that filmmakers couldn’t have anticipated that at the script stage. “It was something we only discovered when we were shooting and then in the edit room,” he said, noting that it was “hard, very hard.”
The omission is notable given how de rigueur it’s become for superhero movies to tease future characters. Marvel has made a business (and hundreds of millions of dollars) offering glimpses of characters whose pretty much sole purpose is to remind viewers they’ll be appearing in upcoming installments.
But for that didn’t feel like the right fit here, producers said.
“We bit off more than we can chew,” said producer Matt Tolmach. “We had a superhero opera, and as great as Shailene is, she didn’t really co-exist with the bigger story we were telling.”
Real life, of course, is rarely that neat and often means juggling competing emotions and interests.
But cinematic storytelling, with every scene carrying weight and competing people and emotions not exactly easy to put across in a couple of hours, doesn’t lend itself to that. Or at least it didn’t here, filmmakers said.
“It felt like a distraction. You can’t have Peter thinking about Gwen every moment and then there’s this girl next door who’s suddenly there,” Tolmach said. “We weren’t ready for it.”