Spider Man was adapted to film in three different film franchises, each with their own supporting characters, but Sam Raimi’s Kirsten Dunst’s Mary Jane Watson Spider-Man Trilogy is always the best love interest. Although Dunst’s character has received quite a bit of criticism from fans and casual viewers, she is perhaps the most misunderstood character in the trilogy. Of all the Spider Man cinematic love interests, Dunst’s Mary Jane is the only one who goes beyond the role of simply romanticizing the hero and exists on her own merits with agency and character development. Combined with incredible precision to her comedic counterpart and three nuanced performances from Dunst, Raimi’s Mary Jane set a standard that no other Spider Man the love interest has not yet reached.
Raimi Spider Man the films began in 2002, at a time when superhero films, particularly Marvel films, were still finding their way into the cinematic landscape. Following the well received Blade and x-men movies, Spider Man upped the ante for the superhero genre by prioritizing serious, naturalistic characterization and juxtaposing it with unabashed fidelity to comic book source material, creating a series that truly embodied the spirit of the comics. comics by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. Raimi’s films have stood the test of time in an era of pop culture now dominated by the Marvel Cinematic Universe, remaining the definitive live-action iteration of the Spider Man characters for many.
With Raimi Spider Man returning continuity, thanks to multiverse diversions in Spider-Man: No Coming Home, interest in classic films has been renewed. Raimi Spider Man The trilogy is generally viewed favorably by fans, but Mary Jane unfortunately remains one of the few divisive aspects of the series. Although she does not appear in No coming home, Mary Jane is mentioned by Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker. Here’s a look back at Kirsten Dunst’s Mary Jane Watson and why she’s Spider-Man’s best love interest yet.
The personality and flaws of Mary Jane
The Raimi Trilogy’s Mary Jane Watson was, like Peter Parker, written with a complex personality and verisimilitude, resulting in a layered, realistic character who exists in a world where ordinary people become superheroes or supervillains. Mary Jane has goals, personality traits, and flaws that exist outside of her relationship with Peter. In many ways, Mary Jane is as much the protagonist of the Raimi films as Peter, and the stories treat her goals with the same importance as those of Spider-Man. Like Peter, Mary Jane is a young adult from Queens struggling to make ends meet and achieve her long-term career goal (in her case, becoming an actress). Unlike Peter, she never accidentally received superpowers, and she was shown to be popular and outgoing at school (where Peter was a social outcast). Where Mary Jane faced difficulties, however, was at home.
Mary Jane comes from a dysfunctional family with a viciously abusive father, who often verbally bullied her, even in public. This left Mary Jane insecure and easily hurt by criticism, but she was never framed negatively by the films for it. Mary Jane worries about Harry Osborn’s classist judgment in the first film and remembers her father telling her she was unlovable in a deleted scene from Spiderman 2. Peter Parker struggles with selfishness and immature behavior, but he learns his lessons, sometimes catastrophically, throughout the trilogy, much like Mary Jane. Leaving John Jameson at the altar of Spiderman 2 was undeniably cruel, but the novelization reveals that John suspected it might happen, given the rush of the wedding, and he urged the guests to forgive Mary Jane for it.
Mary Jane character development
Mary Jane undergoes major character development in each Spider Man film, with a few arcs that take place independently of Peter Parker. In the first film, Mary Jane struggles to find a meaningful romantic relationship alongside her dream of becoming an actress. After breaking up with superficial Flash Thompson and Harry failing to stand up for her during her father’s sexist tirade, she realizes it’s Peter Parker, not the literal superhero, Spider-Man, to who she has feelings. Meanwhile, Mary Jane progresses in her acting endeavors, starring in a play at the start of Spiderman 2 and move from Peter’s (reluctant) rejection to the end of the first movie.
Mary Jane feels disappointed by Peter’s absences and broken promises (not knowing of his double life), but exposes her agency and knowingly chooses a potentially tumultuous relationship with Peter after discovering his secret in the film’s finale. This choice, interestingly, does not affect his career woes in Spiderman 3, but his unresolved insecurities and the traumas of his abusive childhood do. Despite losing a lead role on Broadway in Spiderman 3, Mary Jane continues to work toward her career goals once again, while juggling relationship drama with Peter and superhero shenanigans. Throughout the trilogy, Mary Jane is the only person to make the decisions in her own life, and she succeeds and fails on her own merits.
Being Kidnapped Doesn’t Weaken Mary Jane’s Character
A common complaint about Kirsten Dunst’s Mary Jane is that she’s been kidnapped or needed rescuing way too many times. Although she is saved by Spider-Man several times throughout the trilogy, this does not affect her characterization. Throughout the trilogy, Mary Jane’s perilous situations have been the means of her character development. In the first film, Mary Jane’s first encounter with the Green Goblin and the back alley criminals contributed to her feelings for Spider-Man, who saved her every time. Her near-death experience on the Queensboro Bridge confirmed that she loved Peter more than Spider-Man (in her own words). In Spiderman 2held hostage by Doctor Octopus allowed Mary Jane to discover Spider-Man’s true identity, a vital part of his arc in the film, and the Spiderman 3 finale helped redeem Peter and Harry for her.
It’s important to remember that Mary Jane can’t reasonably hold her own against her attackers either, given her lack of superpowers and combat skills. Most regular people would do just as well against the Green Goblin or Venom as Mary Jane, but she’s still shown occasionally to fight back. In the alley, Mary Jane is far outnumbered but still manages to knock out several attackers before Spider-Man arrives. Later (as revealed in the novelization), Mary Jane is ambushed by the Green Goblin with sedative gas upon entering her apartment, not having a chance to defend herself. In the sequels, however, Mary Jane tries (unsuccessfully) to hit Doctor Octopus from behind with a metal pole, but manages to knock a cinder block onto Venom, stunning him and saving Spider-Man’s life. For an ordinary human in a world of superpowered beings, his actions are reasonable.
Another common criticism of Dunst’s Mary Jane is that she is not faithful to her comic counterpart, but this is also a misconception. Raimi’s Mary Jane Condenses Decades of Marvel Spider Man comic book story in a starring role in three movies, so naturally some elements of his comic counterpart are going to be emphasized more than others. Mary Jane was known to be a popular extrovert in her early appearances, and this is acknowledged in Raimi’s films, but not particularly emphasized. Dunst’s Mary Jane, like the comic version, features an outgoing party girl facade as a way to cope with her abusive home life. Since it’s an intentionally superficial mask, the series shows it briefly in the first film before moving on to the deeper aspects of its characterization. At just over two hours per film, Raimi wisely focused more on Mary Jane’s career aspirations and her interactions with Peter than on her outgoing student life.
Comparison to other Spider-Man love interests
Mary Jane is also often compared negatively to Spider-Man’s other love interests. amazing spider man and MCUs Spider Man movies. while the other Spider Man the love interests are well-written and well-acted, they don’t have as much nuance or agency as Dunst’s Mary Jane. Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy, while undeniably having incredible on-screen chemistry with Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker, has few character traits that aren’t related to Peter in some way. The MCU’s Michelle (“MJ”) has a similar problem and she spends most of her time Spider-Man: Homecoming throwing small insults at her before Peter shows interest in her in the next film. MJ’s characterization and chemistry with Peter Parker saw significant improvement in No coming home, however, though her future with Peter Parker is now uncertain, with her memories of him being erased. Laura Harrier’s Liz Toomes was a well-rounded character with plenty of agency, but unfortunately lacked the level of depth that Mary Jane had in the Raimi Spider Man movies, a problem compounded by Liz’s writing out of the movies after Back home. While the Spider Man the movies all have compelling supporting actors, Kirsten Dunst’s Mary Jane Watson is still Peter’s best love interest.
Next: Spider-Man 3 Theory: Tobey Maguire’s MCU Daughter Is Spider-Girl
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