When “The Amazing Spider-Man” hit theaters in July 2012 to reboot the Spider-Man franchise many viewers cried foul that the film seemed to abandon several important plot threads and that director Marc Webb was sacrificing a satisfying and self-contained story for the purpose of building up a sequel. Such criticisms gained fuel as people held up 2002’s “Spider-Man” as a properly fulfilling origin story, one that still remains fresh in the collective memory of moviegoers. However fans might be approaching the narrative structure of “The Amazing Spider-Man” from the wrong perspective. Rather than viewing these plot points as unresolved, I believe the filmmakers attempted to use a fresh approach to illustrate the famous ideal that Spider-Man embodies: with great power comes great responsibility.
One example of the aforementioned unresolved narrative threads is Peter’s hunt for his Uncle Ben’s killer. A good portion of the middle of the story focuses on how Peter is driven solely by the need to avenge his uncle. Yet once the Lizard appears, Peter seems to completely forget about looking for the killer, conveniently allowing the filmmakers to provide the supervillain showdowns that are typically expected from Spider-Man films. However there are a few scenes indicating that Peter’s decision to focus on stopping the Lizard, rather than finding his uncle’s killer, marks a transition for his character from a selfish vigilante into a responsible hero.
The first of these scenes is the dinner conversation between Peter and Captain Stacy of the police department. This conversation takes place after Peter, who recently donned the Spider-Man suit, has spent much time chasing down every thug he can find, hoping that one of them bears the tattooed hand that Uncle Ben’s killer had. Captain Stacy states that Spider-Man is nothing more than a vigilante, a man who is interfering with police stings and investigations in his sole search for one person. Peter’s reaction is immediate as he softly groans, an indication that he realizes he may be doing more harm than he previously thought in his relentless search for the tattooed man. Shortly after he begins doubting his search, Peter sees where his powers are truly needed when the Lizard attacks innocent people on the Williamsburg Bridge. He later confides to his girlfriend, Gwen, that perhaps it is his responsibility to stop super-powered creatures like the Lizard because no one else can. In short, Peter has decided to put his own selfish motivations, namely seeking vengeance for his uncle’s death, aside in order to become a truly responsible hero who puts the common good before himself.
This progression is especially captured by a scene near the end of the film when Peter looks at a bulletin board in his bedroom, which is covered with pictures of his parents, his uncle, and the wanted sign for his uncle’s killer. This scene establishes that Peter has not forgotten his unresolved conflicts, as seeing these pictures everyday ensures that he remembers the tattooed killer is still at large. Nevertheless he has matured and chosen not to let a selfish obsession consume him to the point that he neglects to help others. In becoming a greater hero by putting the need for vengeance aside, this new iteration of Spider-Man truly embodies the ideal that with great power comes great responsibility.