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NOTE: The following article contains spoilers for The Amazing Spider-Man.

There are a lot of problems with The Amazing Spider-Man, but among the most egregious is that its story is a structural mess. Apparently major characters vanish without acknowledgement, multiple plot threads are begun and dropped, individual character motivations don't make any sense from scene to scene, and it seems increasingly plausible that a huge part of the story was actually cut from the film at the last second.

Having to watch obvious, glaring, Creative Writing 101 flaws play out in a movie that cost more than the GNP of some small countries is depressing enough. But moreso is seeing people dismiss the idea that they are, in fact, problems that "they're probably saving for the next one". Mr. Ratha (the Indian-American OsCorp flunkie) vanishes from the story without a trace? The plot thread of finding Uncle Ben's killer is dropped abruptly (yes, I know that the point is that he moves on to a broader definition of his hero's journey because a guy he only just met a few minutes ago indirectly lectured him about it, but it's never even acknowledged again!)? All the business about Richard and Mary Parker falls right out of everyone's mind once The Lizard shows up? Peter Parker's last line of the film a.) makes no sense, and b.) nearly invalidates any character arc he might've had?[1]

"Sequel." "Build-up." "Think how cool that'll be when [insert storyline from comics here] happens!"

Welcome to the dark side of continuity.

Now, I like continuity. Quite a bit. As a geek, it's my natural disposition to pay very close attention to and retain very detailed recollections of things I enjoy reading, watching, and listening to. I like the feeling of reward that comes from recognizing how the things I'm paying such close attention to fit together. And now that the internet, 24 hour entertainment news cycle and shrinking release windows have mainstreamed serialized/continuity-driven movies and TV series, I get how many people are glad to discover that same feeling for themselves. They've got plenty of opportunity, as writers and filmmakers have discovered that continuity and world building can let them tell richer, more complex stories.

But with all good things comes a down side, and the down side here is the temptation toward lazy creativity.

Now that the mass audience has caught the continuity bug, it feels more and more like all any film has to do is announce early on that it's the beginning of a franchise or the first in a planned trilogy and suddenly all traditional criticisms of bad narrative are no longer supposed to apply. After all, it's not fair to judge this poorly fleshed-out character or that awkwardly-forgotten plot point when the whole story has yet to be told, right? So what if Green Lantern doesn't have an interesting antagonist? They've laid so much groundwork for Sinestro to be the villain in the next one ... which probably isn't happening. Oops.

What's especially maddening about this state of affairs is that the various (successful) films that indirectly taught Hollywood how to play this game didn't have this problem, which is why they were successful in the first place!

[1] What's really odd about the final bit where Peter makes it clear that he plans to ignore Captain Stacy's "don't involve my daughter in your mess" dying wish is how easily it could be fixed. Just give Gwen Stacy the line about promises you can't keep being the best kind instead. It's in keeping with her character and prevents Spider-Man from looking like a jerkass who hasn't learned a damn thing.

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