Sony confirmed today what should have been obvious: Marc Webb will return to direct The Amazing Spider-Man 2 after his initial film successfully rebooted the franchise and banked a staggering $751 million at the worldwide box office. The studio added that Andrew Garfield would be back in the red-and-blue tights as Peter Parker and his costumed alter ego. But then Sony threw a bit of a curveball by stating Emma Stone was “in talks” to return as flaxen-haired love interest Gwen Stacy.
What could possibly be preventing Stone from signing on the dotted line and returning to the franchise? I have a theory: She’s trying to figure out how to score a massive payday from only one film instead of two (which Garfield reportedly is attached to do, completing a new Spidey trilogy). And she’s negotiating for only one more film because her character won’t survive the sequel.
We already know this to be true: Stacy dies, tragically, at the hands of the Green Goblin (according to Marvel lore). Webb certainly hinted at the possibility of harm swirling around Gwen, making Peter promise to a dying Capt. Stacy (Denis Leary) that he’d leave Gwen out of his amateur heroics. And Stone, to her credit, didn’t shy away from reporter questions regarding Gwen’s storied fate while promoting The Amazing Spider-Man, saying Gwen’s death was part of the reason she was interested in playing the role in the first place.
So Gwen’s death in the reincarnated Spider-Man is more a question of “when,” not “if.” And in my humble opinion, she needs to die in the next film, creating a kind of dark, depressing Empire Strikes Back ending that sets the stage for a redemptive Spider-Man 3.
Webb can take the bulk of this next film to introduce Norman Osborn and his Goblin persona. He can conclude The Amazing Spider-Man 2 with Gwen’s death atop the George Washington Bridge. And our devastated hero can seek solace – and a reason to fight again – in the third and final chapter of this new trilogy.
I’ve always believed Sam Raimi made a big mistake botching the iconic Gwen Stacy storyline, mixing Mary Jane into the Goblin story, then putting the character atop a bridge in the original Spider-Man but letting her live. It was a narrative cop out, and I never forgave him for it. Webb has a chance to redeem the plot, to set things right with Spidey’s world…through some very real pain. Webb told me during an interview that he’d like to explore that subject matter. And now that he’s coming back, I’m really hoping Sony and Marvel let him.
Maybe Stone signs tomorrow, and it was just a matter of letting the ink dry. But when I saw that she remained “in talks,” and you know Sony isn’t going to mess with the Garfield-Stone chemistry, I honestly believe that she’s renegotiating a deal that only includes one more movie. And I think we’re finally going to see the proper end of Gwen Stacy’s storyline. I can’t wait.