I’d love to see a movie called The Amazing Aunt May. Sally Field takes what could have been simply another wise figure who counsels a young hero on his quest and turns it into a rich portrait of a woman who lost her brother-in-law and sister-in-law to disrepute, her husband to a murderer, and is now on the cusp of losing her ersatz son to adulthood. Aunt May is erratic and clingy, but she is this way only because she fears losing Peter. She wants to be important to him, loved by him, for as long as she can. She has to learn to trust that he loves her and that he’ll still love her even if she lets him go.
I’d love to see The Amazing Gwen Stacey, too. Emma Stone is wonderful as a young woman who genuinely loves her difficult to understand and frustratingly non-committal boyfriend. Again and again, Peter has failed to be there for her when he’s supposed to be, not because he’s busy being Spider-Man, but because he won’t let her get too close to him. He fears she’ll get hurt, and he promised her father he’d protect her. Gwen must live her own life and live it as fully as possible instead of hanging on as Peter figures out what he really wants and who he wants her to be. She must discern her own identity apart from Peter even if it hurts him (and especially if he’s not okay with it).
The Amazing Max Dillon would be interesting, too. Of course, to be a compelling movie, Max’s story and Jamie Foxx’s performance would need to be given room to breathe. Foxx has always excelled at subtlety, and there’s little subtle about Max in this movie. Max is a man who has lived his entire life in the background, lonely, unknown, and unloved. He’s taken advantage of at work. I imagine he’s probably taken advantage of at home, too. He treasures even the smallest kindness, because he has experienced so little of the virtue in his life. When he morphs into Electro, he’s finally noticed by everyone. To the put-upon and unvalued, inspiring fear feels a lot like earning respect.
I’d probably enjoy The Amazing Harry Osborn, too. Like Max, Harry’s story would need to be given substantial room to establish and develop his character. That actor Dane DeHaan is able to imbue Harry with the pathos he does is a testament both to DeHaan’s charisma (Can we get him in a movie with Michael Shannon, please?) and to the similarity of his character here with the one he played in the very fine Chronicle. Harry was cast aside by his father and brought back only to be burdened with a collapsing company and a debilitating disease. Harry has a lot to deal with – the death of the father he hardly knew, a board of directors who want his head, and a diagnosis of all but certain death. He is a complicated character completely deserving of his own film.
Finally, I’d love to watch The Amazing Peter Parker, too. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone continue their chemistry from the first film, and director Marc Webb still manages to make their schmaltzy (in the best way) romance fun. As a guy beguiled by a girl, Garfield is as convincing as they come. He’s also likably cocky in a way the best movie stars are, like Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, and Paul Newman. As Garfield plays Peter. he’s a kid trying to figure some pretty serious things out and yet he still manages to have fun while doing it. Garfield is maybe a little too cool to be relatable—and really, Peter Parker is supposed to be relatable—but I sure do have fun watching him.
The movie I saw attempts these things, but it is a Spider-Man movie first. So, it also includes clever car chases, witty web-slinging, city-scape-swinging (the special effects truly are impressive), and super-powered fight sequences. Every blockbuster sequence is immersive and interesting. I was thrilled during every action sequence.
The combination of these movies is, of course, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, a movie that tries to be all of those above movies at once, and in so doing, can’t take the time to really be any of them. Everything feels rushed. I wish all of these truly compelling characters sketches were given the narrative space they need to become fully expressed characters. I wish the action sequences were part of the character development instead of simply the punctuation at the end of the sentence. In the end, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is more like a freight train than a movie–loud and exciting and full of good stuff but too difficult to grab ahold of as it speeds past toward its preordained sequels.