Shailene Woodley, best known for her American teenage secrets and her heartbreaking turn as a grieving daughter in “The Descendants,” might be making hers Marvel in the very near future. She’s the alleged front runner for the role of Mary Jane Watson in “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” potentially joining the likes of Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone in director Marc Webb’s web-slinging sequel — and to hear certain experts tell it, the “Spider-Man” casting department has just hit the jackpot.
“I like this move a lot,” NextMovie’s Kevin Polowy tells MTV News of the possible casting. “First and foremost because Shailene has proven that she’s got serious acting chops, and isn’t that what’s most important? In a strange cosmic sort of way this also feels like a consolation prize for getting snubbed by the Academy for her remarkable performance in ’The Descendants.'”
“I haven’t caught as many episodes of ’The Secret Life of the American Teenager’ as some dudes, but from what I’ve seen of Shailene Woodley, she seems like a legit candidate for Mary Jane,” agrees Comics Alliance senior editor Caleb Goellner, though he sees one potential failing: “I guess the only problem is that she seems a little too nice to date a guy who wouldn’t go to his ex-girlfriend’s dad’s funeral, or to potentially surrender a future marriage of Peter Parker to Satan.”
Other fixtures in the comic book movie space, like Newsarama’s Lucas Siegel, are optimistic about Woodley’s potential, but see other problems with bringing a second love interest into the “Spider-Man” universe.
“I don’t think the casting choice is bad at all; she’s spunky and has shown herself to be not just a capable actress, but a strong one. The bigger news here is Mary Jane the character being involved,” said Siegel. “With the perfect chemistry between Garfield and Stone in the first film, it seems a tall order to have anyone steal the focus from that, or from Peter, at all.”
Edward Douglas with SuperHeroHype shares Siegel’s concerns, saying, “I really liked Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy in ’Amazing Spider-Man’ quite a bit and I’m not sure that adding Peter’s second love interest in the second movie is such a good idea, for the same reason why having the two of them in ’Spider-Man 3′ didn’t work.”
There’s also the question of whether or not Woodley looks the part. For ComicBookMovie.com junior editor Josh Wilding, the answer to that is a decisive no. “I wasn’t expecting a ’model’ type as MJ is portrayed in the regular Marvel Universe,” he says. “Something more like the Ultimate version would have worked — but she doesn’t even look right for that one!”
“When I think of Mary Jane Watson, I think of unrelenting confidence and early ’90s barely-there aerobics gear,” adds Brett White, a columnist for Comic Book Resources. “I feel very, very uncomfortable thinking about the latter thing when looking at Google image results for Shailene. But I’m sure she’ll look the part when she gets some Romita-style bangs.”
It’s that last point that Polowy feels fans and critics need to give more weight to: that Woodley’s physical resemblance to Mary Jane should come second to her skills as an actress.
“We’ve seen plenty of good young actors get grief in the casting stage and then seamlessly transform into how we then associate an iconic comic book character,” he said. “It’s because smart filmmakers go with talent first, and let the physical transformation follow.”
“The Amazing Spider-Man” swings into theaters on May 2, 2014.
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