Note: There are potential spoilers in this post, so read on with caution.
Web-heads rejoice! If this morning’s release of the final trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man 2 only whet your appetite for more Spidey goodness then you’ve come to the right place. Earlier this week Sony invited a small group of journalists to check out a selection of scenes with director Marc Webb in attendance. Included in the footage were the first 15 minutes of the movie, some Peter and Gwen one-on-one time and a meeting of the minds between Harry Osborn and Max Dillon a.k.a. Electro. So with all of this footage, let’s cut to the chase… well, we’ll get to the chase.
The Amazing Spider-Man hinted we’d see more of Peter’s parents past coming back to pester Parker. Marc Webb makes good on his promise in the opening scenes of Amazing 2 by bridging the footage of the Parker parents from the first film and kicking it into high gear. As in high in the sky and in desperate need of landing gear. Much like the opening of Dark Knight Rises, the pair of Parkers have pissed off some peculiar people and are in a precipitous place of personal peril. But enough alliteration, let’s get to the point. On the run from Oscorp and in the process of getting their “insurance” in order, Papa Parker is uploading a back-up of all of his research and dirt on Norman Osborne to a person or computer called “Roosevelt”. Considering that they’re airborne, the upload speed is fantastic. Mary Parker is still distraught over having to leave her son behind, but Richard makes it clear that safety is not something they’d be able to offer their son anymore and leaving him behind was for the best.
While Mary gets cleaned up, a crew member visits the cabin to wash his hands. When Richard realizes what exactly is being washed off those blood-stained hands he moves into action. A frantic fight breaks out for control of the computer. The thug in a co-pilot’s jacket has Richard on the edge until the bathroom door opens and a new contender enters the ring. Without a moment’s hesitation Mary Parker jumps in the fray only to be brushed aside by the trained killer. As the thug and Richard fight for control of the computer control of the plane goes sideways as the dead pilot slumps onto the controls, sending the plane into violent turns and rolls.
Just when it looks like all hope is lost, Mary is back on her feet and back in the fight. Slamming a coffee pot into the henchman’s skull, Mary puts Richard back on point by yelling “Roosevelt!”, reminding Richard that the key to his child’s safety wasn’t in the cloud yet. Distracted for mere moments, the Parkers are on their heels when the henchman reawakens. In the scuffle, Mary takes a shot to the gut and is left to bleed out while Richard struggles against his attacker. The plane is going down, his wife is bleeding out, and Richard is holding out as long as he can for the upload to complete.
*100%* The upload to Roosevelt is done. Taking one last look at his loving wife, Parker decides to end this on his terms. Pointing the gun at a window, Richard fires a shot that releases the cabin pressure. This plane is not going to land, unless you’re using the Con Air sense of the term, answering one of the first film’s great mysteries as to whether or not the Parkers were still out there. It’s a bleak opening that puts Peter’s upcoming struggles into a paternal perspective; Uncle Ben doesn’t seem to be the priority in Spidey storytelling he once was as Webb clearly wants to work different angles of Peter’s life to serve the Oscorp narrative.
Now, cutting back to that chase. What feels like a true opening to the movie, Spider-Man is diving from a skyscraper towards the New York pavement. Audible woos and yells are coming from this footloose and fancy-free wall crawler as he swings through the NYC skyline. Back in the classic costume (a costume that’s finally getting unaltered justice, and looks better than even Raimi’s), Spider-Man is talking fast and zipping through Manhattan even faster. Spidey’s on the lookout for something to do and an armored car heist seems like the perfect way to occupy his time.
Cinematically, this is the most fun we’ve had web-slinging with our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. An over-the-shoulder shot zooms in on the downswings and backs out with the upswings. Impressive acrobatics are on full display in slow-mo/speed-up shots that are industry standard thanks to the Matrix. There’s a lighter feel to Spidey in this re-introduction. The actually smart smart-ass is back and it’s a pleasure to see.
As Spidey catches up to the armored car chase our hero is put through his paces. Russian mobster Aleksei Sytsevich (Paul Giamatti) is leading a hijacking of plutonium from Oscorp’s armored truck. The chase has many memorable moments, including Spider-Man’s “Hello, how are you?” introduction to our once and future Rhino and a plutonium juggling scene that is classic Spider-Man through and through.
As the chase rips through the streets of Manhattan, a clumsy and put-upon Oscorp employee gets knocked around by his fellow NYC pedestrians. Max Dillon (Jaime Foxx) is carrying important blueprints into work and has the “aw shucks” luck of seeing them get kicked into the street. As he starts to collect them, the chase we’ve been watching begins bear down on our soon-to-be Electro. A last second save by Spider-Man makes Max feel noticed for possibly the first time in his life. That’s clearly not going to come back around, right?
The chase finishes with Spider-Man putting Aleksei in a web version of stocks. To add insult to injury, Peter can’t resist from pantsing the goon. I wonder if this bit of showboating will come back to haunt him… hmmm. (Does sarcasm come across on the internet?) Peter then hauls ass to Queens for his high school graduation. He then does something no one could picture the Parker of the comics doing and scoops valedictorian Gwen Stacy up in his arms for a very public display of affection. It seems the disconnect between Peter and Spider-Man that many missed in the first film has carried over, so Peter not being a total loser is apparently still in the cards.
Our second set of scenes reunites Gwen Stacy and Peter Parker after a year of Peter trying to honor his promise to Gwen’s father not to bring his life as Spider-Man near his daughter. They’ve both clearly been pining for each other. A frankly cute scene straight from Webb’s wheelhouse develops as Gwen and Peter try to set ground rules for how they can move forward as friends. Peter complains that Gwen’s laugh will immediately have to go as it’s too cute. Gwen counters with forbidding Peter from saying she looks amazing while staring at her with his “big brown, doe eyes.” The schmaltz leads to a real conversation where Peter admits to following her for a few minutes a day, because it’s the closest he can come to being with her. In these moments, the relationship feels pretty real and complicated. It’s soon brought to an abrupt hault as Gwen reveals she has an opportunity to go to England.
Here’s some footage from a different scene to demonstrate the relationship, which at this point is the linchpin of making this movie work:
The lovefest is interrupted when we see Max Dillon, freshly turned into Electro, walking down an empty New York street. Max is seeing things differently. He can feel when electricity is flowing nearby and his vision is almost X-ray like in how he views the world. Max accidentally drains a car of its power before following a the largest stream of power to its source, Times Square.
After a failed attempt to calm him down, Spider-Man goes into save-everyone-mode with some pretty spectacular results. Visually, the film’s action has its own rhythm and flow. It’s hard to describe, but it’s clear Marc Webb is trying to tell a fuller story with his action pieces. This lands with a mixed effect of some scenes dragging on a little too long, but you do walk away understanding some of the characters’ motivations better. The film runs the risk of feeling spoon-fed with these elements, but in what is clearly a more family friendly Spider-Man film it’s forgivable.
Just as Electro begins to understand that his powers are far more limitless than he realized, he is knocked down by Spider-Man with a little help from the FDNY in an amazing nod to a look Spidey has sported many times before. Once again, Spider-Man’s ability to be the cockiest winner of all time is going to lead to some nasty consequences.
The final film selection presented has Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) trying to convince Electro that the answer to his problems is two-fold: help Harry break into Oscorp and then, together, they destroy Spider-Man. Harry is prepared to get Electro out of Ravencroft to exact revenge on his father. We’re not sure what’s happened, but he’s got some scar tissue growing and as we saw in images released this week, the skin condition is going to get worse. In some unfortunate stylistic similarities, the scene awkwardly reminds us of Batman & Robin‘s Mr. Freeze breakout, with Uma being replaced by the kid from Chronicle. It really didn’t help that the green and blue color palettes made the scenes so similar.
After a little convincing and last ditch plea for help before being taken out by security forces, Osborn releases Max by jolting him with a taser. This is all the power boost Electro needs as he disappears into the conduits that were keeping him prisoner. Memories of Dr. Manhattan filled our heads as Max Dillon rematerializes through some very impressive CG. The doctors and security that kept him at bay get their comeuppance for treating Max like a guinea pig. The kid who would be Green Goblin and Electro take off together into the sunset, with a firm foundation now ready for the Sinister Six to build from.
Marc Webb then stuck around for a bit to answer some questions and we have them all here for you:
Nerdist: There’s a lot going on in the scenes we saw and you’re introducing a lot of characters. We see that we’re going to get a lot of backstory on a lot of people. What’s your run time looking like with all of that going on?
Marc Webb: 16 hours! (laughs) No, it’s going to be over 2 hours, but it’s really — I actually don’t know the exact number, but we’re very careful to invest in the characters while keeping the story moving forward. There’s no one more acutely aware of that than me and I am, at times, impatient, but I also really value richness of character and that requires spending some time. I mean, there is a value to understanding the first movie, but it’s certainly not imperative to enjoying and experiencing the holistic quality of the second film.
Press: Can you talk about some of the classic Spider-Man elements that maybe you didn’t have a chance to incorporate in the first movie that you wanted to bring to this one. The Daily Bugle, for instance, seems to be heavily featured in the marketing.
Marc Webb: Yeah, we’re developing the Daily Bugle. Obviously, you’re going to get a little hint of Norman Osborn in this film. The Daily Bugle is part of it. The big thing that I wanted to nail this time was the suit, you know? I wanted to return to the iconography that we knew from the comic books and the Daily Bugle is an emerging force to be reckoned with. That’s one of the fun things about delving into a universe like this. You can take more time with these things. We really did think about this in a longer format. As far as things like the Daily Bugle and Norman Osborn’s story, we were very selective about how to tease that out.
Press: Obviously, we got a bit of a preview of it from the footage, but I’m curious about Electro’s motivations. It seems like he’s driven by this overall need to be needed by society. Could you talk about exploring that theme and how it manifested itself?
Webb: Sure! To understand Electro is to understand Max Dillon, as Jamie [Foxx] has said. Jamie’s been a really great component of this and he was a great partner in trying to generate this in the movie. Max Dillon’s character has been sort of ignored by the world, forgotten by people. He’s an outcast, much in the way that Peter Parker is an outcast, and he chooses to react to that in a little bit different a way. There is a wonderful pathos that Jamie enables at the beginning of the film. You haven’t seen that part yet, but you really feel for him. But there’s also a psychosis. There’s something mad about him and that eventually gets the better of him.
Press: It looks like you’ve really amped up the comedy. It was certainly there in the first one, but can you talk about developing that for the sequel?
Webb: That’s one of the iconic parts of the character that we chose to embrace. Even in the first movie, there’s that scene in the parking lot. Something fundamental about Spider-Man, as you guys know, is his wit and his quips, but it’s also part of his character. It’s how he provokes villains, particularly. It’s how he puts them on their heels and I think that, with Rhino, it’s particularly convenient because he’s such a dumb villain that he can provoke in that way. We always try to think about it in the nature of the scene and the nature of the character. That’s where the comedy emerges. We did something that sometimes big comedy movies do, which is to get a roundtable of comedians and just have them spit jokes out. We’d use that and try them out with Andrew and see what worked. We would have, in the beginning of the process, some of the best comedians. It’s sort of a private thing that you can’t really tell who’s in it, but these are amazing, really brilliant comedians and many of them are comic book fans. The come in and help us with coming up with jokes and one-liners and quips that are part of Spider-Man’s universe.
Press: It has already been said that there’s going to be a third Amazing Spider-Man in 2016 and an Amazing Spider-Man 4 in 2018, plus all these spin-offs with Venom and the Sinister Six. How much are you involved with the overall Spidey universe as it is?
Webb: We’ve been trying to figure out how to develop a larger universe and there are some very exciting things coming around the corner with The Sinister Six and Venom and future Spider-Man movies. I want to be involved in any way I possibly can and we’re already talking. We’ve had these really wonderful discussions and there’s already been some announcements, but you know Alex [Kurtzman] and Bob [Orci] and Drew Goddard and a lot of these really brilliant minds who are young and emerging are helping us develop something a little bit more elaborate and exciting. It’s just been a blast. It’s sort of a dream come true. We’ve had fantasies about what we could do and they’re slowly coming to reality. I’m really excited about that.
Press: I was wondering if you could talk about the decision to have Peter and Gwen graduate from high school. It seemed like when you rebooted the franchise, part of the reason was to keep them younger.
Webb: Listen, our actors are getting a little bit older. To play around with that for too long would get to be absurd. We’re also trying to find stations in life and important moments for them to emerge from. We did spend the whole first movie in high school. This is not that much further in their future. To be honest, there’s a thematic resonance with people moving on, with graduation, which felt really potent to us. The graduation speech was a way to introduce the universe and the themes of the movie in an interesting way and that just felt right. They were getting to that age and it’s about a gradual teasing of information. It felt appropriate to watch that important moment in their lives.
Press: One criticism some people had of the first movie was how, when it was over, we still didn’t quite know what happened with Peter’s parents. Is that going to be explained more in depth in this film?
(Please note the footage we screened kind of answered this)
Webb: Yes. That’s the thing. It’s a tricky thing because that was part of what we were trying to establish. Of course it was going to be teased out. We had a plan about how to let that unfold. It was sort of the long shadow that was cast over Peter Parker’s life. We knew how this was going to emerge. We had ideas about the pathways of these characters, but we didn’t want to blow everything out in the first movie because, again, it’s about creating a more elaborate universe developing into more and more interesting and nuanced things that the fans are really going to enjoy.
Press: Did early plans for a third and fourth film affect the script of this one at all?
Webb: You know, originally it was conceived as a trilogy. We were thinking about three movies and then we started messing around with the second movie. There was such an enormous wealth of information and we were just like, ‘We can’t cram them all into one movie! There’s too much richness there!’ So when we were talking about the beginning of the second film, we were trying to plan out all of the emerging storylines. It just started to make sense to invest in other stories. Then, in particular, the Sinister Six is something we’d always talked about, just asking, ‘How do we plan this out?’ So, that’s where it started, the beginning of the second movie, in terms of developing the universe.
Press: You clearly have a plan for where you’re going. Knowing that, how and why does Electro being the main villain fit with that?
Webb: I think primarily — again, in the first film — I had sort of an idea of how these characters would evolve. I just wanted to use Electro. There was purely a cinematic opportunity there that I thought was awesome. Given where we’re at with visual effects and technology, I thought we could do it in an effective and interesting way, which I didn’t think existed until recently. There was just an opportunity there. So there was part of that which went into it. Then, as we were trying to craft Electro’s story, thematically, there was a resonance between Max Dillon’s character and Spider-Man. What is that villain going to bring out in your protagonist? How was he going to make that character more heroic? That was important, but really, it was about this movie. It was about finding a villain that was interesting, powerful and strong, but that had a thematic resonance to Spider-Man. That idea of the outcast, which you get a little tease of. Villains and heroes often are foils for each other and there are layers and layers to that. Thematically, it had a lot to do with Max Dillon. Electro is an incredibly visual villain. He needed to be seen, which is a part of his character and that has a relations with Peter Parker’s character and his journey.
Press: The scale of this seems really enormous. In the opening action sequence, you’ve got a Blues Brothers amount of cop cars. It’s big, and I’m wondering if, because you’re primarily dealing with just Spider-Man’s universe rather than the overall Marvel universe, do you l kind of a pressure to go really big?
Webb: There is always a 12-year-old kid inside of me that just wants more. More cop cars. I want 10, no 50, no, let’s get 80 cop cars and trash them all! If you have the opportunity, I highly recommend you do it. There is also the playfulness of it. It became known on set as the Blues Brothers sequence because of what you’re talking about. It’s something that was fun and felt kind of a way to start off the movie in a more playful way, especially given the opening situation with the plane. I wanted to bring it back into this playful part of Spider-Man that also felt big and action-driven. There’s opportunities in action for certain kinds of comedy that you just don’t get anywhere else. But yeah, there is a pressure to let it be big and have fun with it. There was a joy that we really wanted to embrace, especially at the outset of the film.
Press: Shailene Woodley’s Mary Jane Watson has been cut out of the final film. Does losing her character affect the story?
Webb: No, it was a separate, tiny little tease that we omitted. It was really uneventful.
Press: You talk about expanding Spider-Man’s universe. Could that include a female spider person?
Webb: Spider person? Anything is possible, but that hasn’t been on my mind. It’s an interesting idea.
Press: We didn’t get a chance to see Norman Osborn in those clips. Could you talk about his role in the film. Also, does Harry sort of play more of the antagonist and will we find out who was talking to the Lizard in that final sequence from the first film?
Webb: Yes, to your second question. Norman Osborn, who is played by Chris Cooper, has a really interesting component that I don’t want to reveal. We have to be very careful about what we reveal and we get a lot of flack for sometimes talking about too many things. We also want to enthuse people to see the movie so, in keeping with trying to make that cinematic experience for everybody at home really special, I’m going to withhold that answer from you.
Press: In the Times Square sequence, we see this really intricate slow motion tracking shot, which goes through 3D space. It seems to be showing us a bit of Spider-Man’s perspective and how he sees things as he’s looking at a situation.
Webb: It’s very perceptive. You’re exactly right. It’s about the audience feeling what Spider-Man feels, which is where the point of view shots came in the first movie. It’s a philosophy of film making. It’s trying to get people as closely aligned to what Peter Parker and Spider-Man experience as possible. That was a cinematic type of language that I wanted to use in order to induce that feeling and get spider-sense. What’s the visual representation of spider sense? It happens in a split second. He’s aware of impending physical trauma or violence and he’s able to react to that and that just seemed like the right way to do it. There’s a little tease of that in the beginning, in the bus as well. It’s really part of a bigger thing, which is that I want the audience to feel what Spider-Man feels.
Press: There are obvious reference in Gwen’s speech about her infamous demise in the comics. Is the fact that certain elements of the story are so ingrained in pop culture useful tool in that you have the chance to, at times, subvert them and keep people guessing?
Webb: I think it’s crucial. You have to think about the story just on its own, irrespective of what people’s expectations are first and foremost. The story has to work on its own because people have such a varying degree of understanding of this universe. Some people have never read a Spider-Man comic, but a lot of people have. First and foremost, you just think about the story itself and then, along the way, there are certain teases and hints and acknowledgements that hopefully engender a level of engagement from the super-fans, because they’re always close to us. I talk to them everyday and I’m aware of that. I want to make that experience rich for them, so there are certain reference I guess you would say that we implanted for people like me who are fans and interested in the universe.