When the Spider-Man franchise was rebooted in 2012, the marketing campaign promised that The Amazing Spider-Man would reveal the “untold story” behind the webslinger’s dearly departed parents. It didn’t. Instead, nearly everything involving Peter Parker’s family was stripped from the film at the last minute, perhaps so that the filmmakers could save a little something for The Amazing Spider-Man 2, which opens with a flashback action sequence that offs poor Peter’s mom and dad.
So what do we learn in that scene, and in a subsequent subplot where Peter finds his father’s secret subterranean lab? What is the great reveal in this heavily hyped untold story that they’ve been teasing us with for two films? It’s here that I must sound a SPOILER ALERT, though the spoiler is one you basically already knew after watching the first movie: Oscorp is awfully shady, Peter’s dad knew about it, and they killed him.
And yet the series continues to treat this backstory like it’s a staggering new piece of the puzzle, parsing out little scraps of information long after we’d already guessed them. (Even the subway lab reveal only exists to tell Peter Parker what the audience had learned in the first superfluous action sequence.) Here is some free advice from Vulture: No one cares. Nobody is clamoring to know more about Peter’s dad. The only thing we learned about Peter’s mom is that her hair looks nice when a plane is crashing. Let those characters be and never touch them again, please. These movies’ running times will thank you for it.
In fact, you could easily excise all the parent stuff from The Amazing Spider-Man 2 without any plot-related blowback, because that’s how minimally the mom-and-dad subplot affects anything else in the film. The only thing this backstory inspires is more questions … and not the good kind of questions, where you can’t wait to find out the answers. The bad kind, where you fear there aren’t any answers because the filmmakers didn’t bother to think them through. Questions like:
- If Richard and Mary Parker are so nervous about going on the lam that they barely give Peter and Aunt May a reason why — they’re that concerned with skipping town and not being found — why the hell do they then board a private plane to fly away? Who’s paying for that? (You know you can’t use your Oscorp expense account anymore, Richard.) Take your car and go hole up in a Motel 6 two states over, guys! If you try to disappear by booking an expensive, luxurious private plane, chances are good that the bad guys will find out about it and murder you to death.
- If Richard’s computer upload was so important, why didn’t they do it before they got on the freakin’ plane? They had plenty of time: It’s early at night when they leave Peter with Aunt May, and it looks like midday in the next scene when we see them flying.
- What exactly are they uploading? Just that video of Richard saying, “I have discovered what Oscorp was going to use my research for”? And what was the point of creating said video, seeing as how Richard emails it to a bizarre mystery location where it will languish for nearly a decade and a half? (Way to bring down Oscorp, dude.)
- Did Richard know that Peter would eventually find the Roosevelt subway station where he’d sent the video? If so, how?! The trail of clues leading to that space is awfully meager, and it relies on a series of extreme coincidences that include a hazy half-memory of Aunt May’s delivered at just the right time, the knowledge that Peter would eventually possess Richard’s old briefcase, and the hope that Peter would fling an old object at the wall in anger and discover the subway tokens hidden therein.
- When exactly did Richard Parker have time, between his very major job at Oscorp and his family at home, to create another subterranean lab that doesn’t appear to have any worthwhile use besides housing this random video?
- Why didn’t Richard expose Oscorp in public? If that was his goal all along — and it seems like it was, since he says, “I have a responsibility to protect the world from what I know they’re capable of” — maybe Richard should have sent that video to, like, the news? If Richard is so determined to keep Peter out of harm’s way that he abruptly ditches him as a little kid, why would he hope that Peter eventually finds and becomes responsible for that video thirteen years later? Way to make your son do your dirty work for you, Richard.
- Not that Peter actually does anything about the video! Was he supposed to? He kind of watches it and nods, and that’s about the extent of it. And aside from a throwaway mention that explains why the spider-serum won’t work properly on Harry Osborn, the video didn’t tell us anything we don’t know, anyway. People at Oscorp are evil? No shit. You might think, given its paramount importance in the first five minutes of the movie, that the reveal of this video will have a profound transformative effect on the rest of the film, and maybe even the series. But it doesn’t, because the end of the movie is (rightly) about Gwen Stacy, not Peter’s parents who we don’t care about.
- Ugggggh, is Richard coming back? We don’t actually see him die, nor do we see the plane crash … and we know there’s a spare parachute on board. Is this going to be the big twist at the end of The Amazing Spider-Man 3, that Peter has a living parent who can go hang out with the already ill-used Aunt May? Stand down, Spidey.
Peter’s parents are so extraneous that we couldn’t even bear to use a picture of them for this article — that’s why Uncle Ben and Aunt May got the nod instead. Let’s just pretend they never happened! And that goes double for you, director Marc Webb … who disconcertingly mused to Screen Crush, “You know what would be interesting? To do a whole movie about Richard Parker.” If things ever get to that point, Peter’s own father will have accomplished what the Sinister Six could not: He’ll have extinguished our rooting interest in Spider-Man completely.