- Peter's dad (playing tag with his son, son can't understand why gave him away, but then parents murdered) (Little boy and dad theme)
- Peter saves boy on bridge, daddy freaking out (little boy and dad theme) who later saves the day with the crane operation, and all those construction worker's with American flags, being awesome.
- Uncle Ben (AWESOME step dad. Says/does all the right things, really trying, really loves Peter, sensitive to his feelings, his hurts. Gets mad at him and launches the typical angry dad lecture, but then looks for him, leaves that awesome message on his phone. Dies. But was right. Was so so so right. And Peter knows he was. Also, dies because Peter was being selfish, Justice is about what's in it for me.)
- Gwen's dad. A real hero. Cranky, gets upset, not impressed with boyfriend etc. But listens when Peter's being crazy. Says all the snarky dad movie lines, but really does listen. Loves Gwen, tries to make her chocolate milk. Listens to Peter again, when he's at gun point. Then, my favorite part, steps in when Gwen trying to do cool things and save the world, "I get it, your boyfriend is a man of many masks, now get in the car" makes her get in the car, but personally takes the serum himself and a gun, and goes up there to rescue Peter. (not a fan of their relationship, but really does love this disturbed boy). Then his AWESOME scene when Peter is alone, going to die, being mocked for his lack of dads? And Gwen's dad shows up with a gun, and says "He's not alone" and then summarily dies for him. And then his epic dying speech. Where he tells Peter "I was wrong, this city needs you" as he dies, chief of police who was so irritated with this whipper-snapper he just died for, but tells him, "Leave Gwen Alone". He loves (dies for!) Peter, yet tells him, leave her alone. You are not good for her. And when Peter honors that promise, she's mad at him, she feels dumped/betrayed, but he's staying strong, trying to keep a promise he doesn't even understand to a man that died for him, because "(he said) I'm not good for her"
And then there were the themes of the dads being right. Peter feels so betraying that his dad and mom dumped him off. But they were right, they were killed, and he was not. Then there was uncle Ben. With all the stereotypical angry Dad lines ('apologize to your mother!') yet he was right. And Peter knows he's right. And Peter listens to the voicemail at the end. And then there's Gwen's dad. With all the stereotypical dad-of-girlfriend lines. (thinks boy is crazy, not good enough, leave it to the cops, etc) And yet...the way he delivers the stay-away-from-my-daughter speech is so moving....its after he has gotten mortally wounded for Peter, after he's stuck up for Peter, and after he swallows his pride and tells Peter that he is necessary, needs to do what he couldnt' do. Awesome speech. He loves him in the way that is done and not said, he laid down his life for him. And then he says, you are not good for her, leave her alone.
It makes no sense to hormonally charged this-is-love teenage Peter. And yet, the dads have been right. They've been proved to be right. And this Dad, is right. Peter is not good for her. and this dad says that in the context of really caring about Peter. But he knows, this is not good for her, because, Peter's powers will put her in danger. Peter is not trying to hurt her. He loves her. But it will put her in danger all the same.
And this is also, like a metaphor, for teenage romance.
Peter loves her. But he is putting her in danger (and himself) of this un-bridled wild horse of teenage romance, teenage hormones, and autonomy--new power of choosing when to go and when to come and where to be (growing out of childhood--except more so, because no one even knows. They can swing out the window any time)
And Peter doesn't understand how this makes sense. Peter loves her! Right?
But Gwen's dad knows. The dads know. In uncle Ben's words "Take it from an old guy..."
And so, to honor this father-figure who died for him, he breaks up with the girl, and she hates him for it. And its so hard, and he doesn't understand why, but he's obeying someone who loved her and died for him. He's listening to the dads. And in this movie, the dads are right.
It was an argument, a plea. Crafted about Fathers, and the calls they make, that hurt, that Peter doesn't understand, but that turn up to be right. And in the end, it applies to his teenage romance. And (as the watcher's know, is right, since the watchers know he does not marry this girl. That every kiss is one not given to his wife, that they'll live to regret this when they're both with other people) so we know... that Gwen's dad is right. Like he was right about the sting operation. Peter was trying to be good, and showing off being cool, but he was trying to do things his way, use his new powers etc. But he wrecked a months-long sting operation of Gwen's dad. It was a metaphor, a powerful symbol. Our teenage romances mean all the best, but can wreck the Big Picture. The Big Plan for the other's good.
And at the end, in the hall, the girl you love being mad at you, because you have to act like you don't love her because you do love her (and want her best, or at least, obey the man who wants her best), and the bully you didn't like, really trying to be your friend now, having a good side (when you don't really want to see his good side) now having to love the bully and (act like you) hate the girl. Its the reverse of the opening scene. And yet. It felt like it was about love. Real love. Loving and being with the people you don't particularly want to love, but must. Not loving (not being with) the girl you really do love, because, you love her, and want her best.
I was deeply moved.
Then the last scene, where the English teacher tells the class that all archetypes are really all about ME. WHO AM I? And then Peter flippantly says promises you break are the best kind. And Gwen smiles.
PROMISES YOU BREAK? Like, the one on your weight loss regimen? Or the one you made to a girl's dad as he bled to death for you, making you promise to leaver her alone, because he loves her (and you). ????
When a man makes an oath, Meg, he holds his soul in his hands, like water. And if he opens his fingers then....
The whole movie was a constructed argument. With a repeated motif. (Fathers, fathers making choices that hurt, saying things that hurt, but they want your best. And they are right) With metaphors (the sting operation and the car-thief), and reassurances (the dads love you. Even Gwen's dad steps in as Peter's father when he's all alone), and then ends with a dying request. End that teenage relationship, if you love her. End it. Because you will put her into danger.
And it leaves the teenage audience asking, why? All the other times the dads were right, and now, this one, why?
It was a message that our generation of love-makes-it-good and follow-your-heart and experiment-with-your-new-powers and its-all-about-me/who-am-I kids need to hear. From REAL MEN, REAL DADS who die for you, care about you, and tell you to leave the girl alone.
And notice, Peter doesn't have the strength to listen to the whole voicemail, until AFTER he dumps the girl. Then, lonely, his listens to the voicemail, where uncle bend says 'take it from an old guy' and tells him that he's a man, that he loves and respects him.
It was a superbly crafted argument. That moment when I realized those cringe-inducing romance scenes were intentional. The whole thing coming together. Ending with a request from the dying father, and you ask yourself 'why?" and you THINK.
IT WAS PERFECT
IT WAS GOING ON MY TOP 10 MOVIES LIST, OF WHAT THIS GENERTAION NEEDS TO HEAR
And then they bombed it, with that added-on feeling 5 second last scene.....
WHY WHY WHY?
- I imagined the whole argument? It was just a flailing action chick flick with accidental themes? (Highly unlikely. SOMEONE knew what they were doing with the Gwen's dad death scene. It will at the least, make the romance teens squirm with awkward guilt, him dying and all)
- Some Moffat-type is playing cat and mouse with me
- They will make something awful happen to Gwen in the 2nd movie, and Peter realizes the dad is right. It works. Its a lot less elegant and less beautiful than the ending could have been here. At least its consistent. But its sad. But then, it takes the punch out of the end, the time that the teenagers go home and subconsciously mull about this.... It badly times it, I think.
- There was a fight in production, some crafted the whole argument, and someone else tried to lighten the mood and wrecked it at the end. (Like in Luther, Joan of Arc, or arguably, Star Wars)
So there you have it. I kind of hope its 3 (with a heavy heart) because that's the only one that's consistent. But it is sad, really sad. I suspect its 4, given what I've learned about the power-struggles behind movie making. And if its 4, all I have to say is...
What a shame. All that work. What a shame.
But perhaps echoes of the original argument will persist in teenagers minds, perhaps their subconsciouses will absorb something from this. Let us hope.
AND SOMEONE NEEDS TO MAKE MOVIES AND BOOKS! Saturate the market! Show reality the way it is, the complexity, the pain, the beauty. SHOW IT. (Like this movie almost did), AND FATHERHOOD.
God knows we need more of it, in this country, with our fatherless children and skyrocketing divorce and illegitimacy rates.
And ultimately, because way bigger than romance, there is a Father-shaped hole in each one of us. that not even the best daddy can fill.
Because its there for God.